We are on our final day in Paris. As such, we are sleeping in. The only thing planned for today is to do a little shopping, and get packed. We have a car at 5:30am tomorrow to the airport, and we want to try to be rested. Apparently security at the airport can get really delayed (up to four hours) so we are going extra early to try and beat it.
Yulia and I get up for breakfast eventually, but Sasha is having not of that. She’s out. We head down to see if the hotel breakfast is good, and the front desk points us towards the basement. Down a spiral set of stairs, we find a very small cellar with white painted stone arched vaults that is the “Dining Room” We just catch the end of breakfast, but everything is still fresh. I really need to start making my own yogurt again, because nothing we have in the US compares to the yogurts you get in France. Small packs of fresh, unsweetened yogurt are the best. Butter is all grass fed (you can tell by the color). Croissants and bread here is lighter and I don’t feel bloated eating it. Food is just a better quality. I’m going to miss that.
We bring Sasha some upstairs, and she’s already up and getting ready to go. We head out and take the Metro to the Fashion district, near the opera. We have surprisingly spent a lot less money on this trip than expected. The Euro-Dollar rate is good, but we also just haven’t bought much. We drank less, ate less, and didn’t blow money on expensive tours. We were surprised. So we felt looking around was worth the time to se if anything was worth picking up on the last day.
We first walked over to the Lafayette Galleries, the well-known center of Paris shopping. We weren’t sure if Lafayette would have turned into Harrods or a strip mall, but it was known to have the best brands in the past. As it turned out, it was pretty amazing. We counted three main buildings, one for Men, One Women, and one for Home goods. The Women was the main store, and it looked like an opera inside. It had a great glass dome, with ornate balconies on each floor, and painted trim and carvings all the way to the roof. Just stunning. There were lines inside to enter the major brand areas, but there were also regular areas that were costly, but not the Harrods style insanity. People were shopping here, not just showing off for the prices. It felt like a step or two above Niemen-Marcus, whereas Harrods feels like setting your wallet on fire for the heat.
We left and walked through the district towards the main designer stores. Sasha specifically had one thing in mind, that was to get a pair of shoes from Gucci. She had been looking at them online at home, and when we came here, we found designer clothing to be cheaper overall (but not cheap). More than anything, this is what she wanted from Paris. Inside the Gucci store it took us a bit to get some help. For some reason it looked like we’d been hiking across Europe for two weeks with no laundry services. Imagine that.
Once someone helped us out, Sasha had the girl bring some shoes to try out, and she got to try on the sneakers that she had been lookin at. They were white, decorated with Gucci designs and a jeweled snake on each side. I had to admit, they may be expensive, but they were very cool. They are also cheaper here than in the US, and we get the tax back as well. She carried them out of the store like they were the royal jewels. I have to say, one really nice thing is better than spending a lot of money on lots of cheap junk.
We looked at a few more places, then stopped for lunch at a side walk cafe. We ate and sat and watched Paris for a while. Paris never stops being a fascinating city to watch. We were out of the main tourist area, so we saw more people bicycling as opposed to tour buses. Right in front of us was a city bike rental, but it was out of order. So we got to see locals on their rental bikes come up to drop off, see that it was out of order, swear a lot, then ride away. It was a fun show. When we were done, we escorted the shoes back to the hotel and tucked them in so they could rest from their busy day.
We rested as well, and returned to St. Michel for our last walking tour. It was the tourist zone, but we started our trip here, so It made sense to end here. It was a bit longer walk from out new hotel than the apartment we were at on our first leg, but we didn’t need to metro over. It was good to be done with any big travel, except for the flight home. The rain was starting again, we never really escaped it this trip, but we seem to hit spots of bad weather every vacation. Just the way things go I guess.
St Michel was full of new tourists as usual. Everyone was excited to Paris, and busy getting the selfies to prove that it happened. We walked through the crowds and to Shakespeare and Company, then through the park and along the riverside and the booksellers there, who were still open. They were just starting to close, but we found one that had small original oil paintings, and got one for home. The sellers closed up, and we walked back through a new set of side streets. The crowds were real bad at this time, nearly pushing us off the sidewalks in areas, so we decided to find something less crowded. We work our way up to the University, close to our hotel, and sat at a cafe there. We weren’t all that hungry, but felt like watching the fountains and drinking. The food here was OK, but the drinks were good. The rain let up, and we had a nice evening on the plaza.
After dinner, Yulia and Sasha walked back to the hotel, while I finished my drink. I paid, and walked around a bit. I headed back again to Shakespeare and Company. They had an author speaking, and I was hoping to catch the end of it. The crowds were breaking up, tour buses were leaving. I went into the store, but had missed the author. He was hanging out by the front desk and chatting with the staff.
I ended up talking to a couple looking at t=some of the Hemingway books, specifically A Moveable Feast. I told them to get the original edition, not the newer “restored” edition. The latter is a partial rewrite by Hemingway’s son, who made updates to “improve” it. The book was published after Hem died, but he wrote it. It didn’t need improvements. I also told them where to find the apartment mentioned in the book, it’s not a far walk from the bookstore, and worth seeing if you are reading the book. They were excited by that, and left after we chatted some more.
I don’t generally buy a lot of books on vacation, but we ended up picking up quite a few this time. some from exhibits we saw, some just here in this bookstore. I grabbed a couple more I wanted, had them stamped with the store insignia, and hung out a bit. I like to write. I have been writing my vacation stories for over 10 years now. I write when I have time. But does that make me a writer? Standing in a bookstore surrounded by classics, many written by people who stood here before me makes me wonder. I also wonder if it matters.
I write when I can. I write for my work. If I could choose to, I would write more. But I have something now that Sasha can read to learn things we did as a family that she can’t even remember. Photos are good for that, but I’ve always tried to capture more. What we do and how we feel can be forgotten. It’s nice to have a reminder.
I bought my stack of books and walked back to the hotel. I realized that I should’nt worry about writing so much, and just do it instead. I also realized that no walk in Paris is longer than the walk across town after three large beers with no public restrooms. Thank god there was one in the hotel lobby. I wasn’t going to make it up the stairs.