Originally emailed mid July, 2001
Kay’s daughter, Darlene and family were visiting for a week. Darlene and her husband, Chuck, left us with their children, Justin and Brianne, for a few days while they did some of their own sightseeing,
What a kick having Kay’s grandson around who wanted to know everything about Paris, the food, the language, etc. One morning, he joined me as I did the shopping on rue Cler, the most famous open market in Paris just one block away from our flat. He skateboarded along side me and wanted to know the French words for my purchases. We stopped at the outdoor café. I let him order a hot chocolate and a basket of croissants on his own which he totally demolished. I noticed he was watching the men standing at the bar inside the cafe smoking and having their morning coffee. Try it, I said and gave him some francs. He went right up and stood among the men as if he did it every day and ordered a coffee, “un café s’il vous plait.” Perfect French.
Then I gave him more francs and sent him inside the supermarche to purchase some canned tuna and mayo for his sister. Not too wild about mysterious food or cheese, Brianne was missing tuna fish sandwiches.
During the summer the Tuilleries (park and gardens) have a carnival so we took the kids to that after they roller-bladed in the squares by Napoleon’s tomb. One jof the rides at the carnival would shoot two people up to the moon (it seemed) in a ball tethered to the base on the ground. I resisted the challenge by Justin. My excuse was that his parents would not approve!
The same week, my friend, Leigh Anne, came for a visit. She has always loved everything French. I tried to map out a plan so she could see as much as possible in her short stay.
We occasionally have crossovers of guests but we always manage to make it fun for all. Leigh Anne arrived to a house full. Knowing that my “museum buddy” would suffer from jet lag, I let her unpack and we headed to the Marmatton/Monet Museum without a nap. This is usually a good strategy. This museum is absolutely one of my favorites. I chose to show her this one first because of its peaceful atmosphere.
We sat on the benches in the lower level and chatted for ages surrounded by six of Monet’s lily pad series. The rooms are painted a creamy white and the floors are pickled so the floor to ceiling murals really stand on their own with no distraction. I’ve spent many hours here this year. The second floor exhibit changes and today there were many of Berthe Morisot’s paintings. Berthe is another one of my favorite impressionists. Not only was she an artist but the subject of other impressionists.
We strolled over to Trocadero (across the Seine by the Eiffel Tower) and had a late lunch at an outdoor café. You can really feel the spirit of Paris on this corner in addition to the best view of the Eiffel Tower. We ate terrific salads and sipped some white wine. The French excel at salad plates. I probably mentioned that my favorite is salade chevre chaude. Who wouldn’t like melted cheese on baguette toasts drizzled with olive oil? There were wonderful postcard stands here as well with lots of black and white photograph cards. We were both unable to resist purchasing a bagful.
There were bodies sleeping everywhere in the apartment. Leigh Anne could not sleep partly due to jet lag and part to excitement. Some visitors just can’t get their clocks adjusted on arrival. We played musical beds trying to find her a comfortable spot but that was not the problem. Even tried some Valium. Nothing seemed to work. At five in the morning I saw her doing yoga exercises in the kitchen!
This did not damper Leigh Anne’s sightseeing spirit. We make terrific museum buddies. We headed for Notre Dame, on her list of must-see spots, and stopped for another yummy brunch at a sidewalk cafe. People watching in Paris is the best entertainment while resting your feet. If you can add a crepe or salad and wine to the sport, it is perfect. Cute American couple sat next to us who looked bewildered. I remembered the feeling so I helped them with the menu and some directions. They felt so much better. I am now such an expert! Spent the rest of the day strolling in some of the best shopping areas. Leigh Anne liked the “white blouse store.” Imagine a store devoted to just one item. Early to bed for Leigh Ann. It finally caught up with her and she was finally able to sleep.
Another day – another museum. My #3 favorite – the Rodin Museum. It was a gloriously sunny day and the gardens were full of colorful cosmos. Leigh Ann was happy to spend lots of time viewing Rodin’s works and jimagining what it was like in Rodin’s day. Originally this museum housed many artist and dance studios including Rodin himself. The high ceilings and windows lent so much to his collection.
Rodin’s The Thinker sits outside and if you stand at the right angle you can capture the gold top of Napoleon’s tomb in the background for a great photo. We met Kay and her newest house guests, relatives from NJ, for lunch at a nearby café and had crepes of every variety. Some like them sweet and some like them savory. My favorite was crepes with ham and melted cheese. The others chose crepes stuffed with fruits, syrups, caramel, chocolate and the ever popular Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut butter. No one ordered crepes suzette, more of a dessert item. This particular café served a small side salad with the crepes, rare for lunch. We were all content.
