Saturday, September 24, 2011

Last day in Paris

9/11/11 Mon dernier jour en Paris.  This morning at breakfast, the Muslim girl was much better behaved.  She smiled at me when I said “Bonjour,” and even responded in kind when I said, “Au revoir.” Tables were set, cups, glasses, plates were available.  Much nicer than yesterday.  (I am so glad I did not interfere.)  Are plans made to be changed? Did I have a plan for today?  For the record retail therapy always works!  First I bought myself a Paris teeshirt to wear tomorrow on the plane trip home.  Then I started through les jardins Tuilleries towards Blvd Champs Elysses, when it started raining.  And me without my umbrella.  So I bought another one, so I wouldn’t have to go back to the room.  And continued down the boulevard, looking for comfortable, athletic shoes, preferably the shapers with the curved sole.  Ducked into different magazins to look.  Finally found the shoes I wanted, bought them, and wore them out of the store.  Oh, the difference!  So much less pain in the hips and feet.  Walked in the rain, happy as can be, back towards my part of town.  (My new shoes definitely are not chic, but at this point comfort ruled.)I was hungry, so I stopped and ordered a bowl of French onion soup, some bread and a cup of tea. Very good.  (The young Americans sitting near me were eating hamburgers, French fries, and coke.)  Dumped my packages at the room and decided to go to the Musee de Decorative Arts, next door to the Louvre.  Very strange museum.  First exhibit was of a fashion designer (I’ve never heard of) who basically stripped his models.  Then un salle des bijoux through history.  Animals in art, children’s dolls and inflatable toys.  Lots of furniture from la belle époque.

(Side note here:  I’ve had some tummy problems today.  Yesterday I learned the difference between “cru” raw and “cri” cooked.  I’m afraid the salade I had yesterday with thin sliced ham, actually had thin sliced raw ham.  Later I had a ham sandwich with jambon cri.  Who eats raw ham????  Anyway I think that upset my stomach.  I may not eat out tonight depending on how my digestive system feels.  Probably more information than anyone needed, but it may be important to look for the word “cru” which means raw – might not want to eat that.)

After the musee, I went in search of a Pharmacie where I could get something for my stomach.  Walked in the rain (in my dowdy but comfortable new shoes) all the way to l’Opera and back.  No pharmacie open.  So I bought some vita-water and cheese for my dinner in my room.  Not every meal needs to be a three-course event.  I have had some delicious food here: escargots, French onion soup, shrimp salad, raw salmon salad (I think raw salmon is ok), crème broulee, chocolate tarte, fromage, fish with vegetables, beef and potatoes, delicious all.  Le fois gras was less than good.  I thought maybe it was the restaurant and maybe I should do some taste-testing of fois gras at other restaurants.  Mais, non.

I’ve had a fantastic time in Paris.  The first six days were full of seeing the sights, marveling at the history, taking over 200 pictures, enjoying the street performers.  These last two days were added on to see what it would be like to live here.  Of course, it is doable.  And even desirable, since I have written more here en Paris than in the past 40 years of my life.  The fact is no matter where I go, there I am.  Which is a good thing now that I finally enjoy being me.  And if I can write in Paris, I can write in Los Angeles or Baton Rouge or wherever I am.  As Hemingway said, Paris is a moveable feast.

P.S.  The rain stopped, the sun came out to set.  I had to go out to the square at the Louvre, where the pyramids are, to say good-bye.  Cool clear evening, puffy clouds drifting away, the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  And a street performer, a flutist, playing Ravel’s Bolero.  Perfect.  A farewell blessing, another gift from Paris. (This one did not have a CD for sale.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Perfect Paris

