View from Montparnasse Tower (2013)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Day 3

Today we rode the bus.  The Metro is just too hard on my knees and hips.  We decided to go to Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank, so took the #38 bus after walking about 2 blocks to the stop.  The bus let us out right at the gate to the gardens.

Since today was a holiday (70th anniversary of VE day), some shops were closed and there were lots of people around, including children.  Paris parks have these great green chairs, making it easy to spend lots of time people watching.  We found chairs where we could watch the children sail their boats across the pond. They rent the boats and use sticks to push the boats off across the pond.  I have no idea how they get their boat back, or even if they do.  Perhaps it is simply a case of sending someone else's boat back.  At one point someone sent a remote-controlled motor boat out on the pond and I'm sure it was a nuisance to those who were sailing boats.  Finally, the motor boat capsized and they had to use fishing poles to cast a line out to bring it back to the edge of the pond.  We were impressed by how excited the kids were and how involved their dads were.  We also watched some very fat pigeons that seemed to be a different variety than the usual pigeons.

From the gardens we walked down Rue l'Odeon towards Blvd. St. Germaine.  This was Hemingway's stomping grounds when he lived in an apartment nearby toward the end of his stay in Paris.  The famous bookstore Shakespeare & Company was originally on Rue l'Odeon and its founder Silvia Beach lived above it.  By now it was lunch time, so we went to Le Danton, where I had a great salmon lunch when I was here in 2013.  Today the "plat du jour" was roast beef, so we ordered croque monsieurs (toasted ham & cheese sandwiches), which came with a salad, but they weren't the best I've had - not even as good as the ones I make at home.  Oh, well.

While at lunch, we decided to go to Le Bon Marche.  The other famous and oldest "Grand Magasin" (department store) in Paris, and the only one on the Left Bank.  We rode the #96 bus, but still had to walk a few blocks to the store.  Le Bon Marche is really out of our budget!  These "Grands Magasins" are really something.  They are like little jewel boxes with everything shown to its best advantage.  The jewelry and cosmetic counters sparkle. The stores are crowded and people are buying, but the prices are outrageous; although, I did see some affordable items at Galleries Lafayette yesterday - 20 euros for a scarf, 49 - 69 euros for a purse - but those were store brands, not the designer brands.  Each designer has its own alcove to display their wares and some of them have lines of people waiting to get in, as they control the number of people that come into their area so it doesn't get too crowded.

The other feature of these stores is their food halls.  The Grand Epicurie at Le Bon Marche is amazing. Fresh fruits and vegetables, jars of mustard, pickles - every condiment imaginable. Fish market, butcher, baker, etc.  Some people were actually doing their grocery shopping at those prices!  It was an experience.

Our plan for tonight's dinner was to get something from Picard, which is a store selling frozen prepared foods, which are reportedly very good.  Unfortunately, when we walked over to the store closest to us, we found out it closed a 1pm today due to the holiday - so, we decided to eat out tonight.  We continued to walk around and found the Parc Anne Frank, which is a small park hidden behind some buildings.   There were some roses, clematis, and lilacs in bloom, a playground, and children playing.  One little girl pushed her doll carriage around while another one rode her bike in circles. It's a nice little park.

On the way back to the apartment, we stopped at a bar, grabbed a table outside and had a couple of beers.  This was a busy corner that afforded excellent people watching.   There is a bottle recycle station across the way and we watched people stuff empty wine and liquor bottles through the holes -- obviously these were employees of the various cafes and bars in the area.  Lots of people walking their dogs and families with kids on scooters.  Earlier, in the afternoon, we stopped at a cafe near Le Bon Marche and ordered "Coca Light" (the first Diet Coke I've had since last September and it was pretty awful - I've lost the taste for it, but we did get three ice cubes with it).  The 2 cokes were 9.80 euros!  The 4 beers we had were 12 euros (3 euros each).  Lesson learned: we will now drink beer rather than coke!

I am really glad that we've had these three days to recover from jet lag, and we still have 2 full weeks left!

We went out in search of dinner - admittedly a little early -- and ended up at Le Quincampe, a small tea room and restaurant across the street from where I stayed in 2013.  This was the third time I'd eaten there.  I had a steak with bearnaise sauce and it was probably the best steak I've had in France.  The cuts of meat are different than what we're used to and not as tender.  It was cooked medium rare.  Kathy had an interesting dish - chunks of white fish with mashed potatoes on top, which was oven baked - shepard's pie with fish - and she said it was quite good.  The portions were large and filling.

Other than a few sprinkles today, the weather was nice and we were even sitting in the sunshine while drinking our beers.

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