The pizza and wine we ate Saturday induced night comas and we slept until almost ten o’clock Sunday morning. Couple that with two hearty days of walking and we resigned ourselves to a relaxing day at Hotel Max before striking out in the evening for dinner at a restaurant called Chez Gladines followed by a journey through the underground back to all the relevant monuments for some nifty night photography. Lawrence told us Paris was more beautiful at night and I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of night photography: the world really does come alive at night so screw all you early risers. Our only real plan for the day was to act like locals and go for a picnic at Jardin du Luxembourg, which Lawrence said was a true Parisian park. We bought some Dreadnaught sized sandwiches at Dominique Saibron and headed for the Metro. Not really understanding what a “Parisian” park meant we strolled through some trees to a small theatre where a high school band played traditional American jazz and blues songs. A small crowd gathered for the show so we found a bench and listened to several numbers, impressed by their musicianship, despite some dodgy vocals.
We strolled past another beautiful fountain and pool, where children tended to wooden sailboats, each with a country’s flag on their sails, save one menacing black pirate ship amongst the lilliputian regatta. For those who may not have the time to visit Versailles, this park was a perfect substitute, with its own perfectly rectangular trees and stern “keep off the grass” warning signs. Don’t be fooled, park spies are everywhere, dressed as Parisians, pointing and swishing their finger towards children to stay on the gravel paths. There is no such thing as “natural” beauty in Paris parks and even in Belgium for that matter. Plants, shrubs and hedgerows are supposed to be square, rectangular or clipped to look like animals. Surely they must come to Canada and disparage our forests: chaotic, ugly, spastic.
After devouring our sandwiches (in Paris, sandwiches are truly an art form) the sky turned a deeper shade of grey, the wind swirled and goosebumps erupted on our arms. The one day we left the jackets in the hotel. Curses! We headed back and decided to prepare for our night out by drinking more wine on the balcony, reading and just being bums. I located Chez Gladines, a Basque restaurant that came highly recommended. It was supposed to offer huge amounts of food for a cheap price, which should really be Winnipeg’s tourist slogan:
“Winnipeg: Home of huge amounts of food at a cheap price.”
My friends recommended the “5 Diamond” salad, which I quickly located on the menu. I don’t think I’d ever seen a salad with so many ingredients, the most intriguing of which were chicken livers and gizzards. That sold it for me; one can never get enough gizzards in their diet. Just the name: gizzards, mmm, I want to eat gizzards. Julia was less enthusiastic and settled for the Basque chicken, which was served with tomato sauce over a bed of rice. Mine was an absolute feast: the entire barnyard from pork belly, goat cheese and even a fried egg plopped on top, as if it didn’t have quite enough cholesterol. Of course what salad would be complete without little baguette crusts and just so they could call it a salad, a mild sprinkling of lettuce. Three quarters in I had roiling meat sweats and heart palpitations. It seemed like most of what I was chewing were livers and gizzards. Apparently you can have too much gizzard in your diet.
After waddling out, we made for the Metro and the Pigalle district, famous for Moulin Rouge, sex shows, drunken men draped over park benches and wobbly dudes pissing on boulevards. Throw in some families with young children and Oxford styled preppies out for a gawk and you have a pretty interesting street scene, all basking in the buzz and glow of pornographic neon. Remember too, this was Sunday night, proving once again that sex never sleeps, but then again, it wouldn’t be sex if it did. Three minutes in you could feel the Call of the Wild; everyone was either predator or prey. Suddenly, a well dressed man approached us and asked if we were looking for anything specific.
“Oh, we’re just walking.” Julia said.
“Okay,” he replied, “but just so you know, I would highly recommend that sex shop across the street. It’s very popular and don’t worry, they have security.”
“Ah, yeah, thanks, but we’ll keep walking.”
Two blocks later we arrived at the famous Moulin Rouge, where I stopped to take a few pictures. Others hung out to watch bus loads of tourists, stellarly dressed and about to spend oodles of Euro inside. We could not have attended given we were now washing clothes in the bathroom sink with shampoo: tangle free shirts smelling of argan.
We walked up towards the Sacré-Cœur but were too tired to attempt the few hundred steps to the top, so back to the Metro we went, popping up at the Arc de Triomphe that was ablaze with white light and a few hundred tourists taking lip-puckering selfies. I set up the tripod, closed the aperture and took several long exposures to try and capture the ribbons of traffic lights spinning round the monument. It’s one of those obligatory photos for people who pretend to be photographers and have about five tricks up their sleeve, but hey, it’s better than puckering selfies, and besides, my pucker resembles a blowfish.
Back down we went like gophers in the Manitoba prairie, once again rising at the Trocadéro and a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower. The money shot. I set up the tripod again and as I was fiddling with my camera settings everyone started “ooing” and “awing” so I looked up and the tower was twinkling with thousands of sparkling lights.
“Wow, wow, wow!” I exclaimed, eagerly snapping pictures soon realizing it’s impossible to take pictures of blinking lights with still photography. It was awe inspiring. We could hear the roar of thousands of people on both sides of the Seine marvel at this ocular menagerie of twinkling lights, ethereal gold iron and revolving strobe beaming well into the hazy Parisian night. We had heard the Metro stopped running at 1:00 am, so by 12:20 we headed back to Hotel Max, where we told Lawrence of our adventurous evening.
“Ah, the perfect way to spend your last night in Paris!” he said enthusiastically. “You saw many wonderful things, but you left some as well. Now, you have to return.”
We thanked him again for being so helpful and we wished each other well, probably to never meet again. We had one more full day in Paris and no idea what to do.