September 4th, 2013 – Sunny
WEDNESDAY MARKET, PANTHEON, LUXEMBOURG GARDENS
For the second time this week a large market was underway underneath the elevated railroad on Boulevard de Grenelle and we were determined to participate this time around (the market was right outside our apartment). This busy market sold everything from fresh produce, seafood, cheese, all the way to baby clothing; and judged by the market population it was evident that many locals gathered their ingredients from these markets. We happily browsed through all the stands and we ended up acquiring both our brunches and some souvenirs. (French melons = looks like cantaloupe but sweeter = heaven; don’t buy baked goods from markets because they are likely not as fresh as store baked croissants).
To top off our breakfasts/lunches we took the metro all the way to “Cité” station so we could enjoy the “best ice cream in Paris” on Ile Saint-Louis at a shop called Berthillon (and to make good on my promise). Once that sugary goodness touched our lips it made the 10 minute trek through the scorching heat worth it. (Aside: a particularly disturbing scene occurred at the metro station where one “bum-looking” racist man screamed and spat at an oriental lady, then jumped the ticket turnstile… my fists were clenched and I was ready to lay a beat down if he made a move towards my wife and I… luckily for him he didn’t)
We got off the tranquil residential island, crossed the river, and navigated through to the lively Latin Quarter. Latin Quarter was a youthful neighborhood being situated in proximity to academic institutions. The hike uphill to Pantheon was particularly unpleasant because it felt like I was being slowly roasted by the midday sun… alas… 1 bottle of warm water later we arrived at our intended destination. However, we ducked into yet another church called Saint-Etienne-du-Mont which was directly adjacent to Pantheon because: 1) it was close, 2) it was shaded. This church was extremely well maintained and quiet, but also quite typical in terms of its external/internal appearence.
Across the street the Pantheon stood alone in the middle of the square. We knew very little about this landmark but from its exterior it seemed like some sort of state or government building. The lobby/main foyer of Pantheon was decorated tastefully with impressive stone/marble columns and wide-open floor spaces (even during renovations). However, the true purpose of this building turned out to be hidden from the foyer… Pantheon functioned as a secular mausoleum for distinguished French citizens such as Victor Hugo and Pierre/Marie Curie! (amongst numerous names unfamiliar to my wife and I).
A 10-15 minute walk away was the famous Luxembourg Gardens. On our way to our next destination we had little choice but to retreat into a familiar but air-conditioned restaurant called McDonald’s due to the overwhelming heat. (Yes we went to McDonald’s in Paris the culinary paradise). We then proceeded to the Luxembourg Gardens which was only a few steps away.
In my opinion the Luxembourg Gardens was more like a park rather than a garden… granted there were a few well maintained flowerbeds but the majority of the space was dedicated as “leisure space”. With much difficulty we finally found an empty park bench and quickly realized that those park benches were empty for a reason. About 10 meters away congregated a large group of ethnic individuals (~50 people?) whom were obviously from a less fortunate social-economic background (most of them didn’t have shoes nor proper clothing… I thought French had robust social programs?). We later vacated that park bench because they were so obnoxiously loud…
We concluded our day back at Montmartre (where we began our Paris journey) because we were too jetlagged to enjoy this artsy district on our first day. We visited a small church close to the metro exit as well as the “I Love You” wall (le mur des je t’aime) which unfortunately were both disappointing. However, Montmartre offered an entire street full of shops where we were able to purchase some cheap souvenirs. On the metro back to our apartment we stopped at a couple interesting stations for some photo ops (see picture of the Concorde station on the left). We hit the local bar 1 block from our apartment for some happy hour booze amidst locals to conclude our fantastic week in Paris… and who knew even random pubs would serve such good chicken gizzard + foie gras salads?!