We all went out to breakfast together and then scattered across the city to accomplish our tasks. For Lyle and I we wanted to go to Au Bon Marche. (I had worked at The Bon Marche in Washington state and I highly doubted this store in Paris had even a remote connection. Once inside, I was proven correct.)
Le Bon Marché was the first department store ever created in Paris. Designed by Gustav Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower) and opened in 1852. Today it is reknown for "La Grande Épicerie de Paris" a grocery department that offers you over 5000 different products, selected from around the world. From hard-to-find bottle of mineral water from Wales, jams made by a French artisan, or an exquisite tomato sauce from Naples! What you can't find anywhere else, you will find there. The spanish ham's corner has the best spanish ham in Paris. If you are a gourmet you should visit Le Bon Marché.But oh, what a delight it was. We started in the food department. We also finished in the food department. In between we darted into the clothing, but really, the food, the food, the food!
And they tasted AMAZING...
After an exhausting day of shopping, shopping, shopping (and buying very little) we met up with our friend from Los Angeles, who works now in Manhattan, but had come to Paris for the weekend because he had just finished a trade show in Switzerland. Anyway, we met up with Ricky.
Ricky had agreed to go on the grand hotels of Paris bar tour with Lyle and I. Since there were a few to conquer we had decided to start at 4 pm.
The Hotel Raphael is just off Etoile de Charles de Gaulle (the traffic circle that has the Arc du Triomphe in the center). Lyle's printed guide told us that this hotel is considered THE hotel to have an affair in. Romantic, grand style and off the beaten path.
The Raphael Hotel is quite extraordinary - even by Parisian standards. The high-profile glamour at the Raphael is transformed into a haven of discreet charm and singular luxury. The hotel's history (built in 1925) is rich with the devotion of the world's great figures in literature, cinema, music and politics - and has included such luminous personalities as Marlon Brando, Katherine Hepburn and Jack Kennedy. The Raphael's magnificent gallery-lobby is decorated with wooden wall panels and period paintings (including an original Turner). As for relaxation and dining, there is the club-like English Bar, offering deep sofas and red velvet, and roof-top dining (from May to October) at Jardins Plein Ciel, providing panoramic views of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacre-Coeur.We were hoping the rooftop bar would be open, but alas it was not.
We sat in The English Bar and had a a drink.
I was on a complete champagne kick.
We finished our cocktails and caught a cab. from the Raphael to our next destination to us right through Etoile de Charles de Gaulle. 12 roads feed into the giant traffic circle which can accommodate 10 cars abreast.
As horrified as I would be to drive through all this myself, I am always happy to let someone else (like a taxi driver) lead us through. As it happened, there was a ceremony taking place at the Arc.
We arrived at our next grand hotel, The Bristol.
This classic palace hotel opened its five-star doors in 1925. Guests entering the vast chandelier-filled lobby are here primarily to enjoy the sheer grandeur of the place. This is a world of white and pink marble, where gilded glass cabinets display expensive French perfumes and Cartier watches. Take the antique lift and admire the metal grillework designed by the Jewish architect Lerman who went into hiding here during the Second World War. The atmosphere is suitably formal: at the award-winning bar, dare to drape your coat over the arm of one of its plush sofas and one of the maids, dressed in classic black and white uniforms, is sure to disappear it into the cloakroom. The atmosphere is also suitably French: take afternoon tea in the bar on a Saturday and you can enjoy a fashion show with your tisane.I don't even know what some of the words in that explanation mean. Tisane?* What I do know is the champagne here was fabulous! Not to mention complimentary snacks... which we probably paid for with the cost of that champagne.
(*tisane is an herbal infusion made from anything other than the leaves of the tea bush)
My new purple sweater! This color was in EVERY store window. It's the must have color for Paris for Spring. Go, get yours right now.
Two bars down (and the Mercier a few days earlier) and we were more than halfway through our tour. Time for dinner.
We met Christine and Richard at the Royal Madeleine near the Place Madeleine. It is described as "A typical Parisian Bistro, chic and warm, very close to the Madeleine plaza, honoring traditional French cuisine. The ambiance is very 1900’s."
Since this was our final night, I went ahead and had my final foie gras.
