December 17 - The Champagne Room

We didn’t get going in a hurry today since we had seen most of the things we cared about most already, and we had nothing specific planned except for a river cruise at 18:00.  Crystal arranged for some additional Hungarian lessons to help her prep for her April interview.  Justin checked out some of the photos from the day before, and perused Google for ideas for the day.  We left around 10:00 for Beverly to get her Covid test.  [We had determined at a pharmacy near the catacombs the day before that almost any of the pharmacies would be able to do the correct test to allow her to fly back to the U.S.]  Whilst she waited for her results, Justin went back home to get his outer jacket and hat, since it was windier than the day before, which made it seem colder even if it wasn’t.  Just after 10:30, we got some good news, as Beverly passed her test. She was so relieved that she said that lunch and drinks were on her.

We walked north to the Champs Elysees, then walked east on the street, checking out the various shops and then the various sites that abounded.  After a while we ended up by the Egyptian obelisk (completely covered up for some reason) and the carnival Christmas Market again.  Right near there Crystal did some window shopping at the Louboutin store - bad idea (says Justin), great idea (says Crystal).  Our next (planned) stop was due to be the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens, on the other side of the river, so we wanted to eat lunch along the way to break up the walk.

We checked for a place with steak frites, as Crystal wanted to have this before leaving Paris.  As it turns out, the steak frites place near our Airbnb that had a long line is one of several around town, and there was another one near the route we were going to take anyway to Luxembourg Gardens, so it worked out perfectly.  We saw it would open at 12:00, and we figured if we got there right at 12:00, perhaps we wouldn’t have to wait.  It was around 11:30, so this seemed very possible.

We walked through several courtyards in the middle of the Louvre, and saw the famous glass pyramid.  We read that apparently the pyramid shape is because of the giant collection of Egyptian art at the Louvre, and the relationship between France and Egypt.  We crossed over the Seine at a bridge right by the Louvre, and on the other side of the bridge we ended up in the St Germain neighborhood.  Just by happenstance, we ended up passing by a tiny Christmas Market on one of the streets (maybe Rue de Lille or Rue Jacob?).  We also passed by the University of Paris.

We arrived at the steak frites place, Le Relais de L’Entrecote, at 11:58.  We were the second group in line, and got in two minutes later.  Once inside, the only questions they asked were how we wanted our steak cooked, and what we wanted to drink.  And, as far as how we wanted our steak cooked, the only options were rare, medium, and well.  They brought out a salad that had a mustard-y salad dressing that was quite good, and then they brought out our steaks in short order.  The steak came with some sort of a pepper sauce, and that maybe had mustard as well; it was very good.  Later, after we thought we were done, they brought some more steak and frites around and asked if we wanted some more - “Sure, why not?”  We had a nice dessert as well.

After lunch, it was only 10 minutes to Luxembourg Palace.  We came in on the north side, which we determined was the government official access side, however, so we had to keep walking around and around until finally accessing the gardens, where we got some good views of the palace.  Compared to the Vienna palaces, this wasn’t very big.  It was, however, substantially larger than our residences.  The sun finally came out for the first time, and not surprisingly, things looked nicer in the sunlight.  We headed west and stopped nearby to get a drink at a cafe and use the facilities.

We used the opportunity to check in for our flights.  We were able to check in on our flights by taking a photo of our QR code on our pass sanitaire, which made us cautiously optimistic we’d be all good for tomorrow without needing a test.  Beverly couldn’t check-in online, however, since the photos were too big for the Air France website, and we couldn’t figure out how to take smaller-sized photos.  Since it was sunny outside, we decided to just continue to head due west to Champ de Mars, to see the Eiffel Tower in the sunlight.  About 1 minute into the walk, however, we saw Le Bon Marche, a famous department store.

Inside, there were a bunch of designer brand “storelets” or “boutiques,” and sure enough, there was a Louboutin in there as well.  It was in the center of the top floor, with its own “cage” surrounding it, reigning supreme over all the other luxury brands.  Crystal looked at two purses, and she asked Justin’s and Beverly’s opinion - they both said the same one, and it was “cheaper” anyway, so that was good.  After our short pit stop, we continued heading west on Rue de Babylone.  We came upon the big gold dome we’d seen the last couple days, this time seeing it in the sun, and found out that it was Napoleon’s Tomb.

