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take two of a Velib bike ride along the Seine and Parisian fights over raclette

Day 67 - another Sunday bike ride along the Seine, Laduree, raclette sandwiches at the Christmas market


After our disastrous Sunday bike ride last week, I wake up this Sunday morning - lies - more like Sunday afternoon - and, inexplicably, I want to do it all again. Rob has to check several times that I haven't lost my mind. But no, I'm sure. I know what to do now and what to expect. 



Our bike ride from the Latin Quarter, along the River Seine, and through to the Place de la Concorde is brilliant. Calm, serene, happy, lined with slowly cascading autumn leaves. 


Even the teeth-rattling experience of biking on thick cobblestones or carrying bikes up the steps we cannot avoid along the river, is an experience rather than an ordeal. 


Some of the spots under the bridges smell thickly of urine and homeless person but again, we're biking along the River Seine and the Notre Dame is an immovable thing in our horizon.


With absolutely no one else on the path and miles of room, again, I crash slowly into a wall. It comes as a surprise. The wall just jumped out at me. 


We stash our Velib bikes back on a stand near the Place de la Concorde and cross this grand roundabout one last time.


The Christmas lights and decorations are out and on, even in the late afternoon sun. I'm surprised that the French consider tinsel as a legitimate Christmas decoration. The last winter when I was here, they'd strung up lights in the shape of grand chandeliers along the Rue St Honore. This year, the tinsel and golden horns stuffed with gold and silver balls feels like filling to make up for the lack of grand light schemes. 


I arrive at my destination - a Laduree. The windows have a tropical jungle theme and the seasonal macaroons are covered in gold leaf. Mais oui! There's gold foil cut outs of pineapples and the boxes are printed with patterns of thick jungle leaves. Laduree has gone native this Christmas. I freak out.


Inside, I'm indecisive about my macaroon flavours and my box choice but my lovely Laduree server is brisk and wants me to hurry up, in the nicest possible way. The seasonal flavours currently available are Chestnut and White Sesame. I choose the Arabesque Noir box out of haste and regret it almost immediately. It's black white with swirling purple patterns. Such a gross colour combination. And then I race through my 8 macaroon choices. All for around 18 euros. Which comes to about 2.30 euro per macaroon. To compare, the macaroons at Carl Marletti across the road from our apartment is 1.30 euro. I've seen them go for as low as 1 euro at reputable patisseries across the city. Rob asks whether French people actually eat macaroons from Laduree. That's a good question.


We're hungry from the bike ride and on the approach to the Champs Elysees, a Christmas market has been set up. It's packed but we're used to the Sunday Parisian crush by now. 


We even stand in line for a raclette and charcuterie sandwich with, what appears to be, the rest of Paris. Rob pops off to do what the others are doing in line, which is, eating hotdogs as an appetizer to the main course of raclette and drinking wine and champagne. I feel, more than ever, that I have a lot in common with the French culture. He's getting a beer and I want a hot chocolate. He comes back with a beer and a hot dog. He says apologetically, "I asked for a hot chocolate and he gave me this." Close enough. 


Rob gets into a mild and very Parisian spat over his right to retain his spot in line for raclette sandwich. A lady who owns the nearby hotdog stall wants to move one of her tables. It cuts right through our raclette line. Rob's not having any of it. He gets his way, she lets him through but the rest have to go, and then she screams, "EMMY!". Her three-legged rat of a dog is underneath a park bench eating leftovers. "EMMY!" she's screaming after the dog. Rob helps to lure little Emmy out. This is possibly the most French argument you can have. Rob is proud that he stood his ground, like a true Parisian. Polite, firm, not taking any shit. The raclette is worth it. I would stand in that line for hours. I can still smell the simmering cheese and the burnt bits curled around the bottom of the raclette grill. 


We wander up the the Arc de Triomphe for a close up. But not before Rob pops inside the BMW Gallery to gawk at cars. I'm slurping down a Coke Zero and am not allowed in, so have to sit on the pavement outside like an orphan.


The Arc de Triomphe is spectacularly okay. By now, we've seen a lot of triumphal arches in a variety of settings and this one is...okay. The line to get up the top of it for a view is long. I think the Arc de Triomphe is best view with the grand street of the Champs Elysees leading up to it. They're a natural, graceful pair. I realise how far I've come from the girl, almost nine years ago, whose first time it was in Paris. We were staying at a hotel near the grand magasins along the Boulevard Haussman and we walked to the Arc de Triomphe from there. The streets were quiet and I remember the well-dressed old ladies with their little dogs. I couldn't imagine anything more Parisian. Around the corner, the Arc de Triomphe jumped out at us, like a surprise, and I gasped. It seemed monumental to me then. Now, only the memory is monumental. 


We sit for a while before deciding that an aperitif back at our local, Cafe St Medard is the best thing for our last night in Paris. It's a cool Parisian thing, aperitif hour. A light, refreshing cocktail before dinner. 


Unglamorously, we head back to our attic and pack our suitcases. I'm surrounded by my Etam purchases and chomping through my Laduree macaroons like a pack of chips. I don't want to leave Paris. I never want to leave this dream city. But tomorrow morning, we must.  


au revoir paris and spinning like tops in london

ravioli/dumpling fever in Belleville