Sometimes not knowing where you are going leads you to the best of destinations. Last Tuesday the bulk of our tour group went to Versailles, leaving my group and two others, who did not sign up for that excursion, free for the afternoon. Out of the seven of us, I was the only one with an idea of what we should do, and even that was nebulous at best. The St. Germain des Pres neighborhood with its history of artists and writers (think Monet, Renoir, Sartre, Camus, Stein, Hemingway, etc.) called out to me, and as the newly-appointed tour guide by default, I led my group to that area. The metro dropped us off at the St. Germain church, and once there I had no idea where to go, so we began walking. Our walk took us through charming neighborhoods and the Rue de Fleurus, the street that Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas lived. While I wanted to walk down it and explore, my group’s tummies were rumbling louder than their questions of “Who are those people?”. Moving along looking for a cafe, I explained Stein’s influence on writers and artists in the 20s and how she was instrumental in getting people to accept their new forms of art and literature. They listened politely.
I began to sweat as I really did not know what we were going to do. The thought of being compared to our inept tour director, who we were lucky enough to escape, haunted me. Then a thing of beauty appeared, the Jardin du Luxembourg. The tranquil setting, the flowers, the Senat building called out to me and allowed me to formulate a plan: lunch at a cafe and an afternoon spent wandering around the gardens. The group agreed to it, specifically the cafe/food/water/sitting down/free toilette portion. We read the menus of a few different cafes before deciding on La Terrasse du Laurier which offered a “formule” lunch that provided a fixed rate for either a starter and entree or entree and dessert (guess which most of us chose).
During lunch, we reveled in the fact that we were in an area with no crowds and pesky tourists who sought out hot dogs and ranch dressing. We made our way to Luxembourg Gardens by first stopping the the park of World Explorers.
We were expected to go back into town for a perfume museum tour, so I left it up for my group to decide. Did they want to go back and take a tour of a smelly, crowded, noisy perfume museum whose goal would be to separate us from our money on stinky souvenirs or did they want to stay here in paradise? Can you believe it? The vote was unanimous. We stayed at the garden. This is what we saw:
Later on we heard about the other’s visit to Versailles. It was crowded and they didn’t have a chance to see much and were limited on time. If you have a limited amount of time in Paris, save your nerves, sanity, and money and make your way to the St. Germain des Pres area for a peaceful afternoon to watch the world go by.