Started out the day with Jenny going to the airport to pick up Ansel (the kid we left back in DC on Saturday with passport problems) and me going to La Tour to meet the rest of our group. My first stop was Eric Keyser (boulangerie-bakery) again, because I would like to make my way through his entire menu before we leave Paris …
We learned about the Brussels bombings once we were all together at school, but even though Belgium is right next door, the news barely seemed to affect us or our trip. The incident happening in a different country made it feel surprisingly far away. So we continued with our itinerary as planned.
First stop of the day was a guided tour at Musee D’Armee, part of Les Invilides, a giant museum complex originally built as a hospital in the 1600s by Louis XIV.
We had a 1 1/2 hour tour of the World Wars section entirely in French. It took enormous effort to stay focused on the language for that long, but the kids held up well, and I was fascinated by the guide’s feminist perspective on World War II. She did an excellent job (I may never forget her descriptions of “les pin-ups” and “Rosie the Rivteur,” or her interesting suggestion that the Russians turned to “la mere” as their patriotic propaganda inspiration because communism offered them no good patriotic hook.)
Went to see Napoleon’s tomb, which is in the church that is part of Les Invilides:
Ate lunch outside with the pigeons …
And then took the Metro to the Marais, the old Jewish quarter of Paris, where we went to the Holocaust Museum (Musee de Shoah). We had another guided tour, which was just exhausting — too much listening to a huge amount of information, nearly all of it in French, and almost no opportunities to look at the exhibits.
The kids really welcomed the opportunity to quickly walk around and shop (for food, mostly) in the Marais afterward. Then they went back to La Tour, and I walked and walked and walked in search of the best caramels and pate de fruits (at Jacques Genin) and best baguette (at 134rDt) in Paris. I have had several best baguettes now, and they’ve all been pretty amazing. But the pate de fruits were transportive, worth all of the pain that my feet were in and more. Wow. Yum.
Sat at a local neighborhood cafe with an unreasonably pricey cup of tea and marveled at the fact that so many people in Paris still smoke. Ugh. Then I met Carolyn — my college roommate — at Pierre Sang, a restaurant with 6 courses and no menu. We definitely enjoyed trying to guess what was in each dish — some thing were odd (eggs cooked for exactly 34 seconds), some things were intriguing (a leek sauce next to a grapefruit sauce), and some things were wonderful (cheese should definitely be served with yuzu sauce) — but it was mostly fun catching up with Carolyn for many hours.
I am amazed at how friendly the Parisians have been, undermining their reputation for rudeness left and right. They are happy to let me speak in garbled French — unlike the Dutch, who leap at any opportunity to remedy an awkward conversation with their perfect English — the French seem content to watch me fumble for words and then respond really nicely. It’s been great speaking practice, and I’m happily surprised that so much of the language is coming back to me.