Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trip Report Part Five: Back in Paris

I've been promising the final installment of our trip report, so here it is!

Mark and I like to begin and end our overseas trips in the same place. This is partly practical, of course, since it's usually more cost effective to fly in and out of the same city. But I think it's nice to end one's travels in a place that doesn't require all the initial effort that getting to know a new place as a traveler usually does. After an easy train ride from Brussels-Midi to Gare du Nord (during which we ate sandwiches and some of the chocolate I'd bought), we easily exited the station (no complicated navigational moments) and walked down the hill to the same hotel in the 10th. It was too early to check in, so Mark went to check email, and I sat at a cafe and had a croque monsieur and a cafe creme, even though it was a little late for cafe cremes.

Another reason to return to a place you've already been to is because, inevitably, there are things you haven't done and seen that you want to do and see. Once checked into our hotel, we walked down to the Marais to visit the Carnavalet Musée de l'Histoire de Paris. The museum is in an old, Renaissance style hotel, and is full of paintings and other objects related to, duh, the history of Paris. The photograph above is a small section from Dubois' "L'espoir du bonheur dédié à la Nation." On the boat are Louis XVI and Jacques Necker. I am not sure who the robust, bare-chested ladies are supposed to be.

That evening, we headed down to the Latin quarter with Joe and Laura for some drinks and food.

By the time we got to the actual food part, it was rather late, but that didn't affect the taste of my duck confit, or the cheese plate we shared at the end of the meal. I wish I could remember where ate, but I see why that restaurant is a favorite of Joe and Laura's--it was warm, inviting, full of people, and served thoughtfully prepared versions of classic French food.

The next morning, we headed out to the Bois de Boulogne for a picnic, where we met Cole Swenson and Laura Sims and her partner. I don't think I'd seen Cole since Mark and I moved to San Diego. And even if my memory is wrong, it had certainly been a long time. It wasn't especially sunny, but we managed to talk, eat pate and lounge about successfully. Joe and Laura's son, Julian, played with the travel hoop I'd brought with me--it's the orange and red thing you see on my bag.

That evening, Mark and I had a very lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant back in the 10th, just off the canal. I don't enjoy going out for Italian food usually, especially in San Diego, where it's usually mediocre, overpriced and the waiters push bottles of wine on you that you don't want. I think that, somehow, the mediocre overpriced Italian restaurant is really a definitive element of San Diego food culture--and probably all US cities. Mediocre overpriced Italian food is ideal for those with unadventurous taste looking for a fancy meal. But enough of my rant. We had a leisurely meal of basically just a pasta course and some wine. The waiter didn't chastise us for only ordering one course, didn't try to sell us another bottle of wine, brought us a second carafe of water when we needed it, and generally left us alone to have a pleasant evening together.

On our final day in Paris, we went to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Mark emphatically joked that he wasn't going to kiss any slimy tombstones, which was fine, but we did see evidence of other people kissing tombstones. I confess that I might have tried to at least touch the memorial for Abelard and Heloise, but it was being restored, so I couldn't get close enough.

Oscar Wilde's grave had the most kiss marks and attention--even more than Morrison's grave, which only had a trio of German punk girls burning candles.

No one was visiting Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, or even Colette, which was the last grave we visited:

I'll leave out the irritating story of our many failed attempts to eat lunch after our visit to the cemetery, and also of how difficult it was to buy tickets in advance for the train back out to the airport. Instead, I'll skip right to the end and tell you that we visited Joe and Laura again that evening for a drink and some final goodbyes, and that we made a salad for dinner in our hotel room.

So, how was our trip to Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam? It was wonderful. Alice Notley didn't move to Paris until she was in her 40s, so I have a bit of time to plan how Mark and I might move to Amsterdam (or Brussels, or Paris, or Barcelona--which we didn't visit on this trip, of course, but which is nonetheless one of my favorite places). Until we move, though, we'll just have to scheme about how to go back. Soon.


jeannine said...

This post made me miss Paris. I still remember the first bite of duck confit I had when I was fifteen and an exchange student.
I'd love to live there, but the taxes are really high for expats, I hear...

K. Lorraine Graham said...


It's certainly hard to forget one's first bit of duck confit!

Indeed, the taxes for expats are high--but at least they actually get good social services in return. Mark did a brief post on his blog with some descriptions of the kind of social services they get, courtesy of our friend Joe Ross:


Paris Hotels said...

Paris is amazing! i must find my way back there, asap! Anyhow, people must remember to leave themselves some days on their trip's ending to some "comebacks" it is a "must-have" in any trip, even if it's only for the food :)