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Balmy afternoon at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

We woke up around 10:00 a.m., refreshed and entirely hungry. After showering and dressing, we walked down the avenue MacMahon, looking for breakfast. We came across a pleasant open air market and seized the opportunity for a picnic. A bakery supplied the croissants, a small grocery supplied the fruit juice and water, some pushcart vendors supplied the fresh fruit, and an apartment building supplied the steps to sit on, making our perfect picnic in a busy Parisian neighborhood. The street and the market bustled with shoppers. One man asked us to watch his motor scooter for a moment. When he returned we watched him set the world’s record for the number of six-packs of soda transported on a scooter with the driver aboard.

Since it was becoming another balmy afternoon, we made over to the Jardin du Luxembourg on the Left Bank. We spent a couple hours strolling leisurely though the gardens, watching the Parisians. In the middle of the gardens there is a large fountain where children come to float small toy sailboats, which are rented to them by enterprising local businessmen. I had seen this place frequently before on television, since these gardens were the primary setting of French in Action, a French language-learning series which was featured in my eleventh-grade French class. I looked furiously for Mireille, the main character, but I saw her nowhere.

After an afternoon of continued strolling and gradual acquainting with the city of Paris, we again set our sights on the Saint Michel district for dinner. Looking this time for a fixed-price menu, which are supposedly the best bargains in Parisian dining, we found La Maison Blanche on rue de la Huchette in the 5th. Their fixed-price menu comprised steak, fries, onion soup, and dessert. Kirsten chose a less expensive menu which excluded the soup and dessert, and we both were quite satisfied.

A word or two about dining in Paris: we were never at a loss for an affordable, satisfying meal. Paris offers a lot of dining options, from traditional to exotic, most of which cost about the same as a good meal in an average American town. We rarely paid over 13 US$ each for a nice dinner with appetizer and dessert. Drinks were extra, of course. More importantly, the price on the menu includes service, although it is generally limited to the waiter taking an order, bringing the food, and collecting payment. Clearly then, dining out frequently in Paris was not inconsistent with the type of low-budget traveling we were doing.

Through the winding streets of Paris and along the banks of the river Seine, more romantic strolls was the order of the dusky evening, as Kirsten and I reveled in our companionship and the beauty of the old city. Before turning in for the evening, we walked the length of the Champs-Elysées, taking in the bright displays from the many businesses that line both sides of the avenue, and noting the blue, white, and red preparations being made for the Bastille Day celebrations just four days away.