Our next stop on our self-created Goth tour was Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris. The stormy weather provided a perfect backdrop for viewing the famous cathedral.

Beautiful rose windows, vicious-looking gargoyles, and an assortment of statues of kings, priests, and saints in various poses: the most attention-grabbing one was of St. Denis holding his own decapitated head in his hands. Having already communed with the dead, we passed on visiting the Archeological Crypt beneath the cathedral and stuck to wandering around the cathedral and ambling around its gardens.

A walk along the Seine became an accidental literary tour when we made a wrong turn and ended up seeing points of interest only made interesting through their links to Hemingway, Kerouac, and Sartre. We reached the heart of St. Germain des Pres and parked our tired bodies at a corner table at Cafe de Flore. To chase the chill away, we ordered a pot of hot chocolate. Little did we know at the time what a heavenly, mouth-watering, eyes-roll-back-in-pleasure indulgence we were going to get. Sure, the Italians have cornered the market on excellent coffee - Illy rules the roost. Granted, the Spaniards know their way around sweet liquid treats - the incredibly thick, satiny, dark, sinfully rich churros con chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid is intense and matchless. But Cafe de Flore's stylish decor and decadent chocolate concoctions . . . Mon Dieu!

Refreshed and now on a sugar high, we hailed a cab to take us to the Arc de Triomph. When traffic ground to a halt to allow President Jacques Chirac to have the streets all to himself after an interview downtown, we jumped out of the cab and hoofed it from Haussman Blvd to the Champs Elysees. The blowing rain made a mockery of my umbrella and the only use I could make out of it was to wrap it up and use it as an elongated pointer to indicate the items I found worthy of attention: the four relief panels that decorated the Arc, the hundreds of figures that were carved around the sides, and the pocket-sized cars stuck on the twelve streets that led to it. Shivering and wet, we sought sanctuary at Diep, one of the few Chinese restaurants that I actually enjoyed. Normally, I don't like Chinese food unless it is made at home or made in China. But the lean caramelized ginger chicken, well-prepared stir-fried rice, and crispy spring rolls made me reassess my prejudice and redirect it towards American-made Chinese food. Back at 'home', belly full, legs exhausted, and mind long off of the sugar buzz, I hit the lights and was asleep before the room got dark.

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