Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ooo, la la! Paris est tres magnifique!

Last week, while Yarnmartian Central was getting a new roof installed, Alex and I headed over to France with our youngest daughter, Deidre, and her boyfriend, Matt. We'd promised Deidre a trip many, many years ago and I kept telling her that the longer she waited, the better it would be.

She waited a long time. She got herself a pretty good trip. (The photo is Deidre in France. She was being goofy...just like her dear old Dad and wicked stepmother.)

Because I'm the cheapest person in the world (now that Jack Benny's dead -- which really dates me, doesn't it?), I rented an apartment rather than hotel rooms. Apartments are way better. You can make your own breakfast, do laundry if you spill red wine all over your nice white shirt, and feel like a native when you go to the local shops for more red wine.

We used VacationInParis to find our place, near the National Assembly and Musee D'Orsay, and I must say we were delighted with what we got. It was very large (for a French apartment) and luxurious (to a cheapskate). There was a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of flowers awaiting us when we arrived, and the place was clean, bright and new.

The day we landed in France -- exhausted from the trip -- we had to go out to shop at the Rue Cler district because the following day was May 1. May 1 is a national holiday in France and the worst day in the world to try to find a meal there. Just about everything is closed. All the parks are crowded with people, and the streets are clogged with French students protesting whatever has annoyed them in the past year. This year they've been very annoyed with Sarkozy, unemployment, and something I couldn't figure out because the signs were entirely in French. But there really weren't any protests of note, which was nice because I hate to see the kids running amuck and causing damage to the pretty things in Paris.

We picked up some great supplies for ham sandwiches with brie (our staple diet when in France) plus ingredients for a nice dinner that I cooked the following evening. Well, burned. The apartment had this really amazing Siemens ceramic-top stove that heated up so quickly that I didn't know how to cook with it. Water boiled almost instantly. Meat was burned to a cinder seconds later. I quickly developed a love/hate relationship with a stove that burned so hot that you didn't have to wait forever for a pot to boil, but heated up too quickly for you to do anything except burn whatever it was you wanted to cook.

I never did figure out the microwave.

And don't even ask about the dishwasher. We had some debates about how it worked. Eventually, Alex figured it out so we made him Minister of Foreign Dishes and he made sure everything was clean.

The days we spent in Paris were really lovely. We forced Deidre and Matt to march with us through museums and art galleries and churches and gardens. We saw the Impressionists at Musee D'Orsay and attended a musical concert at St. Chapelle Church. Then we got them up at 6 in the morning one day to hop on a train to Normandy so they could see where the Allied Troops landed on the beaches.

While they were doing war, we were doing peace. Alex and I spent our time in Normandy visiting the monastery at Mont St. Michel. This is where I want to spend the rest of my life: in a monastery, on an island, off the coast of France.

Mont St. Michel
is a very beautiful World Heritage site, and has become quite the tourist hot spot, although our guide, Alain, said that of the four million people who visit the island, only one million make it up the steep stairs to visit the abbey that rests 260 feet above sea level. Seems like such a waste. It's like traveling all the way to Paris for chocolate eclairs and then deciding you're too fat and you need to lose weight. But that's another story.

Alain was quite the tour guide. He knew everything there was to know about that abbey...and the Glen Ford films that he regularly referenced. We chuckled that he claimed to not be religious, as he demonstrated utmost reverence for the ancient building, and he was constantly shushing tourists who were talking too loudly, which he thought was disrespectful of the abbey's purpose -- to be a peaceful respite from the world. He knew every nook and cranny in that place. And if he didn't, he made something up that sounded really impressive.

I would have stayed there at the abbey with Alain, and joined the few monks and nuns who work there, but Alex reminded me that I'm not Catholic. And I'm married. And I'm a little too old to be making it up all those stairs all the time. Ah, well... A girl can dream.

I think the highlight of our trip was the day we went to Les Deux Magots. Now, to some this is just a nice little cafe where writers and philosophers used to gather. But to Alex, it's Nirvana. And, to me, it's the place where you get the really, really, really good hot chocolate.

So good, in fact, that I carried in my suitcase a Tupperware container with a giant label: Marshmallows. Do not blow up or eat. You see, this hot chocolate is so good that I thought it deserved superior quality marshmallows. So I whipped up a batch of my own and stashed them in my suitcase for the trip. I would have carried them on board but I was afraid the TSA guys would confiscate my marshmallows believing them to be plastic explosives. And then maybe I'd get strip-searched. Don't you hate it when that happens? Me, too.

My marshmallows made the journey intact (and so did I) so we enjoyed some of the world's finest hot chocolate, complete with homemade marshmallows. Mmmm... I can feel those calories rushing through my veins to rest comfortably on my big fat bum.

Oh...you're going to love this. Alex and I have been taking French lessons in preparation for our trip. When we went to the subway station one morning, Alex intended to ask for a "carnet" of subway tickets. He got a little confused and, instead, requested a "canard."

Yes...my beloved, semi-bilingual Alex walked right up to the subway attendant and cheerfully said to him, "Excuse me, monsieur. Would you please give me a duck?

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