Thursday evening found us on the gliding down the Seine on the Bateaux Parisiens dinner cruise. The clear, cold night was lit up not only by Paris' many landmarks, but the stars and moon decided to join in the light show.
In my research for the trip, I found everyone has an opinion on Seine River cruises. Day time cruises, private yacht cruises and the traditional dinner/lunch cruises are all available at the different boat companies located just beneath the Eiffel Tower on the Seine. You'll need to choose which one based on your personal preference (I wanted to see the city lit up at night), but make sure you do add a cruise into your schedule. It's a relaxing two hours, with both the Left Bank, Right Bank and Ile de Cite showing off for your viewing pleasure.
Friday morning, Paris was in another funk (hey, that's ok, with all due respect to the many many handsome Parisian men I saw, Paris is definitely a girl, and a girl has a right to be moody from time to time). The day dawned cloudy and by noon the gentle Paris mist we'd experienced earlier was now 'chiens et chattes' as we walked down the Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe. The avenue of French history (Napoleon, Nazis, Allies, etc.) is impressive with its width, high end shops and restaraunts. Its also crowded, busy and commercial. Its definitely a must see, but be prepared, in my opinion it does lack some charm, with one jewel box of an exception, La Duree.
From the LaDuree website, "Ernest Ladurée’s wife, Jeanne Souchard, daughter of a well-known hotelier in Rouen, had the idea of mixing styles: the Parisian café and pastry shop gave birth to one of the first tea salons in town." With locations all over Paris, and 17 other countries, The Champs Elysees is the flagship store for the brand and was recently underwent a year renovations and was recently reopened October 17, 2012 to its 1862 Belle Epoque glory. We arrived early for our reservations to the warm, cozy, salon de the and were lead to our table overlooking the Champs Elyees below. Lunch was simply the prelimary to the Laduree patisseries and world famous macaroons. (The biggest issue, which one to choose? LaDuree boasts over 19 flavors!)
On a sugar high, we decided the afternoon should end with some culture. We quickly entered the dry Metro and disembarked at Les Tuileres. Normally, I would have loved the walk across Catherine Medici's Tuscan inspired gardens, but even I hurried along the gardens paths to its former 'L' Orangerie', the building used to shelter the orange trees of the Tuileres, now housing a different type of plant 'Monet's Lilies'From the L'Orangerie website, "On April 12, 1922 Claude Monet signed a contract donating the Nymphéas series of decorative panels painted on canvas to the French government, to be housed in redesigned, oval rooms at the Orangerie. With input from Monet, the head architect at the Louvre, Camille Lefèvre, drafted new plans and elevations in 1922 to house Monet's large Nymphéas canvases, incorporating natural light, plain walls, and sparse interior decoration". Viewing the 'Lilies' in the way Monet meant them to be seen, is like a virtual trip to his home in Giverny. If you take the time to visit just one museum, for pure wow factor the L'Orangerie and the Nymphéas would be top of my list!
Our last morning in Paris began with a stroll and ended with a sprint. We were back in the Marais, where we started our visit 7 days prior. We finally scored reservations for the restaraunt Bon Appetite and many other food magazines named 2012's 'best value' Le Breizh Cafe. We left the hotel at 10am for our 11:30am appointment a mere 15 minutes away. But, we didn't count on the Marais' weekend flea market, a combinaton of garage sale and high end antique auction. I succumbed to its siren's call and went home with two small French linens embroidered in 'moi' and 'toi' to add to my 'his' and 'her's linen collection. We peeked in the charming alleyways and the Place de Voges (the oldest square in Paris) and found ourselves almost running to make our reservation at the creperie. At 1130 the bistro was packed and the droves without appointments were sent away. It's Le Breizh's signature buckwheat crepes that keep its clientele coming back.
The last afternoon was dedicated to Paris' second favorite sport after eating, shopping. We returned to the Place de la Concorde in front of the L'Orangerie, but culture was not on our minds this time, retail therapy was the final destination of our Paris sorjourn. The Christmas Market located on the Champs Elyees had recently opened and most of of group opted to explore the many food and craft vendors. My husband the foodie had different ideas, so we headed to the Place de la Madelaine, where Paris' high end food shops are located. We stopped at the local LaDuree and found macaroons purchased that day would not be edible upon our return, so we continued across the square until we ran into Maille Moutard, home of gourmet French mustards since 1747. The mustard menu was amazing, mustards infused with: Chablis, truffles, fine herbes, and even bleu cheese. The choices were overwhelming, and we finally decided to buy several sample packs to enjoy at home.
Sunday we returned to Charles de Gaulle for our homeward journey. As we split a final macaroon, David and I agreed the French are definitely a highly envolved people. I reflected on my pre Paris jitters and realized it defintely was not my Waterloo. And like Napoleon, who was dug up from Elba 34 years after his death and installed at the Invilades for eternity, I knew I too would return to Paris.