The idea for our trip to France began almost a year ago, when Rob asked me what I wanted for my 60th birthday. Half jokingly, I said I wanted to go to Paris for Christmas.
I forgot about it when we made plans last fall to visit London and Ireland for three weeks. We had an amazing time, and I will post more pieces in coming weeks about that trip. But it was while we were in Ireland that Rob suggested we do the Paris trip at Christmas after all.
We talked about it off and on, but then Rob sold his office building in Pasadena and decided to move to Santa Barbara full time at the end of December. “Let’s go for Valentine’s Day instead,” he said.
That sounded good to me. But we didn’t anticipate the complexities of moving not only his office but his construction workshop with all his tools, and his belongings and furniture from his apartment in Old Town. It took most of December and all of January to do it. We were still awash in boxes when the Paris trip loomed on Feb. 10. Also, while going to France in February seemed like a good idea tourist-wise (no crowds), the weather was iffy. More than one person said to us, “You’re going to Paris in February? Are you crazy?”
We packed raincoats and warm clothes and waterproof boots, and off we went.
While the trip was overshadowed by my sister’s sudden death, we had fairly good weather throughout. Paris was sunny for the most part, although chilly. The one exception was the day we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower, when it was about 35 degrees and raining sleet. We climbed up to the second level and spent the rest of the time in the restaurant sipping wine and gazing out on the freezing crowds standing in line below.
The next day bloomed sunny and a relatively warm 52 degrees. We strolled along the Champs Elysees and window shopped as we took in the Grand Palais and the Arc de Triomphe. Along the way we stopped for chocolat chaud (more on that in a minute) and met an older couple from London. He was Syrian, a businessman who had lived in London for many years and who had gone to school in Paris during the 1950s. They were visiting for the Valentine’s Day weekend.
He was talkative and friendly and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to politics—Donald Trump specifically (ugh!)—and President Obama, whom he said had been very weak on foreign affairs, especially with regard to the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis. It was an interesting and different perspective, at least for me. Rob and I have diametrically opposed political views (makes for some very interesting discussions at our house), and on that point I think Rob agreed with our newfound friend.
Now, as to chocolat chaud (hot chocolate): my poet friend and AROHO sister Lisa Rizzo is no stranger to Paris, and she had given me lots of suggestions of things to see and places to visit. One of those was a link to an article about which places had the best chocolat chaud in Paris. Over five days, we tried three different places (not all of them were on the list Lisa sent). But here’s what I discovered: It is beyond delicious. They serve it to you in two little pitchers, one with the thickest, creamiest, richest hot chocolate you can imagine, and one containing warm, delectable cream. You mix the two to your own liking, and if you’re really a lush for sweetness, you can add sugar. I fell in love. If you’re adventurous, you can add different flavorings as well. But I liked mine straight. There’s hardly any way you can improve upon good chocolate, I think. I can’t wait to try to re-create it at home.
Rob has been to Paris several times, but this was my first trip, just as going to London and Ireland last fall was my first time in Europe. I have always wanted to travel, and had been to parts of Canada and Mexico, and I got to spend a month in Costa Rica several years ago. But other than that, I am a neophyte.
After five days in Paris, we took the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, “high-speed train”) to Ax-en-Provence in the south, then rented a car and headed for the Riviera.
(Next, the tiny coastal town of Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat…)