March 21, 2002
The gray, blustery morning began with a circuit around the neighborhood and followed the narrow streets that led to Le Pantheon, where we (belatedly) celebrated International Women's Day.

Continuing along the ever-widening paths, we arrived at Jardins (Gardens) du Luxembourg. Although it was still too early for the flowers to bloom, too chilly for the children to ride the Shetland ponies, and too wet to sit on the sprawling lawns, we parked ourselves on a bench under the chestnut groves and enjoyed the view all the same.

We eased into our marathon shopping-spree by sniffing various shampoos (mmmm. . . flowery Klorane's Peony Shampoo!) and testing various lotions (ahhhh . . . Evian's hydrating moisturizers) before getting great deals at the local pharmacy for products that would have been elevated to "imported" status in the U.S. and therefore two to five times more expensive. Credit cards warmed up, we hit the big stores and shopped. And shopped. And burned our mouths with some lava-like cocoa hidden under some deceivingly cool whipped cream and then continued to shop. These were the good old days when the dollar was a little stronger and the prices were a little better. We were also taking advantage of the coupon book that the bigger hotels offer to the tourists to encourage shopping. Granted, we were not guests of any of those bigger hotels, but they certainly didn't mind when we helped ourselves to their free maps and coupon books spread out in the lobby and we certainly didn't bring it to their attention.

By late afternoon, we were simultaneously giddy and fatigued. At one point, our friend Balu was purchasing some fancy drinking glasses and, tired and still in the habit of repeating any French phrase that is given to her, engaged in the following conversation with the saleslady:

Balu: Parlez-vous anglais?
SL: Oui.
Balu: Oui. Ok, I would like to buy these, please.
SL: Credit card, please? Merci.
Balu: Merci.
(SL proceeded to wrap the delicate items individually and then place each one in a bag which was tied up with a flourish)
SL: Voila.
Balu (nodding her head in agreement): Voila!

Maybe it was one of those "location jokes" (you had to be there) or maybe we were light-headed from skipping lunch, but that just killed us. We were laughing with her and then just outright at her from that moment on. In fact, we are still laughing today.

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