Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good things come to an end.

Friday morning in Paris, the morning following that great concert, we all just had a quick breakfast. Considering the fact that we only had dinner at home one in Paris, I'm glad we had those sit down breakfasts with everyone. But this was a nice change of pace. There was only a croissant and a half, plus there was no milk for my coffee, so I decided it was time for me to hit the streets of Paris alone. It was very cold but the sun was shining, it was also day three of the metro strike. I watched a roller blading father push his child in a stroller the opposite direction as me, and then a bike darted around me going my direction, another roller blader and a motor scooter as well. I looked at the little old lady next to me with big eyes, the commuters on wheels were cutting it a bit close to us for comfort! She said something to me in French that I assume was something along the lines of, "Those crazy kids, better be careful!" I nodded and smiled and we walked towards the corner. We stood with other people on foot at the intersection and looked to our left. A bus was collecting passengers a little ways down. My new friend told me in French, "Oh my! The buses are running more like normal even with the strike." Or something like that. I smiled and nodded again. It was only then that I saw a look on her face that looked like she wondered if I understood her, but the crossing signal turned green and we were on our way. I ordered some more croissants mostly in French and managed to communicate enough in broken French and English with the man at the little market to figure out which cream was for my coffee. I was conquering the language barrier after all, but what a trip it's going to be when I get home and can communicate even more easily with the people around me!

D & CF and I decided to walk to the Opera and see Google Paris. It was a long walk to see a small office but we're glad to have seen it. They have this ridiculous view from their lunch room of the Opera house. It's insane. After a rather quick and uneventful stop there we trekked down past the Louvre again and stopped for lunch on Ile Saint Louis. Afterwards we found perhaps the very jewelry store where Ms. D had bought the earrings which are lost and well, she bought some new ones. Then I found a store where I proceeded to buy two new scarves and wasn't sure which of the three I was now carrying I wanted to wear most. After that We all split an ice cream from Berthillon. Salted Caramel is really giving chocolate a run for its money. It might very well be the best flavor on earth. This ice cream was seriously divine. Then we walked through the Latin Quarter just a bit, and then through the Luxembourg Gardens. The thing that has struck me most about French gardens is the geometry. The trees are all manicured into perfect shaped lines and paths. I'm guessing the gardens are even better in Spring or Summer but they were quite lovely. There were plenty of locals sitting out enjoying the sun, even if no warmth accompanied it. We walk back past the first macaroon store we visited earlier in the week and I picked up one last box of precious cookies. I have been so spoiled this month! I didn't really get to do any of the shopping I had hoped to get to see, besides the earring and scarf stop, but we had a great day of walking and saw lots of Paris. It was time to head to the Eiffel Tower to meet up with the Z's so we went in that direction. It was time for something of a last hurrah. Though I knew from the start it couldn't possibly live up to that last night in Ireland.

The line for the tower was long, and it was freezing. It was unpleasant but the setting was so lovely and I was getting so giddy about going up that I didn't really feel it until I realized my fingers were shaking from being so cold. We were the last ones to get in the elevator, so I was right by a big glass window. The ride was amazing. Slowly, and diagonally, we moved up the tower's leg. We rose through all the beams and passed turning wheels, the view spread out wider and wider below us, it was incredible. We arrived up at the second level and I walked right to the railed edge. KZ and Mr. CF himself found yet another thing in common. They were both pretty scared of the view down and mostly stood back more in the center of the tower. But I was so taken with the view that I didn't even notice that CF hadn't walked forward with me. Now, the Empire State building is much taller than the Eiffel tower. And when I was looking down at New York at night it wasn't nearly so breath taking because we were so far away from all the sites, and the lights were just little tiny specks, it all blended together. From this height you can see Paris in every direction, but everything is still close enough that you can easily pick it out and remember that you were just at the top of that Arc or standing in that garden, etc. etc.

Just a few minutes after we had been up there the tower's lights started to sparkle. Yes, I know it does it every hour, on the hour, but it seemed magical at the time. I snapped an unreasonable number of photos because I knew a number of them would come out blurry and I figured there was safety in numbers. I used the rail as a bit of a tri-pod and took some shots in every direction out from the tower. Some of them seemed to be pretty focused and had a good balance of light. I love my camera. Then it was time to get the other elevator, the one that would take us to the top. We arrived in the glassed in room and I was disappointed, it was crowded and hard to see out. We had paid extra to come see this? But there was a staircase up to go outside. It was small and very fenced in, but it was amazing to know we were at the top of the Eiffel tower. PZ noted the fog was below us, and I have to say, the view is almost better from the second level. It was great though, I loved it. We were about ready to go but KZ and CF decided they did indeed want to see the outside part of this level so we took our nervous significant others up the stairs, the teased each other walking to the edge, and then we quickly went back inside. There was a wait to go back down to the second level. And then there was a really long wait for the elevator back down to the ground. It was then that I realized I was freezing and my feet hurt from basically standing still for a couple hours now. This part of the experience was my least favorite. But soon enough we all made our way down and ran towards the water. We had debated going on the boat cruise, people were worried about it being cold. When we were told that it would be most of an hour before another boat left we decided to go get dinner and see how we felt about coming back for the ride. D led us through the streets of her favorite neighborhood, the plan was to eat at one of a couple restaurants she had been to before and really enjoyed. We had a group of five and no reservation. We struck out at the first place she checked on, but were quickly seated at the second one. It was a really nice looking place on the corner, with a little bit of a street view, it was perfect.

My frozen friends all started to thaw, and the feeling returned to my fingers. They actually started to feel like they were burning! My goodness we endured some low temperatures! We ordered some beers and wine. Dinner was served. Many of us had the onion soup, which was perfect to warm us up the rest of the way. For dessert I tried to order the caramel ice cream from earlier in the day but they were out of that flavor. I ended up having some chocolate cake. PZ was going to have the ice cream as well but when we had to pick something else he went with a Rhum Baba (I think it was called). Soon after ordering a bottle of rum was placed on the table before him. Did these people know what they were getting themselves into? A little taste test indicated that there was simply syrup (sugar water) mixed in, but that didn't stop CF and PZ from indulging. Okay, I had a little too. Our server saw this, and actually encouraged us. And when his actual dessert arrived, which I believe was sort of cake like, she helped him pour plenty of that sweet rum on top. CF proceeded to help him more too much on, but apparently he still enjoyed the dish. Our server also teased a woman at the next table over who hadn't put nearly such a dent in her bottle of rum. Apparently, we had set a fine example!

We were all warm and happy and quickly admitted that the boat ride would just have to be something to do when returning to Paris. We lucked out and had a fairly easy time catching a metro ride to get close to home. CF and D had been realizing all week that their long legs allowed them to walk together more easily than they can probably walk with anyone else. They were too cold to slow down, but the Z's and I weren't too far behind. We arrived back at the apartment and right away I wanted to see the loot I had come away with from the tower. I got the photos off my camera as a last couple drinks were poured. In a later post I will tell you why it was so unfortunate that I got distracted and walked away from the computer without closing iPhoto, but everyone seemed to be hypnotized by watching the "slide show" of my photos that CF had started playing.

Paris was wonderful but between the freezing temperature and metro strike, it really took a lot of energy out of us. It was clear that no huge party was happening, so we all decided to go to bed. I pouted and said my goodbyes to the Z's, they were out of vacation time and heading home the next morning. I hated to see them go. CF said his goodbyes too, he was laying on the couch and when each of them had come over to him, instead of standing up, he pulled them down on top of him for a hug. My goodness, I am such a lucky girl to have such a classy Fellow.

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