Shopping and dancing: it’s all on the Mouffetard

18 10 2010

This is a big ring first; I’m writing this entry aboard a Thalys high-speed train to Brussels. A day earlier than planned, mind you, but somehow we managed to get the same seats we’d been originally assigned on our tickets for Monday.

It’s frickin’ cold outside. Like winter cold. So cold in fact, Katie bought a winter coat at a little boutique on the Mouffetard. I’m thinking both of us may be investing in gloves and hats when we get to Belgium.

Katie shops on the Mouffetard.

Then again, it is practically December…

The Mouffetard was crazy busy this morning, huge long lines at ever boulanger and patissier. Even the butcher selling roasted chickens was frantically busy. But the atmosphere is wonderfully festive; it seems everyone plans their major marketing for Sunday. At the foot of the Mouffetard, an impromptu dance floor formed in front of an accordionist and mostly elderly couples took turns waltzing and spinning to his lively music.

The locals say the Mouffetard has become touristy, and there are certainly restaurants and pubs at its upper end that seem to cater mostly to them, with sign boards out front in multiple languages. But the lower end, where the shops and fruit mongers are congregated, is bustling with locals buying ingredients for their Sunday dinners, beautiful golden loaves and baguettes, shiny pink shellfish, craggy oysters on ice, sad, forlornly dead ducks hanging upside down in the butcher’s display case, cheeses of every shape and smell, and sweet delicacies of fancy chocolate and pastries.

That had been our plan for Sunday; gather the ingredients and cook our own feast in the kitchen of our apartment. Alas, the Belgian train workers had other plans.

Dancing on the Mouffetard.

So we scrambled to squeeze in a visit to Saint Chapelle cathedral. And I do mean squeeze. After standing in line to go through the security check (St. Chapelle is in the same complex of old buildings that also house the Palais de Justice), we were just about to go through the doors when we were stopped for TWO large and slow-moving tour groups who had reservations. Aaaargh. I’ve wanted to visit St. Chapelle each of the times I’ve been to Paris, but was always prevented by the long lines. Here we were, so close, and yet so far.

But we persevered. And while it’s no Notre Dame or Sacré Couer, it’s single narrow sanctuary is spectacularly lit by tall, ornate stained glass windows. It’s those windows we’d come to see.

On to Belgium.

Man, this train moves fast.




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