Monday morning we got up at a reasonable time – around 9 a.m. or so, and had breakfast from a sidewalk crêpe shop down the street from the hotel. This brought back fond memories of childhood, as it happened to be Columbus Day back in the states and I had a crêpe filled with raspberry preserves (after it took me about 5 minutes of struggling to remember that raspberry in French was "framboise"), something that I hadn’t had since our local French club served crêpes at the local Autumnfest, and I always had them with raspberry. The little old woman who served us made the crêpes on the large flat pan with grace and ease.
We walked over to Notre Dame cathedral, which was a great starting point for our Parisian trip, as it provided a point of reference in comparison to the many churches we saw in Rome. While the Roman churches were ostentatious and bold, Notre Dame was dark and reserved. The tourists were also different, as they were less respectful of the church as a holy place than the tourists in Rome were. Of course, the Churches are a bit more sanctimonious as well, with all the Parisian churches we visited offering gift shops and book stores right in the churches, and most of them offering souvenir coins made out of a penny that dropped into the machine and then you turn the crank. Hardly all basins of holy water and crucifixes.
We walked from Notre Dame to Île de la Cité, then tried to get into St. Chappell, but we weren’t able to figure out if were in the line for that or the courthouse, and bailed. We found ourselves near the Pompidou Center, so we spent some time in that area, admiring the contrast of modern and classic architecture. After that we had lunch at a classic-looking bistro where we enjoyed excellent French onion soup.
From there, we headed to an area that I was anxious to explore – Place de la Madeleine. It is well known for its many gourmet stores, including a Maille store, a boutique store of Maille brand mustards. This was a really unique experience, where buying mustards was like buying jewelry: you picked what you wanted from the glass cases and then the clerk pulled it out of the drawers, wrapped it in custom printed black and gold paper with a seal and then put it a beautiful heavy bag. They also sell ceramic jars of various sizes that you can bring in to be refilled from the draught pumps on the sales counter. Even the sampling method was impressive, with small dabs of mustard served on small rounds of paper. We bought a sample pack, a jar of peach-chili mustard and some of their ancienne style chardonnay grainy mustard.
We also visited a tea store, a honey store (over 200 types of honey), and Marquise De Sevigne chocolates (try the apple filled chocolates if you get a chance. very, very good). We also had a little taste of home by resting our feet in a Starbucks and enjoying the chocolates we had just purchased.
We were now near the Opera House, which would be a must-see for me on a second trip to Paris. We then bought some touristy open-air double decker bus tickets for the next two days since were getting sick of walking everywhere after a week of walking everywhere in Rome and all day in Paris thus far. We rode around the city for a while, seeing the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Things were getting a bit chilly by that point, so we took a subway to the hotel where we got ready for dinner. We tried going to Brasserie Lipp, but unlike Rome, not all restaurants are all English friendly. We chickened out of that and a few other places before settling on another place, Brasserie Saint Benoit, which offered up a decent, if not fantastic meal.
We left there and headed over to the Trocadero, where we stopped for a glass of champagne, mainly to use the bathroom at L’Ancien Trocadero. Unfortunately, the glass of champagne was definitely the better of the deal, since the bathroom was pretty nasty.
We walked over to the area overlooking the Eiffel tower, admiring the beautiful sight. It was a sight that sent chills up and down my spine, as it is an icon that I wasn’t sure I would ever see. Even with a giant rugby ball in the middle (did I mention that it was the World Rugby Cup while were were in Paris? No? It was hard to miss… there was rugby everywhere), it was gorgeous. I took some photos and then as we started to walk down towards the tower, it began to glitter and sparkle. It is something that started back in 2000, for the new millennium, and happens each night. I asked as we walked towards it, "how long do you think it lasts, a half hour or so?" to which Meghan said incredulously "I don’t think so babe… probably a few minutes."
As we got closer, she kept offering to stop so I could take a photo, and I kept saying "no, let’s get closer" which she found strange. Once we were right underneath the tower, with it still glittering and sparkling, I started fumbling around in my camera bag, saying that I wanted to try something new with the camera. Instead of a new lens or filter though, I explained I had something else that sparkles and got down on one knee… it was a bit of planned spontaneity and one that took my now fiance quite by surprise, since she never would have thought I had managed to pull it off.
Now you know what I’ll probably be writing about in the next year: being engaged, getting married and planning a wedding. I already have at least five blog entries worth of material and its only been about a month….
Anyway – we still had two more days in Paris. After our very eventful night and a late night cab ride back to the hotel, we rested up in preparation of our first day in Paris as a newly engaged couple.