spring break: our last (and busiest) day in paris

We started our last full day in Paris by taking the Metro to l’Arc de Triomphe. We had coffee and pastries at the Brioche Dorée on the Champs-Elysées, and then used our Museum Passes to bypass the line and go up into the Arch just after it opened—270 stairs, which made me glad for my Dubrovnik stair training! The view was gorgeous, despite the smog, and it was an excellent way to start the day.

From there, we walked down Avenue des Champs-Elysées to Tuileries Garden, and then used our Museum Passes again to skip the line at Musée de l’Orangerie, which houses my favorite paintings in the world: Monet’s Nymphéas (water lilies), as well as a Renoir that always makes me think of me and my mother. I don’t photograph the water lilies, because nothing can capture the experience of seeing them, larger than life, bathed in natural light. But I did take a picture of the Renoir to send to my mom so she’d know I was thinking of her.

Renoir's "Gabrielle et Jean"

Renoir’s “Gabrielle et Jean”, Musée de l’Orangerie

After we soaked up the wonder of Monet and Renoir (and discovered Marie Laurencin, whose work I didn’t know but really loved), we decided to try the St Germain branch of Le Relais de l’Entrecote for lunch–and found no line! I am SO glad we went, because that meal was, without a doubt, the best I had on this trip. The restaurant serves only steak-frites, so the waitresses don’t ask you what you want to eat, but only how you’d like it done, and what you’d like to drink. We both ordered our steak “à point,” or “perfectly cooked,” which is rare-to-medium-rare. We also ordered a half-bottle of house red and a carafe of tap water. Our bill for the meal was about €65, which was more than we’d spent anywhere else (we’d been eating frugally), and worth every cent.

The steak arrives on a platter, and the waitress loads your plate with fries, places half of the steak serving on your plate, and covers it with their special sauce. And oh, the sauce. It was heavenly. Scott’s job between now and when I get back to Rochester is to figure out how to replicate that amazing sauce. Then, just as you’re finishing off your steak and starting to mourn its absence, the waitress comes back with the other half of the serving, and loads you back up! Yay!

After lunch we had hoped to visit Musee d’Orsay, but it was closed Monday (one of my few planning failures). Scott wanted to see the Catacombs, but they were closed, as well. We ended up doing some souvenir shopping at Printemps, after which we dropped off our loot at the apartment, and headed to the Eiffel Tower.

Me & Scott Atop the Eiffel Tower

Me & Scott Atop the Eiffel Tower

All the guidebooks said to buy a ticket for the tower in advance, but a month before our visit there were no tickets to the summit available. However, the Rick Steves’ book also suggested checking back right before your trip, so I did. Much to my delight, I was able to nab two tickets to the summit for 5:30pm Monday.

So, tickets in hand, we walked into the Tower at 5:30. Unfortunately, it still took nearly an hour from there to get to the summit–first we stood in a line for the elevator to the 2nd floor, and then we stood in a longer line for the elevator from the 2nd floor to the summit). Once we reached the top, however, we stayed until sunset (7pm), enjoying the view.

Then we took photos from the base of the tower before heading back to the apartment, tired but happy.

And that, dear readers, is the end of our Paris adventure. Early the next morning, Scott took the RoissyBus from Opera to CDG, and not long after that I headed to Gare du Nord to take the Eurostar train to London. That’s where my spring break tale will pick up next!

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