Friday morning I eased into the day to explore a different neighborhood. I took the metro to Bastille and changed lines to go to the Hotel de Ville (city hall) stop. It was one of those changes that took quite a walk! My first stop was the BHV department store. It was one of the ‘grand magasins’ I hadn’t been to before. I was reminded of when I moved to Portland for college as a kid, and went downtown to Meier and Frank and rode the escalator all the way up and down to check it out. I did the same thing today, and it was great. All the usual high-end department store stuff, clothes, perfume, shoes, jewelry, luggage, beautiful linens, dishes, furniture, a restauarant, toys, books, and a really good arts and crafts department. I was in trouble! I didn’t spend much at Impress in Seattle before going to the airport, but I made up for it today—stamps, washi tape, etc. I might have been OK, but they found me a little shopping basket…. Working my way down to the basement, I found the equivalent of Home Depot. There was everything the DIY homeowner needed for repairs or remodeling, plumbing, electrical, paint, wallpaper, you name it, even WD40. Since I get a kick out of foreign hardware stores, I was entertained.
After my shopping spree, I walked past the Hotel de Ville and over the bridge toward Notre Dame. I stopped for a lunch break. A couple of things about French cafes and restaurants: the wait staff are paid a living wage, and the tip is included in the price, so tipping is not expected in the same way as in the US. Also, there is no urge to turn over the table; it is yours for as long as you want to stay. You need to ask for the check when you are ready to go, as it is considered rude for them to bring it and rush you into leaving. Of course there are occasional exceptions, but it is rare.
After lunch, I headed over to Notre Dame past several almost identical souvenir shops with the usual merchandise. When I got to the square in front of Notre Dame, I found the crowds similar to yesterday at the tower. The cathedral was as impressive as ever, and more symmetrical than at Rouen and Chartres with their differently designed towers. I walked on across the next bridge to catch some other views, and walk by the various riverside booths selling books and artwork. It would probably have been easy to find things to buy that needed framing, but I controlled myself. I walked back on to the island and found a bench in the shade back along the side of the cathedral for a rest and people watching.
Next I headed over yet another bridge on to the Isle St Louis. This is one of the exclusive neighborhoods in the city, and the shops were definitely a higher caliber than the souvenir places by Notre Dame. I made my destination, the Berthillon ice cream shop. They make their product right there, and it is known for quality. It was hard to choose one flavor (salted caramel), but it was intense and delicious, if pricey. Another stop for a Coke Zero to rest and enjoy the ice cream, and I headed off the island and over to the St Paul area.
I had read about a glass and china shop in that area, and wanted to find it. This area of the Marais is another neighborhood I have stayed in and enjoyed. I found the shop and got a couple of things, then got some Chinese (egg roll and gyoza dumplings) headed for the taxi stand and a ride home.
Now to fix some dinner and figure out what to do with my last full day with the apartment.
Saturday I slept in and it was lovely. Maybe I’ll have some extra sleep stored up for the long travel day on Monday. When I did head out, I headed for a nearby market street and found the more interesting part of my neighborhood with shops and more activity. Of course part of that was being a sunny Saturday with lots of people out. As I walked to find the market, I noticed a long line of people that wound around a corner and out of sight. I couldn’t imagine what was worth that long a line. I found the market which was small but fun—nice to have one last market fix. There were lots of places to eat, but I wasn’t hungry after my late and large breakfast. I found an antique store, which was a fun browse, and on the way back, I finally saw what the line was for. It appeared to be a clothing clearance sale of some kind. Hard to imagine what would make it worth waiting hours in line, but maybe that’s just me!
My other activity of the day was a cruise on the Canal St Martin, another thing I’ve always wanted to do. I took the metro to the Bastille stop, found the right exit (out of five). It was a beautiful sunny day to wait along the canal to catch the boat. The trip went north on canals used for industrial transport for years. First we went through a long tunnel built by Napoleon. There were skylights along the way that open above in a park along one of the boulevards. After the tunnel, the canal emerges into one of four double locks leading into the lovely tree-lined canal. There were lots of folks lounging along the canal or on the foot bridges over the locks. There was even one guy swimming in the canal! We continued along through locks and ‘swing bridges’ past some historic and lots of nice residental buildings. The folks in front got splashed at some of the locks, with enough spray for a rainbow. Another bridge raised the whole bridge deck vertically so we could go through. The trip ended in the Villette area with a large boat basin, and modern park, with lots of folks out enjoying the day. After the boat trip ended, I was able to walk back and observe one of the locks from above.
I caught the Metro back, but had to adjust, since the stop I planned on using was closed (two-word conversation after an announcement in French: me ‘Bastille?’ other guy ‘ferme’ (closed). I jumped off at that stop, and checked the map, realizing it was a short walk over to another stop on the line I wanted (no taxis around). I could have walked the one more stop to my location, but I decided to be lazy. Some event must have just got out, because the line was packed, and I waited through about four trains before I squeezed on for my short ride home.
Now I get to pack up and get ready to head to the airport tomorrow evening. Fortunately I can leave my stuff here since the next check-in isn’t until Monday, so I can avoid the fun of storing my luggage at the train station for the day.
Tomorrow I plan to go to the Orsay to say hello and goodbye to the impressionists, and may visit the Orangerie museum to visit Monet’s garden—sounds like a good way to wrap up time in Paris.