On Friday, Day 38, I peeled my eyes open to the blinding light peeking between the window curtains, and watched as my Mom gathered the last of her things before heading off for the airport. Sadly, I wrapped up and bagged all of the used linens in my apartment, took the handle of my Mom’s suitcase, strategically opened the apartment door, and guided her towards her RER B train back to CDG. I teared up after I said “did you get one last look?” and noticed that she’d already been crying even before our entry into the metro. As I lifted her bag onto the train’s platform and encouraged her to sit in the direction of travel, I thanked her for coming to Paris. I was so proud of her for taking the time, the energy, the finances, and the mother-daughter bonding opportunity, to come to a place as special as this. I waved one last good-bye through a glistening, blurry eyed state and turned back towards the city to once again turnover the apartment for my next guest.
Rachel arrived just a few hours later just as she always does: grinning from ear to ear, upbeat, and bubbly. After climbing the stairs to my apartment I suggested she place her suitcase in the bedroom corner stating “Hey Rach, there is a ton of room in the corner on the right.” She responded with an immediate “Oh my gosh Jenn. You’ve clearly been here awhile if you think that’s a lot of space!” I cackled at the top of my lungs like a hyena upon realizing that she was totally right! When did 2 square meters become miles of space? Was I transforming into a full fledged Parisian right before my very own eyes?! Oh I wish! Despite the change in space luxury and awareness, this girl will always be an American girl: fast food guilty pleasures, spicy food addictions, blond highlights, bright colored attire, reality show watching, cupcake lovin’, exercise conscious, and J.Crew wearing gal. 50 weeks in Paris wouldn’t change any of that : )
We caught up for what seemed like hours in the apartment before heading out for French onion soup and frites (one thing this trip has surely taught me is that I am one creature of habit!). I giggled, then rolled my eyes, then shifted in my seat, then let out huge sighs of frustration, and finally griped as our waitress at Rendez-vous des Amis (the waitress who has NEVER been friendly to me, and always corrects my pronunciation) took 45 minutes to bring our hot chocolate and cappuccino – instead reading her email, fighting with the cook, and throwing dishes against the sink. I mouthed to the back of her head that if she didn’t have the best French onion soup in town we’d be outta here!
As I watched Rachel soak up her soup, and I inhaled a plate of frites once again, we reminisced about all the things we loved most about Paris. Rachel has been to Paris 3 times before, so she had no intention of seeing the common sights, but instead stated after our meal “show me around your neighborhood.” My neighborhood?!?! Seriously! I actually have a neighborhood in Paris. My Paris?! Yippee I thought as I skipped, and pointed, and showed Rach all of the little corner boutiques, boulangeries, restaurants, and gelatories that I had frequented during my stay.
After a quick change into something a bit more “glam” we headed off to a little bar midway between the Marais and Republique called Andy Wahloo. Promised to be “a postmodern place with eye-popping, tutti-frutti décor and ear splinting music” with an Andy Warhol twist, we sat on bright red Coco-Cola crates layered with Louis-Vuitton seat cushions (Paris, you do it for me every time!) and watched the dressed to perfection Parisians nibble off appetizers, sip on colorful cocktails, and move with a grace only found in the City of Light.
Eager to have a drink, we ordered Kir Royal (a popular French champagne cocktail) with the assumption that they rang in at a whopping 6 Euro price tag. After a fantastically relaxing, music swaying, people watching, yummy food and cocktail tasting time, we requested “l’addition s’il vous plait.” The waitress abruptly returned, credit card machine in hand (one of the things I most frequently notice as being different in bars and restaurants here vs. the U.S.) and handed us the bill. WHAT?!!? 11 Euros each for our Kir Royals?! My brain refused to process the fact that we had ordered 4 of these excessively expensive bubbly concoctions. I frantically asked the waitress in Frenglish why I was purchasing a Ferrari meal on a Honda budget. With no apologies, she said the colored fruit flavoring added to each glass of champagne ran us another 5 Euros. OMG. 8 dollars for food coloring. Perfect. Half snickering, half stiffened from the shock of our bill, we pranced home in our heels still thrilled by our girls’ night out in Paris.
Pretty home address.
One of the many splendid buildings in “my” neighborhood of the Marais.
Beautiful boutiques are plentiful in Paris!
Rach is here!
There was this adorable boutique that had a bunch of little chalkboards hanging in the window with French phrases (this one “here and elsewhere”)…I just had to snap a shot.
Again, as a result of the extremely dimly lit apartment we slept in til’ 11am on Day 39. After my daily croissant with jam, Swiss like cheese, and turkey, and Rachel’s chicory coffee, yogurt, and muesli, we headed out for a day of market browsing. Once again the Bastille food market had been overtaken by an art expo, but we took advantage and surveyed the available art displays. Eager to duck inside for a bit and escape the drizzles, we hurried around Place de la Bastille towards the antique fair/market/showcase a.k.a. a little slice of heaven.
