Where better than to end our trip to Paris together than at la Bucherie, one of Francois’ three Paris restaurants. Arriving bright and early (just after noon) we tucked in and were subjected to some of the best rapport-building I’ve ever witnessed. There’s going to be much more on Francois’ serving style, but in the meantime, the food, and our final push.
I had my covid test so I arrived fifteen minutes later. It was a fairly painless process. A form accessed by QR code, a 20€ fee, and a 15minute wait for results. The gentleman who scoured my brains for answers was polite and friendly. We talked about my heritage (Irish, but American) his wristwatch (present from grandfather), and all the language bouncing around Paris.
I headed straight to La Buch without waiting, all I wanted was food. I was excited for Portugal and Spain, so my head was pretty far in the clouds. Erickson and I split off from the group after breakfast and a quick tour through some shopping along Rue de Rivoli and we were in the tubes again, on my favorite line, with the spaceship windows at either end.
Looking up and down the train was a head trip. You could see the turns coming first as the fifteenth car from you turns, then the fourteenth, then the thirteenth, and when it finally hits you you bend and sway and watch the whip travel the rest of the length of the train. The metro is so well organized that we never waited more than three minutes for a train, and I have to say, very clean stations and trains.
We punched aboveground just to take the tunnel underneath the Charles De Gaulle Etoile and pay our entrance fee to climb the Arc de Triomphe (12€). A tight winding staircase brought us abreast of the behemoth, and huffing and puffing we took in a very different view than from the Eiffel Tower, the view from 50m versus 114m, but to be atop the monument at its highest point and look around carried a significance that was lost at the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
We found the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the Notre Dame, and the Champs-Elysees. We posed by the Eiffel Tower and wondered at the space-age skyscrapers on the edge of town. It was a fun atmosphere at the top even though it was cold and blustery. Pictures taken between the gawkers and sturdy iron bars let us peer down into the twisty turning turmoil that is the traffic circle surrounding Napoleon’s Arc.
We took in the city for the last time together. Gratefully unconcerned with its finality, our descent was swift and giggly as we celebrated the joy of not having to walk up all these stairs that we were flying down. We passed two heavily armed French soldiers at the base of the arch and thanks to a Gift from God akin to the parting of the Red Sea, we saw a gap in the twelve-lane traffic circle of doom and sprinted for the far side.
Half expecting some traffic horn or even a shout of admonishment from somebody in charge, our chucking intensified when we arrived safe and sound on the far shores. We scooted around the Champs-Elysees, and unsuccessfully to the Catacombs, before heading back to reconnect with the group for our final meal together at Le Petit Pont, right next to our favorite La Bucherie and across half the Seine from Notre-Dame.
The atmosphere was smoky and bustling, half from the sparklers they stick in every cocktail and half from the smoker-friendly environment. They also ignited rosemary on all the steaks that they smothered as they cut at your table for you. We went all the way in. Steaks, one huge one for me to share with Erickson, and another for Mariana and Gina to share, fish and chips, toast with foie gras, and two bottles of wine, one from the same region as our massive steak.
Our night closed at the Irish Pub, the Highlander, which thanks to their precautions was allowed to stay open and serve. We ran into the Bengals-Titans game, and I was so far out of the loop that I had forgotten entirely about American football. I loved getting to meet the folks in the bar while we waited for drinks. In half a dozen folks I met two Spaniards and four French friends and shared smiles and jokes before we started drinking.
Our toasts were simple, our joy was tangible, and the first round of shots turned into three or four in just a few short minutes. It might have been equal parts vacation and full bellies and anticipation of our next adventures, but I was happy, excited to be with my friends, and couldn’t wait to get to Portugal!