Tuesday, May 23 was my last day in Provence. I had experienced so much, overstimulated in fact and yet feeling this sense of peace and calm within. This would be the last time I exited through these beautiful fortified doors.
Since my train to Paris was leaving at 9:40 am, I took one last tour throughout the property. Revisiting the special places and places that became special to me over the course of the week was high on my list of things to do.
I love how the sun’s rays are coming through the trees, fresh and bright with the possibilities that lay ahead of me once I got to Paris. This table is the keeper of secrets, hopes and dreams for all of us that spent this week here. I have shared my secrets, hopes and dreams with you on this journey of mine.
The table where we learned conversational French, shared our last lunch together and embraced the ‘joie de vivre’
The reflecting pool where I sat and let my thoughts drift off….admiring the beauty of the landscaping around me and wondering what other conversations took place here over the course of hundreds of years this property has been around. If the trees could talk, the branches could sing, what would they declare?
And so, as I made the final trip through the plane trees, my reflections of the past week all had the same theme: papillon – coming out of my chrysalis into a bright promising future of what lay ahead of me, shedding the cocoon of a past life that had previously defined me, but no longer. I was now free in so many ways.
After a 3 hour train ride I arrived in Paris at the Gare de Lyon train station at 12:30 and had to keep to a timeframe as I had booked a private tasting tour of dark chocolate at 2:00. I opted to take a taxi instead of trying to figure out the Metro. Because of its proximity to Rue Cler in the 7th arrondisement, my favorite neighborhood, I chose to stay at the Hotel Beaugency
It was the first time I stayed here so I wasn’t sure how close it would be to Rue Cler because sometimes the maps can distort distance. I was thoroughly surprised and very happy with this hotel. So much so that I will be making it my hotel of choice in this neighborhood on future trips. It was very clean, and even though the rooms were small by comparison to American hotels, it had everything I needed and stylish to boot! And having been to Paris on numerous occasions I know that everything is smaller here.
As soon as I got to the hotel, I was early for check in so left my luggage and went to my favorite restaurant for lunch, Café Roussillon. I found a table at the side exposed to the street under the awning and the sunlight was so warm and soothing. I started with a kir cassis to drink as I always do in Paris. I chose my usual dish, poulet fermier which is oven roasted chicken with au jus that I dip my frites into. And to finish it off, a green salad with vinaigrette. Normally I have dessert but there was no time for that and let’s face it, I was having a dark chocolate tasting after this and didn’t want any sweet to interfere. As I sipped my kir in the warm sunlight, I embraced the calm and low chatter of the two Parisian businesswomen seated at the table next to me. We exchanged smiles and I soaked up that moment like a sponge thinking to myself that I could live here and wondering how I could translate this lifestyle into the one I have at home, which really isn’t too much different.
When I got back to my hotel, I checked in and took my luggage up to my room on the 4th floor. Sorry, no photos of the room, didn’t even occur to me but if you click on the link I gave above you will find them. My tour guide was waiting for me in the lobby and so we walked to a café nearby where I had my lesson in dark chocolate.
A very thorough and enlightening one to be exact. She had samples of all sorts of dark chocolate starting with 60% cacao up to 100% and from all over the world. I felt like I had traveled the world over never leaving my chair in this beautiful setting, with a gentle breeze blowing, chatter of happy people and the clanging of dishes.
I took a photo of the chocolate below because it was my favorite. During the lesson I was taught that you put the chocolate in your mouth, let it melt a little and then inhale. Inhale?!?! Yes, inhale and then breathe in the flavor as it melts in your mouth. By doing this, you can now taste the soil, what was growing around it and allow the cocoa butter to melt and feel the smoothness of it on your tongue.
Even though I live 45 minutes from Hershey, I will never eat another Hershey’s kiss again. I am an official chocolate snob! So starting with the 60% dark chocolate meant there was more sugar in it and as we kept getting closer to 100% I could taste less and less sugar. I ate the 100% but will admit that I am not a fan of it, too dry for me, not buttery enough on my tongue.
