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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!