I can’t believe that every place we go is as exciting as the last! I skyped Miguel and Pablo today and tried to describe Paris, but it was impossible.

First Impressions

The city changes, depending on where you are and even what time it is. We’ve tried to hit all the big attractions, but I like exploring Paris neighborhoods, that is the different “arrondissments” best. If I had to rank them, I’d give first place to Saint-Germain-des-Pres, followed by Lisa’s favorite, The Marais, and, finally, Montmartre. Each has its own special flavor that makes it unique.

St. Germain

My top choice is St. Germain. Why? First of all, we had our chocolate and pastry tour here! It was just us and a family of four from Phoenix, and we got to taste all kinds of chocolates, macaroons, and croissants. By the end we were all stuffed but we didn’t care.

St. Germain also matches the Paris of my imagination. In my fantasy, Miguel and Pablo join me and we all becoome magically fluent in French. We don’t have to work, so I email my resignation letter to Bruce with no notice and his ballistic rant goes on youtube and gets over a million hits. Then we spend our time going to ourtrageously expensive art galleries and criticizing the paintings, eating, and drinking at the cafes where all the famous writers ate, picnicking in the Luxembourg gardens and attending Mass in the medieval church.

Of course, to make it all complete, Kelly’s family joins us and Donna and Lisa find rich and handsome French husbands. Then we live near each other and take our little French poodles with us everywhere. That’s my fantasy.

The reality isn’t quite that but it’s still really, really, good. After the chocolate and pastry tour, we looked at art in a few galleries, but realized pretty quickly that we were way out of our league price-wise (plus we didn’t really like the art), so headed to the Luxembourg Gardens, the next on our “must see” list.

Must-See: Luxembourg Gardens

Before our trip we decided we wanted to see as many parks and gardens as possible because we all love spending time outside in our backyards as much as shopping.  In fact, that’s the reason we met. All of us have made our backyard (or balcony in Lisa’s case) a serene personal retreat and we wanted to make our hometown beautiful too. That’s why we all volunteered for the beautification project.

Looking at the Luxembourg Gardens, it’s hard to believe that so much land was originally just for the French aristocrats but that’s how it was back then. No wonder the people revolted and cut off their heads! Unlike in the U.S. there are chairs that you can move, so we set four up under a tree with a few extra for our table and felt like total Parisians, watching the kids sail their boats and the old men play chess.

I know I dozed for a while and when I woke up, Lisa was meditating on the grass while Kelly and Donna were still napping. The night before had been a late one; thanks to TripAdvisor.com we went to Le Caveau de la Huchette, a jazz/dance club in the Latin quarter. The three of us old ladies just listened to the jazz but Lisa got out on the floor and shook her booty — that girl can move. She turned quite a few heads including one guy who looked a little like David Beckham! In the end she came back to the hotel with us but if I had been in her shoes – single and looking—I would have seriously considered all my options.

The Marais

Lisa’s favorite neighborhood is in the Marais in the 3rd and 4th arrondissments. It’s definitely the hippest section with ultra- trendy clothing, which I can’t fit into anymore, but I can appreciate anyway. With Lisa’s help I picked up something for my daughter, Gabriela, that I think she’ll like. If not, she can give it to her roommate who will probably love it. The Marais has a lot of specialty yarn shops and Lisa found an amazing burgundy decorative pillow, so she took out the stuffing and voila! It fits right in her suitcase.

The Marais was also the old Jewish quarter and still has a sizable Jewish population, so Kelly bought a challah knife with a raised, braided challah handle. Now she needs something Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim to add to her collection! After shopping we stopped by a bakery and tried hamentashen, a triangle-shaped pastry with fruit inside. Yum! We shared three (weren’t we good!) the poppy-seed, date and apricot, with four café au laits, a perfect midmorning snack on our last day.  I can tell by looking that this area must pop at night and it would be the spot Gabriela and her friends would want to be even though I would prefer to look at the art at the Pompidou Center.

Montmartre

My last favorite neighborhood is Montmartre. I know it’s a tourist trap now, but it’s still so beautiful that I can see why all the famous painters worked there. We had our picture taken by an old wind mill and walked up winding stone streets that made it seem like we were back in time if you blocked out the cars. Of course we all went into Sacre Coeur, where I lit a candle in memory of my mother, who originally gave me the travel bug by pointing to all the places on the map she wanted to go. I wish she could be with me now as I travel all around the world. She would love this.

Next: Donna at Istanbul’s Palace and the Grand Bazaar