After spending a memorable evening at Palais Garnier, we woke up the next morning to brilliant sunlight.
For breakfast, we walked to Café de Flore. Fortunately, this popular and touristy left-bank café was not crowded at the time. Our waiter did a “good” job telling people not to take photos inside. So we got to enjoy a peaceful morning, bathed under the sun, sipping coffee and letting the time go by.
Founded at the end of the Second Empire, with its original entrance located at rue St-Benoit; The name of the Café came from the status of Flora – the goddess of flowers and the season of spring in Roman mythology – located on the opposite side of the boulevard. The first regulars were Huysmans and Rémy de Gourmont. Charles Maurras created his movement in full affair of Dreyfus and wrote the first issues of Revue de l’Action française.
It was here that Apollinaire, who came as a neighbor, introduced Philippe Soupault to André Breton, and told them to be friends. Many writers, painters and politicians, including Leon Trotsky and Chou en-Lai, the Chinese Premier, frequented the Café during the interwar period. During 1930’s, Jacques Prévert and his friends of the October Group established their headquarters there. During the war period, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir worked here next to the big stove, installed by the owner Paul Boubal. After the war, the Café became the meeting place of the existentialists.
Next to Café de Flore is Les Deux Magots – another famous left-bank café frequented by literary and intellectual elite of the city.
With Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés – the oldest church in Paris – just a block away.
After breakfast, we took the metro to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, located in the 19th arrondissement.
From Temple de la Sibylle – the highest point in the park – we were rewarded with an expansive view of the city, with the majestic Sacré-Cœur Basilica looming in the distance.
Henry Miller once said: “When spring comes to Paris, the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise”.
Now in that we did feel. The lawns of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont were adorned with multi-colored crocuses and the cherry trees were at their peak bloom.
A butterfly came fluttering about.
and landed on a tree next to me.
As I was busy snapping photos, an elderly woman passed by and told me that these trees were planted in Napoleon’s time (Napoleon III that is).
You see, in Paris, even trees are rooted in history!
Speaking of history, this glass plate serves as a reminder of some of the the darkest days in the city.
From 1942 to 1944, 11,000 Jewish children were seized by the police of the Vichy government – accomplice of the Nazi occupant – They were deported and murdered in Auschwitz. More than 423 of these children came from the 19th arrondissement – 33 of whom were too young to go to school. Their names and age are listed on the plate.
From Parc des Buttes-Chaumont we continued on to Canal Saint-Martin.
It was here that my friend Johanna got her fill of french fries at a nearby McDonald, accompanied by a shot of espresso topped with whip cream. She was happy!
While I saved my appetite for one more falafel tasting at the Marais. This time we picked Chez Marianne. Their falafel plate had the similar amount of veggies as the one we had previous day, with the addition of peppers.
After lunch, we sauntered towards the Pompidou Center.
In doing so, we passed Place Igor-Stravinsky, with its sixteen colorful sculptures – each representing the composer’s works – installed around a shallow water basin.
There is another interesting sculpture by French artist Henri de Miller, outside the St-Eustache Church, near Forum des Halles. Its name is Écoute (Listen).
“Listening to the underground rumors, like a pebble, this sculpture is randomly stranded from an imaginary tide, by the shores of time.”
The weather took a turn. With the clouds piling up it was getting chilly . So we decided to head back to the hotel for a small break before dinner.
It was fantastic! Starting with the appetizer – a superb home-made serve-it-yourself pâté and cornichons.
Followed by a hearty beef stew with creamy mashed potatoes. We were still full from our late lunch, so we asked if we could take the leftovers to go. They agreed and I had to admit that the dish tasted even better second time around.
For dessert, I ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé, which is arguably one of the best soufflés I have ever had.
My friend had the scrumptious “Riz au lait” served with caramel sauce on the side.
That was a huge jar of rice puddings, so we had that to go as well. They did a great job packing the puddings and the caramel sauce in separate sealed plastic packets. Needless to say, we had a sumptuous breakfast the next morning 🙂
This concludes our beautiful spring day in Paris.
Coming up next in the Travel section: Petit Palais & Rodin Museum in Paris.