Once we had survived the heat wave and rejuvenated ourselves at the Château, it was finally time to ride into Paris and celebrate the end of our Tour. So Norman joyfully relinquished our car in Bordeaux and we boarded the TGV high-speed train bound for Gare Montparnasse. Riding in style and luxury, we arrived in the City of Light ready for the last circuit in just over two hours.
Each time we have gone to Paris, we have stayed somewhere in or near the famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement. Since World War II, it has been known as a cultural and intellectual hub frequented by many notable writers and artists such as Hemingway and Picasso who reputedly hung out at places like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. Being one of Paris’ wealthiest neighborhoods, we could never afford to live there, but it is always a treat to stay in the area for a few days because it’s so well-connected to everything you would want to see or do.
This time we chose the small, family-run boutique Hôtel Signature located on a quiet side street — oversized room by Parisian standards, inner courtyard view, air conditioning, elevator, breakfast, and champagne — all the requirements for a perfect finale. We knew this would be our last full-length Tour de France so we decided to go all out, but we wanted to do it a little differently.
We spent our time doing simple things most of which were within walking distance though we did take the metro once or twice. The best part was seeking out non-traditional French food every day. In the process, we discovered some great international cuisine. The first evening we went to Saigon d’Anton and enjoyed a delicious and very authentic Vietnamese dinner of Pho and Bun, two favorite dishes we have been missing since moving away from California. I also ordered a unique lemon sorbet served in a real lemon providing a refreshing ending to my meal.
Afterwards, we made our way to the Luxembourg Gardens for an evening stroll on the way back to our hotel.
On Day Two we found our way to the Lupicia Tea shop, a tea brand we’ve loved to drink for years. This Japanese company has just recently closed all but one of its US outlets (inconveniently located in Hawaii) so I was thrilled to pick up some more of their excellent teas.
Later, we crossed the Pont des Arts taking in one of the most iconic views of the city. You may have noticed that we updated the header photo on this site with the panorama Norman took from where I’m standing. The original version was taken in 2006. Interestingly, the view hasn’t changed much which I suppose is a good thing.
We continued on to explore the grounds of the Louvre and beyond…
…where there’s some cool architecture —
Then we stopped for a quick Sushi lunch.
For dinner, we chose Evi Evane (which translates as “Cheers!”), an upscale Greek restaurant run by two very talented sisters. We squeezed ourselves in to a perfect little table in this tiny place and what an absolutely fantastic experience it was — probably the best Greek food we’ve ever had. No surprise once we learned that sister Dina Nikolaou who is responsible for creating the menus (supervised in-house by sister Maria) is a highly-trained and well-recognized Greek chef.
Below left – Pikilia (Assortment of cold appetizers): Tarama, ktipiti, tzatziki, fava, mélitzanosalata, purée d’olive; Center – Dolmas; Right – Grilled Octopus
Wednesday, July 31st, was not only the last day of July but also the final day of our tour and, additionally, my birthday. Making every effort to fit in as much as possible, we began by revisiting the beautiful royal chapel, Sainte-Chapelle.
From there we walked through the Île de la Cité until we reached Paris’ most renown cathedral, Notre Dame. Since the fire in April, it has been well-barricaded making it difficult to appreciate as a tourist destination. However, due to its size you can still see quite a lot. It was interesting to observe its current condition and the progress rapidly being made on its restoration.
Returning to the hotel for an afternoon siesta, we popped in for lunch to another tiny establishment this time run by two brothers called Cook’n Saj specializing in Lebanese fare.
Of course, we had to check out the inviting array of sweets at the cleverly named Hugo and Victor Patisserie just around the corner from the hotel. What’s a birthday without cake?!
Finally, we took the metro directly to the Louvre for an evening visit. Last time we employed this strategy for a time with fewer visitors, it worked out really well but such was not the case on this night. It was crazy busy! We were only able to spend a couple of hours before we had to escape. We’ll be back another day.
After already having had champagne and cake, you would think the day would be over. But NO! It was still relatively early so we decided one more dinner at Evi Evane was in order. Fingers crossed with no reservations for such a small and extremely popular place, we set off on our conquest. As luck would have it, there was one table left for the evening and it was ours. Maria remembered us from the previous evening and we were rewarded with an even more spectacular meal.
To top it off, she surprised me with a birthday dessert, dimmed the lights, and led the entire restaurant in singing “Happy Birthday”… in English! Wow! I was not expecting that! We couldn’t have achieved a better finish.