Sunday, May 18, 2014

Paris, Day 2 (to Athens)

Before I get to day two in Paris, I have to write about our dinner the first night. We'd found this charming little neighborhood brasserie called Le Bouledogue. It is just across from the Pompidou Centre, which was just down the street from our little hotel. We got a table right at the boundary between the restaurant and the sidewalk -- the best of both worlds. Marc ordered duck breast (Magret de canard, sauce au poivre, frites au couteau, and salade in gravy, handcut fries, and green salad). I got salmon tartar with the same fries and green salad. Let me tell you this: the handcut fries were amazing, and that word almost kind of begins to describe them. They were perfect -- crisp on the outside a bit, fluffy inside, lovely salt and lots of thyme, maybe a bit of rosemary. The salad was dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and my salmon was so fresh and delicious. Marc enjoyed the duck breast but thought the sauce was so ordinary it could've come from a can. It was definitely made in the restaurant, but it just tasted so ordinary. It was the only bum note.

beautiful food, beautiful service, beautiful setting
After dinner we stopped at a little boulangerie/patisserie down the street and bought a gigantic meringue ribboned with nice dark chocolate, then we walked back to our little hotel and crashed. Crashed hard.

This morning the plan was to get up a little earlier than we actually did, but we were so tired. We planned to go to the 10am Gregorian mass at Notre Dame, and we rolled out, stopped for a coffee, and then headed over. The mass was very mysterious, on a number of levels: (a) we don't speak Latin, (b) we aren't Catholic, (c) I understand a bit of French and Marc understands none, and then (d) the mystery of the Christian religion. I enjoyed it a lot, and spent a great deal of time looking up at the peaks of the ribbed vaults, imagining the hard lives of the men who laid all the bricks and stones. Hard lives, hard work, but building a cathedral for God and so what must that have been like? I enjoyed it very much, the whole thing. It brought together a lot of streams for me: my lifelong connection to Hugo's novel Notre Dame de Paris, the year I studied the architecture and symbols of Gothic cathedrals in college, my childhood connection to Christianity, my appreciation for mystery and meaning. Marc was so good to go with me, though it wasn't really his thing so much.

leaving the mass
When I went to Paris in graduate school and went immediately to Notre Dame as soon as I landed, I walked into the cathedral, found a chair, knelt on the stone floor, and cried. I walked around the perimeter grazing my hands on all the columns, the stone walls. All these years I wanted to go back, and I finally got a chance. I told Marc today that that need is satisfied, and if I don't get back I am ok. Partly, I think, because I've spent time in the gorgeous St John the Divine in NY -- when I went to Paris the first time, I'd never been in a Gothic cathedral so it was shocking and overwhelming. It isn't that it's ordinary now, but it is part of my familiar now.

But it is a stunning cathedral, no matter how many times you see it.

approaching from the right bank -- you can see the spire and the towers on the right, in the distance

Magnificent --and those flying buttresses! I wish I could've been at the table when they were first proposed. "OK guys, this structure isn't going to work."  "I know! How about we build things on the outside to hold it up!"

So much to see in the grand facade, like this guy holding his head. In his lands. Literally.
After mass we walked back to our hotel and saw these beautiful buildings along the way:
Quasimodo, my Other for so many years. Can you imagine creating a story and character that lives in a little girl's 9-year-old heart in Texas, hundreds of years after you wrote it? 
I just love the architecture in Paris. You know you are in Paris, for sure.
OH YES, I could live in one of those apartments. The one on the top please.
Or one of those. I'm not particular. 
I just loved that -- on the side of a building.
We stopped for brunch at a little cafe called Les Arts & Metiers. We sat on the sidewalk in the full sun, and it felt so good. We watched Parisians doing their thing, exiting the Metro station, buying groceries, stopping for coffee or a beer in the sun. Really exquisite.

That might've been us sitting there! It isn't, obviously, but it could've been. :)
brunch deluxe: soft scrambled eggs topped with smoked salmon, fresh fruit salad in a mint syrup, cherry tomatoes with pesto, pain perdu, baguettes with French butter and jam, and a really yummy soft dilled cheese. Plus coffee, grapefruit juice, and hot chocolate for Marc. 
We checked out of our room and had time before we left for the airport, so we walked through the Place de la Republique, toward Pere Lachaise, but had to turn back before we got there because it was time to head to the airport.

Our flight to Athens was easy -- Air France is a wonderful airline, beautiful planes, lovely service and halfway decent food. We flew over the Alps and Venice and down the coast of Italy, but only the Alps were visible because there were clouds the rest of the way.

WOW. Nothing else to say but WOW.
So far we just love the Athenians. Our cab driver was very direct and straightforward -- friendly and direct. When we checked into our hotel we both kind of fell for the woman at the desk, who was also direct and friendly and straightforward. "Breakfast is at 7. You'll go, you'll see if you like it, if you do you'll pay." The hotel is in a kind of seedy neighborhood but it's at the foot of the Acropolis, kind of, and we're just here two nights.

Hotel Euripides -- looking off our balcony
lots of empty buildings and EVERYTHING is graffitied.
Tomorrow we'll check out the breakfast and then we're off to the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Plaka, and everything we can see in one full day. Athens is more beautiful than I was expecting -- more lush trees, beautiful streets, lovely people. I asked the woman behind the desk how to say thank you and she kind of laughed and told me -- and I tried to say it and she laughed again and said "Close enough." I asked if people would know what I meant and she said yes, still laughing.

What a beautiful trip. What a beautiful day. What a wonderful experience, and life. I am so lucky and grateful.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a wonderful time, Lori. It must feel like quite a change from your many trips to Asia. I love Greece - the people, the food, the scenery. Enjoy!


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