Sunday, October 21, 2012

Last Day in Paris... with BOTH of my Boys!!

Today (Sunday) was our last day in Paris, and our first real full day together as couples.  Liz & I had decided we'd spend the day down near the true city-center of Paris:  l'Ile de la Cite.  Some of our favorite sights & sites down there:  Notre Dame de Paris, la Conciergerie, Berthillion ice cream, the little park Square René Viviani, the fun little book store "Shakespeare & Company" (where authors can live for free for a year in exchange for helping in the shop and actively writing), and traditional Breton "gallettes de sarrasin"-- crepes made entirely from buckwheat flour. Liz & I both prefer to have at least a checklist, loose schedule-goal, or flexible plan.  However, being too OCD about timetables or to-do lists can be so restrictive and lead you to majorly stress out for no reason, and miss out on all those spontaneous opportunities you can NEVER predict.  Oh yeah, and you might have to stop and change your baby.  So we went with the "loose goals" approach. :)

Josh & Ryan entertained themselves in line
We headed into the city around 11, taking the metro in. We came up on the south side of the Seine right in the heart of the college-y district, and (everyone but me) grabbed a sandwich lunch from a street vendor. Then it was off to Notre Dame, checking out the old-book & poster sellers on the riverbanks on the way.  We decided the day was perfect enough to go up to Notre Dame's "very tippy top" as I put it, which Ryan had done but none of the rest of us.  They only let up a group at a time, and the line was very long, so Liz and I let the boys stand in line while we went off for Berthillon ice cream, which is still, in my opinion, the best in the world.  Sorry, Haagen-Dazs.  You got nothing.  Every year we have come, Ryan & I have tried to find the original Berthillon "salon," where they make the ice cream served all over the city.  Liz had looked it up online and was pretty sure it was on Ile-St-Louis just like the window shop we'd always bought our Berthillon.  This time I was smart and actually ASKED that shop owner, and he told us the address, which is only about 3 blocks down from the window.  On the way, I thought the crepes (sold through another window, through which we could see them being made) smelled amazingly appetizing, and on a whim I asked if these were made with any flour.  The cook, who appeared to be a young foreign student, immediately asked if I was gluten-intolerant, and confirmed that, yes, these were made with 100% buckwheat flour & are gluten-free.  So I enjoyed a piping hot salted butter caramel crepe as we walked.  It's rare that I get to eat so simply, and so commonly (if that makes sense), so I doubly enjoyed my crepe.

Vue of Notre-Dame from Notre Dame
After several false alarms, Liz & I found the REAL Berthillon ice cream salon, complete with the stained wood paneling Liz had read about online.  We decided to bring the boys back later and in the meantime bought a few scoops --mine were bitter chocolate, salted butter caramel & candied chestnut-- to share with our men.  It was fun licking them as we weaved among other shoppers back across the Isle-St-Louis and across the picturesque bridge connecting it to Isle-de-la-Cite.

Notre Dame did NOT disappoint, and the weather was gorgeous!! Warm sunshine, but not too hot.  It's hard to remember that Victor Hugo made Quasimodo up; the story is so ingrained in Notre Dame's history now-- there are even quotes from the book (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) all over the balconies, walkways & towers!  I would love to read a historical fictional account set in Notre Dame's heyday-- perhaps a young monk or acolyte? (if anyone knows of any please pass em on) -- I can imagine so many adventures and holy encounters in that place!  Alternately soaring, menacing, glorious and foreboding... and the bells!  Oh, the bells are so romantic! Heheh... I definitely felt the 400+ steps in my leg muscles!  Ryan & I took turns wearing Liam up, and he was duly admired by visitors from all over the world.  Apparently his charm is international-- like father, like son!

After Notre Dame we rested a bit in the charming little park Square René Viviani, home of Paris' oldest tree. Unfortunately the spot's beauty was partially marred by an inebriated and possibly insane bum singing, dancing and urinating in it... along with the dozen other homeless folks camped out there.  Too bad.  We played around with Josh & Liz's new camera, taking all sorts of crazy-face pictures (that just never gets old!). It's pretty amazing how expressive humans are!  Just mind blowing.  [Mike Mason has a quote on that... I'll dig it up when I get home.]

Taken from Square Rene-Viviani
Shakespeare & Company is a crazy fun little book store that I highly recommend!  I started reading Lois Lowry's new sequel to The Giver, and can't wait to get back to it in the US. We tried to see the monument to the deported Jews of Paris but it was closed... and Liam started screaming bloody hungry murder.  The child refused to nurse and had finished the bottle we'd brought with us.  My only option (besides going back to our apartment) was to get to him to suck a pacifier to sleep and then try to nurse him in his sleep.  Not the easiest thing to do in downtown Paris on a Sunday afternoon.  However, it actually worked!! Thanks to my Ergo and a nursing cover and a lot of walking & patting and trying not to turn beet red as my son screamed loud enough to clear out six blocks, he finally conked out and then ate perfectly in his sleep.  I certainly hope he outgrows this soon.

Amidst all this we made our way back to the Berthillon salon.  There was quite a line... but I think it was worth the wait!  We didn't let our dessert ruin our dinner, though:  I led us all back to that same little creperie, and we all watched in fascination as our various crepes were made:  Emmental (cheese)-ham-and-sauteed onion for me!  Munching them as we made our way home over the Seine's ancient bridges in the gloaming dusk somehow captured all that Paris is to me.  What a great last day. :)
In front of Paris' oldest tree
Peeping through some ruins in the Square

Goofing off

Family pic in Maison Berthillon's Salon de The-- Ryan & I split a "Coupe Belle-Helene" and yet another salted-butter-carmel scoop. :) 

Just for old time's sake, here are pics from our first taste of Berthillon ice cream, also a shared Coupe Belle-Helene, at the Cafe Panis (just across the Seine from Notre Dame de Paris) in February 2010, accompanied by another bald, blue-eyed teething baby...

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Steve Finnell said...
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