Friday, June 04, 2010

When it rains, it sucks

May is one of the best months to visit Paris. That's according to various websites and our own travel agent. The weather is supposed to be mild and warm, and the city is not yet overcrowded as in July and August.

But ever since we arrived on May 9, it had been drizzling or intermittently raining. And it was chilly.
Shucks, like I never left Vancouver, I thought. I always wore layers. If I knew I'd be wearing a jacket all the time, I wouldn't have spent as much time planning my wardrobe and what to mix and match.

Nevertheless, the rains didn't stop us from going outdoors even on that Tuesday, the rainiest day of all. Very early in the morning, Noemi, Bob and I visited the street market at the Place de l'Eglise near the St Pierre-St Paul Church (partially shown in the photo below). The first thing we bought? An umbrella!

I love markets. I enjoy looking at local products, checking out prices, sampling goodies... I bought cheese here.

Tuesday is market day in Reuil Malmaison in the suburb of Paris where Josephine, 
first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, lived after their divorce and died. She is buried in 
that church with her daughter.

Later that morning, our group went to Paris city centre to see the Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cite on the Seine. Notre Dame has a beautiful facade. Lots of statues that tell stories from the Bible and Christian history. Fortunately, I already got to see them more closely on my first visit because this time I was more eager to get inside and seek shelter from the chilling rain.

A mass was going on. I felt rather sorry for those people who were there for the mass amidst a steady stream of tourists taking photographs and admiring those amazing stained glass windows. Sorry to disturb you...

(photo by Michelle)

From Notre Dame, we walked towards Boulevard Saint Michel on our way to the Luxembourg Gardens alongside it. But the cold was becoming unbearable for most of us. We decided to enter the first restaurant around the corner. We ate at a modest bistro called Le Depart Saint-Michel. Waffles with cream, crepe, escargot, creme brulee... Bob and I had Crepe Belle Epoque, but we tasted almost everything around the table. Everyone shared.

(photo by Michelle)

Over lunch, we decided to skip the Luxembourg Gardens altogether. Too bad. We missed this "green oasis" known for its serene atmosphere. For next time.

Instead of going green, we went red. We visited the Moulin Rouge, the most famous cabaret in the world and home of the French Can-Can. We didn't go inside. Just posed for pictures across the street.

Then off we went to Montmarte, a hill north of Paris. Montmarte is known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) on its summit. We took the "funiculaire", or cable car, going up. If it weren't raining, I would have used the stairs and soaked in the grand view of Paris below. But as you can see in the photo below, there wasn't much of a view that day anyway. Another one for next time.

(photo by Michelle)

The main dome of the basilica is the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. The cathedral is finely decorated, but unlike in Notre Dame, picture taking is not allowed inside.

(photo by Michelle)

After exiting the cathedral, we followed the path to its left and reached a square called Place du Tertre, a few blocks from the basilica. I enjoyed this quaint village. There were several little souvenir shops and cafes lining cobblestone streets which made for an enjoyable walk. We did some shopping here. Hats, scarves, magnets, my apron...

(photo by Warren)

Many artists display and sell their works on the square, or offer to sketch your profile or caricature for a fee. Lovely! Those must be pricey though. I'd rather have Bob do my painting for free. But no caricatures!

It is not surprising to see many artists in Montmarte. After all, it was the center of artistic life in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Impoverished artists like Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh worked and lived the bohemian life there. Poor guys! They probably never knew their works would be fetching good money someday. If you have an original Picasso or Monet or Van Gogh, I bet you are anything but impoverished.

It was now time to go back to the comfort of Nikki's home in Rueil Malmaison. This being our last night in Paris, we were going to have a nice dinner at La Bistrot Gourmand. French cuisine! I ordered something salmon with a fancy French name and a huge serving of profiteroles for dessert.

Still a great ending to a gray and chilly day.

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