Our museum passes having expired, we decided Day Seven in Paris should be dedicated to something really memorable – like shopping. There are a few great shopping streets in the world including Fifth Avenue, New York and Oxford and Regent Streets in London. But let’s face it. No place (that I’ve ever visited) compares to the Champs-Élysées.
The world’s biggest designers invest millions of Euros into their headline stores along this street to cater to the rich and tempt the tourist with their latest seasonal fashions.
On this day, the sun was shining brightly. Impossibly beautiful, stylish people walked the wide, tree-lined avenue. Grainne, Garrett, Finn and I strolled alongside, window shopping and people watching in equal parts. (Pierce stayed behind to clean his dorm room as he was moving out). Because I clearly did not fit in with this fashionable crowd, I did the only thing that this middle-aged, unfashionable man could do. I put on my earphones, and turned on the song Les Champs-Élysées by Joe Dassin.
If you’re not familiar with the song, the chorus goes: Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées (There’s everything you want at the Champs-Élysées.)
We made a few small purchases at some of the world’s best known retailers (H&M, Marks & Spencer), thrilled with fact that we could at least claim to have gone on a shopping excursion on France’s famed street. We left the Champs-Élysées, and meandered through the maze of Paris streets until we reached the Hotel Bristol. It’s where Joelle, our English friend who we had dinner with the previous night, works. Although she was out of town today, she had invited us to visit.
If I felt out of place walking down a sidewalk, then I was almost alien-like among the staff and clientele of the Bristol. Uniformed doormen in top hats greeted us as we approached, and helped push the revolving door to ease our way into this five-star establishment.
An incredibly polite and friendly young man wearing a tuxedo and thick round glasses called the general manager to announce our arrival. One of two resident cats lounged on a countertop around the corner. Visitors with luggage costing more than my living room furniture checked in around us.
The general manager popped down to say hello and told us to make ourselves at home. Although her welcome was genuine, it did not include a suite… So we continued on our walk to a more affordable part of town where we found a café and recharged with espresso and hot chocolate.
We met up with Pierce at a Paris institution – Harry’s New York Bar. Hemingway and Coco Chanel are among the more famous customers of watering hole, whose walls are adorned with college pedants (including one from my University of South Carolina). This is where the Bloody Mary and Sidecar were invented. The cocktails are expensive and strong and the atmosphere was friendly and unhurried.
Pierce had invited along a couple from Charleston, S.C. who were spending two years in Paris. We hit it off immediately, chatting about sports, politics and the beauty that is Charleston. After spending most of the day feeling out of my element, I found myself surrounded by the familiar – family and new friends, college banners and delicious libations.
Our final dinner in Paris was in a restaurant near our apartment. Garrett insisted that we order the escargots as an appetizer, which was an excellent idea. I’ve had snails before, but it had been years. For those turned off by the thought, trust me when I say that if you like butter and garlic, you’ll like escargot.
We dined on curried pork, steak, quiche and vegetables and finished the meal with dishes of Berthillon ice cream. You should not miss out on Berthillon during your visit. It is the king of ice cream. Of course, there are the standard flavors – chocolate, vanilla and caramel – but Berthillon takes whatever fruit is in season and produces new flavors accordingly.
Stomachs filled, taste buds satisfied, feet tired and heads filled with memories, we head back to the apartment to pack up and start saying goodbye to Paris.