Since we spent a decent chunk of our day yesterday wandering around the Louvre, I thought we may be a bit museum-ed out. I love it, but you can become desensitized to it if you cram in too much too fast. And since there is plenty to do outside of the multitudes of fabulousness packed museums, I thought today would be a perfect time to do that. My overall plan is one day museum, one day wandering.
Three separate people have recommended the store Deyrolle as a intriguing visiting spot in Paris. One of them is the hilarious writer, David Sedaris. Deyrolle was described to me as a taxidermy. Doesn't exactly peak the desire, does it? I've spent enough summers in Montana to know what dead, stuffed animals look like. And a whole shop filled with them? I imagined it to be poorly lit, small, and cramped, like so many french shops are. It seemed like it would be creepy and perhaps even disturbing. But since I would never know for certain without checking it out (and since my mother wanted to go and see it herself) who was I to say no?
Truth be told it was absolutely incredible! Once you get past how sad it is that there is a dead baby elephant stuffed in this shop, or a black panther standing next to a tiger, it's really beautiful. Like a zoo but with the menagerie sitting perfectly still around a faux feast (and an aligator hiding under the table). There was an emu, polar bear, male lion, cerval, and baby leopard. There was a badger and a reindeer, baby ostriches and baby chicks. The list goes on and on. I wonder how they even fit some of the bigger creatures (like the lions, tigers, and bears...oh my) through the front door. The store was huge and spanned two levels. The walls were a cool and calming sea foam green with warm wooden floors and gold detailing. Showcases were filled with sea shells and crustaceans. Bell jars covered articulated skeletons. There was an entire back room of insect specimens beautifully pinned inside boxes and in glass drawers. And honestly, all the taxidermy was done beautifully. They still looked alive, like well behaved pets. Sad? Sure. Cool? Totally.
Since the store was in the vicinity of Rue Bonaparte I decided that we could walk down to Laduree and buy some of their famous macaron. The walk took us past some beautiful art galleries and antique stores. Classic tiny french shops filled with beautiful things. Most too intimidating to even think about entering. But looking through the window was thrilling enough.
Laduree was packed, as usual, and we had to wait in line for at least twenty minutes until we could put in an order for out macarons. But I expected this and so wasn't upset by the wait. What's hilarious is that my entire party expects me to be their french translator. Are they crazy? Sure I speak some, and enough to order macaron and pretend I understand what the counter woman is saying in return, but I hope it never goes too much past that. For all our sake.
We continued on our way towards Place de Concorde over Pont de Arts, a walking bridge whose chain linked fence is littered with lovers' locks. Apparently it's tradition for couples from all over the world visiting Paris to put a lock on the fence engraved with their initials. And apparently it's just as much of a tradition for the city to then cut them off once the bridge becomes too full. Otherwise the entire thing would collapse into the Seine from the weight of it all.
Through Jardin de Tuileries, past the giant Ferris Wheel and Place de Concorde, we finally reached the Christmas Market. And just in time. I was hungry for vin chaud, sausage, and churros. My mom was a bit turned off by the whole hot red wine thing, but had one sip of mine and wanted to "share" it. So I bought another one for myself. The sausages were as delicious as I remembered and Nance got an order of the plank smoked salmon which tasted as wonderful as it smelled.
From there we walked to the Champs Elysees to see the Christmas lights and so that we could eventually end up at the Arc de Triomphe. We all commented on how underwhelming the French Christmas lights are (well, all of us except Nance who is so optimistic she makes Gandhi look negative). I assumed that Christmas in Paris would be beautiful and magical. It's the city of lights after all. But really the decorations are sad, minimal, tacky, or nonexistent. For people who are known for their aesthetic there is certainly a lot of multicolored, seizure inducing strands of lights. And it finally clicked why I wasn't exactly feeling Christmasy. The Champs is supposed to be one of the top Christmas light spots in Paris but really folks, the illuminated hula hoops hanging from the trees leave a lot to be desired.
When we reached the Arc de Triomphe I noticed that there were people on top of it. Nance's eyes lit up with excitement when I asked if she wanted to go up there. "YES! ...please?" Like a little kid trying to keep from bouncing up and down with jubilation, she could barely contain her craving. I was more than happy to oblige since I knew it would be an incredible view. And it's something I have yet to do.
The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of a giant roundabout and we walked around for a bit trying to uncover how exactly we got to the Arc itself. Perhaps it's a "frogger" scenario, I wondered. I wouldn't put it past the safety unconscious French. In fact there is a stairway leading to an underground tunnel that will take you there, but poor signage made finding this more difficult than it needed to be. (It's on the Avenue Champs Elysees, by the way, but only on one side of the street).
To go to the top you have to buy a ticket and you have to walk 280 steps. Considering the amount of walking that we had done and considering that all of us, except for Nance, aren't exactly the athletic type, we wanted to know if there was, perhaps, an elevator for the fat American tourists allergic to such physical exertion. "Yes," the woman said, "there is," without another word or eye contact. We bought our tickets and went to the hidden entry way, which were only steps. I asked the woman there where the elevator was and she informed me that it was only for disabled people. My hackles went up a bit and I told her that the woman who sold us our tickets had told us other wise. "Only for disable people, or those who need it." We, obviously, fell into the later category. I told my mom to act old and feeble and we hobbled onto an elevator and shot up to the top in a jiffy.
The top of the Arc de Triomphe was definitely worth it. The views were beautiful, giving your eyes full access to the Champs Elysees all the way down to the ferris wheel at Place de Concorde. The Eiffel Tower as light up and statuesque. You could see Notre Dame peeking out from the city as well as the Louvre and Grand Palais. I think it would be equally beautiful in the day time, especially in the summer when the city is green (but perhaps a 280 step hike in sweltering heat isn't up your alley).
Tired, full, and happy we returned home. Hopefully we'll all get more sleep tonight and be able to wake up early enough to go and buy some croissants from Pierre Herme. We're planning on visiting the Musee de l'Orangerie and the Musee de Marmottan for the Seurat and Matisse exhibit tomorrow. Oh the culture and excitement. And in just a few days it's Christmas! How wonderful is that?!