My last full day in Paris was not bad at all. I got up, went to the bakery, and pointed at something that looked yummy. According to the woman behind the counter, it was a Âcroque monsieur.Â Well, IÂm a monsieur, so I took that one. ItÂs basically a ham and cheese sandwich made out of soft white bread, soaked in milk and eggs, coated with more cheese, then baked until golden brown. It was just the sort of thing to start monsieurÂs day out right. I also bought a white nectarine and a can of Oasis to round out my square breakfast. I also walked through the indoor market, which I had not seen before. I love walking through markets. Everyone was there, buying fresh meat and vegetables. A fruit vendor offered me a piece of melon, ÂPour commencer,Â or to begin my day.
My first Metro trip of the day was to the MusÃ©e DÂOrsay. It took a bit of figuring out, since my transit map says the RER goes right there, but the RER station at the museum is actually closed. It was a beautiful morning, so I didnÂt mind the walk. I didnÂt end up going into the museum though, because the line was really long, and I think IÂm a bit tired of museums after yesterdayÂs visits to the Louvre and the photography gallery. It also seemed to be too beautiful a day to be stuck inside.
Instead, I walked along the Seine and crossed over the bridge. I enjoyed the Tuileries, a garden attached to the Louvre. Conscious that I was spending way too much time in proximity to the Louvre again, I headed across the street to the Palais Royale. They had some beautiful gardens and manicured trees there too. It was a great place to watch people. An old man, looking very traditionally French, was walking towards me. He had his arm stretched out to his side. Soon, a sparrow landed on his arm. Then a tornado of sparrows was swirling around him. He was holding some bread in his outstretched hand, and the birds were fluttering around him and eating the bread. It would have made a spectacular photo, if I had brought my camera with me. I comforted myself by thinking that every missed opportunity means another is coming along right behind it. In keeping with that thought, I headed back to the hotel to retrieve my camera.
I thought I might want to get some lunch before getting to the hotel. If I spend another two weeks in Paris, I might begin to understand the business hours of restaurants. Restaurants that are open for dinner are sometimes not open for lunch. Sometimes a food counter will be open in the morning, close for a few hours, and then open again in the evening. It doesnÂt seem to be marked anywhere. Well, sometimes there are complicated rules written on the menus, like ÂCombination meals available for X euros at lunch and Y euros at dinner, except on Saturdays, when they cost Z euros. Combinations not available on Sundays. Restaurant is only open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.Â Anyway, the rule of thumb I think I would adopt is ÂIf you see something you like, eat it immediately. You may never see it again.Â
Well wouldnÂt you know, as soon as I got back to the hotel, the gorgeous sunny day turned into a howling rain storm nightmare. The rain continued for a couple of hours, which gave me time for a nap. I figured IÂd want to go back later in the afternoon anyway, when the light was better.
The rain finally let up around 4:30pm. I packed my 12-24mm and 70-200mm lenses, which I figured would cover everything I wanted to shoot, and would keep my baggage to a minimum. Then I hit the road again. I stopped at a fancy shop first to take a picture. I explained to the women there that we do not have such beautiful looking food in Canada, so I needed to take a picture. They were happy to oblige. I bought an exotic looking piece of pizza with criss-crossing anchovies on it for a snack.
On my way back to the centre of town, I made a Metro connection at the Opera station. There was a man playing a violin in the corridor leading to the platform. He was a grouchy old dude. When he started playing, I lifted to the camera to take a photo, and he shook his head, ÂNon.Â I gave him a bit of an eye-roll to say, ÂOh come on!Â and he nodded, using his violin bow to tap the hat he put on the ground to gather coins. I nodded, and took two photos. After the second one he glared at me and said, ÂCÂest fini!Â signaling the end of our photoshoot. I gave him a euro for his trouble.
I went back to the Palais Royale gardens, and sure enough, there were more photo opportunities. A man was teaching a woman how to ballroom dance among the columns of the gardens. They were surprised that I would want to take their picture, as if this was a perfectly normal thing to do. Perhaps it is.
Despite the off and on rain, it was a very pleasant evening. After all, a garden isnÂt a bad place to hang out for a few hours. The other day, Antonette had said Canadians would probably be in better shape if we had beautiful places to go like Parisians do. Instead, we just sit inside and watch TV, getting fat. She might be onto something there. However, these beautiful places and leisurely lifestyle of Paris are rooted in hundreds of years of tradition and history. It would take us a long time to change our culture to one that could relax with an afternoon of dancing in the park.
Anyway, I shot until my camera battery died. I only brought two camera batteries and no charger on this trip. This was the second battery. I knew long exposures are tough on the battery because the camera is using power to hold the shutter open for long periods of time, but I didnÂt know IÂd burn through two batteries so quickly. I checked the file numbers, and I got just over 500 shots from the two batteries. When I shoot in a studio at 1/125 consistently, I will get over 1000 shots out of two batteries. Next time IÂm away for a week IÂll carry the charger.
By the time I got back to Lavallois, it was close to 8:00pm and I was quite hungry. I stopped off at a restaurant that miraculously was still open. The bartender said it was impossible to get something to eat though. The kitchen was closed for the night. He suggested a restaurant a few blocks away. I headed in that direction, but changed my mind and decided IÂd go see my friend at the Lebanese restaurant. I ate there on my first night in Paris, and thought it might be nice to have my last dinner of the trip there too. I heard someone calling to me from down the street though. It was a man from the bar IÂd just left. He offered to walk me to the other restaurant, so I went along with him.
It turned out to be a nice little family place called Pizza Abel. He introduced me to the head waiter, and explained that I didnÂt speak any French. The waiter regarded me with deep pity, as though he was surprised I was still alive despite this handicap. I spoke up and said I spoke a little French, which seemed to reassure him.
Soon after I was seated, the place began to fill up. I guess being the only restaurant that serves food after 8pm is a good business plan. It was packed within an hour, and more people were still coming in when I left. I would say that other restaurants in Lavallois should take note, although I donÂt think it matters that much to them to be busy. ThatÂs just another thing to wrap my North American brain around.
I really enjoyed my meal at Pizza Abel. I ordered a salad with crab meat, a breast of duck in green peppercorn sauce with linguine on the side, and a slice of caramelized custard pie with pear for dessert. I had a quarter litre of wine. They also brought me a free apperatif before dinner, and a liquer afterwards. I was a bit wobbly on my walk home from the restaurant.
Tomorrow IÂm going to take my time packing and checking out. Check out time is 11:30, and I have to catch my train to London at 1:30. That should mean my trip to the train station should be pretty leisurely, especially compared to my mad dash through London.