Sent into an epic food coma after our incredible dinner on Friday night, Kelsey and I slept well and long. Kelsey woke up before me and woke me up in the best possible way: by calling my name and then pulling back the curtain so I could see the beautiful, perfectly Parisian building across the street… complete with the black iron balconies with flowers on them. I squealed with glee and got ready as quickly as possible.
We stepped out into the 75-degree, sunny morning and walked north towards Sacré Cœur. Along the way we passed several lovely little parks where parents relaxed on benches while their adorable kids played, which seems like the perfect way to pass a Saturday morning at either age. Thinking “I could do this all day” and/or “this is the perfect way to spend time” was a running theme of my time in Paris.
Also en route to Sacré Cœur, we stopped in a boulangerie-pâtisserie to pick up the first snack of the day. Thank God for Kelsey’s decision-making because I was completely overwhelmed by all of the enticing options. We settled for a pain au suisse, which is filled with a sort of cream and little pieces of chocolate. It was, obviously, delicious.
We also popped into a famous chocolate and sweets shop where I walked around open-mouthed gazing at the piles of macarons, cookies, chocolates, and other things, all surrounded by brightly colored boxes.
There were also numerous souvenir shops offering postcards of Paris old and new, scarves, bags, t-shirts, tourist guides, etc. I saw much that I wanted to buy but knew I had to wait!
Finally we arrived at the base of the hill on which Sacré Cœur sits in its splendor. From the top, you can see the whole city, including the Eiffel Tower (which made me scream). We joined the stream of tourists queuing to go inside, passed the scrutiny for appropriate dress, and entered the grand basilica. A good number of people were actually watching the Mass that was going on while we walked the loop around the interior. I paid 2 euros to light a candle for my Croatian grandfather (as I usually try to do when in churches abroad) and realized how much I miss just being in big churches like this.
After Sacré Cœur we walked to the nearby square where a bunch of artists had set up to sell their paintings (and in the case of many, paint while selling). Move over Eastern Market; you’ve got nothing on this place! I ended up buying two small paintings of the Eiffel Tower. Both purchases followed prolonged conversations, in French, with the artists, one of whom asked if I was an artist because apparently I asked arty questions. (Cool! And I was very pleased at how quickly my French returned here – I managed to make comments about background color and technique!)
We descended the hill and stopped along the way to pick up another snack, this time in the form of a rosemary and honey milkshake. (it’s a very interesting flavor combination!) we popped into a few cute shops on our way back to the main street and then walked several blocks to find the Moulin Rouge, which is indeed a red mill amidst a sea of sex shops. Otherwise, it’s pretty underwhelming without Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman singing about love. I also ate my first crêpe in this area; we split one with ham and cheese that immediately put sandwiches made with bread to shame.
We hopped onto the metro to meet up with two other ICTY interns in the Tuileries, a big park near the Louvre and the Champs-Élysée. People of all nationalities were strolling through the park, sitting around some of its grand fountains (which I recognized from a video in some long-ago French class), or lounging in reclining chairs in the shade of the trees.
After meeting up with the girls, we walked to see the Louvre and its pyramid before turning to walk past shops of fashion, low and high, on our way to Angelina’s, a place famous for its hot chocolate. It did not disappoint – the four of us ordered enough for only two, but the richness of the drink – which was practically just melted chocolate to which we added whipped cream – more than satisfied each of us. We also ate some lovely pastries. (just to review what I’d eaten up to this point in the afternoon: pain au Suisse, rosemary and honey milkshake, ham and cheese crêpe, hot chocolate, brioche, and apple turnover. Win.)
From Angelina’s, three of us walked back towards the Tuileries to view Monet’s amazing water lily murals at the Musée de l’Orangerie. The eight huge paintings are split across two ovular rooms and mostly cover the walls of both. We spent some time sitting on the benches in the center just gazing at the scenes and Monet’s incredibly innovative and imaginative use of color.
Kelsey’s friend Vincent met us at the museum and led us down the Champs-Élysée (past the newly opened Abercrombie and Fitch where some two hundred people had queued to shop inside) to the Arc de Triomphe and then to an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. We sat on a hill overlooking it and could have sat there just looking at it forever! Instead, we opted for a quick return to our hotel to freshen up and drop off our purchases before meeting up with Vincent and some of his friends for wine and cheese just off the Pont Neuf on the banks of the Seine.
This was pretty much the ultimate French activity – we sat on the wall of this island with a bunch of other Parisians our age, and all of us had similar arrays of wine, bread, cheese, and sausage. I quickly came to love Vincent and his friends, who spoke perfect English but were very willing to listen to me in French. I explained (in French) that I am a bit self-conscious about speaking French now because I think I have a Spanish accent. They said “yes you do, but it’s cute!” and at the end of the day, I’d much rather have a Spanish accent than an American one while speaking another language!
After pushing back our dinner reservations three times, we finally bid adieu to the rest of the group and set off a a brisk pace with Vincent to a restaurant about half an hour’s walk away. They served us the drink version of an amuse-bouche, which was white wine with some strawberry liqueur. Vincent and the waitress consulted about the wine and menu (both of which were again presented to us on large chalk boards), and we ended up with another delicious meal: red wine, mozzarella and tomato, salad with fois gras, pork with figs, and monkfish.
Kelsey and I passed the remainder of the evening and a good part of the very early morning with Vincent and his friend Pierre, who took us to multiple bars and showed us a very, very good time. 🙂