And ohhhhh was this antique filled afternoon TOTALLY worth it. After being shooed away only once by a stuffy Parisian after I touched her colored tassels strewn in a bowl, we headed to the outside of the market to find antiques that were a bit more affordable and more of our taste. We spent an hour rummaging through pages and boxes of vintage postcards, old sheet music, and magazines before I set my heart on a classic, gorgeous, lime green, black and crisp white, 1936 piece of sheet music titled “le p’tit chien blanc et la dame in noir” (the petite white dog and the lady in black). The sheet not only listed Paris and the 4th arrondissement clear as day at the bottom (a perfect souvenir for my time in this fantastic part of the city) but the illustration reminded me of all the grumpy waiters I had encountered during my time here (minus Bubba of course), and the woman in black I felt symbolized my time here alone.
Contemplating whether I could actually bring myself to spend another 20 Euros on paper, we continued to stroll along the market snapping photos and picking up material goods dating to gosh only knows how many hundreds of years ago. Even after purchasing a souvenir for my husband, a Napoleon coin dating back to the 1800’s as my new “lucky penny,” and another hot chocolate, I couldn’t get that 1936 print out of my mind. The shopaholic deep inside of me didn’t let the fantastically appropriate purchase pass me by. As I waved goodbye to the vendor pleased with her sell, I was delighted to know that I would forever have a piece of Parisian history framed and on a wall in my home. The perfect memory for a day-trip to heaven.
Before dinner, I hummed to the French/American music video station that I watched daily, as Rach and I chatted over wine, diced bananas, and spoonfuls of Nutella. We joked about Rachel’s recent dating horror stories, with me throwing in a story here or there from my own dating nightmares. I love Rachel for the mere fact that she is a free spirit. She’s not afraid to share her fears, or her aspirations with me, or me with her. Being both nurses there is also this ease of body awareness, where a slipped burp, or an upset tummy only results in a burst of laughter and a friendly diagnosis between the two of us.
After running through the list of possible food options for dinner, we settled on croque-monsieurs (surprise!). Pretty sure that everyone at this particular restaurant would think I was a tour guide with the amount of visitors I had brought through their door, Rach and I sat across from one another sipping on wine, gobbling up our sophisticated ham and cheese, and sitting wide eyed after a dashing French man approached our table and said “bon appétit”. After I jokingly encouraged Rachel to shuffle off after him, we once again listed all the reasons we loved Paris so much.
Being that this was most certainly my last night for croque-monsieurs, I thanked my waiter friend Bubba for his hospitability and suggested he someday visit Seattle. He gave that all too familiar grin and laugh and said in his French accent “yes, next I will come to Seattle and you will show me around.” He then gave us two chocolates each vs. the normal one and said “here girls, this is my gift to you!” Too cute Bubba.
Before heading to bed, we stopped in for one final drink of the night at a bar I’d brushed past for weeks. We were offered a table covered in the previous patrons wears, but with immense comic wit the waiter stated “sit here, but of course I will clean off the table because, humph, we aren’t animals here.” Wondering if he was interpreting my “American-ness” for French despise, or if he was genuinely joking, I told him I enjoyed his sense of humor and we ordered our wine. We finished our night with Rachel showing off her dance moves from Bollywood class, as we swayed to the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack that blared from the speakers of the bar.
Place de la Bastille.
Art Expo in Bastille.
Vintage knobs at the antique fair.
A box of silver goodies.
Spices of one of the vendors.
View of the canal from the market. You can see that the market runs on both sides of the canal as marked by the white tents…it was HUGE!
My new Napoleon coin.
Two cute teddies.
Huge antique mirror.
Vintage Louis Vuitton trunk…yum.
My new sheet music circa 1936.
On Sunday, Rach and I woke up with wicked wine headaches and nursed ourselves back to a baseline state with coffee, aspirin, and a croissant for me. Rach left for an afternoon of museum ogling, while I stayed back to do one last load of laundry, contemplate the continuation of my trip after Amsterdam, and to take a lazy stroll along my favorite paths in Paris. It took everything in me not to breakdown and sob, as I avoided the realization that tomorrow was my last day in Paris. I inhaled as much of the culture, weather, fashion, and food as I could (including my very first chocolate noir Éclair) before heading back to the apartment to meet back up with Rach.
My prayers were answered, when the sun came out to play for my last full day in Paris. I started the morning hoping that my rental deposit would return to me safe and sound, and after I quick sweep of the apartment by the guy from My Paris Visit, my massively large deposit was returned…thank gosh! After completing check out, I headed outside to wander my neighborhood one last time in the light of day. With the sun shining and the presence of speckled blue sky that I hadn’t seen for days, I cheerfully, yet remorsefully, purchased my last baguette and chomped on it as I walked along the cobblestone sidewalks. With my camera as my constant memory sustainer, I captured the last pictures of all the things I had fallen so in love with during my time here: rooftops that outlined the sky, intricately designed door knobs and entrances, store front windows with Parisian treasures, and the seasons changing. Each corner I crossed reminded me of a moment that I spent either alone, or with a family member, or with a friend, and each moment brought a little pang of sadness but also an overall sense of nostalgia for this time in Paris.
