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Kicking It: Our last days in Paris

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

Well into our fourth week in Paris, we are running out of things to do that we haven’t done before. Even so, I’m guessing we’ve seen more of Paris than the people living here. Isn’t that always the way?

Of all of the museums we’ve visited, and some multiple times, we are going today to the home of modern (they pronounce it “moe-dern”) art in Paris – Le Pompidou. It isn’t particularly attractive compared to the many old beautiful buildings around the city because this one was built between 1971-1977, which may explain why it’s so ugly. Its namesake is the French statesman and former President Georges-Jean-Raymond Pompidou, 1911-1974.

The Centre for the Arts is a multi-level home of rotating galleries displaying a cross section of modern art with a delightful restaurant on the sixth level. The panoramic view in the restaurant is spectacular whether seated inside or on the patio.

Its 180-degree view of Paris’s night sky is why it was used as the location for the Michelin 3-star restaurant seen in “The Hundred Foot Journey” starring Helen Mirren and Indian actor Om Puri. (This film gets a 9 out of 10 only because no one tap dances in it). As we enjoyed a gourmet lunch, as is our custom to meet people, we had a lovely chat with Page Allen, a gallery owner from Sante Fe.

Today is Saturday and we’ll train to Fontainebleau about 45 minutes out of the city. Once the palace to kings and redecorated throughout time, alas Queen Marie Antoinette never got to sleep there. However, the last throne in France is still housed here and used by none other than himself (Bonaparte). The former hunting lodge was a favorite of his after the Reign of Terror.

As it happens, when we get back to the train depot, there aren’t any signs posted directing us to which track will take us back to the city. Even worse, which direction they are going.

Fortunately, we are saved by a 16-year-old French fellow who overhears about our dilemma. Kamil is tickled to use his English with Americans. By the time the train arrives, we three are quite chummy along with a French couple who had just returned from California after decrying an Airbnb as uninhabitable. They were very chatty about their awful experience.

Training back to Paris, we learn more about Kamil. He shares with us that most days he leaves the family’s apartment on his rented bike (only 30 euros a year for students). As it is no surprise to us, rental prices are so high within the city, his family of five share just two rooms.

We are surprised to find Kamil is still monitoring our route letting us know we are on the wrong bus. Poking his head in the bus we entered, he points out that our bus to the 9th Arrondissement is actually on the opposite corner. We stayed in touch with Kamil for several years via email, no doubt he has outgrown us because we’ve lost touch.

As our final days get closer, we agree to treat ourselves to a farewell luncheon at the Jacquemart-Andre Museum on Boulevard Haussmann. Once the home to the rich Andre banking family, the mansion was deeded to the French government at the turn of the 20th century.

We lined up for over an hour out front before we made it to the hostess desk. The restaurant was glamorous inside. As you can imagine, after all, the mansion was used as Louis Jordan’s residence in the Oscar winning film “GiGi” in 1958 directed by Vincent Minelli.

As we peruse the menu, an attractive young lady was seated next to me along the banquette. After smiling and ‘bonjouring’ each other, we discover she’s Canadian and over lunch we become fast buddies.

On this celebratory day, VJ orders us a split of French champagne to go with our carpaccio appetizer. His entrée is squid-ink-pasta with shrimp while I order a breast of chicken with risotto. A glass of rose for me and a hearty Bordeaux for him. To go with our coffee, we split a layered pistachio crème filled pastry with fresh raspberries.

Our Canadian lunch mate, Alice, was winding up her honeymoon sans her groom. (And just when I thought all of the cads lived in America). Alice was recently dropped by her beau. But in lieu of wallowing in self-pity, she opted for the honeymoon albeit alone. Alice’s story is all too familiar to Page’s from our lunch at the Pompidou. Men!

On yet another bright and sunny morning, we bus across town to see “The Thinker” situated in the front garden of Rodin’s home. Walking past “The Burghers of Calais,” we can see the “Gates of Hell” propped along a wall. Admiring his amazing talent, we go inside schlepping through his home studio, and that is when I take a closer look at the bronzes sandwiched between his more traditional busts. Oh, wow, they are lewd beyond decency. Ew! He turns out to be just a dirty old man!

The next few days fly by as we repack and tidy up before the maid comes. Right? As luck has it, I finally finish my souvenir shopping. As recently as last month (May 2023) while souvenir shopping in Le Havre, France, I remembered to offer my best “bonjour” to the busy proprietress. It extracted a smile and my very own ‘bonjour’ in return.

By the way, if or when you go to France, you will discover the French are not rude, in fact they are exceptionally polite. Which is why an uninformed American might get a frown when not offering a polite ‘bonjour’ upon entering a building in France. Act like you’ve been there by practicing a lilting ‘bonjour” accompanied by a smile before you leave.

Since we used all of my airmiles to upgrade to business class on British Air, our ride home is pretty wonderful too on Oct. 31, 2010.

All of these years later, I still get to remind VJ every time I plan another trip that no matter how it turns out, we’ll always have Paris. Au Revoir!

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].

 

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