Sous le ciel de Paris

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On board the Eurostar

Hearts full of memories and longing, we headed to St Pancras Station in London to climb aboard the Eurostar to the Gare du Nord, Paris. Customs was efficient , vaccination cards required, and one Guiness and one glass of white wine in hand, we boarded our train. Despite a delay once we re-emerged from under the English Channel (une fatalité sur la ligne?!?!), we enjoyed a  tasty light meal with wine in real glasses on board–no extra cost. The seats were comfortable and spacious, the rolling countryside verdant and gold. What a delightful way to travel and such a far cry from the cramped airplane seats and expensive bad food forced upon us whenever we fly!

We had heard that the Gare du Nord was dangerous. Hmph. Upon our arrival we followed instructions and headed to the ultra organized official taxi stand where we waited our turn. It wasn’t long before we were whisked away to our apartment near the Galéries Lafayette. It was a little comical to watch us try to get into the apartment, what with fobs and codes and keys. There was a lift for the suitcases but it started and stopped on the landings between floors. A curious arrangement. Nevertheless, we got into our clean and spacious new home, dropped our bags and headed out to catch the last golden rays of the sun.

It was a warm evening for May, and everyone was out! This was the Paris of our dreams. We thought we would just head back to our apartment for a late night snack and glass of wine, but a cafe on Place Colette caught my eye. The terrace was full of people sipping cocktails and wine, and eating ….(drum roll) croque monsieurs! There was no debate. We joined in and Ray selected a bottle of Brouilly. Heaven!

The reason I chose this particular Airbnb was its location in a “quartier”  we know well but one we had never stayed in. It is a short walk to the Rue des Martyrs, one of the best food shopping streets in Paris, and that was our Saturday morning activity. We couldn’t resist a second breakfast (a Dan McKenna tradition) across from the carousel at the top of the street. A glass of orange juice, an espresso and a croissant for 6.5 euros on the terrace–not bad!  We bought cheese and butter at one shop (un camembert pour aujourd’hui, pas trop fort, une petite tranche de Roquefort et un peu de beurre normand). Then on to the wine shop, the boulangerie and the marché aux fruits et légumes.  The piece de resistance? Half a roast chicken with its sauce and some roast potatoes. Lunch!!

We then had to walk it off! 9.1 miles and 18 flights of stairs began with a stroll through the grounds of  the Louvre and across the Seine to the purchase of some small posters from a bouquiniste. We continued around Notre Dame to Ile Saint Louis and the obligatory ice cream chez Berthillon. A quick metro ride brought us back home to regroup for a few minutes and then  to our dinner reservation at the classic Moulin aux Galettes in Montmartre. Yes, we walked all the way up. And then all the way down. People were laughing and singing. Music floated out from the restaurants and bars, and musicians played in the streets. It was a gorgeous evening!

Even though the Moulin aux Galettes is a bit touristy, the food was good and we were able to sit on the terrace. Next to us was a well-dressed French man d’un certain âge and his parents. We began chatting in a mixture of French and English. He asked us to try a bit of his rosé. We toasted and traded abbreviated life stories. As the dinner drew to a close, he got up and arranged to pay for our wine!! And we never learned his name! We ended the evening with so much hope for humanity!

Undeterred by a cloudy morning the following day, we set out on another long walk to try to find a cafe we had dined in years ago with Margaret, our friend Catherine and her daughter Adrienne. We knew neither the name nor the address, and we had only a vague notion of the neighborhood. Did we find it? Unsure. Maybe? More research required. We then headed to E. Dehillerin to do a little kitchenware shopping. Oh non! Closed on Sundays! Fortunately we can go tomorrow! And then it started to rain but a café table under a canopy presented itself and we treated ourselves to a pizza for lunch.

It was then time to hike back up to Montmartre to meet our friend Thomas and his girlfriend. We have known Thomas since he was a little boy and his parents are good friends of ours. We enjoyed a drink in the delightful gardens of the Musée de Montmartre. It is a setting made famous by many artists, especially Renoir, and behind the gardens is a working tiny vineyard!

Since we arrived in Paris, less than forty-eight hours ago, we have walked 21 miles and climbed 43 flights of stairs. My Apple Watch tells me I have had a perfect week. I agree!