I was able to drag myself out of bed Tuesday morning and get ready to meet my friends for a morning of shopping. My knee was better, though I still walked somewhat slow and stiff. My feet were about to fall off, and that’s no lie. A week later, and they were still sore. But I made it to the metro station, and we took off to another part of the city with lots of kitchen shops.
All four of us like to cook (my three friends have cooking businesses), and this was a real treat. We visited several cooking specialty stores, one which had shelves and shelves of cake decorating supplies. Then, we walked to one of the most famous kitchen stores in the world. Many famous chefs, most notably Julia Child, have frequented this store. Dehillerin has been open since 1820 and sells and ships every imaginable, and some not so imaginable, kitchen ware available in the civilized world. From the outside, this place is deceivingly simple. On the inside, it’s unbelievable. Stacked from floor to ceiling, and I’m talking a 30 foot ceiling or higher, with pots, pans, whisks, measuring devices, copper…you name it, and it has to be there. You can see pictures of things hanging from the ceiling. Nothing is priced, so you have to get a staff person to help. I had read that the staff were not particularly friendly, but didn’t see that. Two of my friends bought items and had great experiences. It was crowded, both with stuff and people, so everyone was a little busy, but certainly not rude. I didn’t buy anything. I couldn’t imagine trying to get through customs with a copper pot.
We did some more window shopping and went to a small store that had some non-traditional French food items, like dried cranberries. I brought my friend a pound of dried cranberries because she has such a hard time getting them there, and they are expensive. I think we’ll set up a import/export exchange. I’ll send her North American food items in exchange for the French food I want. Sadly, the bread won’t make the journey well. I bought several small items to bring home, including a package of French coffee (not the fake French Roast stuff we drink here, but divine French coffee) and a glass jar of real vanilla beans for about 5 euros each. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get real vanilla beans here, but they are probably $5/bean and are dried out. These are not dried out, and I got about 4 or 5 beans. I can’t wait to use them!
We parted ways with Annie who was taking a cooking class that afternoon, and Shelley, Lori, and I went to find lunch. We walked up a narrow street with lots of shops that are like the French version of fast food, except about a thousand times better. No Burger King or even Subway here. The sandwiches are mostly on fresh baguette bread with thick slices of meat and cheese. I bought some cheese from a fromagerie shop, and the lady insisted she could not ship to me. “She has to come back to buy it in person,” she told Shelley. Gladly, but that would be one expensive piece of cheese.
We finally settled in at a sidewalk cafe and got a plate of meats and cheeses to share. Remember, I talked about how close to the street you sit, well this street was more like an alley, and whoever sat in the chair next to the street could barely stretch back without touching a passing vehicle. People walked in the street and just moved over when a vehicle was coming through. I don’t remember, but I don’t think it was even one way; they just all kind of navigated around each other. It was a very busy and noisy area.
After lunch, we split up. Lori left to go to a macaroons class. I went to find the Musee Marmottan, which has the largest Monet exhibit in the world. From the metro stop, it was about a 15 minute walk. I asked someone where it was because it was so small that I couldn’t find it on the map at first. He pointed and said straight walk. Well, in Paris, a straight walk doesn’t mean to stay on the same street. You might have to cross several streets to continue walking straight, and I found myself several blocks over from it. It is a rather small house, another structure that used to be a hunting lodge. I don’t know what they hunted in France, but everyone seemed to have a hunting lodge. The ground floor and second floor has many paintings and early 1900s period furnishings. It is a beautiful building. Then, you go into the gift shop and down a stairway to a very large underground room with dozens of Monet paintings. It is amazing. I spent more than an hour just in this area studying the paintings. They were from all different periods of Monet’s life. He was a very prolific painter. The collection was donated by his son, Michel, so it means even more that these paintings were once part of Monet’s own collection. In the gift shop, I bought several postcards and a small print of some of the paintings I had seen.
I was meeting Shelley for my last dinner in Paris, so I finally left to shop for a few more things. I took the metro and got off at the station to connect to the train that came near Shelley’s apartment. What I didn’t realize is that this particular line stopped in one station to connect going one way and in the next station to connect going the other way. So, I had to get back on the train and go to the next stop to make the right connection. After shopping for a few final items, I went to Shelley’s apartment. This was our final goodbye. We had a wonderful time (and meal). I left early, or at least earlier than any other night, to pack and get ready to go home the next day. I very much missed my family and was more than ready to hug them again.
The next morning, the manager of the apartment came down at 7 a.m. to check me out, and I left for the metro. I made a critical mistake in my planning from here. I should have taken the trains back like I came in, but I thought I could go a different way. Needless to say, I went about 6 stops the wrong way and realized I could not get a connection going to the airport from there. So, I had to backtrack. I arrived at the airport after 9:00 for my 10:00 flight. The check-in attendants were not pleased and demanded to know why I was so late. Really? I’m the only person who ever got lost on the metro? I was one of the last people on the plane, but I made it. Unfortunately, my late arrival prevented me from having a last coffee and croissant.
My flight home was uneventful. I made my connection in Houston and flew into Austin. It feels weird to leave at 10 a.m. and get home at 4:30 p.m. the same day. I was in bed by 8 p.m. My hubby and kids met me at the foot of the escalator from the boarding gates. We were mutually ecstatic to see each other. My 2 year old pitched a screaming mimi fit to go upstairs; I guess to see what in the world I had been doing up there for an entire week. No amount of explaining made any difference. We finally strapped her in the stroller and just left.
Thus ends my week long excursion to a place far, far away. I had a great time, but there’s no place like home. And home is wherever my family is.