9/10/11 Mon septieme jour en Paris.  A little drama this morning at the hotel.  I went downstairs for breakfast about 8:30, said “Bonjour” to the hotel employee.  No answer.  No set-ups on the tables.  No response from the Muslim girl attending the salon de petit dejeuner.  I managed to find a clean cup from a table, got my coffee and sat.  I had to use a saucer for mon pain.  No glass for juice.  Then a group of six came in for breakfast but could get nothing from the Muslim girl – no cups, no plates, no glasses, nothing.  The only sound was breaking glass from the tiny kitchen.  This went on for the half hour I was there.  She finally came out and slammed cups on the tables.  Broken glass on the floor.  Her bad behavior made me want to get her in trouble, complain to the management.  I probably would have if I knew the language well enough.  I don’t need to do that.  Karma will catch up with her.
Paris was full of surprises this lovely summer Saturday.  I took my netbook with me this morning a la Rive Gauche, and I found a children’s playground/park to sit & write a bit.  (I mainly screwed up the page layout of my story and can’t seem to get it right again.)  Then I walked the length of Blvd St Germain.  There was a farmers market which was fun to walk around and a dog unleashed that reminded me so much of my Honey – another reason I am ready to go home.   When I crossed the bridge to Ile St Louis, there was a group of jazz musicians, so I stopped and enjoyed their performance for a while.  Actually sat at a café, ordered a salad (i.e. rented a chair) so I could continue enjoying their performance.  And another street performer – a bubble blower joined them on the bridge (I neglected to get his photo, but I got the band).  Eventually moved on,walking along the river.  On both sides of the river, there are green metal boxes, permanent kiosks, where merchants sell second-hand books, posters, art, souvenirs.  These boxes go back a while in history when the vendors sold revolutionary books and pamphlets.  I bought a CD of Edith Piaf at one of these vendors (oh, also bought the jazz CD too).   Back to my room – carrying my netbook, raincoat, scarf, umbrella, bottles of water – just too much stuff.  At my room, I lightened my load, rested a bit & went back out.  There right in my neighborhood was a string orchestra putting on a free concert – Bizet, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach.  Another delightful surprise from Paris.  I listened until they broke up, and, yes, I bought their CD.  I have now bought 5 CDs, seems to be my favorite souvenir, but really they deliver hours and hours of entertainment and memories of my trip.
After a sandwich and a scoop of sorbet, I went over to Tuilleries where so many people were lying in the shade enjoying the day.  I did so too for a while.  But I’m tired & really do need down-time.  I hurt.  Hips the most.  (It just occurred to me that maybe those shapers shoes would help strengthen my hip muscles and absorb the shock and pounding that walking causes.  I just might buy a pair of those shoes tomorrow – now that my visit is almost over.)  Anyway, it’s only 7:00pm (that’s 19h French time) on a Saturday evening and I’m turning in.  And it’s ok.  Ok to set my own schedule, ok to take care of my needs, ok to rest.   But what a lovely perfect day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Les Halles, Montmartre and the bus system

9/9/11 Today was day six and I think six days would have been enough for this trip.  I’ve seen the major sights, walked all over Paris, and I feel done, tired.  Today the plan was to go east to Les Halles, la Marais, and le Georges Pompidou Center.  Which I did partially.  I walked to Les Halles which is a huge mall built in place of the ancient food market.  It’s a mall – we have those all over the US.  I got a little lost in the area because there is a great deal of construction going on.  So I headed back to my hotel without incident.  Then, since it was only about 11:00, I decided I had plenty of time to learn the bus system and go to Montmartre, which I did.  I bought 2 bus tickets and took the 95 (that’s the quatre-vingt-quinze – 4 x 20 + 15).  Again I got a little lost.  Many of the streets don’t seem to have signs, though I finally found where they are located.  There are plenty of signs about everything, but street signs are on the corner building.  If there are street signs.  After getting off the bus, I just headed up since Sacre Coeur and Montmartre – Tertres Plaza – are at the top of the hill.  I managed to get there, but first I found a nice little restaurant – Moulin de la Galette – for lunch.  I had a fish dish with vegetables (didn’t eat the squid).  Very good meal again.  Then on up the hill.  By the time I got to the Plaza where all the artists and cafes are, it was raining.  Fortunately I had brought my umbrella.  I did say NO emphatically to a couple of artists who wanted to do my caricature/portrait.  Walked around the Plaza and I’m done.  I went into the chapel and just sat still for a while, then went back out when I heard music.  A street performer, singing old-style French songs.  I listened for a while then moved on down the hill.  All the guide books say Montmartre, especially Tertres Plaza, is so touristy and commercialized and I found that to be true.  I do enjoy the street performers though.  Also saw a mime – very good mime – because at first I thought she was a statue.  Going down, down, down the hill, again no street names, just go down till I get to Blvd Clichy. Le Moulin Rouge is at the bottom of the Montmartre hill along with all the sex shops.  I couldn’t find the bus stop for number 95, but a French gentleman, seeing my confusion, gave me directions in French:  allez a droite, tournez au gauche, c’est pres de la cineme.  More walking.  But I found it – thank goodness I have studied and retained some French. 

