An American in Paris — Act 2

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Monday morning view from my window

Monday morning, I woke up ready to move. I had researched adult ballet classes in Paris, but was shocked by the lack of options. One class that I found was at the Centre de Danse du Marais, a 20-minute walk from my apartment. I stopped at La Moulin de la Vierge for another croissant and an Americano, then headed towards the studio. Along the way, I came upon the Centre Pompidou, an art museum designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers that I had learned about in my high school Art History class. The structure is iconic because it has the internal structures, such as pipes and vents, on the exterior of the building. It’s modern style and bold colors make it very distinctive amidst the classic Parisian architecture that surrounds it.

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Centre Pompidou

The other students in my ballet class were younger than I expected at an “adult” class. There was a range of abilities, but the instructor was wonderful. Unfortunately, the price, which had been listed at 18 euros, ended up being 20. Considering my class in Berlin had only been 8 euros, that amount seemed excessive. While I enjoyed the class, I decided my money could be better used elsewhere for the rest of the week.

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Centre de Danse du Marais

After showering and getting dressed, I wandered to Montmartre. My plan was to visit the Basilique du Sacre Coeur, Musee de Montmartre, and the Moulin Rouge, however my plans changed. I ended up spending more time at the basilica than originally intended, because I found it to be so beautiful. I slowly walked around inside, appreciating the ornate interior, then sat outside for a few minutes taking in the view from the steps. After seeing that it was only 7 euros to go up to the dome at the top, I decided I needed to take advantage of that opportunity. The climb up the stairs was exhausting, but completely worth it. From that height, I could see over the entire city. My selfie skills are weak, but I wanted evidence that I was there, so I asked a young man walking past to take a photo for me. The late afternoon light coming in from the open window behind me was making it difficult to get a good picture, so my photographer offered to use his camera, since he could adjust the settings easily, and send them to me. I’ll share more on this encounter in my next post.

Weaving my way through the streets towards the museum, I was tickled by a sign on one of the restaurants. It read, “Skinny people are easier to kidnap… Stay safe, eat crepes!” I was so amused, that I sat down at a table outside for a crepe. When the waiter arrived to take my order (a nutella and banana crepe), he encouraged a glass of wine to accompany my snack. I was easily convinced. He asked, “White or red?” and before I had a chance to respond, he simply said, “Red. Merlot.” When the glass of merlot arrived moments later, I was grateful for his choices.

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Stay safe!

While waiting for my crepe, a woman in the street began playing cello. She had back up tracks to support her as she played a variety of rock and pop songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The music, tasty wine, delicious crepe, and vibrant people watching opportunities made for a lovely experience. I didn’t even mind the slow service! By the time I paid my bill, the museum was only open for one more hour. I walked by, but opted not to try to rush through. Instead, I jumped to the next part of my initial plan: a stop of the Moulin Rouge.

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Moulin Rouge

The only remaining tickets that day were for the 11:00pm seating and very expensive. I reluctantly decided to pass on seeing the show. I did, however, enjoy seeing the building and neighborhood. After a few failed selfie attempts, I started walking back towards my apartment. I stopped at a small grocery store to pick up a few essential items, and went home for a rest. My energy returned around the same time my hunger spiked, so I grabbed my purse and went searching for dinner.

I ended up at Café de la Regence, a restaurant near the Louvre. I was led to a comfortable seat at a table near the door, where I could keep an eye on pedestrians walking by. I ordered a glass of champagne and an entrée of salmon and vegetables. As I did at almost every meal in Paris, I finished with an espresso. I felt the need to be around people, so I stopped at L’Avant Premiere, a bar near by apartment, for an Aperol Spritz. I didn’t stay long, as I knew the next day would be busy!

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Orangerie at Versailles

In searching for a place to stay, I learned that Airbnb now offers “experiences”—small tours hosted by locals—as well as lodging. One experience that caught my eye was called “A Taste of Versailles”. It advertised a stop at an open-air market, a guided tour through the gardens at Versailles, and a picnic on the grounds. It sounded like a fun way to see Versailles, so I signed up! I met my guide, Thibaut, and the other guests at the Saint Lazare train station “by the clock statue”. My tour group consisted of three other women. One was from Alberta, Canada, and had been traveling alone in Paris for 3 weeks, and the others were a couple from Sydney, Australia, and were in Paris for a few days before heading to the UK. They were all smart, independent, interesting women, so conversation came easily.

Thibaut was friendly, and, it has to be said, very attractive! He helped us purchase round trip tickets, then led us to the train. Onboard, he told us about how he started doing this tour, how it had been going, and what he had planned for the future. When we arrived at our stop, he led us to the market. We slowly made our way through, stopping at various vendors. Thibaut asked what we wanted, but took charge of most of the orders. We ended up with a few cheeses, a lot of charcuterie, some gorgeous berries, and wine. He made me order the baguettes, after teaching me what to say. Once we had plenty of food, we set off towards the palace.

At the entrance, one bottle of wine was almost confiscated. Luckily, Thibaut was able to convince the security staff to let us take it inside. We walked straight past the ticket line, which was 6 rows deep, to the entrance to the gardens. Thibaut used to work at Versailles, so he knew the grounds and the history very well. He asked if we wanted to focus more on the French gardens or the English gardens and Queen’s Hamlet. One of the girls was fascinated by Marie Antoinette, so we opted to spend more time in the areas of the estate that she primarily resided in. Before we did that, Thibaut took us to some of his favorite French gardens. The attention to detail, structure, and symmetry were incredible. Opulent fountains with gold accents decorated the already ornate spaces. The fountains are usually only flowing on weekends, but we happened across a sort of water show at one of the fountains! Next, we walked to the Grand Canal to find a site for our picnic.

Thibaut had packed a blanket, so we were able to sit comfortably on the lawn. We spent a lot of time there, eating, sharing stories, and enjoying the delicious French wine. We laughed, saying it felt like we were just out with friends, not in an iconic garden with strangers in France! At the end of our meal, a large swan that had been lingering nearby made his presence impossible to ignore. He was very happy to help us with any leftovers!

Next, we went to Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. Thibaut pointed out a few things here and there, but mostly allowed us to enjoy and explore on our own. Time had quickly gotten away from us, so he had to leave before we got to the Queen’s Hamlet. He drew a route for us on a map before saying goodbye, and the rest of us continued exploring. The English gardens were beautiful. The leaves were just starting to change, adding color to the lush setting. The Queen’s Hamlet was charming, and markedly different from the other buildings we’d seen. I decided I would happily live in the gardener’s house on the property! It was gorgeous!

By the time we left, we were all exhausted, but stopped at a café before going to the train. Once back in Paris, we exchanged contact information and headed our separate ways. I wove my way back to my apartment, and promptly washed up for bed. Checking my Health app, I realized I had walked 10.6 miles. No wonder I was exhausted!

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Another gorgeous fountain

I went to bed feeling content. I had already seen so many beautiful places in my short time in Paris. I didn’t see how the trip could get any better!

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