“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf
We woke up Sunday morning, excited for fresh squeezed orange juice and a lazy day of exploring. Instead, we made an alarming discovery: Paris takes the day off. No money exchanging. No fresh baguettes. And brace yourselves: no. fresh. squeezed. orange juice. It turned out that only select currency exchange businesses would be open and not until later in the day; those that were open charged ridiculous rates because they knew they were the only game in town.
Since food and cash were not really going to happen in our little neighbourhood at this time of day, we went to the Louvre. We had heard that the queue (look at me getting British!) on a weekend would be long, so we hadn’t actually planned to go in but we wanted to see it from the outside, at least. We were surprised to find a very short queue and that I could get in for free as a teacher with an Arts degree (score!) so in we went.
We ended up spending a couple of very happy hours inside. We saw the Mona Lisa, and having been told how small it is in person, we were actually a bit surprised to find it was bigger than we anticipated. We were not surprised at the huge crowd standing around her, but once we patiently made our way to the front, I paused. I took a slow, deep breath and imagined that it was just me, taking it in. It worked for a moment before the chaos and pulse of movement around me filtered through. With the Mona-Lisa-search pressure off, we enjoyed beautiful French paintings, Vermeer (life highlight for sure), and a beautiful collection of Egyptian pieces. I was stunned by some of the painted sarcophagi, the likes of which I’d never seen.
Back outside, we figured we still had time to see Notre Dame. We wandered around for a bit, hoping to find a better deal for exchanging money, but as our hunger whispers grew to full out growls we sucked it up and forked over our hard-earned cash so that we could eat. Newly acquired euros in hand, we spotted something in our budget: an American-style diner. It was stereotypical American fare: burgers, fries, milkshakes, nachos and the like. We decided that nachos would be a safe bet. We were wrong. So very wrong. The nachos themselves were sad and few. The “cheese sauce” (I really REALLY hesitate to use the term) was some kind of melted, grainy goo that may have been plastic spray cheese in a former life. Troy adds: you’d think in Paris, they could find better cheese. Right?! We choked down a few bites, chased it with a couple of tall glasses of water, and left.
We saw the outside of Notre Dame but the heat of midday and a line hundreds of people long deterred us from going inside. Instead, we sat in the shade of a park just behind the cathedral to drink some water, then ordered a Nutella crêpe from a street vendor. This was without a doubt the BEST food of the day. And the crêpe monger (so named by Troy) was super nice!
This day had some really great moments; here are a few highlights:
the super nice American guy we met on our walk back to the Seine (he had lived in Vancouver while he attended UBC, and we share a love of travel, New York city and anything near the ocean);
the crowd of rollerbladers who had taken to the streets en masse in what looks to have been a major annual event (this we deduced after having spotted several t-shirts from years past);
and the interesting gentleman who talked to Troy and I about his love of photography and his very interesting life, who insisted on taking Troy’s phone from him and then proceeded to take about 20 photos of us, who also insisted that looking at the lens of the camera is akin to giving up a piece of your soul, and whom, while repeatedly instructing us to close our eyes or look away I seriously worried would run off with the phone. After taking these pictures, he commented on their worth (roughly a euro each, if you’re curious) and suggested that we pay him at least 20 euros for the pictures he had taken (which were mostly terrible, if you’re wondering: I submit exhibits A and B below):
It had been such an interesting day and once again, full of walking. We had taken the bus and metro a few times to rest our tired feed, and yet this was the day we set our record for the weekend with more than 35,000 steps!
We stopped for a drink at a café to take in the magical atmosphere of Paris once more before returning to the hotel to retrieve our bags. As we enjoyed our prosecco and bourbon, I basked in the melodic din of conversations taking place in a multitude of languages as people sat at tables near us, or walked up and down the hill past us. Even on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Paris hummed with a vibrant energy that was at once busy and calm, lively and laid-back, and always with an air of romance.
Our weekend coming to a close, we made our way back to Gare du Nord to catch our train to the airport. With some time to kill before our train left, we tried to do what we do best: find and eat more good food. What we ordered was a hand-tossed margherita pizza topped with fresh salmon, mozzarella, basil, and crème fraîche. What we got was a pizza with tomato sauce, sans basil and crème fraîche, and mozzarella that was passable at best. Upon requesting afore-mentioned basil, our waiter told us “I don’t think it’s supposed to have that.” After reading it to him from the menu, he said “Oh. You’re right. But we never put it on; I can get you some.” What was delivered to the table about 10 minutes and 2 reminders later was a small dish of dried oregano. So, all in all not our best food day ever.
But at least we had Paris.