Thursday, July 23, 2015

Following My Nose in France and Italy

Colette’s novels and Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast lured me to Paris’s grand boulevards and cobbled lanes 21 years ago. The urge to pay another visit to France was resurrected by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.

Movies were not much help either. How can any girl watch Katherine Hepburn’s Summertime and not dream about jumping onto a Venetian vaporetto in her pleated skirt and button-down? Or Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday and not be moony-eyed over Rome?

I imagined my second trip to Europe to be the extraordinary dovetailing of the real and the cinematic or literary. Around this reservoir of images and stories, my trip to France and Italy began to take form.


Starting the day at Rue de Lille. My petit dejeuner of baguette, brie, mimolette, chevre and espresso.
My first stop was Paris. Because I wanted to breathe the same hallowed air that Simone de Beauvoir and Hemingway breathed, I booked a perch at St. Germain de Pres. My building had no lift so I had to drag my luggage three floors up. My reward was a view of Karl Lagerfeld’s bookstore just down the street. At 20 sqm., the flat was tiny but well-planned, with closets discretely tucked into the walls, and a sofa bed that can turn into a double bed at night. A modern Boffi fan provided sufficient ventilation, assisted by tall windows on warm nights. The kitchenette had two induction hobs, which I never used, a toaster, where I warmed slices of baguette for breakfast, a coffee pod machine for my espresso and a personal refrigerator for my stash of cheeses.

These bouquinistes are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and take up more than three kilometers of the Seine riverbank.
Our merry band of tower gazers. The path to the Eiffel Tower is well grooved but who can resist its charms, especially in good, well-fed company, and at night when it is all lit up. Even more special was catching the light show at the first 10 minutes of the hour, and seeing a million diamonds dancing all over the tower.
At The Louvre, one of the largest museums in the world. Being that, it is overwhelming for everyone, including me. I made the experience manageable with a cheat. I downloaded an audio guide by Rick Steves, which gave me an overview of the highlights, which, of course, included the Mona Lisa.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, one of the most majestic sight inside the Louvre.
My personal favorite sculpture was out on the streets, glistening under the midday sun—the gilded bronze figure of Jeanne d’Arc on horseback.
But the real worship took place here, at Angelina's, temple of molten chocolate pleasure. Shown here is Chocolat L’ Africain, considered by many to be the best hot chocolate in the world. As it was poured into my cup, everything came into focus. And as I drank the last drop, my satisfaction was complete.
Not even the best hot chocolate can make me skip a third cup of my favorite beverage. Un café crème, s’il vout plait? Here at Café de Flore, where one of the best people-watching can be had. The latter is, evidently, an acceptable pastime in Paris, where people are less inclined to sit across each other at a table than beside each other with unobstructed views of the sidewalk, the street, and the people passing by.
Up Next: Paris: The Scooter Ride
Related:  My AirBNB Picks in France and Italy
               How to Choose an AirBNB Rental

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