Last Day

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Don’t you just hate the last day of a great trip? You feel unsettled, somewhat sad, have trouble focusing on the here and now; yet feel a degree of anticipation over getting home, being in your own bed, own space. The last day just seems like something to get through. It reminds me of the last week or two in my classroom, when kids often get quarrelsome or unusually grumpy, and say “I hate this place! It’s boring! I hate you!” as a way to say goodbye and have an easier ending that’s more on their terms as a positive thing instead of a sadness.

But still, Paris. How could it be anything less than good? Don’t answer that. In any case, we had a fabulous last day.

Another of the “I can’t believe we’ve never been there” museums is the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. And I must say, Larry was a very good sport at the prospect of slogging through several centuries worth of furniture and ugly knickknacks. We again got an audioguide, which had good detail on the collections. The rooms go in chronological order, so you can really get a sense of how style and workmanship changed. Of particular interest to us in the earlier rooms were the beautiful Renaissance cabinetry, and the gorgeous 17th century marquetry and inlaid wooden furniture. Then came two centuries of straight-out ugly, with more curlicues, gilt, and bloated cherubs than you could shake a stick at. Things improved with some lovely and light furnishings, I really loved the Duchesse de Berry’s early 19th century bedroom. Then things got heavy, dark and fussy, all wiped away with the cleaner, nature-driven motifs of the various Art Nouveau schools. Some very fun Deco rooms, and then the wacky and weird late 20th century rooms. Mom, you should not have thrown out all that 60’s Scandanavian furniture. We also enjoyed a large exhibit of contemporary glassware before museum exhaustion set in.

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We again headed up rue de Richelieu in search of lunch, grabbing the last table at Juvinile’s Wine Bar. Larry had the daily special, which was long-roasted pork with lentils. He loved it, and I was extremely happy with my fish with leeks that had a slightly zippy horseradish cream sauce underneath. Excellent though unfussy cooking, friendly and informal place.

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Walked back to the Marais, skipping around, walking through passages, market streets, past gorgeous buildings, and tiny pocket parks when we remembered where they were, and enjoying the last hours in Paris. And sadly, we had to pack up to leave in the morning. And figure out how to pack our six bottles of wine.

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I had booked a last blow-out meal, at Spring. It was opened a few years ago by an American-born, French-trained chef. He has since also opened a more traditional bistro, and is now moving to NYC to open something new, which is happy news for us.

Every night is a fixed-price, no choice meal, which more than exceeded my expectations. Each dish was fabulous, used prime ingredients,and was superbly and creatively prepared. We shared a wine pairing, which was plenty of wine for us.

We were started off with warm oysters in a lemony sauce, and a tiny dish of crackly pork bits. Champagne, bien sur.

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Then on to a lobster and vegetable salad, and then an absolutely sublime dish of fish, with an intensely good broth and a little surprise of green curry nearby.

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Rare slices of duck breast with butternut, and oh heaven, a little dish of sauteed foie gras alongside.

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Several little desserts to split–a tiny bowl of roasted quinces (it was fun to try to say the French word for quince, my mouth does not go that way) with green apple sorbet; and a wowy hazelnut-lemon tart, with a scoop of something chocolate and delicious.

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A lot of food, but the portions were not enormous and we were there for three hours. Enjoying every minute.

So, Paris. Happy to say, we still adore you. Already plotting a return.

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Art, Lunch, Walk, Wine, Repeat

Wednesday morning we headed out early, just in time to see the neighborhood firefighters out for a run.

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We got ourselves to the Orangerie just as the museum was opening (one of the only Paris museums that opens early, at 9). In spite of visiting Paris 8-9 times (we think), we’ve never been. The sky was heavily overcast, so I snapped the obligatory photo of the Eiffel Tower reaching into the sky.

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We opted for sharing an audioguide and first headed to the two rooms of Monet’s Waterlillies. I’d seen one of the panels in New York, but experiencing the covered walls as they’d been designed to be seen was something else entirely. It was particularly interesting viewing the paintings at a distance, and then getting closer to see the texture and layers of color.

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Just about the only others at this hour were a large group of Nordic-looking teens, heavily bored and absorbed in their hormones and cellphones. Parents, save your money.

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I again decided that Renoir isn’t my thing (to me, his work is like Hallmark cards), but greatly enjoyed the rest of the Guillaume collection of works by not only painters I was familiar with like Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne; and others from the early 20th century that I didn’t know. There was also a large exhibit of works by women photographers that was interesting, with the later works exhibited at the Orsey.

