Thursday, April 13, 2006

Emily in Paris

For the record: If getting here is half the fun, something seems out of whack. The last five hours have been much more fun than the previous 24. We were a little confused about where we fit in the space/time continuum when awakened by Houda's call at 6:00 pm with 4 hours of real sleep under our belts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 Hotel International – Paris, FR

Making our second trip into the center of the city in the same day, we headed to St. Michel thinking that our charge would be excited by the youth centric atmosphere of the Sorbonne and it's surroundings. Wrong. The quartier was crowded and Em was less enchanted by the restauranteur's beckoning calls as we passed the varied open fronted cafes than we expected. We are finding that she prefers a little more space than the area affords.

Seeking a quieter venue, we walked around St. Severin church and just behind it settled on the restaurant of the same name. It was quiet inside and had a fixe prie menu that looked appetizing. Em quickly learned the words for french fries, and that became the touchstone she looked for on every menu she encountered. The food was excellent. I had the saumon au sorrel that was very tasty, with one glass of Chinon, refusing the second glass with diner. Although a little uncomfortable drinking the red with the fish, I was too tired for two glasses of wine, plus the Chinon is just tannic enough to carry. Receiving no disgusted look from the waiter I counted my choice a moderate success. At 48.5 Euros for three (including service), in the middle of one of the most expensive cities in the world, we think we did OK.

We walked over to Notre Dame cathedrale and it was great! The square was deserted and Emily looked relaxed and comfortable with her new surroundings. The moon shone brightly between the towers as we talked about why churches were built so large and "reaching for heaven." (We left out the bit about Quasimodo.)

There were very few fellow travelers on the metro this Wednesday evening at 10:00. That gave us a real chance to explain to Emily the way it worked, how to read the wall maps, and how to select the direction in which to head at the correspondances. We suggested to Em that by the time we left Paris, she would be able to get us from Le Cite to our hotel, unaided. There was a modicum of disbelief in the look we received from her.

We decided our favorite stop was "Art & Métiers" which looks and feels like the inside of a copper and brass submarine. All agreed it was "cool." Navigating our way back to the hotel, we noticed that the little convenience store on the corner was the setting for some sort of movie, with klieg lights and actors. We were unable to inject ourselves into the scene, so off we went to our home away from home.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 Hotel International, Paris, FR

At 10:40 on this cool, cloudy morning, I'm writing, Emily is showering, and Kat wants noted for the record that she was the first one up this morning, “by herself.” The hotel may be small, but they have some really good and hot showers. We all got about 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. We are one block off the main street (Parmentier), and it is amazingly quiet.

Our day starts with a walk to the metro past our little convenience store (8 a huit) where the woman proprietor who was there last night was at her post. It seems she had let some “students” use her store as a setting for their film. It is a cute place with veggies out front, and madame was charming and gracious with our flimsy French. This is in direct contrast to the young lady behind the counter of the local boulangerie across the street. We stopped to pick up pastries for our ride to the Louvre, and though she was “listening” for what we wanted while finishing serving the woman in front of us, she seemed a little impatient. Nice enough, but with this little edge.

We ate in the Louvre courtyard, and spent about 4 hours in the museum itself. A must see on Emily's list was the Mona Lisa, and for us the the Vermeers (The Astronomer, The Lacemaker). We had a soda and coffee in the Café Denon much to the chagrin of the waitress who thought we should order food. It is a café for Pete's sake.

From the Louvre we crossed the bridges to Ile St. Louis for dinner. We picked a nice little creperie called Au Lys D'Argent (The Silver Lily), and had a nice dinner and an even nicer waitress who did her best to teach me how to say "Brut" correctly. We all laughed as I failed again and again, but one is never too old to learn. Emily has learned to say pommes frites very well.

Just down the street is Berthillon ice cream, purported to be the best in Paris, and it was excellent. Em learned (the hard way) that ‘sorbet’ or sherbet here is not like at home, very rich, but she did like the real ice cream. After some souvenir buying and admiring the cathedrale of Notre Dame in the daylight (it was Holy Thursday) we headed off to the Stravinsky fountain at the Georges Pompideau Centre for Kat.

I guess we didn't look much like tourists because we were approached by a pair of very nice German women who were lost. We explained where we were, gave them our map and wished them well.

It was early for us, but the end of a long day, and we were all done in, as they say. Passing by our little store the same woman was still behind the counter so we stopped in for a few minutes to chat. She works six days a week, and apparently 8 a huit.

We hope that we have showed Emily that there are very nice people everywhere, and sometimes it's just a matter of saying hello.

We have a little ritual at the end of each day, keeping track of what we liked the most and what we could have skipped. It seems that Em is starting to open up to us about how she feels about what she is seeing. She admitted to a little (and just a little) homesickness. We are not surprised, being in a strange place where you can't even read the signs, and strange food, never sure what you are going to get. She is a trooper, though, and provides us with plenty of laughs. She is quick to point out all the dogs, alive or dead.

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