Sunday, August 10, 2014

Friday: Notre Dame, Family, and Our Last Evening

I had a really, really cool experience in the Notre Dame Cathedral. Molly and Katie had decided that they had enough of looking at old churches and wanted to shop while I explored the thousand-year-old cathedral. While I was standing in line to get into Notre Dame, I noticed - using the Swarm app by the Foursquare folks - that my cousin, Matt, was about two blocks away from me.

A little history: Matt, and his dad, Tom, have been very, very close to my family while we were growing up. We saw them at every major holiday, and they were some of the few extended family folks that we saw just to see - real friends, as well as family. When I was going through my troubles, Tom (in particular) was really there for us: quietly, firmly, and consistently. They're just awesome people. I saw on Facebook that they were flying to Charles De Gaulle airport on Thursday morning, and we exchanged a few Facebook messages, finally trying to hook up on Friday afternoon. Good news? It actually worked!
Matt was there with his son, entering high school. Tom was there with Matt's daughter (his oldest grandchild), having spent a few days in Barcelona beforehand. So, I got to meet up with them in a bistro right outside of Notre Dame, have a glass of wine, and catch up a bit. They walked me to the restaurant where the tour group was eating our final dinner in Paris, took a picture or two with Molly and me, and went on their way. How incredible is that? The world is much, much smaller than we think.

Notre Dame, incidentally, is amazing. I took a picture or two, but you can find better shots of it online. The flying buttresses, the stained glass that is hundreds of years old, the sheer beauty, delicacy, and intricacy of the carvings all combine to blow away the senses. It's really awesome. I caught the end of mass (Shabbat services?) on my way around the temple.

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Dinner a Chez Clement was amazing. The creme brûlée dish served as dessert, in particular, was one of the greatest desserts I've ever eaten. It's a different texture in France than in the United States, which I enjoyed. The rest of the meal was a pork steak, rice, and a salad,  and those were good as well.

The only moderately disappointing thing about the final dinner was that we were not able to have the "end of trip celebration" we had planned. We wanted to do a silly song contest: Molly had rewritten the words to "Mister Sandman" to be "Monsieur Patrick," after our tour guide. Highlights included referencing his orange pants and rhyming "wallet" with "toilette." Others had planned a couple of silly little things, as well, and we would have given the tips to Patrick and the driver, JeJi. They sang the "Monsieur Patrick" thing on the bus ride back, though: Molly and Katie along with Donna and Jean from Sidekicks. Still, considering that that was the only disappointing thing on the day, we did pretty well.

A group of 19 people went to the Moulan Rouge show after dinner. They said that the show itself was marvelous: amazing dancing, great skills showing (juggling, ventriloquism), awesome costumes, and just cool stuff going on. The gentlemen agreed that the lack of tops on many of the costumes was a highlight. I wasn't there, so I can only report what I heard. The only down part was that the seats were far too close together for American rear ends and the price was extraordinary: around 100€ per ticket for the 9pm show, not counting drinks.

A further group went on to the Eiffel Tower to take a boat tour and to see the tower light up and sparkle. After around 10:30pm, the tower lights up, and every fifteen minute, the tower lights sparkle and twinkle like fireworks. It's really quite striking.

We went back to the hotel. A small group of us had several bottles of wine and cider that we didn't particularly feel like dragging back on the plane, so we decided to share them with friends. It was a pleasant bonding evening. Around 10:30, we walked down to the river (where I had gone jogging the previous morning) to see the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle. We took pictures making it look like Katie and Molly were holding the little tower in their hand, just because.

Wakeup call is 5:45am so we could get to the airport on time, so we finished packing and went to bed relatively early (11:00).

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