Continuing west, we went right by the area we stayed in 2011, and even correctly guessed the street that our hotel was off of.  We took a bunch of pictures at Champ de Mars before the sun went down, as it was going down rather quickly.  Beverly found the address for our boat tour - which was now at 17:00 instead of 18:00 (so Crystal would miss her class again) - and it was just on the west side of the Tower, so right nearby.  We found where we needed to check in, and we still had 30 minutes until boarding, so we walked across the Pont d’lena bridge to get some photos from the opposite bank.  We still weren’t entirely sure which bank was the Left and which was the Right [the north side is Right, south side is Left.]. 

Before getting on the boat, Justin got some water since his legs seemed like they wanted to cramp.  Beverly tried to check us in, and the person got on the phone for a long time, we weren’t sure for what reason.  But eventually we got our tickets, but we received no explanation, but everything seemed fine.  We went to a separate waiting area for people in the champagne room.  When we got on, we were 3 of only 4 people in a small room that seated maybe 20, and we took the front right seats.  It very much seemed like the same boat as we took 10 years ago. Justin recognized the front doors, which were unique in their shape and how they opened.  

When we departed at 17:00, there were 9 of us - two Brits, a family from Bankers Hill (now living in Spain, go figure), us, and a single man.  Justin kept going outside to take photos, where he was unimpeded by the glass and reflections.  Basically he would chug his champagne inside and then go outside to take photos, then repeat.  Crystal and Beverly stayed warm inside and hoped he was taking good photos.  On the cruise, the sun had set basically right before we left, but it wasn’t fully dark yet.  We remembered a small number of things from the information provided on the cruise, such as:

We got more champagne than usual because once a bottle is open they have to use it, and there weren’t many of us.  We ended up with five glasses each, 2 of the first type, 2 of the second, and 1 of the third (although a second glass was offered).  We had to wait a while to turn around on the Seine because of ships coming the other direction.  But because of the delay, rather than being back by 18:00, we got to see a sparkly Eiffel Tower at 18:00, right as we approached the Alexander III bridge - we suppose that was good luck.  We arrived shortly after 18:00.  We walked back to the Airbnb, dropped our bags (including Crystal’s new purse), put our clothes in the dryer (they weren’t quite dry yet), arranged for an Uber pickup the following morning, then headed out again.

We walked up to the George V Metro station, took Line 1 east to Hotel de Ville, and checked out the very fancy Christmas Market there.  The hotel itself was lit up blue, with falling snow lights, and looked impressive.  The market had a climbing wall for kids, which was a little odd, but everything else was a bunch of nice chalets.  At one of the chalets Justin ordered hot apple juice, but with a shot of rum - the person taking the order was intrigued, like we’d been the first to combine chocolate and peanut butter.  To be fair, it was a very good concoction.

Crystal wanted dinner since this was our last night in Paris, and there were a bunch of restaurants around, so we did a quick search on Google Maps and hoped it would lead us well yet again.  Les Foodies looked good, and looked close, so we walked a couple blocks that way.  But we walked right past it at first because there was an enormous crowd of men at Cox (we’re assuming a gay bar), right next door.  Inside Les Foodies there was almost no one, even though it was a bit past 20:00.  From Google Maps, we had no idea what kind of food they had, but we found out it was a Thai-Italian-French fusion, since the chef was half Thai and half Italian.

They had a very small menu, which apparently changes daily or weekly.  To start, Justin got a Mai Tai, Crystal got some champagne, and Beverly got a bramble.  All of the drinks were quite good, and Crystal got a fat champagne glass (those are always better).  The waitress explained the menu, which was a big help to us, as we wouldn’t have really understood what was going on even if the menu was in English, let alone French.  After the explanations we figured out what we wanted.  We split a fried foie gras and mango dish, Crystal got ravioli with langoustines, Beverly got Tagliolini, and Justin got a duck breast with quinoa and a spicy orange-coconut sauce - everything was excellent.  (Beverly got to eat all three amuse bouche, since it was made with seafood that Crystal is allergic to and Justin didn’t want to chance.) The dishes seemed so random, but everything was really good.  It was a short walk back to the Metro station, and we bought tickets for seemingly the 10th time - we should’ve just bought a book of 20 or 30 tickets when we first arrived.  It’s interesting to us that the price on the Metro is irrespective of distance or number of transfers.  We got back around 22:30, give or take.  Thankfully our clothes were dry, so we likely wouldn’t need to do any laundry the rest of the trip.  We did some packing, then set an alarm for 05:00, although Crystal and Beverly were both pretty sure they wouldn’t be able to  stay asleep until then.

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