Today was supposed to be a rather ambitious sightseeing extravaganza but as usual we had bitten off more than we could chew. We started the morning off late after a much-needed lie-in and headed towards the Louvre. But we stopped first at le Deux Magots, a cafe that was once visited by Hemingway and James Joyce, author of Ulysses (which the copain later discovered while reading his novel onboard the train to Avignon days later, again with much excitement). Deux cafe au laits, deux croissants and €30 later (at €6 for a cappuccino, my grande non-fat extra hot caramel macchiato for $4.69 at Starbucks seemed like a bargain) and we found ourselves at the Louvre. Having never been to Paris before, it was a must-see for the copain but not being a museum-type on the best of days, I trudged along behind him with little excitement. We strategically passed over several of the less exciting sections, and chose to focus on the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman exhibits. To my dismay, all of the exhibit information was in French! It took me ages to decipher one small paragraph, so I gave up, choosing instead just to admire from afar. We also stopped to see the Mona Lisa in the Italian Painter's section, and it was just as unimpressive as I remembered. Try as I might, I've never understood the fascination for this rather small piece of art, and apparently either did the copain, as we stopped only for a quick glance and didn't even bother to take a picture of it before moving on.
Three hours later and one vase started to look very much like the next, so we booked it down to our next stop, les Catacombs. My itinerary said that the last entry was at 4pm but with a line up that was already winding around the block, we were told that we weren't likely to make it to the entrance within the next half hour. Disappointed (the copain's macabre tendencies had made him very excited to see this site), yet with aching feet, we gratefully sat and took our lunch at a nearby cafe on the Denfert-Roches.
Notre Dame was next on the schedule so we made our way slowly back towards the Seine to the famed cathedral. Since neither of us are altogether religious, the magnificence of this landmark was somewhat lost on us, I'm sure, but I nonetheless felt a sense of serenity by the time we had toured through the dimly lit church. I marveled at the colourful stained glass windows, as the high arched ceilings facilitated the echoes of the choir that trailed along behind me.
Deciding that we had already satisfied our sightseeing quota for the day, we returned to the hotel to prep for dinner. I was very excited. The copain, utterly offended by the mediocre meal from the prior evening, had researched extensively for a suitable restaurant to satisfy his palette for tonight. And I must say he did not disappoint. The restaurant was called Le Violon D'Ingres, located nearby in the 7th Arondissement. We arrived at the front entrance, me feeling rather fancy in my red dress and the copain looking ever so smart in a navy dinner jacket...only to find that we were unable to open the door! We pulled and yanked on it while patrons looked on inside as we peered over them with furrowed brows, gazing longingly for a uniformed waiter or maitre'd. As we stood there desperately, someone finally came to our rescue. "Poussez," said the waiter gently. Oh....push. "Ahem, merci," we said. With that embarrassment out of the way, we proceeded to sit and peruse the traditionally French menu, ordering a few savoury-looking items. And what an amazing meal it was! It was the best fois gras that I'd ever had, gently seared and salted, set against caramelized carrots with a hint of tartness in a rich velvety gravy. The copain glared at me enviously, although his appetizer of alternating layers of beef tongue and fois gras were not exactly below par by any means. For our mains, the copain tried pan fried pig's feet and I had the cassoulet, a savory stew of several meats (sausage, duck, pork) and smashed fava beans. I have a good appetite at the best of times but I really outdid myself tonight. "Madame, you eat well," said the waitress, referring to my valiant efforts at the sizeable dish, and right after I asked to see the dessert menu. The copain had tapped out at this point ("I'll just have a bite of yours, hun"), but I was on a roll. You'd have thought I hadn't eaten in weeks as I pondered the selection and decided on a raspberry macaroon stuffed with sorbet and topped with whipped cream. Another waiter brought us the bill along with three petite Madeleines and jokingly brought me three more after we polished those off (not funny, I finished those too, with some help from the copain). With finally a divine meal filling our bellies and a few other knowing smiles from the restaurant wait staff, we wandered out into the streets to walk off some of that delicious food. The copain had gotten into the vino pretty good that night and amused himself by loudly barking out the ridiculous nickname he has for me. After hearing it several times in a row, and trying to steady him as he stumbled back and forth along the uneven streets of Paris, it was clearly time for our beds. And there is nothing better than going to bed with a satisfied belly!