After some photo ops, Edouard took us to his apartment at the Avenue Daniel Lesueur in the same arrondissement (administrative district). As we drove along the Avenue des Invalides, I noticed that there aren't so many houses in central Paris -- just streets and streets of stacked apartments, each generally no higher than five floors. From the outside, the apartments are mysterious and beautiful -- most have shutter doors. Nearly synonymous with Parisian apartments are the Juliette balconies that are attached to them. They are just very lovely to look at. Just big enough to stand on, the Juliette balcony is more of an aesthetic addition to an apartment. The intricate designs of the balconies add charm and beauty to the city.
The Juliette Balconies of Paris
Juliette balconies along Daniel Leseuer
When we entered the Macnab Paris' apartment, a small glass elevator just big enough for one person and a piece of luggage greeted us.
The elevator in the Macnab apartment
Edouard was so eager to show us around his hometown, so after a short rest, we left the car and took the Metro from Duroc to the Notre Dame station. And the "walkathon" started the moment we stepped out of the Metro. Here in Manila, we have become car dependent -- when we get to work, get groceries, go to the banks, or drive thru fast food. That's not the case in Paris. Be prepared to walk, burn calories, and enjoy it. Regardless of what part of Paris you're in, the sidewalks are filled with fast walkers and no slow traffic lanes. I remember thinking to myself - "We're walking a lot faster than we would back home, yet we were being passed on both sides". Even using the Metro is a stringent workout in itself mainly because of the labyrinth-like hallways and concrete stairways.
Need to drop a few pounds? Go to Paris!
The "never ending" walkathon in the streets of Paris
It was the 850th year of the Notre Dame's existence and huge groups of tourists were crowding in the square in front of the cathedral. Temporary bleachers were built in the Notre Dame plaza facing the cathedral. What a sight! Notre Dame from the front is actually smaller than I was expecting but the exterior seems to shine with symbolic history and religion. I felt the true magnificence of the building upon entering. The stained glass windows reached heavenward and created an atmosphere of reverence. We were seated near the altar, the Holy Mass was rendered in French, proof that religion like music, transcends all languages. We received the Holy Communion and the feeling was surreal. Before the Mass ended, the newly restored and refurbished great organ played, and for 5 minutes, I thought I needed some serious ear protection. Simply majestic!
The "gang" at the Duroc station enroute to Notre Dame
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris and Eglise San Sulpice
In front of the Notre Dame after attending the Holy Mass
After hearing Mass, we crossed the busy streets of Place Saint Michel, the main street of the Quarter Latin (Latin Quarters). The walk up to St. Michel is interesting in its own right. In the middle of the intersection is the Fontaine Saint Michel (Fountain of Saint Michael). It is lined with fast food joints, bookshops, and chain stores. It was one wonderful place to explore. We entered one of the alleys and had a late lunch in one of the restaurants. It wasn't the best meal but the experience was priceless -- we were having lunch with Edouard!!!
Place San Michel (Boulevard Saint Michael) at the Latin Quarters
First meal in Paris….and in Europe!! Very un-French -- look what we're eating -- pizzas!
On the way back to the apartment, Edouard encouraged us to walk from where we were. According to him, it's just a few blocks away and just a short walk, about 20 minutes. We went through streets lined with cafes, shops, and areas that I couldn't help but imagine I was right in the middle of a scene from the movie "Les Miserables". After a few more minutes, we were in a square with tremendous fountain. Edouard pointed us the building in front of the fountain and we thought it was the city hall or something. We laughed hard when we learned that it is a church. I later learned that it is the Eglise Saint-Sulpice (Church of St. Sulpice). We were amazed by the architecture of the fountain but the Saint Sulpice church stood tall and mighty overlooking the square. This, they say, is one of the largest churches in Paris, second only to Notre Dame. The noticeable part of the structure is its two mismatched towers that greeted us as we headed to the front door. In we went. As it turns out, Saint-Sulpice is right up there with the mighty Notre Dame in my book. The interior was filled with stunning sculpture and amazing frescos, high gothic ceilings, and arrays of incredible arts. We were so glad Edouard took us to Saint-Sulpice. We could have admired the interior of the church all afternoon but we had to continue walking.
