Deb and Di’s Fabulous, Frenzied, French, “Non we’re not sisters…” Tour Part II

by Debra Chappell

View From Saint-Michel:

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Mood Reading:  ZZZZ’s (unfortunately back into my daily routine, all too soon)

We landed in Paris on Sunday afternoon – the two of us hauling roller bags,  bulging carry-ons and every electrical hair appliance ever invented. Between us we had to buy 2 electrical conversion kits and borrow several converter plugs just to accommodate our morning blonde ritual.  Never mind, land we did, prepared to take the city by storm.  Our strategy was to hit DSCN3475the ground running… no naps, not even 20 winks. Dump the bags in the hotel, grab a double espresso and keep moving to fend off the jet lag or we knew we’d be toast. For the most part, we were successful.  We checked in, scoped out the electrical sockets in the room, (we all have our priorities) and within an hour of arrival were strolling along St. Germaine in search of some much needed caffeine. 

DSCN3425Paris is nothing if not bustling and teeming with people.  At anytime of the day or night there are throngs on the sidewalks and in the cafes, even on weekdays.  I don’t think anyone in this town works, and if they do, I want their job (I’d even settle for their work wardrobe).  Parisian women look amazing in just their everyday wear.  They could put on anything, add a scarf, DSCN3691some earrings and just a hint of makeup and make even a potato sack look fashionably fabulous. Even with hours of tedious coiffing and primping, Diane and I felt woefully drab when seated next to them in cafés and restaurants.

After our coffee, we got our bearings and set out to walk.  We didn’t really care where, we just wanted to DSCN3414stroll along the Seine and take it all in. By dusk we found ourselves on Boulevard Saint Michel with the majestic Notre Dame in sight so we headed in that general direction. (It should be noted that getting from Point A to Point B without at least a dozen detours along the way seemed to challenge us daily throughout the trip. Entirely necessary diversions were cheerfully accommodated for shop poking, scarf browsing, hat trying IMG_4912on, café sitting, wine/champagne sipping, and the much needed and oft utilized mid-afternoon chocolate or pastry pick me up. The latter to maintain our stamina — this touring gig can get brutal.) From St. Michel we wandered over the bridge and up Boulevard Du Palais and found ourselvesCIMG0163 10-01-56 outside Sainte Chapelle, the medieval Gothic chapel famous for it’s stunning stained glass.  Ordinarily, this would be a sight to behold in the light of day, to appreciate the intricate craftsmanship of its truly remarkable windows.  But we reached the chapel just short of sunset. We noticed a sandwich board at the entrance advertising a violin concert for that evening, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  We didn’t hesitate, how could we not see a violin concert in a magnificent chapel in Paris?  When would we have another opportunity?  We crossed the street to the café selling tickets and purchased two for the evening’s performance at 8:00.  DSCN3433We reasoned that even if Vivaldi didn’t move us (it did), it would at least force us to stay awake until a normal bedtime.  In short, the concert was magical — 4 violins, a cello, a harpsichord and enough charismatic stage presence to keep even the most jet lagged among us riveted.  Oh the music, the setting, the artistry – it set the bar for the rest of our trip and remains one of the high lights.

Since I’ve been home, people keep asking me, “So what didIMG_4962 you do for the rest of your time in Paris.”  The short answer is “nothing and everything”.  Since we’d both been several times before, we didn’t feel the need to visit the normal tourist attractions – we savored the IMG_4900street scene, mastered the metro, practiced our tres pathetique French, and ambled the streets…and ambled and ambled.  We walked everywhere – for miles.  Along the Seine, down alleys, over bridges and side streets, doggedly covering boulevards and rues til our hearts were content but our feet were screamin’ “stoppit for goddsakes”.  One day we covered 12 milesDSCN3458 according to Di’s snappy new mileage app., and by day 5 we’d been asked if we were sisters or twins over 10 times. (Non monsieur, juste amis – really!)

We ate souffles at the famed Les Souffles, had CIMG0111breakfast at Angelina’s, and in a serendipitous twist, ran smack into friends from home who we dined with later that evening. We explored produce markets, cheese stalls, pastry shops and an array of confection counters, sampling each as we went along. I ordered foie gras with almost every dinner, croissants and coffee crème for every breakfast, and managed cheese in some form almost every day.  It’s a good thing we only had 5 days in Paris or theIMG_5008 cholesterol alone would have killed me. Ever the optimist, I had convinced myself I was walking away any extra pounds, a delusional idea if ever there was one as my scale reminded me in glaring digits once I got home.

All of it in spite of the fact that we both had come down with horrendous colds within a day or so of arriving.  We tried not to let it slow us down but on about the third day we finally surrendered.  After an outing to Musee d’Orsay (because you can live without La Tour Eiffell for the umpteenth time, but not the rock stars of late 19th Century Impressionism) we succumbed to our CIMG0163sniveling noses, constant hacking and Les Miserable-ness.  We retreated to our hotel room with a bottle of wine (which in France is cheaper than both Nyquil and bottled water), some Brie and baguette, a couple of apples…and an extra roll of toilet paper as we had by this time used up all the complimentary hotel tissue.  We allowed ourselves an hour or two on the ipads and a little snooze then woke up feeling human at least if not overly energetic. We donned our urban guerilla outer wear (ankle boots, jeans, newly purchased scarves) pfoophed our hair for the 37th time that day and headed into the evening *dampness for more strolling before dinner. (*Note: The number one rule in traveling with a gal pal and fellow blond is, total empathy and understanding of each others anxiety over a persistent and ghastly physical condition that was as foreign to two Nevada girls from the arid desertUnknown as mold and wild mushrooms.  We dubbed it ‘humidity hair’ – and were patient with each other’s repeated, compulsive, and in the end futile electronic attempts to control it.)   We ended up walking for two hours, from our hotel on St. Germaine to Alexander Bridge and back, before taking refuge in a wonderful little Italian restaurant.

IMG_4989We figured by this time we looked and felt like city rats so ordered champagne to soothe our spirits and tried to avoid the window reflection.  The proprietor of the establishment offered to take several photos and did, but alas, they were subject to the by-laws of the newly formed blonde charter…and rule number two of ourIMG_4995 expedition: If any member objects to photogragh or electronic image taken by the other or any third party, the ‘delete’ key will be employed immediately and with rigor. No explanation necessary, no justification required.  No argument, no cajoling, no “really, I think it’s kinda cute” reasoning.  Gone, period, no questions asked.

Worked well for both of us, and was enforced at regular intervals. 

Next time: The French wine country and Provence – or The Blonde Broads do B & B’s.