Friday, April 14, 2006

The Mount of Martyrs

For the record: Today is another cloudy, cool day, just right for walking around without working up a sweat. We have an interesting room here at the International, with a bed (where Emily sleeps) and small bath as you come in the door, then a wall with a door sized opening behind which there is a double bed where we sleep. Our guess is that it used to be a reasonably sized single room converted to a triple.

Friday, April 14, 2006, Hotel International, Paris, FR

Kathy and I remember the good old days when a nice breakfast was included with the room. No longer, it seems. For 8 Euros additional each, we'll take our chances on the streets. Poor Kathy and Emily are tired today but they said they are tired every morning. I, on the other hand, usually awaken bright, cheerful, and ready to go. They can't understand this, and they don't like this. To me, 8:00 is mid-morning ... let's go see some stuff. To them 8:00 is sometime in the night zone, and the stuff will be there later.

Our day began nicely when we handed our postcards to the pleasant (another morning person) lady mail carrier who was just walking by our hotel as we were coming out. Mail is still delivered twice a day in Paris. We stopped at our boulangerie, and the semi-nice girl from earlier this week had turned into a nasty wench with no sense of humor. She was snippy with us as all we wanted to buy were some small egg tarts and we were curious what they contained. She played dumb with us and acted very impatient when we couldn't ask our question in perfect French. She wasn't trying at all. Oh well. If I had to spend my day behind a pastry counter I might look for my jollies wherever I could find them as well.

This morning happiness stuff I seem enamored with is obviously not shared by the rest of the people (obviously commuters) on our metro ride. There is nary a smile to be seen, except on my face, which is perpetually plastered with one. I smile at everyone. My two companions do not. (Sometimes I can force a smile from Kat by making what I think is a funny face).

We disembarked at Pigalle, and headed up the hill toward Sacre Coeur. We normally walk all the way past all the interesting shops, however we decided to splurge and take the funicular because we like the name of it for one thing (who doesn't like something with "fun" in the name?), and we figured we could add another conveyance to Emily's list of new experiences. As we approached the bright white church, the sun made an appearance, with a bright blue sky for the backdrop. Beautiful.

Leaving the church, we began our trek to Place du Tertre, past one of the most picturesque (and painted) cafes in Pars, Le Consulat. One of the African street vendors grabbed Em's arm and tried to put a bracelet on her. We were a little late to the rescue, brushed them off and she survived, but was clearly shaken by the event. She told us that she does not like crowds, and was a little concerned for her safety. That brought home to us that we had to be a little more responsible and sensitive to her feelings. We will be more careful in the future and not put her in a similar situation.

We passed through the Tertre quickly to avoid all the “artists” who wanted to draw our lovely grandchild. They can be quite aggressive. We had planned to spend an hour or so there looking at the paintings, but didn't think it prudent given the rapidly increasing density of the small square. We went into what I like to think of as "Grandparent Improvisation" mode.

The non-touristy part of Montmartre is charming. We walked up and down the nearly deserted streets, past the Dali in the Wall shrine, and stopped in a lovely park where St. Denis still holds his head in his hands at the bocce court. I chatted with some workmen who were building a sandbox (rubber coating the cement wall) in a small playground attached to the park. Nice guys who were interested in us (because we were American) and interesting. Emily loved this, and we loved Emily. It's her trip and we want to make it fit her style.

There is a beautiful cafe back there called "La Maison Rose" (Emily's middle name is Rose)that looked like just the right kind of place to stop for lunch but was, unfortunately, closed. Em did find a park that was open, it just so happened to have flowering trees in the same color as the restaurant. Good find.

So down the hills we went admiring the Moulin de la Galette (left, famous from the Renoir painting) that is not above the restaurant by the same name. The Moulin de la Galette restaurant (right) is beneath the Moulin le Radot. Talk about taking advantage. If you didn't know, you wouldn't know.

We arrived at the main street and stopped at the Abbesses metro stop which is one of the few stops that has the original Metropolitan signage. It is beautiful. A short walk past St. Jean Bricks church (a real oddity in a city of limestone and marble) and we spotted what would be our lunch experience; Le Vrais Paris restaurant.

The only thing Em wanted was frites and she couldn’t get them there. Very unusual. Instead they had a thick homemade potato chip that she good naturedly accepted and enjoyed. Good kid. We had some interesting tablemates at this restaurant. To our right were two ladies and their dalmatian, and to our left some young people, one of whom was very pregnant. The pregnant one ordered steak tartar and spent a good five minutes mushing the raw egg into her raw beef. (I’m a little surprised and I have to admit greatly disappointed that the dalmatian didn’t make at least one lunge for that raw beef. He had his eyes on it the whole time.) Disgusting. Em does like the idea that dogs are part of the family and generally accepted as part of the dining experience. Call me old fashioned, but I don't share that sentiment.

Navigating along Pigalle toward the Moulin Rouge, I noticed the surfeit of adult oriented shops and shows (the soldiers and sailors past didn't nickname it Pig-Alley for nothing). Em, thankfully, seemed oblivious to all this. (There are some discussions that are the responsibility of parents rather than grandparents, in my opinion.) We explained that the Moulin Rouge with it's phony red windmill on top, was famous for it's shows and was the subject of many posters and paintings, so she at least had to have her picture taken in front of it. We told her she would thank us sometime in the future. I think she doubted that but she complied.

We headed back to what was quickly becoming our favorite place, Le Berthillon ice cream on the Ile. On the way however we decided to show our Em what Parisian shopping was like at a regular department store, Galeries Lafayette. It was a disaster. Hot, sticky and packed with people. We were trying to get a gift for Danny, but I’m the only one who ended up with anything (restocked my supply of R&G Extra Vieux). We got out of there fast. At least there is an upside to her aversion to crowds ... NO SHOPPING!

We ended up walking down behind St. Michel where Em got a nice big coffee cup for her mom. Then to St. Germain and into a small Italian restaurant for pizza. We did stop at Gerard Mulot, a fancy (very fancy) patisserie and Em and I picked out a goodie each. One of those places where you tell the clerk what you want, he gives you a slip, you go pay for it, return to him with the paid slip and by then your goodies are neatly wrapped and bow tied and ready to go. They were excellent and eaten I'm sure, in less time than they took to make.

Working our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon Les Jardin du Luxembourg, a beautiful oasis and just what the doctor ordered to unwind from a busy day of sightseeing. A little quiet time in a beautiful setting. Em seems very comfortable here, and we hope we get her to open up a little more each day. She quietly absorbs her surroundings and seems to require very little, making no demands on us, except to be there. We can do that.

Sitting on our bed at the hotel, we chatted about what we had seen and what we had learned that day. We took a few minutes to admire her very thoughtful souvenir purchase, and she had us laughing out loud in her get ups.

We talked about feelings and likes and dislikes, and what we could do to make her more comfortable in these surroundings. We developed what I think is a brilliant plan. One of us will walk just slightly in front of her, the other slightly behind. If she feels uncomfortable for any reason, she will say "sandwich" and we will each hold one of her hands. Big smile, secure in this plan, she took her book to bed with her, and fell asleep quickly. So did we.

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