Wednesday, November 9, 2011

the city of light


"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
                                                                       --Ernest Hemingway

I happen to be lucky enough to live an hour away from Paris. Hemingway spent most of the 1920's living and writing in self-imposed expatriation in Paris, and he fell in love with the city and its vibrant, international culture. When he called Paris "a moveable feast", he gave a name to the unique sensation that only Paris can evoke. And I live close enough to experience that for myself.

a fountain in the Luxembourg gardens

It's hard to believe that I live closer to Paris than I lived to Chicago during college. A quick train ride from Evreux into the Gare St. Lazare and then the city is mine to explore and to love! And for the first time since moving here, that is exactly what I did today!

fall in Evreux

The other Americans and I in Evreux don't work on Wednesdays, so we decided that we would venture into  Paris for the day. We ended up having a fabulous day--absolutely perfect fall weather and the perfect amount of exploring/eating for the day! We took the train into Paris and arrived just in time for the clouds to disappear, revealing a gorgeous sun, and for lunch! Emma and I made a beeline for falafel. We walked across the city for some of the most delicious falafel sandwiches, at Chez Marianne. Taking advantage of blue skies and moderate temperatures, we ate outside and savored the Middle Eastern goodness! From there, we decided to wander until meeting up with Faustyna. We didn't have any specific route, so we headed for the Latin Quarter, and ended up finding Café Procope!

Café Procope!!!

As a student of French history, allow me to briefly explain the significance of this single most important café among all other cafés in Paris--and the world. Café Procope is considered the first café of Paris. It was opened by an Italian in 1686 as a restaurant men could come to and drink coffee, a new and intriguing import from the New World. So many important figures in literature and history have frequented this café--including Balzac, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Some of the most famous novels and documents have been written or discussed here--including the American Constitution! Needless to say, when we stumbled upon the café on a random side street, I was just short of speechless. If you can't tell from this picture, I was beside myself with excitement! In all my time in Paris, I had never seen this incredible establishment. But now that I know where to find it, I'll be back soon to enjoy a hot chocolate and dessert!

Continuing on our journey, Emma and I made our way to the Luxembourg gardens to meet up with Faustyna. We made a pit stop at Starbucks--my first time in a foreign country--to pick up some taste of home. I normally do not approve of Starbucks runs when in Europe, but after two months without its convenience and familiarity, I made an exception for myself. With all of the cultural adjustments I've had to make in the past 2 months, it's incredibly comforting to have even such a small reminder of home. And so with hot chocolate and coffee conveniently in hand, we chatted and people-watched in the beautiful weather surrounded by falling leaves and huge flower pots of mums.

christmas cups--just like home!
a flower tent in front of the Odéon, a national French theatre

From the Luxembourg gardens, we decided to walk some more! We ended up near the Louvre, and continued to walk along the Seine towards the Tuileries gardens. The sun was beginning to set, and the river was the perfect backdrop. It was so beautiful!

the Seine at sunset

We finally decided to make our way to the train station to head home--with one last pit stop for chocolate! We made a slight detour to find Fouquet, a chocolatier opened in 1852. I treated myself to a delicious dark chocolate ganache "bouchée". So good! And the perfect ending to a wonderful day in Paris. Our train ride back to Evreux was sleepy yet I was so content! There is really no place like Paris! And I'll be back on Saturday :)

pax christi.

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