21 Nov 2014
Ah Paris! Bonjour mon ami!
After ordering a late breakfast at Cafe Le Metro, we were reminded that the French don’t make a big deal over breakfast. There was only one choice: coffee, orange juice, croissant, with or without eggs. By the time we were ordering a second round of coffee, the table behind us were served a bottle of red wine; at 11:30am.
We strolled around the neighbourhood reacquainting ourselves with the Latin Quarter. This has always been our favorite arrondissement to stay. Just off Boulevard Saint Germain is Rue Dante. It’s lined with kooky Manga stores which are always fun to browse.
Further down on the banks of La Seine, overlooking Notre Dame is the famous Shakespeare’s Bookstore. The tiny building is a rabbit warren of ramshackle rooms, jammed with books from floor to ceiling. Narrow red-painted timber stairs lead up to more floors, where a single bed is tucked into a corner and an elegant white cat sits on a bookshelf. We may have lost a few hours in here and emerged with a small pile of treasures. We can’t stop buying books.
We crossed Pont du Double to Notre Dame which was the colour of butter in the autumn light. It’s been cleaned since we last saw it. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a huge line to get inside.
It’s the scale of the interior that makes it awe inspiring. Towering arches and vaulted ceiling, highlighted with dancing coloured light from the stained glass. This is architecture designed to humble humans and to evoke the presence of a higher power. We were floored when we realised it was built between 1163 to the mid 1200’s. Image the impression such a building would have on a Medieval congregation.
The cathedral was filled with people, more or less observing the rule of silence. I was interested to notice that it was mainly Spanish and Italian speakers who struggled to keep silent. We sat on a pew and listened to the sound of hundreds of people quietly murmuring. I sat as still as the building and watched people circle around through the arches. This would look great in stop motion.
Joining the steady flow of people we circled the French gothic interior, trying to picture how this might have been constructed with Medieval technology. Amazing.
Flickering candle light animated the deep shadows and the stained glass windows were luminous in the dim light. “Let’s light a candle” suggested David pulling his wallet out to make the five euro donation. We lite a candle to say thank you for our visit. It’s the least we could do; it’s free to come here and it must take some upkeep.
Back out in the cold, we turned right and walked around the outside of the cathedral.
“Just look at those flying buttresses” I said pointing up to the ornate structures. “It would be nice to live opposite; what a view!” We looked into the apartment building adjacent. Suddenly the bells pealed out announcing the time. It was a thrilling sound standing so close.
“Okay, that might get annoying, though” I changed my mind about living here.
A riot of golden leaves greeted us in the garden at the rear of the cathedral.
“So beautiful” I breathed quietly walking through the dappled diffused light. We’ve never seen Paris in Autumn, only summer and winter. Immediately I thought of the Impressionists who spoke of the quality of light in Provence. It must be like this.
Lovers sat beneath the yellow canopy, others walked hand in hand along La Seine, and we watched as an American couple had an argument. He stormed off leaving her alone. This is not the place for an argument, I thought. We watched as he walked back and put his arm around her. Kissing her in apology.
Pont de l’Archeveche, crossing back to the South Bank, glittered with love-locks; padlocks that lovers attach to the bridge and throw the key into the river. “Love has no locks”. David hates this habit, he says “It’s defacing the city”. I have mixed feelings about it, I suppose it’s romantic, but also it’s too much weight for the bridges to take. The authorities are trying to remove them, but unsuccessfully.
We continued down stream and then headed back into the Latin Quatre. David was on the look out for a restaurant he’d read about and was considering for dinner tonight. We soon found it: Chez Rene on the corner of Rue du Cardinal Lemoine and Boulevard Saint Germain, and it looked perfect.
Next we came across a traditional Parisian Perfumer, Diptique. This is the aftershave David bought in London and this is the original store. We popped in for a sniff. I loved the Au Rose fragrance. A little further along we found a boutique classical music store and popped in for a listen. This part of Paris is alive with unique little shops, as opposed to the usual high street chains. It was a pleasure to wander the streets.
After a cheeky afternoon snooze, it was time to head back to Chez Rene for dinner.
“Bonsoir. A Table for two, please?” David asked the waiter who was dressed in a crisp white shirt with black vest.
“‘Ave you a reservation?” He replied.
“No” David apologised.
“‘En you must sit ‘ere or ‘ere” he said pointing to the two worst tables in the empty restaurant. We chose the lesser of two evils and sat next to the main door.
David looked at me,”Is this okay?”
“I don’t mind, it’s funny” I said determined to enjoy the experience. And we did. Our waiter, Daniel turned out to be a character, and kind of friendly and a little funny. I ordered what ever he suggested and was not disappointed.
I had the special, Sea Bass with a cream sauce with fennel, and David chose Beouf Bourginon. And a mushroom starter that Daniel recommended was perfection. We shared a bottle of wine and chatted and watched the restaurant fill up as the evening progressed. The place was filled almost entirely with locals and we enjoyed watching Parisian life around us.
We walked home happily and a little wobbly.