I’ve been in Paris long enough to watch all of the leaves disappear from the trees!
Paris is full of random little parks tucked between rows of buildings, and all with perfectly situated benches. This one if particular I was able to enjoy my baguette and absorb some sunlight.
Stacked cafe chairs.
I want one of these elegant doors at my house!
Lime green gate with peach colored rust.
One of the many alleyways intertwining the city.
Gorgeous cherry red.
Shutters, shutters, everywhere!
The Seine in the afternoon
A view of Notre Dame over St. Louise Island.
Books along the Seine.
The backside of Hotel de Ville. Down the street from my apartment.
A view of Rue des Archives, just a few doors down from the apartment.
A view of Notre Dame from the street I go to buy groceries on.
At 2pm Rach and I met each other back at the apartment so we take our last afternoon to explore Montmartre together. Again, being one of my most favorite areas of Paris, I was all too excited to spend my last evening in the area. We visited Café du Moulin a little café featured in the movie Amelie. It was super cute seeing Rachel so excited about being in the restaurant as Amelie is one of her most favorite movies. We were so fortunate to get a decent photo of the two of us taken by our sweet waiter vs. a half crooked self portrait an arm’s length away.
After another yummy bowl of French onion soup we headed up the hill to grab a tart and do a little shopping. To my utter dismay we realized that one store after another was closed; gate pulled down, lights off, no patrons. Oh no! After asking around we found out that because Montmartre is open on Sundays, they use Monday as their day off…boo!
Despite my disappointment around missing out on another one of those yummy tiny little tarts, and not seeing Montmartre one last time fully alive, we headed towards the Sacre-Coeur even stopping in a few adorable jewelry shops along the way to pick up souvenirs. I once again experienced the thrill of showing off Montmartre…too much fun!!!
After a bit of a shady experience on the metro (a few girls began following us, eyeing our purses and pushing up against us) we headed back towards the center of Paris to spend our last night in the city. Eager to catch one last glimpse of Paris at night, we headed towards the area of St-Germain des Pres to go to a café once frequented by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It was surreal sitting in the dimly lit ambience of the café while sipping my hot chocolate and imagining the presence of such influential classic figures here so long before my arrival.
We continued on in search of a spot from dinner, but abruptly and quite eagerly bolted across the street, and then over a bridge of the Seine after I suggested we catch one last glimpse of the Louvre. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre in one fell swoop from Jardin des Tuileries was the perfect ending to my time in Paris. While waiting for Rachel to snap some shots of the glistening triangle in front of the Louvre, I took a moment to breathe in the crisp night air and take a mental snapshot of the moment.
Not a moment later, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that Rachel was still safely behind me, and noticed a figure standing next to her. As I quickly trotted towards her I noticed that she was speaking to the male figure. Completely ignoring the guy, I shoved myself between him and Rach to catch a glimpse of her face to see if she was alarmed, frightened, relieved by my presence, or totally ok. Seeing a half ok expression I allowed him to introduce himself to me with his French accent and a handshake. “Nour” stated that he had been waiting for a friend at the Louvre but had been stood up.
After some small talk about our travels and his mention that he often does home exchange (something Rach and I found super fascinating), we allowed him to convince us to have dinner with him. I actually knew I didn’t mind the guy when we saw a Frenchie sprinting across the front of the Louvre and I asked “what do you call that type of dog?” He replied “Bulldog Francais.” How awesome is that?!??!
Still quite cautious, yet enticed by his ability to speak fluent English, we prodded him with a million questions about Paris and the French, as we followed him into the metro and toward Gare de l’Est. We had agreed to Indian food (completely bizarre as that was also my last meal in London before leaving) and caught the 7 train towards the 5th arrondissement.
Over spicy legumes and naan fromage (YUMMY!), our conversation rambled on for hours; we discussed family backgrounds, friends, current/past relationships, the healthcare and governmental systems of our respective countries, our language levels, and multiple philosophies on life and everything in between. It was a blast to laugh out loud with a full fledged Parisian, and I left our evening with Nour wondering why I couldn’t have met the guy 5 weeks earlier. Could have been fluent in French by now!
Montmartre all shutdown.
Cafe des Deux Moulins. Home to the movie Amelie.
Rach and I.
One of my favorite things to do when exploring Paris is to catch the reflections of the buildings off of windows, mirrors, etc. So beautiful!
Rach capturing a pic of the Eiffel Tower from the hill that is Montmartre.
After weeks of attempting to live up to Mo’s quick photography lesson before my departure, I was able to do something I’ve never done before with these two pics…can you see the difference?! I was pretty proud : )
A massive bubble against the dusk sky.
Montmartre at night.
Back in the city.
The tower from Jardin des Tuileries.