The end of the road

Trip Start Jul 23, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2012

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our last 2 full days in Paris were full of emotions: crankiness, exhaustion, sore feet and legs.  Wait, is that an emotion?  Anyway, we also had a lot of laughs, met some great ex-pats for real beer, and spent a magical birthday in Montmartre.  Plus, we foiled an attempted gypsy robbery.  No big deal.  More about that later...
We spent our second day all over town, starting with an unproductive search for Maison Eric Kayser (an artisan bakery) during our morning jog.  Dear Bakers of Paris, Why must you all close in August?  Don't you know how much money we would spend on you if you were open?  Oh well, we did find some pastries elsewhere (I know you were worried).  Unfortunately, after a day of wearing flip-flops and not stretching pre or post running wore my legs out, and I spent the day limping/whining/complaining my way through the sites.  My husband is a saint for not throwing me off the top of the Notre Dame.  Which I refused to climb to because my legs hurt.  Wah!!!  But I digress. 
Pere Lachaise Cemetery was our first stop.  This is where a multitude of famous folks are buried, but it's probably most notable for one of its (least) talented residents, Jim Morrison.  We wandered the rows and cobblestone lanes of the cemetery, finding the gravesites of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Georges Seurat, and Frederic Chopin.  See what I mean about Jim Morrison being the least talented resident?  This cemetery puts Lafayette in New Orleans to shame.  The French really know how to bury people with panache!  Considering it costs about 11,000 Euros to be buried at Lachaise, I'm sure modest graves simply won't do. 
After spending a couple of hours amongst the dead, we hopped the world's slowest bus back toward our neck of the woods.  This is where my crankiness really set in, and by the time we reached the Notre Dame, I was ready to call it quits.  Luckily Mark is much, much, MUCH more resilient than I, so while I grumped my way back to the apartment to take a nap, he marched his way up to the top of the bell tower and got some stunning photos of the whole city.  My little Quasimodo! 
After a good rest and attitude adjustment, we went out for the evening to meet Philip, a beer geek that Mark had found through Basic Brewing Radio, a beer podcast.  Yes, it's gonna get really dorky for the next paragraph.  We took the train to Gare du Lyon, a giant train station that also doubles as home to Paris's seediest hobos.  Ugh.  Anyhow, our destination was Express d'Lyon, a small beer bar near the station.  What an interesting place!  The owner inherited the bar from his father, and the crowd was still mostly local drunks and gamblers there to place bets on the horse racing machines at the back of the bar.  But, the young owner has discovered the joys of craft beer and is slowly building a reputable bottle/tap list.  A bottle of Cantillon Kriek?  Sure! Duchess and Brew Dog on tap?  Why not?  The best croque monsieur we've both ever had?  Definitely!  Spending the evening with Philip, his friend Jordan, and Jordan's gorgeous fiancee Dauphine (best name ever???), we talked beer, politics, religion, family, weddings, beer, food, and more beer.  Philip and Jordan both aspire to open craft breweries in France, a feat that proves excruciatingly slow and difficult.  Not that we don't love wine, but it was great to drink beer with dinner and speak English with abandon.  We finally stumbled our way to a bus at 11pm that took us back to the apartment, where we fell into a blissful beer-fueled slumber.  :)
The next day (Tuesday) was my birthday!  On the agenda: no morning jogging, find the perfect petit dejuener (breakfast), head to Montmartre, Eiffel Tower, and end the evening with a concert at Sainte Chapelle and a final romantic dinner.  The weather was cloudy and it rained on and off for most of the morning, so we felt right at home.  Montmatre is a fabulous district in Paris, high up on a hill with a great view of the city.  We did the obligatory visit to Sacre-Couer, the cathedral that looms over the neighborhood.  In order to avoid being stabbed in the eye by tourist groups wielding umbrellas, we wandered further and further away from the 'main drag' and found ourselves in some of the most beautiful neighborhoods ever!  Plus, we got to see Vincent Van Gogh's Paris apartment and we think we saw Toulouse Latrec's place as well.  We had a delightful lunch at Chez Marie, a small cafe that we visited on our last visit.  Since the weather was dreary, we ordered French onion soup, beef bourginon, and cassoulet.  All winter dishes that tasted fabulous! 