For some night life fun, we ventured to a nightclub, The Lido. I actually prefer the Moulin Rouge show which is a display of costumes, music and dancing not to be believed. The Lido quality is not quite as good, in my opinion, and the “vaudeville” acts were only fair and way too many boobs flopping about. I suspect that the audience did not find the show funny but we could not contain our laughter in true American style. After all, we were Americans in Paris seeing bare breasts on stage for the first time.
Sent Kay’s guests along with Leigh Ann to Giverney, home of Monet and his lily gardens, and Versailles, the palace that served as the residence for Louis XIV, while Kay and I prepared for a dinner party. We invited Marie and Tim, Rene, Michel, Anne Marie and William from my French class and Deanna, Stephane and Charly from church to join the party. Stuck to my famous chicken casserole, now affectionately named “Madame’s Poulet” with the skinny string beans (haricot vert) along with butter lettuce (laitue beurre) salade, baguettes, fresh strawberries (framboises) and apple tart (tortes aux pommes). Another great dinner party with the Eiffel Tower watching over us. Pinch me.
The summer heat was so oppressive that we decided to go to an air-conditioned museum. This is my #2 favorite – the Musée d’Orsay. Originally a train station, it was converted to a museum to house the Impressionists – at that time the French wanted them out of the Louvre. The design of the station is wonderful especially the big old clocks and open galleries.
I decided to carry my cane today and it worked fine except it occasionally skidded on the marble floors. We stopped for a leisurely lunch in the very fancy garden room restaurant overlooking the Seine. The weather was still hot but there was a delightful breeze on the portico.
I felt so elegant in my French straw hat, purchased in a quaint little hat shoppe next to St. Sulpice, and my walking stick. It was just an elegant lunch with eggplant salad and fresh fish, white wine and Badoit. Badoit is a sparkling water similar to Perrier. It is the sparkling water of offering in most French restaurants. I just like saying it – “badwah.” We felt very pampered by our waiter who was fussing over Leigh Anne.
That evening we took the boat tour sans dinner and drinks – just the plain boat tour. It was a welcome breeze on such a hot day. Paris from the Seine is gorgeous. Every bridge has a personality of its own. The boat was crowded and Parisians standing on the bridges to escape the heat of their apartments waved to us.
What’s a museum tour without including the Louvre. Foolishly and accidentally, I wore flip flops to the Louvre. One does not wear flip flops on marble floors for six hours. We conquered the Louvre in that time span. Leigh Anne was disappointed that the Egyptian section was closed for repairs that day. But the new Dutch and Flemish wing was finally open. I.M. Pei designed this section. Very unusual with rooms of deeply colored walls, the new fad at museums to make the art stand out more. The paintings were magnificent. We took a coffee and baguette break. The Louvre is so crowded and alive. Millions come through here and share the excitement of seeing the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo and my favorite, Psycho and Cupid surrounded by art and artifacts beyond the imagination. There is always a crowd around the Mona Lisa waiting to get a closer look. The painting is much smaller than I thought. It is in a vacuum sealed glass fixture to prevent aging and fading. My museum buddy was thrilled.
After a quick refresher and along with Kay’s guests, we headed to Le Train Bleu for a farewell dinner to Leigh Anne. But it was steamy hot with no AC so we opted to leave and search for a cooler cafe. We headed back to our own neighborhood by bus to Bistro 7th ‘A” that serves the best sautéed chicken livers atop greens. None of our guests believed it until they tasted it. We were happy to sit outside where the air was moving.. I insisted they try the most sinful dessert – a version of peach melba but with pears. They agreed it was superb. I counted the table tops and this tiny restaurant seats 30 diners at the most. Al the dishes were prepared to order and were the best I had in Paris. I have been holding back on using French expressions. This called for an exception…”Mon Dieux.”
Leigh Anne left early the next am. I think she was delighted with all she saw and did. And I have become a pretty good guide and may consider this my new vocation. The heat hit again and Kay and I decided that her guests needed a day off from sightseeing. We spent it leisurely in the apartment drinking lemonade, playing cards and soaking our feet in ice.
And then suddenly, the apartment is empty of guests. Kay and I are expecting more company. But first I will meet up with Lois in Le Havre.
If it is not the knees, it is my feet. My right heel is screaming at me, “Are you nuts walking in the Louvre on marble floors in flip flops?” I need a caretaker.