We are standing in Le Bon Marche, possibly the world's first department store designed by Gustave Eiffel, when there is another Morgan Freeman sighting. This time it is made by a store security guard. My sister has approached the guard to ask for directions to the escalator, but before she can ask, he has leaned in real close and whispered, "Ahhh, Monsieur Morgan Freeman," looking in my father's direction. April bursts out laughing. He's befuddled by the reaction, certain that he's discovered our secret. It is the second time someone has "recognized" my father as Morgan Freeman, once before at the Louvre. Now, my father believes that everyone he catches looking at him thinks he's Morgan Freeman. We've all decided that it is the red Martha's Vineyard hat that he keeps pulled low on his head. He looks like he wants to be inconspicuous so he's drawing more attention to himself. We've also come the conclusion that Parisians must be big fans of Morgan Freeman or they see very few grey-bearded black men. At least we know who my dad can be for Halloween this year. What do you think? Could the man above be Morgan Freeman? Reply in the comments below.
I've suggested that we visit Le Bon Marche on Rue des Sevres because it is another typical Parisian shopping experience with clothing, shoes and accessories accompanied by a massive grocery store. Le Grand Epicerie is indeed the grandest grocery store we've ever seen. We enter at the candy and sweets section, mouths agape. Petit fours, chocolates and the beloved macarons beckon from a large glass case. Just beyond the sweets are fresh baked breads and pastries and we point to each imaginging how good they must be. Whole legs of reddened lamb and racks of beef hang within the meat section also known as the charcuterie. We spot fresh fruits and vegetables in the center and my mom spies a hard-to-find vegetable that she's tasted before. It's a pale green cauliflower-looking vegetable. Depending on who you ask and where you are it is known as a Romanesco cauliflower, brocoli or cabbage and the variety of names may be a reflection of its hard-to-pin-down taste, according to my mom. My dad stocks up on a coffee that I brought back from my last trip to Paris and gets a couple of bottles of Bordeaux, his favorite wine in Paris.
Not only can you shop for fabulous gourmet-quality food in Le Grande Epicerie of Le Bon Marche, you can dine in, too. There is an outdoor cafe and even a champagne and caviar bar. We decide to have a late lunch at one of the indoor cafes. My mom and I have a Chinese chicken salad and my dad has a salade nicoise, while April and Steve decide to sample some of the prepared foods from the market. We can't help but draw comparisions between this place and the Wegman's grocery stores taking the DC area by storm. My mom sums it all up by saying, "This place makes Wegmans look like a 7-11."
Before our trip to Le Bon Marche, we shop even closer to our hotel in search of trinkets to take home and happen upon Josephine Baker Place, marked by a sign just blocks away from our hotel near Boulevard Edgar Quinet and Boulevard du Monteparnasse. Later research reveals that Monteparnasse is the first place Josephine settled in Paris and the restaurant La Coupole, which we've passed several times, was one of her favorite haunts. The small square was given Josephine's name in 2001 and recognizes not only her life as a performer, but also her philanthropy and service in the French Resistance during WWII. History really is everywhere in Paris and in places you'd least expect. It's really cool to know that we may have been walking in Josephine's footsteps all along.
Our trip to Paris ends with a dinner cruise on the lovely Seine. We've crossed the river several times during our stay, moving from left bank to right bank and back again, so we are excited to get a chance to experience the city from the water. Our boat is scheduled to depart at 9 pm and we arrive at about 8:45, only to find that our boat, the Capitaine Fracasse, is not where we expect it to be at a pier at the center of the Bir Hakeim bridge. Steve takes the opportunity to capture the City of Lights at night and all the activity on the Seine. Massive tour boats filled literally to their tops troll the Seine flooding it and everything in its path with almost blinding lights. We wonder how the people living in gorgeous, and presumably expensive, apartments along the river can live with the constant light displays. Our boat finally arrives and, thankfully, it is more understated than the big tourist boats we've seen. As we board, we are greated by a song that defined Saturday nights in the 80s. "Love...exciting and new...come aboard. We're expecting youuu...." That's right. Love Boat. It's so hokey, we can't help but smile. All during our trip we've been paying attention to the music we hear as we dine and for the most part Parisian restaurants play Motown and R&B like it is Musak. At Les Botanistes, formerly known as Le Gorille Blanc, they had Aretha Franklin in heavy rotation, while Bistrot Vivienne had the best mix with everything from Curtis Mayfield to Prince.The music on our dinner cruise gets oddest mix, moving from "Love Boat" to a strange rendition of "Amazing Grace" to a Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes playlist, featuring a young Teddy Pendegrass. Odd music aside, we are impressed with the variety of food and drink presented. My dad and I order red wine, while Steve orders white, and the waiter comes back with full bottles of both. We've also had fruity rum cocktails to start. Our main courses of salmon and duck, seem pedestrian in comparision to interesting appetizer and dessert tastings. The fois gras is topped with a raspberry gelee and the crawfish may be our favorite. Dessert has a little something for everyone with a melon and basil-flavored soup, chocolate hazelnut tartlet and raspberry and cream covered macaron. But the real highlight of the cruise was the stunning view of Paris from its deck. We pass the Eiffel Tower shimmering in gold light and recognize other sights we've seen along the way. It's a cool, but clear night and the perfect setting to say farewell to a truly lovely city.
Special thanks to Steven M. Williams for trip photography and Gai A. Spann of STG Tours for travel artistry.