Friday, September 21, 2007

A Glorious Day in Paris

For the record: Another beautiful day in PARadISe (corny I know). Mild and clear and this morning we head off to Montmartre. We all slept well, about five and ½ hour to six hours worth. Right at 8:00, Edward and Alicia (she is very organized - have I said that before?) were fresh and sparkling and ready for the day. Taking the metro has become routine already, and I don't know if that is good or bad. Last night Kat and I walked back from our Metro stop with our new best friends (Davorka, her husband, and daughter from Croatia).

This early in the morning, Paris is very clean and quiet and I want to live here. The street cleaners were out with their green plastic brooms and water spraying trucks. Watching the people throw their cigarettes, wrappers, etc. into the gutter right after the sweeper went by ensures they will have continued employment.

We took a leisurely stroll down to the Moulin Rouge to take some pictures, having a café and croissant from a small shop along the way.

We checked out the price list (at the time 1 Euro was about $1.38) and noticed a small sign in the lobby of the dancehall, and walked around the corner toward the gift shop, where Ed spotted a very well used, and not as clean as the streets, red light district,stairway that was dying to have it’s picture taken. If walls could talk.

Just up a fairly steep hill from the Moulin Rouge is the basilica of Sacre Coeur, and the interesting area of Montmartre. All the streets heading up are narrow and lined with cars and delivery trucks. The one we walked up was lined with shops; a boucherie, a charcuterie, a fromagerie, and a fish market at the top. (Everything looks so fresh and the signage takes me back to when I was growing up and there were meat markets and awnings extending over the sidewalk.)

Rather than take the funicular, (not wanting to spend the dollar-disadvantaged metro ticket to avoid an interesting 5 minute walk) we walked around past the Moulin de la Galette (of Renoir painting fame), and then the restaurant of the same name with it’s faux Moulin.

Exploring the back streets was so enjoyable on the perfect Parisian morning, past the wall stuck Dali,

the stucco houses with their flowered window boxes,

and of course Le Consulat.

We saw Sacre Coeur from the bottom, and after a strenuous climb, from the top. It is one of the more beautiful sights in Paris and provides startling views. Going down can be as creepy (but not as tiring) as climbing up.

How happy we were sitting in the Place du Tertre to enjoy a beer and watch the painters paint, the sellers sell, and the world go by.

There was a big rugby tournament going on in Paris, I guess their world cup, and a lot of promotion at the tower yesterday. Some of the players were in Montmartre having their pictures done.

Our next stop was Galeries Lafayette (walking past the magnificent Palais Garnier stuck in all it's majesty on an island in a sea of unforgiving traffic) and we were in and out in ½ hour. Channel had an interesting display (of an inverted Eiffel Tower stuck onto the tophat of some unfortunate husband of some shopper) and the building is spectacular but shopping on vacation; not good. Thankfully neither Kat nor Alicia had any interest other than sightseeing.

Headed off to St. Germaine area via metro, making sure that we passed through Place Furstenberg, (having read for years descriptions such as: this lovely little square hidden near l’Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés … a wonderful respite from the left bank epicenter hustle and bustle of Place Saint Germain des Pres and Rue Bonaparte … it truly is a wonderful little round square (LOL!) that unfortunately many people miss by staying on the main avenues and boulevards) and what a disappointment. All the paintings (e.g. Renoux' Place Furstenburg) flatter it, and it is certainly not as picturesque in person, though Ed did get a picture that makes it look better than it is.

For lunch today we decided on Café Petula (we had eaten there with Emily and the food was to die for – I had a tuna steak that melted in my mouth). Today it was good (no tuna), not great. Everyone enjoyed their meals and I had a nice cucumber, mint, gazpacho with marinated shrimps. Unfortunately their credit card machine was not working so we parted with some of our precious Euros. The place is tiny, and friendly and not touristy.

We walked past the famous cafes and spent a little time at St. Sulpice, which is a great deal more famous now after “The DaVinci Code” was published. (The handwritten note that was previously posted on the bulletin board next to the obelisk and Rose Line is now typeset) The truly amazing site was a tour bus making it’s way through the small streets, negotiating a turn that we might find challenging in our PT Cruiser. I don’t know if the fact that he was turning the wrong way onto a one way street was part of the problem or not, but he finally made it

Off we went to the Louvre, so the kids could go see the Mona Lisa, a must see on their list of things to do. Ed took one of my favorite pictures of the trip, people standing around waiting to see the lady in front of a painting of people standing around. Kat and I sat outside and relaxed and enjoyed just being there. I was surprised to see the number of armed guards walking around the pyramid. They were heavily armed and checked each garbage receptacle as they passed. A little boy in camouflage pants wanted his picture taken in front of one of the roving groups of 3 to 4 male and female soldiers. They complied and mom got the picture. Ours is a little blurred, but cute.

When the kids came out (after a remarkably short time IMHO) they were tired (time zoned I think), so we strolled over to Notre Dame, sat and had some coffee and beer. We did go inside for a walk around the interior, took some rose window pictures, and was surprised that it was more crowded than I thought it would be given the time of year, etc. In fact, Paris was crowded, so the economic slowdown has yet to hit the continent. Ed took some pictures of me taking some pictures of poor old St. Denis still holding his head after so many years. The sculptures over the doors continue to amaze.

We walked through the gardens at the back (I think Ed had an interesting interaction with the toilette attendant in the little building in back) and made our way over to Ile St. Louis to eat again. Sounds piggish I know, but it wasn’t; you had to be there.

We had a nice, light dinner at La Sarrasine – gaulettes which were quite good (poor Edward, we kind of forced them on him after he nixed our first choice, Au Lys D’Argent, a crêperie. I guess he doesn’t like crepes. Who knew? Gaulettes of course, are a crepe by another name, and he seemed to like those) followed by Le Berthillon ice cream and a leisurely walk back to St. Michel on a beautiful evening.

We arranged for a shuttle to Orly for tomorrow at 6:50 am., with no trouble at the front desk (cool). (You basically pay him the commission when you place the reservation, and pay the driver the next morning.)
Kat and I walked to the corner by the metro stop, sat on a little park bench while I had a cigar and watched the traffic. Interesting intersection and I don’t know why there aren’t more accidents there. Just as we were heading back to the hotel, across the street we noticed our new best friends, the Croatians, who had surfaced from the metro stop on the other side. We walked back to the hotel with them, chatting and exchanging email addresses. Took their picture in the lobby and ensured them that I would email it to them (likelihood next to zero, given my experience with Pauline in Las Vegas.) They had been to Euro-Disney and enjoyed themselves. Nice people with a good sense of humor, but I thought difficult to understand their heavily accented English. Much better however than my non-existent Croatian. Time for bed.

(A little footnote, I did in fact send them the picture and received a nice reply.)

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