We took the Metro from Montmartre to the Champs du Mars, home to the Eiffel Tower.  Something about that building is just so romantic so we couldn't resist a quick visit, even in the rain.  Mark had smuggled a small bottle of champagne in his man purse, so we laid out a blanket on the lawn and oogled the tower while drinking right out of the bottle.  The area wasn't too packed, but everyone around us was posing in front of the tower, and tons of people do this weird jumping picture.  We must look really trustworthy, because a few couples asked us to take pictures for them.  Another element at the Champs du Mars: gypsies!  Not sure if there's a more politically correct term for these bands of roving ladies with long skirts and long hair who cluster together with fake clipboards and approach tourists with the same question: "Do you speak English?"  Cut to the group swarming around people and quickly pickpocketing the life out of them.  It's such an amazing racket, and I can't believe it still works!  While we were enjoying our champagne and gazing lovingly at each other, I noticed a small group of girls who looked to be gypsies in training.  They were carrying maps and roaming through the crowds looking intently for some dope to hit up.  And they found him!  A group of teenage backpackers was hanging out, chatting it up on the grass when these girls attacked!  It was like watching a choreographed routine.  At once, the girls shoved their maps in the faces of these guys, almost as if asking for directions or help.  The guys, being lovably clueless, were perplexed but tried to gesture some type of helpful things.  This is when I saw the leader of the gang step back with her map and his WALLET UNDER IT!  Since she had what they came for, the group dispersed as quickly as they came.  I said to Mark, "HOLY SHIT, she has his wallet!"  Mark ran over to tell the guy just as the poor sap realized that he had been robbed.  The guy and a buddy ran after the kids, who luckily had not gone too far.  He confronted the ringleader, patted down her pockets, and was handed his wallet by one of her minions.  The girls slinked off (most likely to find another target), and the guys wandered back dazed to the lawn.  He beelined over to us and thanked Mark profusely for saving his road trip.  His wallet didn't have any cash, but was full of credit cards and IDs.  Maybe gypsy identify theft is on the rise?  Good deed for the day=done!  We left the park satisfied and wrapped our blanket over our shoulders like a cape.  Just kidding...
The last event in our fantastic day was a concert at Sainte-Chapelle.  This stunning building has a beautiful stained glass chapel that hosts small concerts throughout the year.  Before we left, we ordered tickets to see Vivaldi's Four Seasons performed by a string sextet (or septet, if you count the guy on the harpsichord).  The setting was spectacular, and the music was magical.  We sat right in the front, so we had great views of the enthusiastic lead violinist's energetic performance, as well as the rest of the group who perfectly followed his lead.  I took a few short videos just to give you a taste of this gorgeous experience.  Sorry if it's shaky/NYPD Blue camera style.  :)
We ended our last evening in Paris and of our vacation with a lovely dinner at La Auberge Reine Blanche (the Inn of the White Queen?), capped off with a crazy sparkler lava cake for me with our waitress and the other (a few of the other diners) singing me "Happy Birthday" in French.  Mark did good!  It was the perfect end to a once-in-a-lifetime trip. 
We had to leave by 7am to catch our train to the airport the next morning (yesterday, I think?), and waited in umpteen lines until we finally boarded our loooong flight home.  Luckily, in our last ridiculous line, we were asked to move our seats to the emergency exit row, which we gladly did.  Lots of legroom helps 10 hours on a plane not be completely miserable.  But the screaming baby one row back tried his best!  We touched down at SeaTac about an hour early, buzzed through customs and passport inspection without a problem, and got home to a super-needy howling cat.  It's great to be home, and I apologize in advance if either of us greet you with "Bonjour!" or other French niceties.  Thanks for following our happy sparkly fluffy Euro adventures! 

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