Paris: Day Twenty-six

max-in-jumperHappy Birthday, little Maxwell!

Another fine morning here in Paris. Went to get the morning baguette and took a walk around the block too. After breakfast Sue read and I worked on another computer job for a couple of hours. Our neighbouring apartment has been vacant for most of the month, but today someone was in there again, sanding and scraping the window sashes. So I had to go into our spare bedroom to find a quiet place to ‘record’ my (multitrack) happy birthday wish for Max. We emailed Peter about our departure here on Monday — and while Sue was composing her email she got one from him! We’re all set, good to close up the place.

At around 3pm we left for our day’s expedition. We took the metro down into the 14th arrondissement in southern Paris. Although our research suggested that there would be a 2-hour line-up for visitors to the catacombs, we decided to take our chances. It’s the off-season, it’s Saturday, it’s a little cooler today, maybe nobody wants to go underground and look at the bones of 7 million former Parisians. Well, we weren’t the only people to think that. When we stepped out of the metro we saw the line-up directly ahead of us. It went around the corner and around the next corner. We walked to the end of the line and met an official who was telling people at the end of the line to leave — the catacombs would close before they would reach the entrance. So we left. What is it with me and this fascination with death anyway? Cemeteries and crypts. I’m turning into my mother!

We walked back towards central Paris. Our walk took us back through the Luxembourg Gardens. We’d been here a few weeks ago, but what a difference a few cold nights make! Fall colors now decorated the trees. Leaves now blanketed the sidewalks. Coats and scarves instead of tank tops. The Tahitian dancers on one of the park stages looked a little chilled.

We eventually crossed over to the island on the Seine. We thought we might visit the Palais de Justice, located in the ÃŽle de la Cité in central Paris. The Palais contains a former prison, now a museum, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being executed on the guillotine. It was still on our ‘to-do’ list. We joined the line-up at the entrance to buy our tickets. Eventually, once we got to the ticket booth, we discovered that the museum was closed, getting renovated, from late September to sometime in November. If we’d only known! We should have come here when we first arrived in Paris! Oh well, there was still the option to visit the La Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel built in the 1200s which is right next to the Palais. The Chapelle is famous for its walls of 13th-century stained glass. So we stood in line for the next 45 minutes to buy our tickets. Once we got past the ticket booth we were in through the door and back on one of those narrow spiral stone staircases going way up into the ‘castle’. Seems like we’ve done this before too. And then we arrive at the upper chamber and sure enough, there is the chapel, and wow, it sure has some unbelievable stained glass! Well, you can try to take a photo of this, but you know how the camera has a way of ‘equalizing’ things — stinky bathrooms look not-so-bad and glorious chapels look ‘okay’. Check another church off our list.

coffee break in ParisWe walked back along the Seine. Took another photo of the green metal boxes that line both sides of the river — these are the stands that sell used books. We wind our way along the narrow streets that will eventually take us back up to our apartment in Montmartre. After a month here we’re still ‘discovering’ new sights and new places. We stop for coffee and a crepe at a sidewalk cafe. Heaters under the awnings warm our table. The place is crowded with French people, old and young, including a surprising number of infants in strollers. We make eyes at a little one-year-old girl in the arms of her mother next to our table. Can’t help but remind us of our own little grandson celebrating his birthday at home today.

Nearing home we decide that the late afternoon sunlight provides a fine opportunity for us to snap a few pics of the shops we have frequented here during our stay. So here’s a little gallery of the bakery I went to every morning, the butcher shop, the fish market, the cheese shop, the fruit stands, the wine store.

Back home we skyped Max and wished him a happy birthday. We celebrated with a bottle of some of the best beer I’ve managed to find here. We read a bit and then headed out for supper at around 8:30. Unfortunately the little French restaurant we had wanted to go to was closed. What else is new? So we went back to the Smiley Bar at the corner of Navarin and Martyrs, just down the street from our place. It’s packed. And I mean PACKED. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the Parisians like to eat right beside each other. I normally don’t sit as close to Sue in a booth at Smitty’s as I sit here next to a complete stranger in a French restaurant. And it’s not quiet in here either. No, you pretty much sit and yell at the person across from you if you want to communicate. (Well, I guess you could TEXT her if you had a phone!) Our meal is great. Sue has already spoiled her supper with that crepe for coffee break, but we share (what else?) an order of foie gras for a starter. Sue had some ‘real’ French onion soup and I had beef tartare — essentially a mound of raw hamburger mixed with onions and seasonings. I ate about half of it and then supplemented it with most of the delicious melted cheese from Sue’s soup.

Back at home we settled in at our usual spots in front of the computer and watched another episode of our ‘Downton Abbey’ series. Well, I should say Sue watched it. I managed to stay awake only long enough to eat my half of the chocolate bar and then I surrendered and stumbled off to bed.