I live near Louis XIV’s childhood castle. He was born there, and it was the main royal castle in the Paris region until he came about, for obvious reasons…he built the other ones.
It’s a pretty lovely city, really. Small cobblestone streets, dozens of fancy cafés, bars, restaurants, shops with overpriced, exquisite hand-crafted items. The castle is both beautiful and strange. There is a large park behind it, huge, as usual, but I’ve only ever walked through its adjoining semi-wild but maintained forest.
This past weekend, we did a very weird thing. We set out to go to a chain restaurant, a Belgian chain called “Leon de Bruxelles”, which serves only mussels and french fries, being Belgian. Unlimited mussels and french fries for 10 euros. We got a stupid order of “Moules gratinées”, basically mussles in butter, garlic and parsley, smothered with melted cheese. Good but wicked. I had to order a huge coke with industrial quantities of ice to de-grease my system, in an unscientific but largely psychological sense.
Anyway. We tumbled out of the restaurant, not knowing what hit us, not really walking straight after the quantities of cheese and mussels and fat we ingested, but very happy with a lovely meal, and we drove the ten minutes to St. Germain-en-Laye, to go…”walk it off”. Or so we intended to.
The two passengers were already sprawled in a post-food comatose state, me in the back seat, Mussels from Brussels stretched out in the inclined passenger seat, until our “designated driver” parked the car next to the municipal swimming pool, still enthusiastic, and chirpped, “So, everyone up for a walk in the park?”
She pushed her seat back and we all kind of kept quiet, baking in our comfortable positions, sleepy, contented, unable to move.
We all slept for two hours in a public parking lot.
Then we got up, slowly, and laughed at how ridiculous our afternoon had been, heading off for the enchanted forest, its oak, beach, birk, plane trees, towering and majestic, our living cathedral of fresh spring. Awed by the beauty of the forest, we walked and walked, stopping to pick prehistoric stones, notice new plants, talk about forest memories, made fun of our afternoon some more.
We found a clearing that we followed, and saw, over the top of an old stone wall, something that we joked looked like the Eiffel tower.
Making our way through a little doorway, we ended up on one of the main alleys of the castle’s park, and found that it was indeed the Eiffel tower, and a breathtaking view of Paris, from our little elevation. The city, circular within its walls, lay about 15 miles South of us, and we looked, pointing to the different landmarks,neighborhoods, and a few minutes later, headed back into our forest, for more “exercise”.
I think that will be one of my favorite weekend days in “Paris” so far. I did zero of the things I had planned to do, ate a meal I probably will never eat again, and fell in love with my little countyry-side town and its cobblestone streets, enchanted forest, and views.
Finally, we stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought fresh strawberries, which we slaughtered when we came home and ate, four hours after our greasy mussels, dripping with fresh whipped cream and vanilla sugar.
I’m giving my liver a rest this week…