Monday, May 19, 2008

Vendredi, 9 Mai

Yeah, we slept in. And had a somewhat leisurely morning. I read in bed for a bit and then we walked to the Harley shop we spotted on the way home last night. It was an interesting little bitty shop. We went down a (you guessed it) spiral staircase to the basement, where they had all kinds of T-shirts and such. We got one for My Bob and one for GJ and a long-sleeved one for M. We put our goodies in the messenger bag I snagged from work and marched off to the Arc du Triomphe.

Note how small the car in front of it is, and the huge French flag in the middle of the Arc.

They call the site Place de l'Etoile (Star Place) because all the main avenues stretch out from the round-about encirculing the monument, like points on a star. You have to take an underground passage to get to it or risk being run over on said round-about.

Napolean had the commissioned but didn't live to see its completion. It's a shame because the Arc is awe-inspiring. So is the view! I am shocked and pleased that I made it up the stairs without stopping. Thank goodness there is a little gallery and gift shop before you go the rest of the way to the top. The gift shop was one of the better ones we went to, though we only got a pen with a pull-out metro map (where was THAT at the beginning of the week?) and a towlette with the same. We're planning on using that as a placemat when we breakfast outside on Saturdays.

Then up a few more dozen steps to the observation deck. And wow! I think it was the best view in Paris (although we did miss a few opportunities the day before). We stared and stared and took a lot of pictures and stared more and finally wound our way back down the stairs.

This shot is of the Champs-Elysees, ending at the Louvre. Notice how the Louvre makes an upside-down "U" -- the place is huge. You can also see Pompidou on the left and Notre Dame on the right.

Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There are guards from the different branches of the military stationed there, and the WWI soldier's flame gets relit every evening. I think this is where they got the idea of for Kennedy's eternal flame.

And now that we saw the Champs-Elysees, we had to walk down it. We didn't go into may stores but we did stumble into a chocolate shop, Maiffret. We each got a piece of candied fruit, a bottle of water, and when the shopkeeper mumbled something about the young (probably American) girls who came in, complained it was expensive (on the Champs-Elysees, imagine that) and left... in French... I told her they just don't know what is good. In French! She seemed pretty amused, and I was rather pleased with myself. And the candied fruit was utterly amazing. Like nothing I'd had before.

After walking the majority of the Champs-Elysees, I decided I was hungry and we HAD to go to a little place I had read about, Angelina's. So we hopped on the Metro and headed back to Rue de Rivoli.

Thank goodness.

For one, it has a pastry shop in the left window, and the restaurant's dessert case on the right when you walk in. Then, it has the type of elegant decor that will never go out of style. Think classic murals and lots of moldings and marble tables and great wood and leather chairs. And the waitstaff wear black and white uniforms. This might be a good time to point out that in France, working in a restaurant is serious business. They do NOT get minimum wage, and the cost of food typically includes gratuity. And it's been around since 1903, so they must be doing SOMETHING right.

We had the perfect waitress. She took her job as serious business, but had an underlying warmth while we ordered in a mix of French and English. We left her a tip typical for good service in an American restaurant. When we left the dining area to make a few purchases at the pastry counter, she approached us to thank us and tell us how much she loves her job, and the food.

The food? Oh, MY. I ordered a quiche lorraine and M (upon my prodding) got a Croquet Monsiour. Both were served with a bit of lettuce (this was true nearly everywhere we went, and I've begun the practice at home). And both were better than reasonable for a ham sandwich and what amounts to an egg pie.

And then we ordered the legendary hot chocolate.

It came to us in a little pitcher with a side of whipped creme. It wasn't hot at all, just lukewarm and thick, like the highest-quality chocolate, melted down. I don't want to try describe how good it was. M was willing to give up chocolate for the stuff. And the whipped creme was like a cloud. I will say that the serving size -- enough for us both to have about two cups -- was a bit much for how rich it was. Angelina's will certainly be a place I return to, should I return to Paris.

The rest of the day was spent walking off the hot chocolate. We walked back across the street and through the Jardin Tuileries and to the Palace de la Concorde. This is another major round-about with a fountain each on the north and south end
and an obelisque in the middle. From there we hit the other end of the Champs-Elysees and walked north-west until we saw all the things we missed earlier that day, and then got back on the Metro and back to the hotel.

After a brief rest, we went to dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel. It was probably the kind of place that doesn't get a lot of tourists; while the food was very good, the waiter was less than enthusiastic. But my high-school French at least communicated what we wanted and we ate our veal (M) and scallops (me) and drank all of our bottle of wine and still had a good time (I loved being somewhere that wasn't full of tourists) and we walked back to our room and had another blissful night of sleep under feather blankets, and lulled by the city sounds.

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