|This was our last day in Paris before we had to return to the US and back to our "Real Lives." Isn't the final day of any vacation, one that was life-changing or almost perfect, really difficult to end? Haven't you wished that you could move away from your city, buy that European manor house and turn it into a small hotel? Didn't you watch the countryside roll by as the train swayed under you and wish that you could move to that 200 year old farm in France, raise mellow white cows and turn their milk into cheese? Wouldn't you like to turn into a travel author or photojournalist and visit the most remote parts of the world? You catch yourself dreaming and thinking about how much money it would take to buy that empty apartment across from the hotel and turn it into a fabulous residence right across from Les Tuileries. Don't you ever want to dismiss your responsibilities?
Instead you turn to your husband, the last day in Paris, and ask where he wants to go that day. You want to make it one last perfect memory so you look out the window together, look at each other and say, "The Louvre."
But, not before we decided to indulge in a sweet treat by going to "Angelina" for breakfast at 226 rue de Rivoli, just a few steps from the Westin. This is billed in all the guidebooks as a tearoom or confectionery but it's a lot more. You can walk up to the counter and take out a special sweet treat, cake or pastry or you can sit down and order in a delightful room with white washed walls and detailed cornices. Speak a little French and you'll get efficient service or English will get you a little less, like the couple behind us who seemed a little rattled. At any rate, if you want the best hot chocolate you have ever tasted, order the l'Africain, the house specialty. Not for everyone, I called it liquid candy, it is much more than anything we have ever tasted especially when topped by whipped cream. Not sweet cream but real whipped cream. Select from among a large number of pastries, but make it quick and you'll get efficient service. Afternoon tea is served and it stays open until early evening. Take home bags of the chocolate, the only thing we didn't buy and regretted that we didn't.
After all those calories we decided to take a long stroll across the grounds of the Tuileries, the museum grows closer and the crowds move toward the glass pyramid, descending into the entry by escalator. Not many people are there.....not as many as in summertime; the weather continues to hold so we are really lucky that the day is moving along well. We are not rushed. Go through the security screening, line up for tickets with only a brief wait and up the elevator to start at, where else, the section that holds the Mona Lisa. We wander into rooms where there are no crowds and then finally into the gallery where she hangs behind glass with at least 200 people held behind ropes, clicking off photos. You cannot really see her well, but I wanted Scott to see the frenzy that surrounds the most famous painting in the world. We grow bored and turn, much more impressed with the enormous sizes of the paintings in the galleries and one masterpiece after another. Sidestepping the people that are on "DaVinci Code" tours, we sit and watch real life painters at work, copying famous paintings as tourists critique their work. As if any of us could even paint the first plausible brush stroke, we decide which are most realistic copies. We enjoy an old gentleman that paints deliberately, ignoring the crowd, in repose himself.
We aren't really trying to see as many works of art as possible, just taking in the atmosphere and enjoying our time in such a famous building with incredible surroundings. We eat lunch outside in the shade, watching the school groups of teenagers who are only interested in each other, not the fact that they are in such a famous place. Back inside, we walk up to see Napoleon's apartments, since we have always liked to look at the living spaces of famous dead people and are not surprised at the luxury but only that it has remained intact for so long. We imagine the sights and sounds those rooms have beheld. History hovers in the details of the worn floor, the crumbling drapes and the dusty chandeliers. Still there is grandeur in these great rooms and a final flourish to our long day.
Hotel bound we go. Finished with the sightseeing, eager to pack and be on our way since it is an early start tomorrow and we are finally ready to finish our trip.
Tomorrow, Charles de Gaulle airport and home.