The Eiffel Tower - Photo Taken September 2010

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 5 - La Opera and La Madeleine

I slept until 8:30 this morning.  It was blessedly quiet, but I woke up about 3 and read for a couple of hours, and looked at a map to help decide what to do today.  Fortunately I was able to hit pause on my brain and go back to sleep for a few more hours.

The sky was grey when I went out for my demi-baguette and the weather forecast wasn't promising, so I donned my raincoat and walked up to Rue Etienne Marcel to catch the bus going to La Opera.  I had been inside La Opera Garnier before, so it wasn't high on my list of priorities, but I had not been inside Galeries Lafayette before, so I headed that direction. 

I have no idea how many buildings make up this famous "grand magasin" (department store), but there are several.  I went inside two of them.  The main building has the famous dome and it is spectacular -- breathtaking, in fact.  But before getting that far, I walked through the handbag department, which was impressive in itself.  Those who know me well, know about my eternal quest for the perfect black purse.  I restrained myself, but the one price tag I looked at wasn't too bad - for a store brand.  Around the outside walls, though, were salons of all the famous designers - just handbags - I didn't even go in them, just looked from the outside.  When I saw the dome, it was so beautiful.  Under the dome are all the cosmetic companies - all the famous ones, some I've never heard of.  The lighting makes everything so luminous.  It's hard not to want to buy one of everything.  I found an escalator and rode up through the floors, getting closer and closer to the top of the dome.  The further up you go, the less impressive merchandising is.  I was making my way to the rooftop where there is an excellent view of Paris toward the south.  Unfortunately, it was a dark day, but I can imagine it would be stunning on a sunny day.  When I was ready to go down, I found the escalator from the roof; of course, the route I took up required I do about 4 flights of steps.  Oh, well.  I bought some things in the Paris Souvenir section, mainly so I could get a Galeries Lafayette shopping bag.  After leaving the main building, I found my way to the gourmet food section and bought some macarons.  Eight of them for 12 euros.  I think the ones in Trader Joe's freezer section are about $3 for 12.  But, I can tell you these are a lot better. These are not coconut macaroons, but French macarons, made from flavored meringue and fillings.

I walked around the Opera House and finally stopped at a cafe for a rest and "un cafe" before walking down Blvd des Capucines toward La Madeleine.  There were a lot of high-end shops along the way.  One shop was just brooms, brushes, and other household items, but unique designs and very cleverly
displayed.  I had a "croque monsieur" (toasted ham & cheese sandwich) for lunch.  It had some ham between 2 slices of good white bread, with a lot of cheese on top, which was toasted. It was served with a little salad and was very good.  Also, at 10 euros, it was a great lunch. 

When I got to La Madeleine, I first walked around it.  There are several high-end food shops on the adjacent streets.  I went into Fauchon. The interior of the store is done all in black and pink with subtle lighting that makes everything look wonderful.  They have pastries, candy, coffee, tea, and savory items such as mustards, vinegars...and...foie gras. I was offered a small taste of duck foie gras.  It was soooo good. I bought a small jar, which I'll have for dinner one of these nights.  I should have bought that small bottle of Moet champagne to go with it, as well. There are also shops specializing in tea, mustard, even truffles (the mushroom kind) - you could certainly spend a lot of money around there.

La Madeleine is an active church and this is the first time I had been inside.  I think it is more impressive on the outside than the inside where it is pretty dark.  There's no stained glass.  Just a lot of large statuary.

From La Madeleine I walked toward the Place de la Concorde.  More high-end shops, including Laduree, which is famous for its macarons.  I popped inside, and they looked lovely, but were terribly expensive, and since I already had some, I decided not to buy more.  I'm sure they can't be that much better than the ones I got at Galeries Lafayette.  Maxim's is also on this street - I took a picture.  The Place de la Concorde is where the guillotine was during the French Revolution and where Marie Antoinette lost her head.  Now there is an Egyptian Obelisk and a lot of traffic.  I thought I might go to l'Orangerie since it was right there, so I walked through the west end of Jardin des Tuileries, and sat in one of their nice green metal chairs for a brief rest.  There is a large pond - I think it may be where the kids sail their little boats on weekends, but today there were just a lot of ducks and seagulls.  Also, there was a man feeding pigeons from his hand - there was even one on top of his head. When I got to l'Orangerie (a museum housing Monet's huge water lily canvases), there was a bit of a line, but not too long, but since I was getting tired, and it was past 3, I decided to find my way home. I'll go back when I'm not so tired.

I went down on Quai des Tuileries, thinking I could find a bus going in the right direction, but didn't see any buses at all, or any bus stops.  So I crossed back over the Tuileries to Rue de Rivoli, which is one-way the wrong way. I thought if I couldn't find a bus, I'd get a taxi.  I stopped at a little cafe, Da Rosa, across from the Westin, needing "les toilettes," as well as a rest.  I was warmly greeted at the door, directed to les toilettes (down a very narrow spiral stairway, but there was one for handicapped right at the top, so with my knee, I took advantage of it). The young woman who met me at the door had taken my packages, and when I went to the table, she brought me a cup of coffee.  So nice.  As I left the cafe, an available taxi was right there, so a 8.80 euro taxi ride got me home - money well spent.  I poured myself a glass of wine and iced my knee.

I went out for dinner tonight.  I had read about Le Quincampe, a small restaurant across the street at #78 (I'm at #79).  When I arrived, I was disappointed to see that it looked closed up and there was a note on the door indicating, I thought, that they would be closed until October 1.  Well, on Monday, they were back in business.  They must have been closed for the August holidays.  Of course, I was the first one there, but I didn't arrive until nearly 8:00, and several people came in soon after I was seated.  The waiter was a very good looking young man, who gave me an English menu, but spoke to me in very fast French.  I speak French better than I understand either spoken or written French, so he finally reverted to excellent English while I stumbled along in French. Turns out he had lived in New York. We got along just fine. I had a starter of chevre with nicely dressed greens.  It was such a large piece of cheese that I didn't eat all of it, though it was excellent.  My main course was l'entrecote (rib steak) with potatoes dauphinese (that's not spelled right), sort of like scalloped pototoes only better, a glass of red wine, and a coffee.  It came to 30 euros. The two women across from me were American, at least I thought so, and I heard one of them tell the waiter she was from Seattle.  After awhile they asked if I was American, and when I said I was also from Seattle, they came over to my table for a chat.  Turns out the one from Seattle is actually from Gig Harbor and she's lived in Australia for 11 years.  Her friend is also Australian and they are here on a buying trip for a home decorating store they are planning to open in Sydney.  It was fun talking with them. Finally, we decided it time to leave (it was nearly 10:00), so I got up, and with my hand on the door knob, I suddenly remembered that I hadn't paid yet!  At least they wouldn't have had to chase me very far.  It was a delightful evening and the first I've spent outside of the apartment.

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