Freeway Free in France: Back to the 7me Arrondissement
My favorite pied a terre in Paris is the Jardin D’Eiffel, just off the market street Rue Cler (see above) by one block. 15 years ago when I first stayed the decor was dominated by giant yellow Monet-esque flowers on Royal blue on drapes, pictures, and murals throughout (see below) , and the clientele favored busloads of Canadian and German students and tourists on a budget.
The old Jardin has undergone a 21st century revamp, and is now robed mostly in subtle shades of gray with some paisley drapes to brighten the feel (see above). The elevator, however, is no larger; it can accommodate two people and two suitcases on if you are on friendly terms, or you can stash the suitcases in the elevator, push the button,and race the elevator up the stairs. DB and I are sharing a room facing the street – not the best, as the next door neighbor is the police station and we expect to hear sirens all night. From the back rooms, if you lean out the window, you can glimpse the Eiffel Tower.
We arrived after an efficient breakfast at La Vielle Auberge, a lightning transit to the train station in Souillac, a bit of a hassle with ticket’s but we eventually got on the train and enjoyed four hours of French scenery, shading from Romanesque yellow sandstone with steep-pitched roofs and bell-towers in the Dordogne to white stucco with mansard roofs and steeples in the Touraine. Gare Austerlitz is large and bustling but well-signed, our Algerian taxi driver was friendly and expansive about what we should be sure to see in Paris, and the staff at the Jardin welcomed us like old friends.
We took the Metro to the Place de ‘l’Opera and picked up our museum passes for two days of urgent museum – going. This may be our last joint adventure for awhile, as we each have different plans for our stay in Paris. WB missed the Louvre on her previous visit and expects to spend two days there, but wants also to fit in the renovated Musee d’Orsay, the Rodin, the Pere LaChaise cemetery, and perhaps a tour of the opera. DM has a friend dating back to a working stint in London who came to meet her and is staying at the Jardin, and also has a cousin who wants to return the hospitality DM showed him in the states, so after tonight’s dinner she will not share evenings until Sunday. Dianne has not been in Paris in decades and has murky memories, so she may take the #69 bus tour around the city per Rick Steves’ recommendation and then follow her interests.
I have in mind the renovated d’Orsay tomorrow together with l’Orangerie which houses Monet’s water lilies, then there is another exhibit at the Grand Palais I want to find out about, and I need to visit Notre Dame and the Holocaust victims memorial and of course Berthillon’s ice cream and the Art Deco atrium of La Samaritaine, and Le Pere LaChaise cemetery with WB on Sunday. Our walking tour will have been good prep for pounding all this Gothic pavement. Right now we are getting cleaned up in preparation for a celebration meal at l’Affriole, which it appears has developed enough of a reputation that Michele (who is French with family and friends in Lyon) had heard of it.
I am trembling at the potential cost. But we have economized greatly up until now, having scrounged for lunches at the hotel breakfast buffets and having dinner and breakfasts prepaid during our hiking tour.
We decided to walk back from L’Opera (which was undergoing a revamp of its own behind a Rene Magritte-inspired façade) and stopped at a street-side cafe on Rue Tour Maubourg for wine, tea, and people -watching. We saw Cinderella’s glass coach go by, pulled by a rather ordinary brown horse and with two dotty English tourists inside. Such is life in a tourist city.
Unfortunately l’Affriole did not live up to my memory. New management has revamped the decor here also, opening up the front of the place for sidewalk seating, which leaves one exposed to the curious glances of passers-by and other hazards. In our case, a large dog decided to deposit an equally large souvenir on the sidewalk just by our table, and the dog’s owner loftily prepared to ignore the awkward incident until the restaurateur bounded out and demand she clean up after her pet. She argued, gave in, and “cleaned up” by kicking the mess to the curb, then wiping her shoe carefully on the edge. Not the most appetizing of beginnings.
The food, instead of bringing on the sort of ecstasy seen in “When Harry Met Sally,” did not measure up to either my memory or the best of the food we had enjoyed while hiking. So much for my “local expertise”. But I still have a few 7me arrondissement aces up my sleeve.