Amazingly after the tasting, and on the way back to the hotel, I discovered on Rue Cler the chocolate shop of Francois Pralus
As you can see by the photo below, I bought some goodies to bring back with me. I love the small bars that I bought because the cacao beans were from different parts of the world and each has its own distinct characteristic. The chocolates are named after the country where the beans are found.
On my way back to the hotel, I perused the shops on Rue Cler, drinking in the cobblestone streets, the Top Halles market with its beautiful fruit and vegetables, and the restaurants with their street side tables and happy patrons. One of my favorite things to do is look at the flower shops and their displays. I love fresh flowers and had I been staying several more days, I would have bought one of these bouquets below.
After I dropped off the chocolate goodies back at the hotel, I made my pilgrimage to the Eiffel Tower. I had previously scheduled a wine tasting tour in Monmartre at 6:00 but it was now close to 5:00 and I was really not feeling up to the trek to get there which would have involved several Metro stop changes. The afternoon sun was really getting hot and I felt the need to be in familiar surroundings. So yes, I blew it off and lost my money but that’s ok.
So I figured if I was blowing off the wine tour which I really did want to do, I had better replace it with something just as memorable. For me, it’s always the walk to La Tour Eiffel and watching it get bigger and bigger the closer I get. I’m one of those instant gratification gals in certain areas and this is surely one of those instances.
And then I feel it! Oh no! All that I had to drink that day was coming back to haunt me. And let’s face it, being a woman of a certain age means that when the bladder kicks in and wants to purge, all your desires get pushed to the side to bow to the request of the bladder queen! So the leisurely walk I had envisioned for myself, strolling along the trees, hearing the crunch of the stones beneath my feet, meditating on the beauty of my surroundings and being ‘present’ turned into the 50 yard dash, eyes darting everywhere to find the nearest toilette.
But along the way, I stopped, looked up, and saw this ahead of me. And took what I feel is the best. picture. ever. of the Eiffel Tower in my 30+ years of traveling to Paris.
I finally found a toilette in a restaurant and was oh so grateful! Lots of tourists at the base of the tower standing in line to go up and I was so glad I had been there and done that before because there was no way I would’ve waited in those lines. And you know what? I wasn’t into it once I got there. All the buildup and then bang! Show’s over folks. Too many people.
So I decided to stroll along the Seine and look for the art vendors where I usually buy my art and when I didn’t see them thought to myself, well, this is a bust, maybe I should’ve pushed myself to go on that wine tour after all! I found a bench to sit on and enjoy the breeze, watch the river boats cruise up and down and thought to myself how fortunate I am that I was able to even come on this trip.
As I sat on the bench, this was my view when I turned my head to the right.
And this was my view when I turned my head to the left.
I sat on that bench for some time, maybe a half hour or so watching people walk by. Thinking that being grateful is a very important quality to have…..at this moment I was grateful for: my health, my sight to see the beauty this city had to offer me, my ears for hearing the laughter and happiness of those around me, my business that allows me to do what I love and afford me the little extra to take a once in a lifetime trip like this, and then my stomach because it was telling me I need to eat again and you all know by now how much pleasure I get from eating!
As I got up off the bench, I turned around and looked up again and this is what I saw! The sky really was that blue, the leaves really that green. No photoshop because I don’t know how.
I continued along the Seine till I got to the point where everyone was being dropped off for their dinner cruise and made my way back to Rue Cler to find something to eat.
I was wondering what to eat and so asked myself what was the one thing I always eat while in France that I haven’t eaten yet and then it hit me smack on the forehead!
How could I have possibly not eaten my favorite sandwich on this trip yet? And so began the mad search for a boulangerie to get me my jambon fromage baguette. Guess where I found it? At the corner where I was to turn down the small street to get me to my hotel! I had found it! Now, if you are wondering what the big deal is about this sandwich, it’s the crispy on the outside soft on the inside baguette of bread. It’s the Emmental cheese, the ham, everything. Now my trip was complete!
After eating this delightful sandwich I prepared my suitcase for the journey home the next day. I slept like a baby, content and well fed.
Next up: Day 9