I’d done a bit of research on a good place for lunch, and we walked across the Tuileries and up rue de Richelieu to Zebulon. A modern space with tables actually set so you aren’t sitting in your neighbor’s lap, and an excellent value 21 euro 2-course menu. We started with a dynamite vegetable gratin, and then pork cooked with mushrooms and new potatoes, just as delicious. Larry had to order dessert, which was a multi-layered crunchy thing covered in deep chocolate, with a zippy citrus ice cream. Yeah, he liked it. I’d definitely co here again to try out the rest of the menu.

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Walked partway back stopping along the way to sightsee a bit in the Marais. Still the junk wholesale jewelry shops along the avenues, and now plenty of too-cool-for-you clothing shops selling two turquoise blouses and size 00 pants, and art galleries with bored staff elegantly lounging.  Rested up a bit on a bench in the lovely Place des Vosges, and then back to the apartment around the corner.

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Later we headed up to the 9th to meet up with Paris pals N and D at a wine bar, Le Bouclier de Bacchus. Lots of talk and laughter, plates of charcuterie and cheese, and more than a bit of wine. Heading out, we met up with friends of theirs, who invited us all up to their apartment. I do like Armagnac.

On the way home, we ducked into a wine bar/tapas place around the corner from our apartment. We were the oldest people in the place by about 25 years, I don’t know who was more amused. As Larry commented, “I’ve had MY beard longer than you’ve been alive.”

Back to Paris

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Tuesday morning we drove back to the TGV station outside Avignon, returned the car, and settled in for the three hour trip through the countryside to Paris. Hopped into a cab outside Gare de Lyon for the short trip to the apartment. Larry and the cabbie commiserated about the insanity of Paris drivers, just as we were “tapped” by a car in back of us. The cabbie hopped out, shrugged, and got back in to continue driving.

The apartment I rented is in the Marais, a little one bedroom that proved to be comfortable, though not without its quirks. The photos showed a counter eating area, which I thought would be fine for the few short days we’d be there. However, the counter was way higher than average, and us short people felt like six year olds climbing up to dangle our legs off the stools. Ah well, the sofa and coffee table will do for cheese and wine. Larry found the street noise at night in the bedroom a problem, though I slept well.

We had some cheese, bread and wine, then headed out for a long “we’re back in Paris!” walk, through the Marais, over the Seine and alongside it to the Jardin des Plantes, full of French families amusing their children, through the 5th, then swung back through the chic 6th. Attached to the fences in the parks were huge photographs with accompanying text, the one on the Jardin des Plantes on how a tribe in Africa lives off the forest, the one on the Luxembourg about bee culture around the world. A rest in the Jardin du Luxembourg, where the plantings were in deep reds and orange and we were able to snag two of the “good” seats. Then a walk to Notre Dame, where a bride was being photographed feeding the pigeons of all things. We were amused when they got stuck under her skirts, and everyone jumped in to shoo them out. Back to the Marais, passing by the oldest house left in Paris.

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I was pooped, so didn’t want to cook or go out for dinner. I sent Larry out to forage for some  food à emporter.” He came back with some solidly mediocre Chinese food from a traiteur, but at least the wine was good.

Monday

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Monday morning we walked up to the museum in the Roman ruins in Vaison. It’s a pleasant little museum that displays many of the artifacts found in Vaison, with some excellent documentation about the site, even some text in English.Explanations about Roman society, architecture, religion, economics, and the arts help put visiting the ruins into better context. By the way, these ruins are the largest archaeological site in France. We also took advantage of the audioguide, which covers the museum, the sites, and the medieval town on the hill.We walked through the three areas of the ruins, and also took the trail along the back side which leads up to the reconstructed Theatre.

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For lunch, we headed out to Restaurant Saint-Hubert in Entrechaux. We went for the 16 euro Menu, and began with a superb bowl of sweet, tiny mussels in a tomato broth. Then came lamb chops, served with buttery vegetable purees, and finally a crepe with vanilla ice cream and dark chocolate. Obviously popular with local business people at lunch, a solidly good meal.

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We decided to just go exploring to the east, and took the D5 up into the Drome, then a small winding road into the mountains around Propiac, finally swinging down through Faucon and then back to Entrechaux. Some fantastic scenery, and Faucon looks to be worth a wander sometime, with medieval ramparts and attractive stone buildings.

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Packed up in preparation for heading to Paris tomorrow. For dinner we picked up a little pizza, and enjoyed it on our terrace.

We loved staying in Vaison, and will certainly return for more of the Vaucluse off season.