Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,
Mark
mhaithaca

24 May - Notre Dame, Les Deux Magots, and La Fermette Marbeuf

Thursday was our biggest walking day yet, starting with a visit to Sainte Chapelle and then lots of time at the Cathedrale de Notre Dame. I think the sign said there are 430 steps to the top, which certainly seemed plenty! It was well worth it, though, for the spectacular views of Paris and the wonderful close-up views of the gargoyles, spires, wooden doors, and the infamous bell. Before leaving the plaza, I went into the Crypt, which houses impressive archaeological exhibitions including the foundations of the area's original Roman walls.

We had lunch on the Île St. Louis, next to the large island at the center of the Seine where Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame are. I enjoyed a very typical steak au poivre, i.e. with a very peppery sauce and a pile of crisp, hot fries.

From there we went back to the Monument de la Deportation, a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Jews deported from France during the Vichy occupation. A very stark, concrete and metal reminder set into the banks of the Seine.

From here we walked along the opposite bank of the Seine and checked out the art stalls, with vendors selling vintage posters, maps, and postcards of all variety.

By this point we'd done a lot of walking, and a rest seemed like a good idea. I also knew I needed to get to the Café Les Deux Magots, where Luke Colasuonno and I had sipped espressos when I was a high school student visiting France with a group. I can't recall why we had the opportunity to do this without the other dozen or so students around, nor could I swear none of the others was there, but I do remember him introducing me to the simple pleasure of "l'express." The tiny spoons and tiny paper-wrapped sugar blocks haven't changed. I don't remember the tiny wrapped chocolate that's been with every such drink this week, but I suspect it was there.

I'm not sure I ever heard what Luke had died of, but I did hear several years ago that he'd died. That's a shame; I'd like to have been able to tell him I came back and did it again. He was my French teacher throughout high school, and I'm sure is the reason I remained so interested in continuing to learn French. I was close enough to fluent by then, with a Parisian accent I'd picked up somewhere, that a few locals assumed I was one of the French school kids they hadn't met yet, and not one of the visiting Americans. By the time I graduated from college, I really was fluent. I've certainly let a lot of it slip away in the intervening years, but enough of the basics came back, quickly enough, that I'm understanding quite a bit of what's around me and I'm managing to express myself just fine. I owe it all to Luke.

Of course, we knew Les Deux Magots was next to St. Germain des Pres, but my father thought it was a lot closer than it really was. He apologized for not suggesting we hop the Metro for a couple of stops instead of hoofing it.

After Les Deux Magots, my exhausted mother headed back to the hotel, my father headed to a museum he wanted to see, and Jeff and I went on to the Musée d'Orsay. It's a beautiful museum I've been to before, but not in a long time. It's built in a very old railroad station, with a cavernous central area still fully open, and six floors of exhibits and other facilities at the ends and the sides. Jeff and I were both impressed by a "20 years of photographs" exhibition that wasn't 20 years of photography, but photographs collected over 20 years. They included some very, very old photographs. Another great exhibit was self-portraits by Leon Spilliaert, a Belgian artist, over the years, starting when he was 12. We'd vaguely thought about going from there to the Picasso Museum, but Jeff and I were ready to collapse and didn't want to walk more.

We all reconvened at the hotel and had a nice dinner at La Fermette Marbeuf. It was too hot inside, so they gave us a nice table outside, with a pleasant breeze. It was a good dinner, but a bit of a comedy of errors, as things kept differing from what the menu said. The foie gras my mother ordered turned out to be a pâte de foie gras. Delicious, and she enjoyed it just fine, but it wasn't what she expected. And my duck breast lacked the phyllo pastry described in the menu. When we mentioned this, they said they'd run out.

We happened to have a good view from our table of the upper stretch of the Eiffel Tower, which of course is nicely lit at night. When 10pm arrived, a beautiful light show began that lasted for about ten minutes.

30 miles since Tuesday morning.
Tags: france, paris
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