After a long night out (blog post on that coming soon), I got up sometime after noon and started getting myself together to meet Carla and the crew. There had been a few more arrivals that day, with a fourth person coming to stay for the next week, and a fifth staying overnight.
I got a message from Carla around 14h00 saying that they were headed to the Anvers métro station, so I quickly hopped on the métro and found them there. Two of the group were jet-lagged and rather hungry, so the plan was to wander around Montmartre for a while, do the touristy stuff, and then head over to the famous salad place, Le Relais Gascon, where we would gorge ourselves on leafy, greeny goodness.
And all of this came to pass.
The street directly up to Sacre-Coeur was awash with tourists. Apparently, in the few days since Carla and I were here (Wednesday), someone had set off an Erratic And Slow-Walking Tourist Bomb, and the arteries of Montmartre were clogged with meandering, picture-snapping platelets. So, instead, we wandered along the main boulevard running between Anvers and Pigalle, eventually making our way past the Erotic Museum and the Moulin Rouge. From there, we walked up rue Caulaincourt past the Café des 2 Moulins (as featured in Amélie...of course) and then across towards Abbesses and eventually do the base of the hill in front of Sacre-Coeur.
One of the people in our group was unable to walk up all the steps, so I entrusted Carla with the rest of the group to climb the steps, and then the two of us waited for the next bus up the hill. Technically, the funiculaire (cable-car) should've been running, but it's been down all year, presumably for some sort of reparations. In the meanwhile, they've installed a set of small buses that run from the bottom of the hill to the top. Of course, as the bus driver pointed out once we got on, the bus can't climb steps, so the way to the top involved a very, very long and complicated route up the back of the hill. By the time we got there, I had a small collection of worried text messages from Carla. Nonetheless, everyone got to the top and had their moment to go in and enjoy the church. After a few minutes there, we wandered down the west side of the hill, passing through the Place du Tertre, with its overly-quaint and over-priced brasseries, and down to Abbesses.
From there, we walked down rue des Abbesses a few metres to Le Relais Gascon, my current favourite restaurant for salads. Since we were eatingly alarmingly early (around 18h00), we were able to wrangle a six-top table pretty easily. We got a half-litre of red wine (a Saint-Emilion from the Bordeaux region) and a half-litre of white wine (can't recall the wine region), and then a round of salads for everyone. This is the kind of place where there's no point in ordering appetizers or desserts. The salad is really all you need or can eat.
Our dinner was cut a bit short when the table next to us started smoking. One among our group was particularly sensitive to smoke (I know, not easy in France), so we wrapped up our meal and headed off into the nearest métro station. We headed back home with the idea of doing a dessert run. It was already pretty late in the evening (around 20h00), but once we got back to Saint-Paul métro station, we were going to split up and look for desserts from boulangeries in the area, and then meet back at the apartment.
As soon as we returned to the city surface in Le Marais, I split off and headed east along Saint-Antoine, while the rest of the girls headed west. It was too late on a Saturday evening to find anything in the local boulangeries, but just before I got to Bastille and was going to give up, I saw Lenôtre in the process of closing--but still open. Lenôtre is a traiteur (somewhere between take-out stand and caterer) that is just one step down from Fauchon, the be-all and end-all of traiteurs in Paris. What does this mean? It means that individual dessert tartes cost between 3-6€ each, and macarons really add up. So, you can imagine my chagrin when, after having ordered 6 desserts and almost 30 mini macarons, I get a text message from my sister saying "It's OK! We found croissants and cookies!" Well, I had kept them from closing up shop so that they could serve me, and all the food was already packed, so I just smiled and ponied up the 57€ (yes, that's right).
When we finally got home and realized that he had a virtual mountain of dessert, there was a general consensus that the fancypants food I bought from Lenôtre was worth eating right away, while the cookies and croissants would work well as breakfast the next morning. After an hour or so of orgiastic eating (although not before many pictures were taken of our fantastic spread), I headed out the door and back home. The plan was to get to bed early, since Carla and I would be heading off by train to Le Mans the following day.