Originally emailed September 6, 2001
Gwenda arrived on the Eurostar from Wales via London. I had such a fantastic trip when I visited her in Wales that I wanted her to have a great visit to Paris. This is not her first visit so I hope to show her new sights. She requested just a few things and I put them on the list. After some of my Onion Soup (a recipe I carry in my head and given to me by a friend from Little Rock, Arkansas using chicken broth not beef stock) and an apple torte from our bakery, we all hit the sack in preparation for a big sightseeing day.
First stop was Giverney, home and gardens of Claude Monet. Kay and I were here in June and the gardens were full of tulips, iris, lily of the valley, wisteria. Now there were cosmos, dahlias, some roses, impatiens, sunflowers and a few blooms on the lily pads. I saved enough time to visit the Flower Shop and found some wonderful seed packets for gifts. I used my walking stick that Rob bought me in Ireland and it helped the bad knee. We had a terrific guide who filled us in on lots of history in Monet’s time with some art appreciation bits. Now that I am more familiar with Monet’s works, I have a greater appreciation for the influence of the Japanese drawings he collected and used on his own work. This was noticeable also as we walked through the Japanese gardens. The weeping willows, often a topic of Japanese art, dipping into the pond were so beautiful.
Perhaps I have mentioned before about the luncheon at the Mill Pond which is part of this tour day. White tables under white umbrellas next to the Mill House and Pond are so picturesque. Some parties eat inside as well. The fare is always the same; salmon mousse, grilled rosemary chicken, salad, baguettes and apple torte. Excellent.
We sat with a woman from upstate New York traveling with her 87-year-old mother from Boca Raton. We were happy to meet them so Gwenda would have company for the second half of the tour. I could not tour Versailles Palace one more time. Museums I can do over and over but I draw the line on palaces. Kay agreed with me.
Instead, we strolled around the village. Town was cute with lots of pubs and cafes. It was raining so we popped in, had some drinks and listened to the locals chat at the bar. The trip back to Paris was on country roads and through quaint little villages. Gwenda was very pleased with the outing. She is very energetic and can walk for miles but we were all a bit tired. We got home late so we just snacked and watched “Million” on French TV.
“Million” is the only show we really have found to be fun to watch. The format is exactly the same as in the US. And the down time is the same waiting for answers which is advantageous for us. It gives us time to flip through the French-English dictionary and look up words so we can make an educated guess on the answer. We did quite well and considered this part of our education in learning the language.
Gwenda wanted to go to church with me so we did that on Sunday. She found it interesting even though she is not Catholic. We walked up rue Cler to the Sunday open market. i could hardly contain her. All the food does look delicious. We picked up fresh fruit and tomatoes and headed for the charcuterie. Gwenda could not resist the shrimp in dill sauce, marinated aubergine, thin sliced parma ham, roquefort and gorgonzola cheeses and individual artichoke topped pizzas. What a smorgasbord of a brunch we had that day.
After that feast, we took a bus to the Marmatton/Monet Museum to relive and revisit the gardens we saw yesterday at Giverney. It is impossible to skip the gift shop here. We did some damage and walked away with lots of gifts such as decks of cards with assorted Monet paintings, prints, pens, notepads. You name it, they had it.. On the way back to the apartment, we hopped on Bateaux Mouches for a daylight ride up and down the Seine. The 13 bridges were quite different during the day than when they were lit up on the evening ride.
What to do on Gwenda’s last day? She had two requests – to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and to light a candle for her sister-in-law at Notre Dame. We bought fresh croissants for breakfast and walked off the calories over to the Eiffel Tower.
I have resisted going to the top of the Eiffel Tower all year. Gwenda challenged me. I bit the bullet and joined her. Not to say I was not terrified in the elevator. I must have made several strange sounds as the other passengers were laughing and enjoying my fright and misery.
We got off the elevator and I thought we were at the top. Nope. We had to get on another elevator to get to the tippy-top. I kept repeating, “omidgod.” It was magnificent at the top as I gripped the railing with two hands. I was thrilled to see all of Paris and even able to point out my apartment building. It was a perfectly clear day and I could have stayed up there forever. Thank God I didn’t leave Paris without doing just that. I would have missed a memorable moment.
We took a two-bus ride to Notre Dame. The cathedral was completely open. I say this because it is not always open all the way to the furthermost altar. So we could walk right up to the Pieta and have a great view and read the inscriptions on the altar. Gwenda lit her candle. We wandered around the Latin Quarter and then in the direction of rue des Ecoles to see the Sorbonne and visit the Pantheon.
We stopped for a light lunch at Brasserie Balzar, a famous spot for many years. It preserved the old French atmosphere, polished dark woods, crisp white linens, heavy silverware, great dishes and glassware. The food is served by the tuxedo-ed waiters from silver serving plates. Old world service. Several levels of staff – all efficient and friendly. Gwenda had fromage du jour which was a carrot based soup served from a tureen. I had smoke salmon served with fresh dill and creme fraiche on crisp toast on a silver plate covered with white linen. Gwenda had a hot chocolate which was a sight to behold. I had this brasserie on my list from day one and never made it till now. It turned out to be my favorite restaurant of all Paris. Sorry I came to it so late.
On the way home, we stopped at St. Sulpice. Coincidentally, there was a huge military funeral going on. Flowers were banked on all the altars. The church was full and this is one big church capable of seating hundreds. Fantastic organ music was being played. We stayed just a few minutes before heading home.
The next morning Gwenda was up early and running over to the bakery to get fresh brioche, her personal favorite bakery item. We rushed over to Samarataine, a terrific department store where I hit on a coat sale back in November. I had forgotten to pack a winter coat. It was a two for one sale. I purchased a red wool ¾ coat and a gray knotted fabric full length coat. Gwenda picked up some French soaps and Chanel #19. We had to force ourselves from shopping longer
Time up for Gwenda’s visit. She had a wonderful time and was a great guest. We have become new friends and I hope to get back to Wales someday…to visit the church where the statue gives the weather report…where friends gather to nibble on digestive biscuits and sing songs…where the people pursue the preservation of their language and the sheep outnumber the residents. Maybe Gwenda will make her smoked haddock soufle!