This morning began with an early ritual of packing because D will be heading back to Frankfurt for his flight this evening, and because I only need a room for one. So we started the day by requesting an Uber to yet one more new hotel. Because of a strike, there was little traffic occupying the streets of the city, making for a comfortable and speedy ride.
Once settled in my new room in a modern luxury hotel (free with points) near the Plaza Republique, we finally stepped out into a sunny Paris morning, taking the metro to Hotel de Ville, which is a much nicer name than the real function of the building: city hall. Our objective for the morning was to finally get into Notre Dame and explore the grand cathedral.
Once again D’s friend, M, was planning to meet us. We stood in the plaza as D spoke with him, and as I gazed at the distant steeple of the grand cathedral, I found myself turning to gaze at a tent set up in the square. This is admittedly something which I would normally have overlooked.
I can’t speak French, and I’ve admitted this before, but I could make this out. It was a tent full of AOP cheeses, butters, and creams. And entry was free.
In we went, and began tasting. The cheeses and butters were remarkable. We don’t get butter like this at home. As we were tasting, M arrived and offered up some of his knowledge and experience.
I have bought French butter at home, but I think they send us the bad stuff, because everything here is so very rich and deeply flavorful. Frankly, during the butter tasting of yore, some of the many featured European butters tasted rancid, which probably reflects slow turnover on the grocery store shelves of Michigan.
Given the opportunity, I still managed to limit myself to a pound and a half of butter, as well as some cheese. I was seriously tempted to buy more, but avoided doing so because I was concerned with the logistics of transporting it home.
Laden with my goods, we stepped into the bright Parisian midday sun to discuss our options. We could certainly do the tourist thing and see the Notre Dame, whose spire stood tantalizingly nearby, but M also offered to take us on the tour of the Marais, the trendy neighborhood of central Paris in which we stood.
And so we eschewed our plans and set off into the Marais in search of lunch, dodging periodically into nondescript corners into seemingly unremarkable byways, to see what they have to offer.
These are some of the last wood frame houses in the city.
And this is the remnant of the walls of Phillip Augustus, dating to the 13th century.
After a lunch of … yes, more duck, we continued our tour.
M knows this neighborhood well, as he once lived here, and was enthusiastic to show us the things we might never have seen. And so we turned at almost random intervals, finding grandiose courtyards that might never be found by the average tourist.
And so the day continued until the shadows grew long and the sky dark.
Eventually we collected D’s bags and walked him to the train station for his evening train to Frankfurt. After saying our goodbyes, M and I sat and talked for a time over a glass of white wine (fun fact: the French drink red with with meals, and white wine with talk).
M has invited me back to Paris, and I know I will be returning, as I have left far too much on the table. Perhaps I will even return for just a weekend, if the fare is right (these are unfortunately far too rare flying out of DTW).
But for now, I returned to my hotel. Tomorrow is just a few short hours away, and although I am mostly done, I still have some final packing to do. If nothing else the butter must be secure.