Thursday, September 17, 2015

Paris When it Rains

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: May 1, 2015

A light drizzle was falling when I awoke.  As I gazed out onto the square, the dreary greyness seemed to reflect my emotions. I was sad to be leaving Orléans once again. I shook the feeling off with a reminder that I had just experienced a fantastic vacation in Europe with some of my favorite people. Each day had been filled with smiles, laughter, and adventure. Even the smallest things had given me pleasure, happiness, and memories to last a lifetime. I stuffed a few remaining items into my suitcase and then joined Darcy, Mathieu, and Craig for coffee. 

May 1 is labor day in France, which meant that many businesses and services were closed, including the tram. We had ordered a taxi to take us across town to the train station. Darcy and Mathieu were going to accompany us to Paris so that we could all enjoy one more day together. As they prepared to leave, I paused to give Azur a treat. I shook the bag of cat goodies and he ran up to me. As I watched him devour the treat, I heard meowing and chuckled while saying, "You really love those things don't you? I will bring you some more next time.". I then realized that the meowing was not coming from Azur, but from a cat on the other side of the heavy wooden door! We opened the door to discover her on the landing. The little stub-tailed feline was loudly demanding a share of Azur's tasty "foreign" food. We could not resist. After all, she had come all the way up the stairs. How she had heard the sound of those treats shaking inside the bag, I will never know. 

The friendly neighborhood kitty.

Before long, the taxi arrived. As we rolled through the streets of Orléans, I savored every glimpse of the old avenues and beautiful stone buildings. At the station, we bought more coffee and a few pastries to eat while waiting for the train. I reached into my bag for my camera, wanting to take a picture of Darcy and Mathieu as they huddled together upon the stone bench near the platform. It wasn't there. I searched every pocket of my purse but was unable to find my camera. OR MY PHONE!! I suddenly recalled that I had left those items on chargers back at the house. Darcy offered to run home for them, or to rent a bike to zip across Orléans. She was certain she could make it there and back before our train was due. But no, I was too afraid that she might slip on wet cobblestones. I would just have to live without them for a while until they could be shipped back to America. 

After an uneventful train ride, we were greeted in Paris by light rain and a chill breeze. We checked into the hotel and relaxed for a while in our rooms before going out for lunch. We had all agreed that pizza sounded good, but were soon dismayed to learn that many of the restaurants were closed on this national holiday. After sloshing up and down the streets surrounding our hotel, we came almost full circle to a warm, inviting brasserie just steps from the hotel. No pizza was served there, but by then we had ceased to care. 

I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant so that I could share it. It was a nice place, with attractive decor and attentive, polite, wait staff. (And one of the cleanest bathrooms I had ever seen in France!) The food was plentiful and tasty. The bread was some of the most delicious any of us had ever eaten. Our waiter refilled the bread basket several times, as we just couldn't seem to get enough! I enjoyed my shepherd's pie. It was the perfect comfort food on this cold, rainy day. 

The view from our hotel room in Paris.
We were at the Ibis Tour Eiffel Cambronne.

And then - what to do on a rainy day in Paris when museums and shops are closed? The four of us gathered in our hotel room and began scrolling through our ipads and phones in search of an indoor activity. Mathieu made phone calls to a few places that seemed promising. At last, one of us found that the museum of chocolate was indeed open! It took some effort to get there - twelve stops on the Metro, a transfer, and another five stops - but it was worth it. The Musée Gourmand du Chocolat is a little gem. We learned many fascinating facts about the discovery and uses of chocolate over the centuries. There were wonderful displays of ancient artifacts for making chocolate, and delicate china cups from which royalty sipped their frothy cocoa.  And at the very end, we watched a presentation which demonstrated how chocolate is tempered, molded, etc. As we filed out toward their unique gift shop, we were invited to help ourselves to samples of several different candies, including a rare and exquisite chocolate that had an earthy, delicious flavor. The museum is worth a visit for adults and children, if you can tear yourselves away from the more well-known sights of Paris.

The Paris Metro.

Lots of stairs at the Metro stop.

On our previous trips to France, we had always ended our vacation with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. It's our way of bidding adieu to France, to Darcy and Mathieu, and to all the people and places that have made our time there so very pleasant and memorable. That night was an exception. The weather had become even more damp and blustery until the idea of a trek in the cold and wet was just too much, even for a last view of the Iron Lady. Instead, the four of us found ourselves in a cozy Italian restaurant where we had a delightful meal. That was followed by a lively game of Scattergories in the warmth and comfort of the hotel. It was a perfectly wonderful way to end the evening.

Darcy enjoyed veal picatta on our last night in Paris.

Ah, we finally found some pizza!

TRAVEL TIP: It is a good idea to make yourself aware of any holidays which occur in the country you are planning to visit. You can then make your plans based upon the availability of public transportation, services, restaurants, museums, and other attractions. Bon voyage!

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