When Victoria and I arrived back in Paris after our day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the sun was just setting and the sky was pretty spectacular with dalmatian-spot clouds. We decided to head to the Champ du Mars to relax for a little while in the waning sunshine; little did we realize that thousands of others had the same idea.
The screen at the base of the tower was new, and there were speakers blaring music and search lights scanning the skies as more and more people arrived. Clearly, we had stumbled into some huge happening - which is pretty consistently my story every time something interesting happens to me in Paris.
Eventually, someone arrived on the stage in front of the screen to explain. From what I gathered from the speech (in French, bien sur!), there was to be a spectacle this evening in honor of the efforts of hundreds (or thousands) of volunteers who had helped out an organization called Solidarité SIDA, which unites young people in the cause against AIDS. Or something like that. In any case, for a long while the screen was plastered with, "des Médicaments pour Tous" (Medication for All). We had hoped there might be a concert, but we had no such luck, though there was certainly some music.
After the welcoming speech, they showed a long and confusing series of video clips on the big screen. The short (maybe one minute long at most) clips seemed to be taken from random TV shows that had been aired in the last twenty years, but that seemed to be all they had in common. Some were funny, some were intense, some made no sense at all, and most of which involved too much jargon or were spoken too quickly to be very intelligible to me. The final clip, though, that one was perfectly clear... sort of.
It's hard to see because the crowd is so dark in the video, but pretty much everyone in the field did the infamous YMCA dance during the chorus. I wish I had kept taping for an extra 5 seconds; the tower started to sparkle just after I stopped recording... but as it is, you'll have to take my word for it and use your imagination.
We stayed to watch for about an hour, and decided that was plenty.
My last full day in France was, appropriately, a Sunday, so that I could spend my happy few remaining hours wandering through the market. After getting some fruits and bread for myself, I met with Victoria and introduced her to my favorite spot in Paris.
She had never been to the marché de la Bastille before. It was so great to experience the city with someone who had also lived there, but had an entirely different experience than I had - we could introduce each other to favorite spots we might never have seen otherwise. After some requisite wandering and ogling, we picked up some lunch to split: a saucisse en croûte:
The sausage tasted like a Touraine saucisse d'ail to me, and was wrapped in a somewhat crisp and flaky crust. It was good, but heavy - we enjoyed it much more once we had bought a large bottle of jus de pomme - apple juice - to drink with it. The juice was similar to what we would call cider in the US - it had a delicious, complex, fuller flavor than standard grocery store juice and made a perfect accompaniment to the sausage.
At three, I saw Victoria off to the train station, as she was headed back to Geneva to start her internship the following day. I'm so glad the timing worked out that her first weekend in Europe was my last, and that we were able to spend a few days together in Paris!
When she left, I was at something of a loss for what to do with my remaining hours. In 2008, my last day in Paris was somewhat frenetic. It happened to be Bastille day, so some of the metro stops weren't running, and I spent about 8 hours walking all over the city, soaking in every last drop of Paris that I could before I had to get on a plane and fly back to the boring old U S of A. This time around, however, leaving felt much more bittersweet. I was sorry to leave France, of course, but I was glad to be headed home. Mostly, I was tired: tired of living out of a suitcase and moving to a new, unfamiliar city for a few days; tired of coming up with where to go and what to see and which adventures to pursue each day; tired of working so hard to keep up with the language spoken all around me; tired, even, of eating French food. I was ready to go home and read books and watch movies and take a few days to do absolutely, gloriously nothing.
Perhaps my last few hours are an indication that I absorbed more of the French lifestyle or culture on this trip than I did on the first one; in the end, all I wanted to do that afternoon was sit at a table on the sidewalk terrace of a café, sip un déca, people watch, and write in my journal.
The last sentence I wrote in that journal, as I sat in that café that afternoon, was a hope that I would finish writing this blog "within a few weeks" of getting home... it's taken just a little longer than that. But I have enjoyed revisiting the memories of the sights and sounds and tastes of this trip as I have slowly made my way through typing this all up, and I hope you have enjoyed coming along for the journey. In the end, I mean this blog to be an (exceedingly long, but illustrated!) answer to the question, "how was your trip?" That question invites a one word answer, and though it was indeed "great!," that's not the whole story. That doesn't begin to tell the whole story. I hope that this does.
The next time I travel with the intent of eating and learning about French cuisine, I presume I will write about it here. For now, I have no upcoming travel plans - though you never know what might be around the corner. In the meantime, if you'd like to hear about what I eat (and cook!) when I'm not traipsing across Europe, I am writing all about those (slightly less exciting) adventures here. I'd be glad to have you join me for the ride.