Today was our last day in Paris, and we really enjoyed it. I was thinking all day about why today feels different for me than the other days of the trip, and I've identified a few reasons:
• We have seen all the big things on our list that we wanted to do here, so there's no feeling of pressure to figure out the schedule, remember to do something, find a place to buy something, etc. We left the last day completely empty and just enjoyed being in Paris.
• We are feeling settled in at our little hotel and our local Cafe (Cafe Source at the Rue Maubourg metro stop). It's nice to know where to go for coffee, have a place to meet if one of us is ready before the other, and have a place for an easy meal nearby. Our first two meals in Paris were pretty bad - they were at random cafes near wherever we were. This cafe is mostly locals and the food is delicious. It's also about 3 minutes from our hotel and next to a metro stop.
• We had seen enough areas of the city that we knew what we wanted to go back to.
• We've been here long enough that we know how to function. I've picked up or remembered enough French to get by in basic situations, we know what kinds of restaurants we want to eat at, we know some neighborhoods a little bit, we have a basic sense of where things are in the city, we know how to order tap water instead of paying $4 per bottle for mineral water, etc.
We decided to spend most of the day in Le Marais neighborhood. We started off at a cafe at the top of the Marais for coffee, croissant and a piece of baguette with butter. The croissant was delicious but then I noticed that they were pulling out boxes of frozen croissants to put in the oven. Maybe all the cafes have frozen croissants? It was delicious anyway.
Then we wandered through the Marais, visiting some little shops. Much of the upper part of the Marais is wholesale stores... for a while we were on a long street where every single store was a wholesale jewelry store. One had a sign that said €500 minimum sale required.
After a while we reached the Jewish Museum, which had been on Rachel's list of things she wanted to see. It was raining a bit and we were happy to be in a dry place for a while. The museum was very interesting and well done - the free audio guide was especially helpful. Here's what I learned there today: there were tons of Jews in France until the middle ages, when due to persecution they dispersed elsewhere in Europe, many of them to Spain. One month after the French Revolution in 1789, the National Assembly voted to end official discrimination and welcome Jews back to France. They started returning and Napoleon even arranged the system of neighborhood synagogues and head rabbis (kind of like a parish system, it seems). Jews came back in droves and thrived in France until WWII.
We were in the Jewish neighborhood, and enjoyed visiting some of the Jewish shops, bakeries and kosher grocery stores.
I was then thrilled to find one of my favorite shops: Muji. This is a Japanese department store that we discovered in New York, and I bought a couple little things there last year that I still love. We spent a ton of time in their two stores (clothes and home/office/travel) and both bought a bunch of stuff.
At some point we returned to l'As du Fallafel, the falafel place we ate at a few days ago. We got a few items to share and everything was delicious.
After lunch we walked a little more (in the rain) stopped in a cafe for a while, and eventually found a place to buy an umbrella at a street news stand. It was rolled up and looked kind of flowery - I thought it was a Monet or just floral umbrella. After we paid for it, threw away the wrapper and opened it in the rain, we discovered it was covered with large puppies! We both laughed and I felt silly carrying a puppy dog umbrella around Paris.
After a while, we (Rachel) were tired of walking in the rain, so instead of going back to our hotel, we went to the nearby BHV department store (Bazar de Hotel de Ville). We had been on the basement level, which featured hardware and craft supplies, a few days before, and we were happy to have a chance to explore some of the other floors. I really enjoyed the office supply section, where I picked up a few Clairfontaine notebooks for my next few travel programs, and Rachel liked the greeting card section, where she found some $15 cards with Swarovski crystals.
After BHV, we were really tired of exploring in the rain, so we headed back to the hotel to rest. This was actually a great idea since we had been walking on and off for about 8 hours. We rested, showered, packed a little, and then went to "our" cafe for dinner.
Some cafes are mostly places for coffee or drinks, with very light food (sandwiches, cheese, etc.). Our local cafe is a little more of a restaurant and has steak, daily specials, etc. We both got penne with bolognese meat sauce (and I got a Belgian white beer), which was delicious. Rachel said it was the best bolognese she'd had since we were in Italy.
Afterwards we came back to pack and get ready for our flight home tomorrow. Our taxi will be picking us up at 9:15 AM.
A few random photos from today: