We may move here ...
We left Antwerp for the last time and headed to Paris, France. We arrived at our mini apartment overlooking Pont de Neuf, dropped everything off, and went in search of our first dinner café experience. We found one called Le Dindon En Laisse, which means “The Turkey on a Leash”. It was everything we expected: intimate, slow and relaxing. We had wine, a gloriously prepared duck breast, followed by a wonderful crème brule. We then repeated this procedure at every night for dinner, trying out new places. Some had better duck, others better wine, but all in all they were great! Everything they say about French cafes is true: you will sit extremely close to strangers at tiny tables, the service will be slow because they are respecting your dinner time and giving you time to talk lazily over each course. It was the perfect nightcap after a long day of site-seeing and became our ritual over the next five nights.
It was rainy the next morning, so we decide to spend the day at the Louvre. IT IS EXPANSIVE! I mean, I know you know that, but it just can’t be as big as it is. We spent about 8 hours and saw maybe 1/16th of the collection. Paintings, sculptures, antiquities, oh my! Dinner that night included escargot. Check out the third photo, with me in the bottom right ... that painting is HUGE too!
We woke up to a beautiful, sunny day in Paris the next morning and went to Notre Dame of Paris, located on a small island in the river Seine. It’s roots go back a thousand years, but honestly after seeing Westminster Abbey, there may not be a reason to visit another church (sacre bleu!).
To save time, for lunch we stopped in a Mediterranean restaurant for shawarma stuffed full and topped with French fries. It was bigger than both of our heads and SO good. The French know their french fries! We ordered French fries everywhere we went from that point on.
Off to the Eiffel Tower! It’s tall, and scary (edit: for Elida) but pretty amazing. From there we went to the Arch de Triumphe, which is also huge. Elida had had enough of the heights for one day so we didn’t go to the top of this one. Despite the long lines everywhere we went, we saw three major sites before 4 p.m., so we sauntered down the Champs Elysees and had some coffee and hot chocolate. We walked back to our apartment just in time to watch the sun set behind the Eiffel tower from the Pont de Neuf bridge. Here we bought some water color paintings from a street artist at the crepuscule. It was the quintessential Parisian day. Magical.
Day three in France was spent at Mont St. Michel, located northwest of Paris on the coast. It’s an abbey built in 980 in the middle of the sea on a chunk of basalt rising from the seafloor. I can’t believe how much people wanted to kill each other back then, but yes it was fortified over the years. It is so vertical, that even leaving felt like you were still traveling uphill.
Hungry again, we went in search of salt marsh grazed lamb. It was delicious, but honestly we couldn’t really taste a difference in the meat, even when we didn’t smother it in the creamy butter wine sauce provided.
May I recommend that should decide to visit Mont St. Michel from Paris, you reserve your return tickets by train in advance. We did not. Realizing the folly of our ways, we strategically positioned ourselves in the front of our shuttle, so we could be the first people at the ticket counter back at the station. There we made friends with an older German lady, ex-pat, now living in France. She turned to Elida smiling and said in a thick German-French accent, “Your husband, he is beautiful!” and kissed the tips of her fingers just before opening them toward the sky. Chris turned beet red and changed the subject.
That's right ladies, he's all mine.
After being dropped off, Chris sprinted to the ticket counter and urgently requested two tickets to Paris on the train, which was arriving in 8 minutes. They exchanged panicked looks and the agent immediately got on the phone to see what he could do. Meanwhile, the line behind Chris has grown, in this tiny train station. As the ticket man is busily clicking on his computer screen, our new French-German friend comes to the door of the platforms and signals for Elida to come over, exclaiming, “You must hurry, the train is coming!” Then she calls out to Chris across the station, “You must huuuurrryyy!” at which point the ticket printer jams. Chris cries out “PAPER JAM!” She again points to the train “IT IS HERE!!!”
Somehow, despite this frantic scene, we sprinted onto the train, calmed down, and looked at our tickets for the first time. The agent had found us a way to Paris but not quite on this train the entire time. We had three transfers adding two hours to our commute back to Paris. When we got to the first stop, I (Elida) refused to get off. Chris kindly noted that there were enormous fines for what we were about to do. I just as kindly told him they were going to have to pry my cold, dead fingers from this train to get me off. We were stowaways on a French Train, so I sent my BH (Beautiful Husband) to smooth things over. And he did, making a new friend with the ticket inspector on the train back.
France was an adventure!