Today was bittersweet. Waking in Paris has become a treasured blessing these last few days, yet today I know I’m leaving. At Jacques’ suggestion we scheduled our breakfast 30 minutes later so we could sleep in a little longer, giving our increasingly weary bodies a little more rest. We also took advantage of the extra time to pack our bags, which I was reluctant to do as it meant my departure from Paris was imminent.
When we arrived to breakfast we saw the familiar presentation, today with glass grapes and ornaments for décor. Our breakfast consisted of the usual fresh baguettes accompanied by meat and fresh cheeses, dried fruit and sherbet. Jacques and Helene have been such wonderful hosts and have really contributed to the overall satisfaction of the trip.
We readied our belongings and headed out into the city one last time. Today our goals consisted of finding gifts for my family and going to the Louvre. We had initially hoped to go to the Palace of Versailles, but were a bit nervous to travel outside of
Paris on our last day, potentially missing our train home. (Not that I would’ve minded staying in Paris again).
We walked south on Rue Blanche for the first time, away from the commercialized Boulevard de Clichy. Jacques had informed us there were several boutiques in that direction, which we might find appropriate for purchasing souvenirs that didn’t come out of a stand similar to what I’ve seen in Chinatown. We passed several stores, unimpressed
by the goods they had to offer, and then suddenly we arrived to Haussmann Boulevard. I had read about it briefly in my research of Paris, and soon remembered it to be the area for posh boutiques, none from which I could afford anything: United Colors of Benetton, Manolo Blahnik, etc. It was all I could do to restrain myself from going into Manolo Blahnik. If Ashley hadn’t been with me, I certainly would’ve gone in and likely spent entirely too much money on an amazing pair of stilettos.
We continued walking and I saw a department store, Le Printemps, that might have something for which I was looking. I immediately set my eye on some cute hair bands with my sister in mind. When I reached the hairband display at the top of the escalator and saw the price tags I continued walking right on past the it and directly back down. They wanted 120 Euro for a head band! I was just about to exit the store when I saw a counter with some appropriately priced items for sale, which I thought would make great gifts. I purchased them and headed out of the department store with a little weight off my shoulders and an item crossed off my gift list. Just down the road was a small store with a cute sign that looked as if it could be for kiddos. As we were walking to it I saw a scrapbook store with gift items in it. I entered and perused for a bit thinking I’d hit the souvenir jackpot, but the only thing I found that I could make use of was a little “Merci” card. I had already decided Jacques and Helene would be receiving a card and flowers from us before we left, and this was the perfect little card priced at less than 2 Euro. I bought the card and headed on to the little kid store. When I walked in I was overcome with excitement at all the things I could buy my precious nephew. Having awoken a little down today, buying some gifts for Reece suddenly and completely lifted my spirits. (I’m so excited to give these things to him! I love that little guy)!
Feeling fairly confident in using the buses for transportation, we set out to find one that would take us to the Louvre and were lucky to find it right away. I was careful to make certain we were on the right bus as our metro ticket stash was beginning to dwindle and we wanted to make sure we had enough to get us back to the train station without having to buy more. Fortunately, we were successful and soon arrived at the Louvre. We walked around the outside of the building, like so many of the other historical landmarks, admiring its presentation.
We approached the Pyramids: glass pyramids in the courtyard, also skylights to the top of the museum entrance. Looking below we could see other museum-goers already in their pursuit of seeing fine works of art. Though chilly again, we took the opportunity to enjoy the courtyard with its impressive construction, fountains and design.
We soon entered the museum through the largest pyramid and immediately Ashley had to go to the bathroom. I have left this part out of my blogs until now, but she has an excellent pair of kidneys. While she went to the restroom, I went to the information desk and got a map. She quickly returned and alerted me the cleaning lady had the bathroom blocked with her cart. We purchased our tickets and then set out to find 1) a bathroom, 2) food, and 3) Mona Lisa. Finding 1 and 2 were easy. Mona was a tricky one.
We started off in the right direction, and after a long hallway of Italian Impressionist art we found ourselves way out of Mona Lisa land. Rewinding a bit, the Italian Impressionist art was fascinating. The works have been well preserved, exhibiting bold colors. The detail in the paintings were impressive and many of the paintings had very odd things in them: a snake breastfeeding, a random dwarf monster seemingly unrelated to all the normal people in the painting, halos above apparently still living mothers and babies (living at the time, obviously dead now)… I realized I needed two things to gain the most from the Louvre: an audio tour, and an entire day by myself. Usually I can only take so much of a museum and I’m ready to go, but I would’ve really liked to learn the history behind these works and artists with relation to the time period. This goes for the entire museum, not just this section.