The interiors of Eglise Saint-Sulpice -- high Gothic ceilings and the main altar is almost as large as the Notre Dame
The facade of Saint-Sulpice. Who would think that this is a church? This church was heavily featured in the movie "The Da Vinci Code"
One of the many religious statues inside Saint-Sulpice
I wasn't sure if my companions noticed it, but Edouard and I were looking at the mismatched towers of the church.
I looked at the clock in my cellphone and I realized that we had been walking for almost an hour and Edouard said 20 minutes. Liweng, VG, and I were laughing because our feet were aching but Edouard and Knoll were literally a few meters ahead of us. Now I know the reason why Mireille Guiliano famously declared "French Women Don't Get Fat". I concur.
La Tuilerie and Dinner Under the Stars (sort of)
In the afternoon, we travelled from Paris to La Tuilerie, the Macnab family estate, to meet the rest of the family. All of us were tired from the long trip but my eyes were wide open as we drove through the freeway -- passed the famous Loire River, passed quaint villages that are only 12 to 15 minutes drive apart. Each of the villages has its own boulangerie (bakery), an epicure (grocery), a boucherie (butcher shop), a charcuterie (a deli shop), a place-du-village (village square), an eglise (church), a pharmacie (drugstore) and coffee shops.
Pit stop at one of the Autogrill stores in the freeway - enroute to La Tuilerie
One of the many vineyards in the Loire Valley
You know you're in the Loire region when you see this bridge
One of the quaint villages in the Loire region
After 2 hours of travel, we arrived at La Tuilerie where we were welcomed by Edouard's Maman et Papa (Mom and Dad), his lovely wife Lawrence, his younger brother Bruce and his equally beautiful wife, Caro -- they all greeted us with a warm faire-la-bise (French cheek kissing). And then the kids came…all very excited to welcome us. We were out for words when we saw how vast the property is -- a man made lake, sprawling grounds, a wine cellar, a main house which serves as the family's vacation home, and a smaller, cozy, mason-de-ferme (farm house) where we stayed. Papou (Edouard's Dad) invited us to have a late snack and offered us "coffee, Coke, orange juice or WiFi?". We all went for WiFi!! The setting was like a scene from a classic French movie -- long white table, green grass, Quinga (the family's dog) playing with the kids, and a castle not far away from where we were.
Papou, Edouard, and Lawrence preparing the table for dinner -- behind is the family's vacation house in La Tuilerie.
The very charming Papou offering us "coffee, Coke, orange juice, or WiFi?" Very good host.
From this angle, you can see how vast the property is.
Inside the maison-dela-ferme where we stayed and slept. I love this kind of houses -- very rustic, very relaxed, and very French.
The facade of the farm house.
Remember the castle not far from the family's vacation house? THAT castle happens to be the house of Edouard's maternal grandmother. We took a leisurely stroll and headed for the castle. We were amazed that we were actually seeing a castle but Edouard tried to downplay it. According to him, a castle and a chateau are the same. We agree, BUT this chateau happens to be much bigger than the others that we have seen.
On our way to Grandma's castle. In the background are the horses' stables they called "Domaine dela Vallee".
We were introduced to his grandmother and we immediately fell in love with "Grandma". She toured us inside her abode and we were enthralled by her wonderful stories. Never mind if she speaks French -- we simply love her.
The facade of Grandma's castle
Grandma enthralled us with her stories about life in La Tuilerie, her beautiful family, and of course, the house.
At the castle's formal dining area where Edouard and Lawrence had their engagement dinner.
Beside the castle were the stables for the horses. We later learned that they offer horse-riding lessons and the place is called "Domaine de la Vallee" (Field of the Valley).
It was almost 8pm and dinner was ready. Edouard's best friend Ben, who travelled from Paris to La Tuilerie, was there too. For dinner, we had grilled merguez (French spicy sausage), arugula salad, baguette, and rice. For dessert, we had tapenade (a bread spread consisting of chopped olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil), and fromages (cheeses), and of course, French wine. What a wonderful dinner under the stars -- only this time, the stars were still nowhere in sight and the sun was just starting to set.