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Sketches of France: Galeries Lafayette

  1. A morning with the Impressionist masters at the Musee d’Orsay
  2. Lunch at a nearby classic Parisian cafe
  3. A leisurely stroll along the stately paths of the Tuileries Garden – bounce on the trampolines and rampage at the playground
  4. An afternoon picnic in the secluded Palais Royal among its arcaded columns
  5. Shopping at the Parisian chic covered Galerie Vivienne.

A la carte options to include:

  • Pinnacle enlightenment in Monet’s water lily sanctuary at the Orangerie Museum
  • A river cruise on the bateaux mouches
  • A walking tour of one of Paris’ most elegant neighborhoods, Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

This is what my itinerary read (in not so many words) and how our day might have gone. But the rain and wind and cold thwarted the plans. I looked out of the front window of bus #68 as it glided up Avenue de l’Opera. The wipers worked frantically to clean the streaking water from the windshield. Ahead, in the distance, one of the most majestic buildings in Europe slowly grew in size and clarity through the misty precipitation. Very mixed feelings grazed my thoughts as so many times I’ve been so near the Palais Garnier and, yet again, I would not be promanading its interior.

We exited the bus on the Opera’s east flank, and I continued to study the monument as we dodged the buzzing traffic and leap frogged our way to Galeries Lafayette. This part of the city teems with activity reminding us that Paris is indeed very large and very busy. Soon all of my focus was devoted to assuring the children didn’t breach a curb and wander unsuspectingly into traffic.

Inside the iconic department store the crowds only increased. Shoppers, retreating from the rain, squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder and traversed the store in every conceivable direction. My comfort level swifty deteriorated with flashes or orange now turning red. It was no longer just the children I was worried about, as I started to become panicky and claustrophobic. Evidently, Amanda felt the same as she quickly slithered her way to the escalator, and we struggled just to keep her in view. As we rose above the commotion my breath began to slow. We were elevated into the sublime space under the colorful Art Nouveau arches and glass Tiffany dome. It was a cathedral of commerce and the beauty of this iconic early 20th century atrium is another testament to Paris’ many layers of charm.

After spending some leisurely time perusing racks of French fashions we retreated to one of the available tables at the cafeteria on the top floor. Like an array of magnificent framed photos, the windows of the eatery form a panoramic of a Paris studded with monuments. Half a dozen were dominated by the neighboring Palais Garnier. One further to the right perfectly framed a distant Eiffel Tower like a photo above a couch in a furniture store.

The children sipped their juice and admired their new Parisian clothes and accessories and Bobby made sound effects with his fashion-alternative Transformer. By the time I cleaned the top of the salt shaker that Bobby licked only suds remained in the bottom of my beer glass. I had one last thing to investigate before our visit could be marked complete.

Lydia and I found a staircase that led to the open-air roof of the department store. The views from the cafeteria were liberated from their confining frames and the whole of Paris from above the Haussmann rooftops lay before us. The rain had stopped and the sun was trying to burn through the damp sky. Just like our view from the Eiffel Tower nearly two weeks earlier the vast distances of the city, once again, became evident. This time we were looking back at the Tower from more than two long miles away. As lovely as the Lafayette’s glass dome is, the roof is its real gem and draw. Dozens of visitors strolled the enormous terrace and posed for unparalleled selfies with the Palais Garnier and Eiffel Tower as their backdrop. Shaking off the lethargy of the rainy day we had had our fill of the indoors. Reenergized with brightening skies we could no longer tolerate postponing Notre Dame and a stroll around the Île de la Cité. Amanda looked at me, fueled with ambition, and declared “Let’s do it.”

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