We backtracked to the last sign we’d seen for Mona Lisa. Now on the right path, we entered the room where Mona Lisa resides. Several people had told me prior to leaving for my trip that the painting is much smaller than you’d expect… so I was expecting a really small painting. It was in fact bigger than I thought it would be! (Ashley was uninformed and thought it was small). It was on its own wall and was protected by glass, as well as some very sophisticated security measures, I’m sure. I didn’t think it would be possible to take pictures, but everyone was, and there was no enforcement against it. I easily walked to the front of the crowd and snapped a few pictures… I’m not sure how well they’ll turn out, as the light was low, but it was exciting nonetheless. I realized I have no idea why the Mona Lisa is so famous. I need to brush up on my history.
Having already met the climax of our visit, we sauntered through some French works, Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as some other exhibits. The art displayed in the museum is outstanding, yet the architecture of the Louvre itself is also worthy of appreciation.
Before leaving we thought it best to use the restroom again. We went to the closest one… only to find the cleaning lady had it blocked with her cart… again. We walked across to the other side of the museum and found one not monopolized by a cleaning lady. With happy empty bladders we proceeded to the gift shop so I could knock out the last gifts on my list and then exited the museum to find the Louvre Metropolitan stop, which would take us back to the Blanche stop. I have found in this city both buses and metro are necessary as neither is consistent in taking you everywhere you need to go, and there are few crossovers for metro. There are only a few lines that connect to Line 2 – the line that runs into Montmartre and takes us to our Rue Blanche stop. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t mind walking, but walking around in the cold gets to be pretty miserable after a while.
We made it back to Rue Blanche with two tickets left. Only one would be needed to get to the train station, so it was nice to have an extra ticket – just in case. Upon arriving to Rue Blanche, we walked to a florist we’d seen several times before and bought a colorful bunch of tulips for Jacques and Helene. The only things left on my to-do list before leaving were to get crepes and crème brulee. Marissa, you’ll be disappointed to learn I did not make it anywhere to get the crème brulee… all the more reason you should accompany me on my next trip! We did, however, get crepes. Ashley got chocolate and nutella, and though tempted to order the same, I opted for a lemon and sugar crepe. My love for chocolate far exceeds my desire for lemon, but I liked that it was unique. It was tasty and filling and I wish I’d eaten crepes every day. My thighs, on the other hand, are happy I discovered their sweet, yummy goodness only hours before leaving.
We returned to the B&B and wrote in the guestbook, and then presented Jacques and Helene with the bouquet of flowers. They seemed thankful and surprised. Helene hugged and kissed us both, and Jacques took care of our luggage, sending it on the elevator downstairs. He then proceeded to walk us out to the street. They are such a nice couple. I would’ve liked to spend more time talking to them, but even though Jacques speaks good English, it’s still a bit difficult to understand him. Sometimes at breakfast it was necessary to simply smile and nod. In our discussions with Jacques, I found him to be a very interesting individual. He used to write for French film for over twenty years. According to him, the French movie industry has changed the requirements for film writing, and he didn’t like the changes, so he quit. He didn’t go into detail about what kinds of changes were made. Since then he has tried his hand at several other things. For example, he composed music for some audio books, and when that lost its luster he started his current project: a 900+ page novel, which he has just recently completed. He is a very talented gentleman, and seems to enjoy these challenges. Helene is a journalist of tourism. She didn’t interact with us as much, likely due to the language barrier – she only knows certain words. Therefore I’m unaware of her achievements, aside from the book she and Jacques wrote about Paris. We bode farewell to Jacques and headed up the small hill to the Rue Blanche metro stop one last time. We safely made it to the train station and found where we needed to be much easier than we had on our arrival to Paris. This was a relief, though I felt much better about attempting to communicate with people than I had when we first arrived.
We boarded the train and in no time were back in London. After an hour layover at Euston Station in London, we were on the next train to Manchester. Ryan was already waiting for us when we got back to Manchester. I had slept nearly the entire time. (I didn’t have to cram French into my brain). We drove home and I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow… my whirlwind in Paris officially over – until next time.