Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Return to Tours

Passing three-armed giant windmills amid fields of spring gold in the French countryside. The low-hanging white clouds dot the blue horizon. The sea of yellow is radiant, and reminds me of a long-forgotten ride from Varanasi to Delhi.

The return to Tours began first with a return to Paris. I flew out in the evening on Iceland Air via Reykjavik to Paris. The stopover in the Icelandic capital reminded my why I am keen to visit the isle of ice. The terrain always looks so otherworldly—in its mix of black soil covered with green-orange moss.

I arrived without incident to Paris Orly and caught the RER train from the station to Invalides, and then the metro on to Le Marais to meet my mother at our AirBNB apartment. She had arrived earlier that morning on a flight via Chicago. It was a rainy afternoon, and we hung out before grabbing some delicious french onion soup and a caprese salad at a nearby cafe.

A bit of jet-legged sleep, and the next morning we feasted for breakfast on some wonderful comte cheese that we had bought the night prior at a local fromagerie. We ate the rich comte on a 7-grain baguette from a nearby boulangerie.

We made our way to the top of Montmartre to enjoy the view across the city. I managed to get out of a hustle by speaking a few words of Wolof to some Senegalese touts trying some bracelet scam. They laughed that I knew a couple key phrases and left us alone. We wandered through the meringue Sacre Coeur, and down Rue Lepic—stopping for coffee at the Amelie restaurant.

We headed over to the area Monceau—the home of the Jewish nouveau riche from a century ago. My mother had read a book about the area and the families that inhabited it. We visted the Musee de Nissim Camondo, which hosted the decorative art collection of the Camondo family. The Camondo family was a wealthy Jewish banking family who had emigrated from Constantinople in the mid-19th century. Moise Camondo was a prolific art collector, and with the death of his son Nissim in the Great War, he willed his extensive collection and palatial mansion to the French state to become a museum. The museum and collection was excellent, and a sombre story as the family perished in Auschwitz.

From here, we headed down to the center of town to take a ride on the Seine on the bateux mouche—the boats that tour the vein of Paris. Neither of us had ever done this tour, and it was a wonderful little tour that offered a different view of Paris.

After the ride, we headed back to the Marais and had a similar dinner of French Onion soup, gnocchi in blue cheese sauce and a warm lentil salad with duck breast.

Saturday consisted of a similar breakfast of rich comte cheese and crusty grain bread. We made our way over to the Jardin de Tuileries to visit the Musee d'l Orangerie to see Monet's waterlilies. These waterlilies were enormous panels that wrapped around the austere grey room. These were some of Monet's finest works, with enormous panels of the lakes in his gardens reflecting the clouds, trees and waterlillies. The rest of the collection of the museum was great too, but this was spectacular.

The rains came back in the afternoon, and after a delicious late lunch of grilled paninis, we headed over to southern Paris to visit the ugly Tour Montparnasse. While the skyscrapper is ugly, the view across Paris is spectacular. Neither of us had visited the tower before, and it was quite a vista.

That has been the trick of the trip—finding different views of Paris that neither my mother nor I have seen prior. We have both been to Paris many times, but between the bateux mouche and Tour Montparnasse, I found a few new experiences, as well as the Musee d'l Orangerie, which she had not visited.

We ended the night in Boulevard Saint Michele in the Quartier Latin. My mom surprised me with her desire for a kabob, so how could I refuse. We wandered our way back across the city, stopping for some immaculate gelato at Amorini—a place I had not visited, but will visit again.

We got ourselves out this morning with the usual Parisian breakfast. We handed back over the apartment key and hopped the metro to Gare Montparnasse. From there, we caught the fast yet smooth TGV train to Tours. The French bullet train sped out of the capital and through endless fields of yellow.

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