Sunday, June 23, 2013

Paris: But only a Dream...

Paris, be still our beating hearts. 

We've had more magical moments in Paris.  Days 3 and 4 have been a whirlwind of activity, but also filled with moments of rest and relaxation as we ease into a whole new way of doing things. We are navigating Paris's world famous metro system quite well, thank you very much.  It is like a puzzle to figure out each time we set our sights on a destination and so far, so good.  There's something to be said for a solid and dependable public transportation system.  

We started our third day here with a visit to the second most recognized symbol of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe.  Commissioned  by Emperor Napoleon to mark his victories and surrounded by the world's largest round-a-bout, it is a bustle of energy, tourists, pickpocketers, doubledecker buses, and Vespas going round and round and round.  Undoubtedly, it is an impressive monument and climbing up the narrow spiral stairwell rewarded us with an outstanding 360 view of our new favorite city, and our first "Wow" sighting of the Eiffel tower. 

Strolling along the Champs-Elysees was a sight for the senses, especially a stop in one of the most famed patisseries in all of Paris, Laduree.  One can easily imagine a queen strolling in to order a tart.  We opted for a box of macarons, each making hard choices about which of the delicious flavors to try.  I don't think a wrong choice was made.

Macaron box in hand, however, we sought a place to sit and rest, warm up a bit (it has been unseasonably chilly, n'est pas?) and the Jardin des Tuilieres was straight ahead.  Created by Catherine de Medici in 1564 for the Tuilieres Palace, it became a public park after the French Revolution.   Nestling under the trees at Cafe Renard, we sipped on chocolate chaud, nibbled on croque monsieurs, and enjoyed watching the people strolling by.  But, no rest for the weary, as we had a mission.  Where was Charles Perrault?

Oh, here was right here beside the Carousel we spied as we ate our lunch.  Surrounded by overgrown yellow irises, we paid homage to the founder of of the fairy tale genre.  Surrounding his bust was the most delightful trio of dancing children with the precocious Puss in Boots.  We blew kisses in thanks and made our way to the Louvre at the end of the garden.

With the iconic glass pyramid as our beacon, we queued right into the Louvre without any wait at all, being it was 5 pm and all.  Once inside, words simply cannot describe our awe and enchantment as we moved amid Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Canova, Venus de Milo, and room upon room of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman statues dating from the 6th century.  This former fortress, begun in the 12th century, is beyond anything we had ever experienced before: we were equally humbled and awe-struck.

Our last morning required an early-morning rise to catch the Eiffel Tower before the rest of the 12 million or so visitors a year it gets.  It didn't seem quite real to be standing under this massive structure, and over 340 steps later, plus an elevator ride to the top, we were afforded a windy and wondrous view of the City of Lights.  The top of the Eiffel Tower sees, on average, 3 marriage proposals per hour. Lots of love birds in the air, for sure.  Tres romantique!

Having built up our appetite, we wandered to Rue Cler (thanks for the tip, Rick Steves!), a road for the senses in the 7th arrondissement, a cobbled pedestrian street filled with flower stalls, boulangeries, patisseries, chocolatiers, poissonneries, and more.  We settled into a classic Parisian bistro for a relaxing lunch, but couldn't resist chocolate croissants, an assortment of pastries and another baguette from the boulangerie across the way.  A trip to a fromagerie to select cheese for dinner topped off our afternoon.

After afternoon tea and treats at Rue Montgolfier, we soldiered on. The Musee d'Orsay for some Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Degas, Cassatt, as well as some entertaining street performers as we bandaged up blistered feet to then take an evening stroll along the left bank of the Seine, visiting the bouquinistes for postcards and trinkets.

We finally crashed well after midnight, with laundry drying on the line and visions of Loire Valley dancing in our heads.

Think trains, planes, and automobiles.  We took the metro to Gare d'Austerlitz for our 2 hour train ride to Tours, then waited anxiously for a taxi on a Sunday to our car rental at the airport, and a successful car ride to Chinon.  

We've only just arrived at the Chateau de Charge already we are in love.  The photo below is of our bed and breakfast.  Records date from 1429 , it is a former fortified manor surrounded by stone lookout towers. Surrounded by endless rolling fields of wheat, sunflowers, and poppies, we were warmly greeted by Charlotte, our lovely innkeeper.  As we warm ourselves by a fire stoked by Jerome, Charlotte's husband, we will soon be dining on a four course meal, including roasted quail with apricot sauce and creme brulee in the chateau's dining room. Bonne journee, mes amis!

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