Thursday, February 14, 2008

Eiffel Tower Day

February 14th. in Paris. Valentine's Day. My Valentine and I are off to the Eiffel Tower today. Rue du Cherche Midi wakes up at a civilized hour. Most shops don't open until 10 a.m., so things start stirring around 8 a.m. when the locals start spilling out onto the streets and lining up for the morning baguette.

Since we are still catching up to Paris time (6 hours ahead and a day later) we take our time before sauntering off for the day. It is much colder than we anticipated and there is a cruel wind. My friend Karen says that she and her sister decided that French women wear scarves less as a fashion statement than as a necessity against the ever present breezes. Dressing in layers will be de rigeur and pashmina's will save me.

We planned each day with important "must sees" and recommendations underlined on our little map. CAFÉ CONSTANTwas one of these. Since it was on the map and on the way to our first stop, we decided to follow our rule of seizing the moment and dining before ascending the tower. Of all of the so-called casual restaurants in Paris run by renowned chefs that we visited, Café Constant was by far the most casual. It is run by Chef Christian Constant, of the nearby Le Violon D’ingres. The entrance of this corner cafe has little more than a bar and some tables, and the was more like a room in an old pool hall. The menu is written on large blackboards which are transported to your table and placed by your feet. We usually go for the "plat du jour" which ensures good value and fresh tastes based on daily market availability. We started with THE most wonderfully frothy shrimp bisque with a light cream and herring caviar. I had the "Canard" (duck) which was served on a bed of 3 different variety of baby turnips and fresh carrots. A glass of wine, a cup of coffee and we are ready for the day in Paris.

The line for the Eiffel tower was amazingly short and we decided that since there was fog, we would go only to the second tier. Good thing we did, because in the elevator on the way up, Larry was threatening to just go back down and meet me at the bottom. No Amazing Race for this guy!!! Who knew that his knees would turn to jelly IN the elevator!!

The view was limited, but the experience was spectacular. I could see all that I wanted to see. Larry on the other hand had a good view of the mechanics and structure from his vantage point GLUED to a pillar in the middle.

Only when I insisted that he venture near the edge, did he tentatively approach. I wasn't asking him to JUMP, just look!!! Luckily he's tall so he could see off into the distance if not directly DOWN to the Seine and beyond. One might think that being on the Eiffel Tower on Valentine's Day would be romantic, but I guess at our age all bets are off!!!

On terra firma we decided to take the BATOBUS...well, not exactly terra, but another of my Top 10 to ride on the Seine to Notre Dame. That went well, except that it was very breezy and cold. Who was it (Jane) that told me not to bother with a winter coat? Most Parisiennes are wearing FUR, but I couldn't do that anyway because of Rachael.....What is with my family?????

Notre Dame was very crowded, but we were happy to see the windows and the architecture of this magnificent building. From there we walked to the CLUNY MUSEUM ..Middle Ages with the famous tapestries and I got to see the Woman and the Unicorn series of tapestries that I had studied. Larry was surprised and delighted to see that it is also the site of Roman Baths...ruins and below ground, much more comfortable for him than towering heights. Lots more walking, in and out of shops, getting blissfully but maddeningly lost.

In an effort towards romance, we did visit PIERRE HERMÉ and stood in line outside in the cold trying to decide exactly what to order. Once inside, we agreed on a boxed assortment of 'macarons'. You cannot describe these heavenly cookies. That made our dinner one of oohing and aaahing...trying to decide favourites is useless, you just have to try more!!!

Home to wine,cheese, and the best bread in the world.

We have enjoyed meandering around our little neighborhood, and today kept an eye out for Ina Garten, but she must have been home cooking when we passed by her apartment. The maps and street arrangements in this city have both of us totally stymied. Larry is wonderful with maps....can't do it, and I who can find my way back from anywhere once I've been there...can't do it! So we are perpetually lost and have to sit down in cafes and tea rooms to recoup....aaahhhhhhhh..:) We discovered much more of the St. Germain area we are living in and it's just amazing.

We are home tonight awaiting the arrival (late) of Jane and Michael. Tomorrow, we are collectively off to Versailles and that will be a huge day. Sunday we have plans for flea markets and Les Invalides. Michael will leave on Sunday and Jane will stay with Larry and I Monday. We think we'll do Monmartre on Monday, but have to pass it by the board. You can never have enough time to enjoy Paris. I'm trying to explain to Larry that this is why Jeffrey bought Ina an apartment not far from here....just around the corner Jill!!! Anyone who has a million and a half Euros may apply.

Signing out for today. My hip is holding up, but we took it a "bit" easy today so that we can keep up with the youngsters tomorrow. We are still being taken for locals and even the girls in La Poilane say we have very good accents for Canadians..then I explained we were not from Quebec and they bowed! It's quite hilarious and we LOVE it!

Prices are high in Paris and really you can get anything here in Toronto and usually in Toronto the sale prices are better than they are here. I'm still looking for dish towels, but at $24.00 a pop...yes, I converted for that, you'll all be getting SOAP!

More after the weekend. Hope you are all warm...WHO was it (Jane) that told me to bring a trench coat! To give you some idea. Today I dressed in Layers. Layer 1: Black t-shirt. Layer 2: Black Cashmere cardigan. Layer 3: Grey Talbot's Boiled wool Jacket. Layer 4: Blue/Grey scarf LARGE (Dana) Layer 5: Long navy trench. Layer 6: Lined Gloves. Layer 7. FREEZING

At least it's not snowing....but it could be. Guess what....tomorrow is supposed to be colder! Yeah. I may have to buy a winter coat!

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