Saturday in Paris
was a beautiful late summer day: warm but not too warm. I wore shorts to Versailles in the morning, (noticing that no other man seemed to be wearing shorts. Perhaps that's not fashionable.)
Like the Alhambra in Spain, Versailles provides a good lesson in history to those of us who missed that chapter somewhere along education's path. "So that's why French was the language for international diplomacy for 200 years. . . ."
The Hall of Battles was the most thought provoking. This ridiculously long and tall room is lined with huge paintings depicting important battles in the history of France, from the 400s to the 1800s. Most have the french hero mounted on his horse. Many had the heroic dead or dying common soldier down in the corner. I'm glad many painters (or the man who commissioned the work) did not let us forget the lives stilled by wars.
In the afternoon, we walked the shopping areas of St. Germain. Saturday is the busy shopping day because stores close on Sunday. We took a breather at the Rodin museum, eager to take full advantage of our 4-day museum pass. The cafe in the sculpture garden provided the peaceful oasis we needed before heading back to the even busier shopping area of our own neighborhood. At the department store down the street, it felt like the mad rush before Christmas.
A nap recharged me for a lovely evening in Paris.
This time, I tried to dress a little more like a frenchman, with a collared shirt and a sweater tied around my neck. We strolled down toward the historic heart of the city, Ile St. Louis. On the way we stoped at a quiet wine bar along a very old street. Then we crossed the River Seine and found a restaurant recommended by a friend.
Many restaurants are a scene: crowded elbow to elbow with people looking toward the street to see and be seen. This restaurant, Le Caveau d l' Isle, was full but not crowded, with only a 2 minute wait for a table, and the focus was not the street, which is perhaps a good sign for the quality of the food. While the toursit attactions on the island are to the right, this restaurant was to the left, making for a quiet atmosphere. There we enjoyed our best meal of the vacation: very well prepared salad, lamb, salmon, and a chocolate cake with molten chocolate spilling out from within.
After dinner, we walked toward Notre Dame. Still warm after 11:00 pm, we took our time to take it all in, the softness of the air, the lit monuments, the water, the boats, and, at Notre Dame, the litter (nothing is perfect). There, many others also sat, talked, ate and drank to enjoy the evening. Down below, along the river, there was a festival of sorts: booths with businesses from Southern France offering their cheese, wine and other things. We walked through the crowd. Again, many people sat next to the water, across the river looking up at the lit Notre Dame, enjoying a picnic dinner with wine bottles in various states of consumption.
Back to our neighborhood, where people spilled out of the cafes and bars that, although numerous, still could not handle the numbers of people enjoying a warm Saturday night in September, the last Saturday of Summer.