Happy Birthday to Me!
Paris, France- Day 10
Vendredi June12, 2009
Ahhhhh…Paris! Just writing and saying the word makes my heart sing. Yes, the city of lights. It is a city for the senses, and one you can never get enough of. From the train we take a cab to the Best Western Grand Hotel De L Universe.
I am in Paris and can hardly breathe! With only one day here we pop the cork on a bottle of wine, toast Paris and head out to explore the streets.
With much to cram in, our first stop is the Notre Dame Cathedral (full name: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, “Our Lady of Paris”) It is a beautiful cathedral on the the Île de la Cité in Paris. Begun in 1163 and mostly completed by 1250, Notre Dame is an important example of French Gothic architecture, sculpture and stained glass.
The Notre Dame is the most popular monument in Paris and in all of France, beating even the Eiffel Tower with 13 million visitors each year. But the famous cathedral is also an active Catholic church, a place of pilgrimage, and the focal point for Catholicism in France – religious events of national significance still take place here.
A stroll through the Latin Quarter brings us to an outdoor cafe for a glass of French cabernet.This famous Left Bank neighborhood, so named because the numerous university students in the area spoke only Latin to their professors until the French Revolution, preserves an authentic Parisian atmosphere of old. We move on and later, the aroma of freshly baked baguettes entices us to make a mental note to stop for a cafe au lait later on in the day.
Of course the Arc de Triumph is massive, hard to miss.The arch is a site of memories, current events and celebrations. The lists of the dead will move you. And the cars that drive around the monument will terrify you! Standing in a direct line between the Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Defense , the monument links the past with the present and offers amazing views. A truly impressive landmark, 50 meters (164 feet) high and 45 meters (147 feet) wide, Paris would not be Paris without it!
Someone please pinch me! We take corny photos, I walk around in a daze not really sure that I am here. I poke my head in the Mercedes store and then must go in and buy a cap for my son, who adores those luxury vechiles..
Then more corny photos. And then of course more walking. We stroll past the Luxembourg gardens- also closed. But a peek was better than nothing. Of course, I salivate to see the Louvre but with only one day we can’t do it all-( a great excuse to come back!) so we hop on the Metro and explore whatever we can drink in.
I even spot a couple who just tied the knot! In Paris yet along the Champ Elysees! Could not miss this shot!
By late afternoon we are exploring the incredible Opera House which is like stepping into another world. It’s massive interior and staircases leave one breathless.Although slightly smaller in scale than its predecessor, the Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique, the Palais Garnier is a building of exceptional opulence.
It seats an audience of roughly 2,200 under a central chandelier which weighs over six tons, and has a huge stage with room to accommodate up to 450 artists. The style is monumental and considered typically Beaux-Arts, with use of axial symmetry in plan, and its exterior ornamentation.
We pass the Parthanon building- a greek government building and take a few quick photos. Dolores has waited a few years to go back to the Fragonard Parfumeur shop that she visited once, so onward we go to explore the scents and naturally buy something expensive.
We have dinner at an Argentinian restaurant that stirs the senses once again. We sit a a table with other travelers and enjoy conversation and other languages. Yes, the gift of travel abroad is priceless.
And of course, how can one forget Montmartre? A city in itself. Quaint, lively, historic, fun and nearly on top of the world. The view is incredible. Montmartre is a hill 130 metres high, in the north of Paris in the 18th arrondissement, a part of the Right Bank, primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district.
The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded.
Many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre such as Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.
Montmartre means ‘mountain of the martyr’; it owes its name to the martyrdom of Saint Denis, who was decapitated on the hill around 250 AD. Saint Denis was the Bishop of Paris and is the patron saint of France
The Eiffel tower- I must laugh- we spotted it from a distance and it looked so close, we decided to walk to see it. Twelve thousand steps later, it was still miles from our touch!
Ah…so close but so far….Another hop on the metro, (hoping we get off at the right stop…) We do, although I hardly know how we made it there. I feel like I am in a movie now. AM I REALLY HERE??? I make Dolores take a photo so I can prove it to myself someday when I am 93 and don’t remember a damn thing.
At the end of the night- (where ,by the way, it does not get dark until 10PM -at least in June anyway) , I announce that since it is my birthday, I want to eat a French dessert crepe with gobs of chocolate and cream at an outdoor Paris cafe. Dolores will not argue with me on this at all- why would she?
So, given that there are only 3 million cafes to choose from, we easily settle in with all the other Parisians and make believe we are we speak fluent French, are sophisticated and worldly, even though we are wearing American sneakers instead of French heels!
But, I could care less. I will eat a to- die- for Strawberry French Crepe covered in whipped cream shortly . We order and my wish arrives. But a surprise comes with it. A sparkler has inserted itself into my French Crepe! Our cafe table is is as bright as the City of Lights!
I am amazed, thinking for sure that Dolores must have alerted our waiter in her best French accent that it was my birthday!
I gaze her way waiting for her surprise announcement, but she is as puzzled as I am. Instead she looks at her watch, tells me it is 11:59 PM and shouts “Happy Birthday Deb!”
My heart skips a beat, and then it is 12:00AM Paris time. I am one year older and in Paris. I look at the table next to me. They have a sparkler in their French Crepe too!…Ahhhh…another birthday or do all desserts come with sparklers?
In Paris, I suppose they do.