It was supposed to be 48, but we missed our flight out of Mali. I can't believe we didn't once check our itinerary to verify our return flight. We anticipated our departure date--Feb 11,2011, we were sure—for days. We packed our bags carefully that last day in Bamako, and said goodbye to our friends. After a quick dinner of salad, bread and stewed, freshly slaughtered sheep, we headed to the airport.
“We don't have you in the computer,” said the flight attendant at check in. A sinking feeling hit me as I pulled out the paper tickets. I looked at the departure date—Feb 10, 2011. Oh Sh%$!
After waiting like orphans next to our carts filled with carefully weighed and packed bags, we managed to get on the only daily flight from Bamako to Paris. We had booked a hotel room for two nights at the Hotel Marignon in Paris, but spent our first night on an airplane instead. Oh well.
We arrived at our small but quaint hotel, nestled in the Latin Quarter, early the next morning. After dumping our bags, we filled up on a quick breakfast of baguette, jam, cafe au lait, juice and Nutella. Thus started our adventures in eating our way through Paris.
My husband had spent some time as a youth, and again as a college student, in Paris and was excited to show us his old stomping grounds. We navigated the old cobbled streets, which led us by many a creperie, where we sampled a ham, onion and mushroom crepe, and past little shops selling tourist trinkets. We stopped in a chocolate shop where we savored a dark chocolate ganache with gold dust—all before 11 am.
The Panthenon loomed up as we strolled and I stared in awe at the detailed architecture of the city, where the tops of buildings are as beautiful as the facade.
We rounded yet another corner, where the street's breathtaking beauty and suggestive curves drew my gaze. Ah, the city of food and romance.
We returned to our hotel near lunchtime to meet my husband's dear friends, whom he hadn't seen in 8 years. The Willmann's guided us through the city, showing us in a day what most sane tourists would probably see in 3 or 4.
Notre Dame was our first stop (on our way to lunch). In Bamako, most building are unfinished. The houses are constructed out of concrete block and plaster, but many people cannot afford to build their entire house at once. The begin with the ground floor and the the front, hoping to meet the city's requirement that land be developed soon after purchase. Rebar emerges like wilted flower stalks from the rooftops, waiting months or years for the next layer of bricks.
By contrast, every building I saw in my one day in France was beautiful and carefully constructed. If that itself weren't enough, the inside of the buildings were equally ornate. We headed to the Place de Concorde for the scenic ferris wheel ride, but not before we stopped for lunch at a streetside cafe called Au Verre Luisant.
Luckily the Willmann's were as eager to eat as we were. At the cafe I enjoyed a Ceasar salad with salmon, while Drummer Man had a chicken Ceasar salad.. The kids had fresh pasta and hamburgers. We all shared plently of wine.
A few fluffy mounds of Barbe-a-Papa gave us energy for the slightly nauseating ferris wheel ride. We headed next to Montmartre and Sacre Coeure. Stunning. Only the heavily accented rendition of “Take me Home, Country Roads” being sung by an Italian guitar player de(dis?)tracted from the beauty of the place.
By evening my legs ached, and our 3-year old daughter, tired from lack of sleep and endless walking, refused to put her feet on the ground. We headed to the Metro as the sun set. City lights shone through the night and restaurants filled with hungry sightseers, families and lovers. After arriving back to the latin Quarter, we enjoyed dinner at a small brasserie near our hotel, devouring grilled chicken, frites, escargot, fresh cheese, onion soup, grilled beef and lasagne. With more wine. Um, and dessert—profiteroles piled sky high with ice cream and whipped cream.The tastes of Paris left me wishing we had far more than 24, or even 48, hours. And that I had bought more chocolates.