Saturday, August 2: Last Parisian day of the year

The last day before departure is a free day for students (and faculty) to do their last-minute sightseeing, souvenir shopping, and fun-having before we are all subjected to the rigors of departure day. I approached the day with a list of places in mind and I took some pictures along the way. Let’s click through, shall we?

First was Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre (still my favorite place in Paris) where I planned to attend Mass. Despite not being a Catholic, I love going to Mass in cathedrals because it just feels more involved and special than simply walking through the cathedral as a tourist. I was early getting to Montmartre so I stopped and had second breakfast at a café called Le Carrousel where, I realized, my students and I had had lunch on a field trip last year. It’s not extra-special as cafés go, but it’s on a charming little corner (of which Montmartre has a few) and the waitress is nice.  I had a café crème–a little too milky for my liking–and a croissant that would be my last croissant in Paris. *snif*

Made my way up to Sacre-Coeur slowly, which is the best way to do it because it’s a steep climb. Tourists were just beginning to arrive but string-bracelet guys were out in force. Fortunately I seem to have developed a proper Parisian “don’t mess with me” face (counterpart to Parisian public-places voice) and I did not get hassled. Got into the basilica with time to walk around and visit everything before the mass started. A nun with a beautiful singing voice led the congregation through the responses, accompanied by another nun playing a sort of flat wooden harp (must ask Dr. Muth what it could be). I enjoyed the service even though I couldn’t follow along very well. There is never a printed order of service available and sung French is too hard for me to understand. Maybe next year!

Le Selfie de Sacre-Coeur

Such a breathtaking place

Panorama of the view from the Butte

After the Mass I walked to Place du Tertre and bought a little watercolor painting of Montmartre for my parents. It was fun picking it out from among all the different artists in that square. I asked the lady I bought it from  if she likes her work. I think it would be tedious–constantly painting in public, in all kinds of weather (presumably), and doing the same subjects over and over. But she said she enjoys it. The painting is very cute and I hope Mom and Dad will like it.

My next destination was the Musée de la Mode, so I took the metro southwest across the city to Alma-Marceau. It was lunch time and I had decided to be sure I had steak tartare before going home so this was the moment. Of the restaurants around the Pont de l’Alma I picked one called La Mascotte that had tartare on its lunch menu. It was delicious. Lots of capers and onion, and I love the way tartare seems light and rich at the same time. I drank an Affligem (Belgian, I think?) with my meal and then had crème brûlée for dessert. There are 2 kinds of crème brûlée in the world: the lazy kind that are made and the sugar caramelized all at once so they come cold from the fridge and with condensation on the sugar crust, and the good kind where the custard is just cool and the crust is still a bit warm from the torch. This was the good kind. I also had a coffee and got told by the waitress that my accent is “adorable.” I’m hoping this is an evolution from “Oh, you speak French so well!” (Which is also nice to hear, don’t get me wrong.)

A table at the edge of the salle is my favorite.

While eating lunch and watching the goings-on on the terrasse (American family having tense words and teenage son storming off!) I decided I’d rather walk a while than go to a museum. So I set off heading east on the Rive Gauche and ultimately made my way all the way down to the Tuileries. It was a gorgeous day with lots of people out walking. The Seine was sparkling. The Tuileries was just plain crowded but there were still chairs in the shade to be had. I grabbed one and sat reading my latest polar (Travail Soigné by Pierre Lemaitre) for a while. That was almost unbelievably pleasant. Parisians are champions at hanging out in parks. Americans do not spend enough time hanging out in parks. But maybe our parks are not as nice or as numerous? Relative to its density I can’t believe how many parks Paris has.

Finally saw the T-Rex statue in person. Like the Mona Lisa and the Mannikin Pis, 
it’s smaller than one would expect.

Looking toward the Eiffel Tower from the Pont Alexandre II

And looking toward Invalides from the same spot.
(the police vehicles were anticipating a pro-Palestinian protest, I later learned.)

In the Tuileries

I still needed to find a couple more souvenirs and it was just too hot on Rue de Rivoli, so I made my way to Notre-Dame mostly to have a chance to sit down in the metro. Walked around for a little too long looking at this and that, until my luck with the weather ran out. It had been windy on and off and clouds had started to pile up; as I left my last souvenir-buying stop, big drops started to fall. Everyone was opening umbrellas and running for shelter. There was no shelter at the stealth entrance to St Michel-Notre Dame metro stop (stealth entrance is the elevator on Rue Xavier Privas) so I got a little moistened waiting. Then I got a LOT moistened getting out at Cité Universitaire and hustling to the tram. Who should I run into but Dr. Guglielmi, who was also coming back to change for our “directors’ meeting” dinner. I looked a mess: hair flat and dripping, mascara all over my face, wet clothes.

Through the Louvre courtyard . . . 

. . . past Samaritaine . . . 

. . . through the Place St. Michel where Penelope Cruz 
is advertising Schweppes Agrum’ (delicious, unavailable in U.S.)

Not pictured: self as drowned rat.

In my room I closed the curtains and ended up leaving them closed while I got ready for dinner and finished my last bit of packing. Imagine my surprise when opened them and discovered bright blue sky! We had a beautiful walk/ride over to this tiny Italian restaurant that Dr. G had discovered near the Eiffel Tower. Dr. G, although born and raised in Belgium, is from an Italian family, speaks Italian fluently, and knows his Italian food (actually knows food in general–I’ve never had a bad meal with him). So this place is actually a sort of deli/restaurant hybrid that sells a bunch of Italian food and wines as well as seating about 14 people and knocking their socks off with a delicious homemade menu. My starter was a salad consisting of wine-cured ham (something like “braescola”?), arugula, and shaved Parmesan with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sooooo good. For the main course I had risotto with asparagus–also delicious and not so large that one feels like the Sta-Puft Risotto Man after eating it. Dr. G recommended the tiramisu for dessert. I will eat tiramisu at any time for any reason, so I had no trouble following his advice. This was definitely above average tiramisu. The whole meal was outstanding and the gentleman who owns the place is a great character, walking around shouting in a pastiche of Italian and French. Maybe I will have to learn Italian next? For a final souvenir I bought a package of coffee to use in my Moka pot back at home. Can’t wait to try it and see if it beats my Café Bustelo.

Risotto with asparagus

Inside the restaurant. J’adore!

With the dinner meeting finished it was time to head back and catch a few–very few–hours of sleep. Official “Au Revoir, Paris” time was scheduled for 6:25 Sunday morning.

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