Lyle had the white asparagus.
Carol Merrill showcases her pig foot.
And Lyle had... uh, something. Something he told me I didn't want a bite of. Something he told me I didn't want to know about. And so far, I have no idea what it is. If you do, please don't tell me.
He did day it was delicious.
Time for fussy coffee and small desserts and (heavy sigh) our last meal in Paris is over.
Richard and Christine were not up to out continued grand bar tour. So far they had managed to not go and see the Eiffel Tower up close, only from afar. I begged Richard and Christine to stop on their way home. They humored me and went near, but apparently not close. We all agreed it really was a good way to guarantee that you HAVE to return to Paris in the future. Leave one thing undone.
Lyle, Ricky and I forged ahead and went to The Ritz.
The Hôtel Ritz is a hotel located at 15 Place Vendôme, in the heart of Paris, France. It is one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in the world and is one of the seven Parisian palaces recognized by The Leading Hotels of the World organization. Established in 1898, it is the oldest Ritz Hotel in the world. The hotel became a favorite of many of the world's wealthiest people, with luxurious suites named for some of its notable patrons from the past. These include Ernest Hemingway, for whom a bar in the hotel was named, and couturier Coco Chanel who made the Ritz her home for more than thirty years.
The hallway leading back to Bar Hemingway is long. About a block long. It goes from the front of the hotel to the back of the hotel which is the other side of the block. The hallway is lined with glass cases displaying all of the Paris finery you could ever want, and more.
We walked down to Place de la Concorde and returned to our favorite grand hotel the Crillon.
The final views of the Eiffel Tower lit up the night. And the bar felt like a comfortable slipper to lull ourselves to sleep in. Basically I'm telling you that we arrived and it was packed full and after two or three champagnes, we closed the place, second to last people to leave.
We walked Ricky back towards his hotel and we walked by Madeleine.
When construction of the church started in 1764, the plans made by architect Pierre Constant d'Ivry called for a design similar to that of the Invalides church. When d'Ivry died in 1777 his designs were dismissed by his successor, Guillome-Martin Couture. He decided to raze the unfinished building and start with a new design, this time based on the Panthéon. Construction halted during the French Revolution until 1806 when Napoleon decided to build a temple in honor of his army. He appointed Pierre-Alexandre Vignon who razed the structure yet again and started with the construction of a temple based on the 'Maison Carrée', an ancient Roman temple in Nîmes. Finally in 1842 the building was consecrated as a church which it still is today.
This is another place we had seen from afar but never walked around. How on Earth did we ever get around this city without stumbling across this? and the most amazing thing is just sitting there (closed now as it is nighttime) Fauchon.
At place de la Madeleine stands one of the city's most popular sights -- not the church, but Fauchon, a hyper-upscale mega-delicatessen that thrives within a city famous for its finicky eaters. It's divided into three divisions that include an épicerie (for jams, crackers, pastas, and exotic canned goods); a pâtissier (for breads, pastries, and chocolates); and a traiteur (for cheeses, terrines, pâtés, caviar, and fruits). Prices are steep, but the inventories -- at least to serious foodies -- are fascinating.And there we stood with out noses literally pressed up against the glass... wishing we had ONE MORE DAY.
We kept going around the square and came across the Baccarat showroom. Wow, their windows were stunning.
And then like all good dreams, it came to an end. We left Ricky and returned to our hotel to sleep. I had packed us all up the afternoon before and we had reserved our cab for early in the morning. Only one catch...
The Paris marathon was on that day. We were in the center of the course and the police weren't letting ANY cars in or out. We knew about the marathon, that's why we had reserved a cab the night before. We had also built in an extra half hour for extra traffic troubles. But as the hotel staff valiantly tried to find us ANY car that was inside our circle of doom the minutes ticked away. After 45 minutes of tense waiting, Lyle ran up the street to see if he could just hail a cab. There he found a cab the hotel had called trying to argue his way past the police blocking the end of our street. He ran back shouted at us all to MOVE and off we tore, wheeled luggage filled with precious champagne bottles, bouncing down the cobblestone sidewalk.
I'm pleased to say, we made it the airport with time to spare, we just had to shop duty-free a little quicker than I would have liked.