Chapter 5: The Majesty of God and Man

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

If the night before had left us with a touch of travel malaise, Sunday’s start did not improve the situation. We slept in and awoke to a drizzly morning. We headed to the Church of Saint-Sulpice to hear the famous organ, figuring we’d sort out breakfast when we arrived. This was a critical error and we didn’t end up eating until hours later.

The church service was beautiful, helped along by not understanding most of the message. The powerful organ thundered through the room and it was clear to see how its tones would have awed and cowed people into believing in a higher power. You can get a sense of its majesty in the below video:

We took the metro to famed brasserie Au Pied de Cochon attempting to pay homage to Julia Child. Reservations for Sunday brunch would have made this feasible, but we hadn’t planned ahead and found ourselves wandering through the neighborhood attempting to find sustenance.

The seafood counter at Au Pied de Cochon in Paris, France
I can see why Julia loved this place.

Our dinner that evening was in Montmartre. Throwing our hands in the air, we decided to metro there in search of food and leisure. We took the metro to the Abbesses stop, unaware of the countless flights of stairs it would take to get from the train to the outdoors. Climbing a seemingly endless circular stairway, it felt like we were ascending from the center of the Earth, stumbling into sunlight after years in cave-like darkness.

As rain fell, we found what would become our favorite Parisian drinking establishment, La Cave des Abbesses. We managed to grab one of the few tables in the back of the wine shop and ate rillettes, pate, saucisson, and cheese with glasses of red wine. Feeling incapable of drinking wine for six solid hours, we walked back to our favorite crepe place from our last trip and were met with some ambivalence, as it wasn’t as transcendent as we’d remembered. Had the crepe changed, or had we? Pondering such deep thoughts, we half-heartedly started the walk to the Sacré Coeur, but turned to a café instead, when it started pouring. The movie Amelie filmed at this café and we drank their average hot chocolate alongside packed tables of Asian tourists excitedly documenting the experience.

Us in front of the "love wall" in Montmartre in Paris, France
We paused our afternoon of wine drinking long enough to take this iconic shot.

The rain continued to fall and we window-shopped, carefully crossing the slick stones. We wound up back at La Cave des Abbesses where we drank Normandy cider and Beaujolais, and I smeared fat slabs of butter on baguette alongside more saucisson sec and cornichon, while Paul saved himself for dinner.

Cider at La Cave des Abbesses in Paris, France
Not just a wine shop.
Charcuterie board at La Cave des Abbesses in Paris, France
One of Kathleen’s favorite Paris food memories.

The roast chicken at Le Coq Rico in Paris, France
Now that is one majestic coq!

Dinner that night was at Le Coq Rico. Initially, I balked at paying 100 euros for a chicken. To me roast chicken is really only ever chicken, nothing that exciting. But seeing how excited Paul was at the prospect, I decided to play along. I’m very glad I did, as the perfectly cooked, juicy golden chicken really was something special. Served alongside a thin savory gravy, macaroni and cheese, fries, and salad the meal exceeded my expectations. Paul loved the cheesy macaroni, while I couldn’t get enough of the simple salad dressed in a mustardy, shallot laced vinaigrette.

The macaroni gratinee at Le Coq Rico in Paris, France
The macaroni of Paul’s dreams.
Salad at Le Coq Rico in Paris, France
The salad of Kathleen’s dreams.

We began talking to a lovely couple from England who eagerly asked us about Trump and the American climate. The people at the table on our other side had been on our nerves from the start. This woman tortured the staff at Le Coq Rico, citing how dry the chicken was, and using her dead (but apparently distinguished) chef father to chastise them. Broken, the chef gave them another chicken to eat on the house. But they improved immensely when they joined in the conversation and shared the experience of being Mexican-American in the States post-2016 election, and we had an animated political discussion punctuated with stories of international travel and memorable meals.

The chocolate millefeuille at Le Coq Rico in Paris, France

Feeling comfortably full, we decided to venture into uncomfortably full territory and ordered the chocolate millefeuille. If millefeuille translates to a “thousand sheets,” this one delivered with thick, sweet chocolate crème sandwiched between wafer thin pastry.

Remaining evidence of the Paris riots in November, 2018

Having learned more about the Paris riots of the previous day, we decided to see if we could assess the aftermath. We took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs-Elysées, admiring the Christmas lights and the rapidity with which the streets had been cleaned. Tell-tale signs remained—downed poles and “death to Macron” graffiti—but for the most part, there were no signs of the carnage that happened the previous day.

Grafiti following the Paris riots in November, 2018
Not exactly subtle.
A street with Christmas lights in Paris, France
More the atmosphere we were hoping for.


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