As my birthday vacation with my mom winds down, this famous Casablanca quote comes to mind. I know when I return to Paris again someday, I will remember this trip fondly.
Our last few days in Paris were mostly relaxing, not over-filled with sightseeing and discussin the agri-business in Illinois, but rather, spent leisurely meadering the streets of St. Germain, the Il St. Louis, and the Latin Quarter.
When we arrived back at the Hotel St. Germaine Des Pres, the lady at reception told us it would be about an hour before our room would be ready. We decided to walk down the road and check out the open-air, artisan market that was set up on Boulevard St. Germain. Around quarter to 11 however, we heard the bells of the church begin to ring, and decided to attend mass in the oldest church in Paris instead.
After church, we checked into our room, then headed back towards the Cafe Deux Magots; which means cafe of two chinamen, or two wise Confucians. The cafe, one of the oldest in Paris, is well known as being a literary hot spot in the 1920s, where the likes of Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald hung out.
After lunch, we hailed a taxi and went over to the Louvre, where we skipped the ridiculously long line and went in through the disabled person entrance. Once inside, the lady at the infomration booth asked us if we would like a wheel chair, to which I happily agreed, realizing this would be a much better way to zip mom around the Louvre. I did not take into account all the little stairs, and hidden lifts we would have to figure out, but alas, it was worth it, especially when we arrived at the museum's attraction; Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. If you have ever visited the Louvre and attempted to see the Mona Lisa, you will know that the experience is somewhat dissappointing, as you have to push and shove your way to get remotely close to the roped off masterpiece. As we wheeled up to the hundreds of tourists swarming for a spot to snap a picture over someone else's head, a musuem employee waived us over, lifted the rope and wala….we went wheeling right up to the Mona Lisa. I cannot believe how close we were allowed to get! It was at that moment when I learned that traveling with my mom in a wheel chair does have some advantages. Oh yeah, did I mention we didn't have to buy tickets?!
That evening, on my quest to experience as many of Hemingway's old haunts as possible, we had dinner at the famous Brasserie Lipp. Mentioned often in A Moveable Feast, the bar/restaurant has been a longstanding classic in Paris since the beginning of the twentieth century.
It is said that after France was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, the owner invited Hemingway as his first guest to share a drink with.
Not dissapointed, mom and I enjoyed a delightful meal of traditional French cuisine, paired with a hearty Bordeaux.
After dinner, we stumbled across the street, back to the open-air artisan market, and did some souvenir shopping; never a good idea after drinking wine.
We then made our way back, past the church, and on to our hotel to rest for the night.
The next day, we didn't have much of a plan, other than attempt to visit St. Chapell Cathedral, and head over to the Il St. Louis. We slept late, and did not make our way out of the hotel until after 11am. When we arrived at St. Chapel, there was a long security line to go through because the church shares the same space with France's Palace; where the Supreme Court meets. After we finally made our way in, bought tickets, and entered the lower chapel, we made our way to the little doorway that said “ENTRANCE”. From here, we started up a narrow, winding, spiral staircase. I knew it led to the upper chapel and so, couldn't be too long, but I was wrong. As we ascended the stairway, mom in front of me, struggling to get up each step, I became extremely nervous that we were never going to make it up to wherever the stairs ended, and would be stuck with no way down. We stopped on the way, allowing others to pass through, though there really wasn't any room. As one rather large, French man with a stomache as a weapon, yelled “Passe! Passe!”, staring at my mom's foot, I hoped for a moment that he would get stuck in the stairwell, or worse, trip and roll his way back down. Very un-Catholic of me, I know.
We finally emerged, after what seemed like 300 steps, into the upper chapel of St. Chappell, where we were treated to the glorious stained-glas windows that it is famous for.
From here, we started walking towards the Il St. Louis, passing one of the centuries old metro stations.
We just about made it to the Notre Dame, when we hopped in a Pedi-cab to take us to the Il St. Louis, where we did a little more shopping, and hunted for a good creperie to eat lunch at. The first part of our mission was a success, the second, failure.
That afternoon, with mom worn out, we lounged around the hotel for a bit. I got restless as usual, and headed out to explore the neighborhood a bit. St. Germain Des Pres is a neat little area on the Left Bank, with hundreds of cafes, bars, book stores, antique shops, gift boutiques, etc.
That evening, we took a cab to Place St. Michel; the bohemian center point of the Latin Quarter. Here is where protestors in the 1960s attacked French police, and university students have staged protests for hundreds of years.
We walked around the Latin Quarter a bit, deciding which price-fixed menu to accept. Finally, we decided on a little restaurant with two Italian waiters. We had a lovely meal again, this time more for the people watching than the food. Stopped off for a Nutella crepe after dinner to cap off our final night in Paris.
Our last day, we walked down to the river side to check out the famous bookstalls.
Stopped off at a cafe for a people watching break, then on to Cafe de Flore, another famous cafe that was frequented by writers and artists in the early half of the twentieth century.
While many of those writers were pour and learned how to survive on the cheap in the Left Bank, we treated ourselves to the most expensive ham and cheese baquette I've ever had.
After lunch, while we waited for our taxi to take us to the airport, mom rested at the hotel, and I went out in search of St. Sulpice Church; made famous by The DaVinci Code. To my suprise, it was only two short blocks away from our hotel; a quick and easy walk.
Compared to the likes of Notre Dame, the church looks a bit worn down and ragged from the outside. Still, it is quite nice inside, and worth a visit, if for nothing else, the serenity you experience, which is hard to find when visitng any sight in Paris during the summer months.
Overall, it was an enjoyable and somewhat relaxing vacation, filled with good food, wine, and making new memories with my Mom.