Last Call

Before we left for France, I posted that I didn’t really like “checklist” vacations and I’m happy to report that even though we kept ourselves pretty busy, there was never a sense that we fell into the trap of going to see things because we were “supposed” to.

You might recall though that I did want to make sure that The Beloved and I made a pilgrimage to The Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Paris – one of the most famous cocktail bars in the world.

And we did. On what turned out to be our only rainy day in France, we visited it after going to the Musee d’Orsay and walking a bit of the Ile de la Cite. The small bar was warm and crowded, and we sat in a cozy corner table and had exorbitantly expensive drinks (I mean, it IS The Ritz) that were actually pretty darn good.

And then we did again. After our day of touring the Louvre, we decided we needed a good drink and headed back over. As it turned out, that evening we had the place all to ourselves, and so chose to sit at the bar with head bartender Colin Field (he wasn’t on during our first visit). So, if you’re a cocktail guy like me, getting to meet Field was a lot of fun – and since it was slow, he visited with us for quite a while. His own mix seemed to be part host, part bartender, part comedian and part showman. Wonderful experience for us.

Menu and Rose

During our chat, we learned that The Ritz is about to close for a massive two-year renovation – apparently the longest, costliest, and largest renovation in the hotel’s history. Everything is shutting down and all the employees (including Field) will have to find other jobs during the interim. In fact, I saw that the bar had its last call just the other day. How lucky were we to get in under the wire? Very — and it will definitely be one of the lasting memories of my vacation.

And when you take a big vacation like this past one, I suppose there is the expectation that the really grand things will be the most lasting memories, but I think that it is small moments like that one that I’ll remember most.

Our Apartment (1st etage) on Rue Malar

I’ll remember the places that we made our home during the trip. The apartment on Rue Malar was such a treat to come back to after a day of sightseeing or museum-ing. Some of my favorite moments are sitting on the couch, having a picnic dinner with a glass (or more) of wine, and recapping the day.

Common dinner: baguette, stinky cheese, saucisson, mustard, wine.

I’ll remember the yellow stone of our apartment in Sarlat and the windows we could throw open in the (unseasonably) warm evenings, hearing only the burble of the fountain below and the whoosh and coo of pigeons along the rooftops.

Yellow Stone and the Sound of Pigeons

I’ll remember quiet times like when we took a break and strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens and sat and watched the people of Paris enjoy what must have been the first truly beautiful day of Spring.

Our Shadows at the Luxembourg Gardens

I’ll remember stopping our trusty Golf at a little roadside (and riverside) park for a picnic lunch where the Vezere and Dordogne rivers merge at Limeuil.

Lunch spot as the Vezere and Dordogne converge at Limeuil

I’ll remember — certainly my favorite memory of The Louvre — watching a class full of French gradeschool children getting a history lesson about the Revolution. The teacher chose the painting with a half-naked Liberty leading the charge — and I tried to think of the “outrage” if that was tried on American public school kids.

French Schoolchildren Learn Their History. With Boobs

I’ll remember the bustling Saturday street market — the Marche de Saxe-Breteuil on our first full day in Paris. The blocks-long market had a staggering array of fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, snails, breads, etc. We were dunked headfirst into a swarm of people — all of them speaking French and getting their groceries.

Fresh scallops at the Saturday street market

And I’ll remember taking a stroll on our last evening in Paris to the Eifel Tower (we hadn’t yet gone), bypassing the lines to ascend it, and taking a bench on a little side path and watching the lights come on. Magnificent.

Last Evening In Paris

I suppose this is also my last call — about this trip anyway, and it’s time to get back to book reviews and science and posts with lots of pictures with Penny.

Au revoir for now, France!

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29 thoughts on “Last Call

  1. I’ve enjoyed these posts! I want to go to France. But we’re going to Texas instead…. (But we’ll have fun! One of the great things about traveling with little kids is that it is ALL cool and exciting. But still…)

  2. I’m not sure why, but this post made me a little weepy. This line alone (“I’ll remember stopping our trusty Golf at a little roadside (and riverside) park for a picnic lunch where the Vezere and Dordogne rivers merge at Limeuil.”) feels like poetry—and looked like poetry in the pic. Maybe it’s the sensory feast you gave us in each posting about your trip–so delicious. Or all the wonderful details. In any case, I’ve enjoyed this series enormously. Thanks, Steve.

  3. Just curious: did you try the Serendipity at the Ritz? I’m not a big cocktail fan, but that one I would try just because the ingredients sound so intriguing.

    I do believe some of the best moments of a trip aren’t in the visits to the “big destinations,” but those quiet ones where you simply enjoy being where you are. My children don’t believe me when I tell them my happiest times during a vacation are often spent just sitting in a park, watching people and dogs and bicycles go by. How often do we have the time at home to do that?

    • HG — we actually didn’t try the Serendipity. The first night we each chose something else on the menu, and the second we asked Field to make us something off the top of his head.

      We LOVED sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens and several other gardens that we visited. They were always a place to rest your weary feet, watch the world go by and reflect a little on your day.

  4. Lovely place, holy cow! I’m going with you guys next time. And I lived in a hovel, so you can imagine my shock! :)

    Ah, Calvados! In Bretange and Normande, you drink a LOT of cidre rather than wine, although wines were prevalent.

    • MT — no hovels to celebrate The Beloved’s X0th birthday! We’ve always been fans of Calvados — there are some fine cocktails started with that spirit.

  5. Steve, create a hologram and we can all go along with you and your memories. Of course getting the flavors of the cheese and wine might be a tad difficult, but I know you can do it. BTW – those are the biggest scallops I’ve ever seen.

    • Trailblazer — it was really a great trip. One of the things that I worked on was NOT over-researching things on the internet. I wanted everything to seem fresh and not “just like it looks online”.

    • Budd — we didn’t eat at the Japanese restaurant. Apparently, most the sushi joints in Paris are run by Chinese — and we can get plenty of good sushi in CA.

  6. Looks like you guys had a fantastic trip! I’ll try and remember what you said vs. what my brother said about France. :)

  7. Sounds like you two travel like we do…checking out some of the sights but leaving time to just enjoy the moment and the unexpected treasures. That’s the best part about travel…the undiscovered discoveries. Glad you enjoyed the trip. :-)

  8. I’m so jealous. That looks great, having a good place to return at the end of the day is so important. I even love hanging out and just not doing anything some days. Just the markets alone must have been worth it.

    • I think you would have really loved it — I’m not sure we’re going to vacation any other way than getting apartment /home rentals for big trips from now on. Hawaii was great that way and so was France. There is something SO much better about coming “home” than coming back to a hotel.

      Both places in France really afford the chance (as I guess most destinations do if you think about it and try a little) of getting off the path a little bit.

  9. Pingback: BBAW Interview Meme | Stevil

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