Paris Day 7: Cross-checking the List
Our last of Paris dawned warm and beautiful and we awoke to greet the sun… for all of 5 seconds and then fell back into an exhausted sleep. Exhaustion was certainly the word of the day, although we tried as hard as we could to fight the tiredness from our last few days and sadness of the day to come. Nonetheless, we were able to make our last day in Paris a successful and enjoyable one.
One of the last few things on our list of places to visit was the Arab World Institute, known not only for its modern and innovative exterior using photo-sensitive motor controlled apertures in behind glass windows to fill the interior with filtered light, but for its expansive collection of books and artwork used to disseminate information about the Arab world and its culture and spiritual values. When we arrived, however, the building appeared to be under construction and we wondered around (and accidentally through a university campus) without finding the entrance.
Upon finally giving up, we journeyed to cross off the next item on our list: the Rue Cremieux. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical when I heard that there was a specific street in Paris that we must visit; I didn’t know what could be so interesting about a street. Obviously, I was wrong. This quaint side street cutting between two main roads is one of the most characteristically French areas in all of Paris with its multicolored facades (complete with coordinating shutters), whimsical murals, bountiful foliage, and even a cat, which I aptly named “Cat.” To my delight, after Cat completed his mission of stealthily stalking a pigeon all the way down the street, he cautiously let me pet him. As it was also a stone’s throw from a nice walkway on the Seine, I decided that one of these vibrant apartments just could be my summer home *when* I have enough money to spend more time in Paris.
Feeling the effects of our first few miles of the day, we walked to the Aligre Market - the second to last destination on our list - but did not make it before stopping in at a creperie. This wonderful establishment offered only crepes - something like 50+ varying kinds - so, as you can imagine, choosing just one was nearly impossible. We rose to the challenge though, and Erin enjoyed some chocolate and banana crepes while I took the more decadent route. My “Irlandaise” crepes were topped with house-made caramel, huge dollops of whipped cream, rum-soaked raisins, and coffee ice cream filled with chocolate covered espresso beans, and took a swim in whiskey that the waiter briefly set on fire before liberally pouring over my plate. Needless to say, the dish was delicious.
To burn off our dessert disguised as a meal we walked around the Bastille marvelling at the sheer number of people in this area. After picking a street to walk down, we found a clothing store where I purchased the most comfortable silk pajamas I have ever felt; my final souvenir of our epic French adventure.
Athletes that we are, we soon became hungry again, so we treked back to Aligre and toured the fascinating covered market, inhaling the aroma of fresh fish, dried sausages and ripe produce. If I had had my druthers, I’d have picked out a few sausages, an assortment of cheeses, an array of grapes and strawberries, and probably a dozen oysters to have a nice picnic. Unfortunately, we had no way to eat that abundance of food, nor to prepare the oysters, so I settled for “retour de peche” which I can only say tasted like some sort of curried shrimp. The dish needs no defining other than “delicious.”
In order to fuel up for the last destination on our list, we ate some Chinese - Pork in caramel sauce for me - from a small restaurant off the Bastille and washed it down with a pistachio eclair for dessert.
Our final destination to round out the Paris List was an evening at the Louvre and on the we were treated to a beautiful sunset from Pont Neuf as if the Parisian sky itself was bidding us farewell. The first time I visited the famous museum eight years ago, I was not particularly impressed, bordering on bored. I thought returning after studying so many of the pieces housed within its ornate walls might change that sentiment, but alas, it did not. Maybe because we were so tired by the end of a very long week, or maybe because art history and humanities classes drilled many of the pieces into our brains, or maybe because we just are more interested in architecture, but even the incredible range of all of the permanent collections was mildly underwhelming. That is not to say that each of the pieces is not beautiful or interesting in its own right, just that they could as easily be enjoyed in a book as in person. Not so with our magnificent cathedrals.
We focused mainly on the Islamic work, enjoying the handpainted pottery and the detailed carvings. Then we decided to branch out, exploring the Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculptures and statues, making jokes at their expense along the way. Finally, we finished with the Italian paintings, picking out many which we already knew. I did, however, discover (or maybe rediscover as I still can’t quite place the familiarity of the name) a few pieces that I really love - all realite pieces by the vedutisti ("view painter") Giovani Paolo Panini. His sense of realism and overt contemporary narrative amidst a sea of rehashed biblical portraits was quite refreshing.
Overwhelmed suddenly with a tandem wave of exhaustion, we both decided it was time to leave and began our disastrous backtrack to the entrance only to seemingly never find the exit. Our mantra became “Sortie! Sortie!” until the Louvre finally spit us back out. We found a proximate metro and quickly deduced our route - this time making two (our record) connections with no trouble at all.
Tomorrow we will check out from the hotel and take the train back to the airport to begin our 15 hour trip back home (with our three flights and layovers.) It has been a most wonderful week chock full of the essentials of Paris: food, architecture, history, intelligent conversation, dessert, long walks, and food. I am not quite ready to leave and return to the real world and vegetable, but after a good long sleep - possibly a full-on hibernation - I look forward to pouring over the thousands of photos I took on the trip reliving our fun while I put together a full gallery.