I was sad to wake up and realise it would be my last day at La Villa. It has really been a wonderful place to stay, very comfortable, very chic, very friendly. Had another gargantuan breakfast, which included a bowl ful of little pastry puffs. Marie excitedly told me they were called ‘chouqlettes’, basically little balls of puff pastry with sugar on top (I got the feeling they were one of her favourite things). Sooo goood.
I was still pretty exhausted from the previous day’s walking, so decided to take it easy and just mooch around until checkout. But then Marie came up to tell me she was going out and I could stay as long as I liked, even leave my bags there, because no one was going to be in the room that evening. She handed me a bag of chouqlettes as a farewell.
I wandered down the Rue Bobillot for the last time to Place d’Italie to wait for Emma. I sat in the sun and ate my chouqlettes and watched people coming and going. It was quite interesting, really. There were lots of students milling around, people waiting for other people, lots of smiles and laughter and cigarettes and…just life. As I’ve said before, I think that’s why I liked staying in this area, because it feels alive, rather than just glutted with tourists, people consuming everything on their way to somewhere else.
And then…there was Emma, with a huge hug and a huge smile! It was like we had seen each other yesterday. ‘It’s so weird, isn’t it?’ she said. ‘It’s just like we’ve met up for coffee in Sydney and yet…we’re on the other side of the world!’ So after our enthusiastic greeting, we set off for Montmartre and its many, many stairs.
Emma had a couple of walking tour guide things, so we vaguely followed them (but of course got distracted and ended up just doing our own thing). Montmartre is a gorgeous little place, full of life and character. It was a perfect spring day to go up there.
The first place we happened across was Au Marche de la Butte, which was used as Collignon the grocer’s shop in Amelie.
The streets are narrow and cobbled, and everything just looks…French. Quintessentially Parisian, just like it’s leapt off the page or the screen and into real life. Which is silly, really, of course, because it’s the real thing. I kept just looking around and sighing with contentment.
We wandered up through the streets to the large square where all the artists hang around. Of course it’s all aimed at the tourist trade, there were very few paintings that weren’t Parisian scenes or cariacatures done while you waited. But even so, people were so friendly and some of the paintings were very beautiful. The thing that was great was seeing the artists standing there painting or drawing as they whiled away the time.
We were pretty famished by that stage, so found a little piano bar called La Petauderie and we had soupe a l’oignon, margherita pizza and tarte aux pommes. Emma started to laugh, and she leaned in and said ‘There are waiters just hovering behind you.’ We got a fellow patron to take a photo of us sitting together and then suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I said, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Marc. Et vous?’ ‘Rebecca.’ ‘Rebecca…enchante.’ I had to try not to giggle. I was pretty sure he was after a tip, but we didn’t leave one. Though when we stood up to go, I turned and he was holding my jacket. He helped me into it, gave me a meaningful smile and bid me farewell. When we got out onto the street, Emma and I burst into gales of laughter.
We went back to the artists and I bought a little painting from an old man, who we were pretty sure was drunk off his nut. But his stuff was interesting, a little less conventional than all the others. I’ll have to take a photo of it at some point and post it up here.
Then we walked up to Sacre Coeur and the magnificent view over the top of Paris.
It was such a great atmosphere up there; touristy, but in a good way. The sun was shining, everyone was happy, there was a really good busker, and it was just one of those delicious moments that you want to hold in your hand forever.
I bought some raspberries from a grocer as we neared the bottom of the hill. They were the sweetest yet tangiest, most delectable raspberries I’ve ever had. They were from Spain, and Emma tells me most of the fruit and veg comes from there. Not sure why.
I was really flagging by this stage, so we headed back to the 13th to pick up my bags and grab a coffee. But then I remembered the note I had scrawled in my Moleskine after reading about a certain tea shop on the Paris Daily Photo blog, that was in my area. So we trundled along through the Butte aux Cailles area until we found the delightful L’Oisive The.
I have to say, I hadn’t realised how much I was missing tea until I had some! I’ve been drinking so much coffee. But we sat at a round table in the cute little salon, which has a very warm, inviting feel. I chose a green tea with pink grapefruit and orange. Emma had a spicy rooibos.
I wasn’t sure who the owner was, but when Emma was asking about the tea and I heard the American accent, I realised Aimee was the one behind the counter. She was excited to hear that we were visiting because of the PDP post, and she took our photo and grabbed my blog details (hi, Aimee!).
It was such a perfect end to our busy walking day, just relaxing in such a lovely place and drinking such wonderful tea. It would be the perfect place to sit in and write, if only my writing compatriots were with me! If I’d been staying in the area longer, I think it would have been a daily stop. So if you ever happen to be in Paris and anywhere near the 13th arrondissment, go and check it out. Aimee will make you feel very welcome indeed.
The train trip back to Fontainebleau was uneventful. I was really too tired to take it in and was so grateful that Emma was there to shepherd me around. I briefly registered that we were in the huge Gare de Lyon, as we had to change to the SNCF regional train out of Paris. I bought a ticket and had been practising my schoolbook French in my head, and of course as soon as I got to the ticket window I completely forgot how to ask for anything. Stammered out, ‘Je voudrais acheter un billet a…er where are we going? Oh Fontainebleau s’il vous plait…’ and thankfully we managed to get where we needed to go without too much fuss.
We picked Stuart up from INSEAD, where he is studying for his MBA (and where I am writing this now), headed back to their funny little flat outside of the town of Fontainebleau. I was plied with yummy kir, Emma made the most delicious risotto for dinner, we chatted and laughed and then suddenly someone flicked my switch and I just had to go to bed.