We left the hotel at 9:30 am en route to Vaux-le-Vicomte. This estate is the brain-child of Nicolas Fouquet who purchased the estate in 1641. It took five years to build. Nicolas literally put his heart and soul into every aspect of this place...from the selection of the location, architect, painter, and gardener to the grand purchases, buildings and waterfalls. Everything. Less than a month after a huge and successful event to showcase his home, Mr. Fouquet was thrown into prison for supposed misappropriation of money, as he was the Superintendent of Finances. He remained in prison until his death 19 years later. One of the guest at the grand event the month before his imprisonment was King Louis XIV. The story goes that the king himself was so jealous of the estate and Fouquet's power, he listened to the other jealous men who plotted against Fouquet and convinced the king of Fouquet's supposed crimes. Well, there's so much more to the story. It's all very interesting. So many years ago this all happened, of course. But what remains is this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place.
Almost everything on the estate is open to the public. I paid for an audio guide (in English) and embarked on this tour with great enthusiasm. I recalled so much of the estate from my recent viewing of the movie Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dundst. The movie sucked, at least to me, but I remember thinking the location of the movie was so beautiful. I later learned this was the estate of Vaux-le-Vicomte and that many other films had been filmed here as well. Most recently, some kind of party or reception had been held here for Eva Longoria and Tony Parker, for there were pictures of them here on grounds on display.
The tour took us through the apartments, Grand Salon, Dining-room, Serving area, the bedrooms of Fouquet and the room of his wife, other bedrooms, etc. etc. Beautiful tapestries and drawings. The beauty of this estate is what lead King Louis XIV to make the palace of Versailles into such a splendid place. After Fouquet's arrest, the king had many of the furnishings from here shipped to Versailles.
After we left the estate, we were driven back to Paris where we were let off on the street of Champs Élysées. Having had enough of shopping (the window kind) the day before at the stores on Boulevard Haussman and Galeries Lafayette, Simon and I decided we'd had enough of shopping and took the taxi to the Latin Quarter to visit the Musee national du Moyen Age, which was founded in 1843. So much to see but so little time. We narrowed our viewing to the Masterpieces--most notably, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, sculptures from Notre-Dame, alter pieces, stained glass, gothic ivories, etc. The tapestries were the most interesting. We sat and stared at them for a while. Quite beautiful.
We made our way back to the Champs Élysées by taxi. In both directions the taxi ride was wild. Again, it's amazing how crazy the driving is there. We weaved in and out of traffic and both drivers were quite determined to get us to our destinations as quickly as possible. When the African driver attempted to speak to me and make small talk, I had to answer "No, parlez-vous Francais." This lead to his interest in determining where I'd come from. First I heard South America, the Islands, and other parts of Europe. When Simon, with whom he conversed in French, gave him no definitive answer, Simon later told me that the driver said he knew I must be from America. He said that usually when a passenger did not want to divulge their orgin, he knew they were American and afraid to say so because of fear of terrorism. He went onto to discuss his Christian views with Simon about having no need to fear. I would have loved to have been part of this conversation. I would have explained to him that I didn't fear terrorism and had faith, similar to his. I don't know if I would have told him that my fear of being known as an American has all to do with getting ripped-off, nothing else. LOL.
After more of Champs Élysées, I was so happy to leave--too many people, and too expensive to shop. Well, at least for me--and apparently all of the other empty-handed Dutch folks. From there we went to the Beaubourg Quarter where the National Museum of Modern Art is located. Once again, loads of people. Artists everywhere. There was a small outdoor theater where many people, of all ages and of all walks of life, sat and laughed at the comedy of local actors. It reminded me of Shakespearian days. Of course, all in French. So much was going on there.
Also in this area I allowed a sketch artist to talk me into sitting for a sketch. I thought this purchase might be a nice gift for my mom. I hate to be in the spotlight of anything and was little uncomfortable with many different people coming up to look over his shoulder as he sketched me. Simon assured me that he was doing a good job. The result of his sketch was a younger and thinner me. I was happy with his embellishments. I had hoped to do a lot more souvenir shopping there, but time was lost and we continued on with the group tour of the rest of the Quarter. We visited Les Halles. It was an important meat and food area dating back to the 1100s, but was dismantled in the early 1970s. Now it is restructured and filled with shops...for shopping and other office space. It was unique looking. At one vantage point, we could see the Eiffel Tower in the dusky sky. It was beautiful. We left that area and caught the Metro back to where we'd started our walk. Wow! The Metro made Delft's and The Hague's tram system look terribly small in comparison. However, the part of the Metro we saw was in need of repair and an upgrade. But it got us where we needed to go...and fast.
From there we went back to Montmatre where we had a meal at the same restaurant as we had the first night. Once again the meal was excellent.
From there we went on another long walking tour in the Latin Quarter. We visited the narrow streets filled with restaurants and places to party. It was like Bourbon Street to the 10th degree. Every corner we turned had something going on. I couldn't belive I was spending a Saturday night in Paris. Music, food, drink, laughter and dance. A good time to be had by all. Then we walked to a place that Simon and I had visited earlier that day. The Musee national. There Simon went into tour-guide mode and delighted the group with an intersting story. I don't know what he said, but the group all clapped and thanked him for sharing his knowledge.
After we were worn out for the evening, the bus picked us up and we headed back to the hotel. It was a little after mid-night when we hit the sack. Our last night in Paris. And what a night!