Back at the hotel, I needed to rest.  Didn’t I mention that I’m tired?  And every meal does not have to be a full, three course event.  Not hungry.   About 6:00pm I went back out, got a snack at Tea by The.  And then waited for the city to light up.  I sat in the plaza at the entrance to the Louvre by the pyramids and fountains.  There were so many people there just milling around, hanging out like me.  I offered to take pictures of several couples so they could both be in the shot.  Eventually, I saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance all lit up, but the pictures didn’t come out good so I deleted them.   Finally went back to my room about 8:30pm.  Tired, almost forgot to write my day. 

Tomorrow, back to la Rive Gauche??  See what’s happening there.  Things do happen there.  Just people watch.  Maybe take my netbook and write.  Pretend I’m Edith Wharton.  Go see the Roman ruins up close.  Good to have a plan – so I can go off it.  C’est tout.

Just a note about chic but casual:  I have seen chic but uncomfortable, and lots of casual, but not chic.  And shoes must be flat, not low-heeled, FLAT.  That’s not for style but for comfort.

Another note: obviously my hands /wrists are ok, nothing broken or sprained.  Good to go.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finally, the Louvre

9/8/11 Another nice day with some pleasant surprises and only one faux pas.  After petit dejeuner dans l’hotel, I went to the Louvre.  The admission was only 10e which was my first pleasant surprise today.   Bien sur, la musee et tres grande.  I started on the ground level & made it to the Venus de Milo which is an anonymous creation, and really amazing.  Even without her arms, this sculpture is so serene and elegant.  Tres belle.  Then I went up to the 2nd level where I saw many paintings – can’t name them, but enjoyed the experience.  I also managed to view the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, Rubens, Michaelangelo, Leonardi di Vinci, and so many others that I had not heard of.  I had  a lovely lunch in Café Robespierre Angelique of quiche, salad, and chocolate tarte.  I left the museum about 4:30 or 5:00 after buying some cards as gifts and a book for myself. Before I went to my room for a little rest, I went to the little boutique a rue Moliere and bought Anne un bijou.  Then I went out to la Rive Gauche to see what was going on.  Things happen a la Rive Gauche.  I found the little jewelry store I had visited last night.  This time I chose a better ring, one whose symbol means meditation and it only cost 20e (instead of the star ring that cost 30e).  I bought it and am very happy with my purchase.  I was ready to head back towards “home.”  Along the way I stopped at a sidewalk book display.  I bought Heidi in French for 20c!  So I can practice reading French without the shock of stumbling on reading scenes of beheadings and kinky sex.  I got to Place Saint Michel with its monument to the freeing of Paris from the Nazis.  I stopped to take a picture and heard music.  There in the Plaza was a young man playing his original compositions on the piano.  Beautiful free concert in the Plaza.  I bought his CD and am so excited to take this treasure home.  I listened to him play until he closed his performance, then continued my way home.  I stopped at a restaurant for a little bite.  I only wanted to try the foie gras which I ordered.  It was different than I expected – sort of gelatinous, cold, firm.  And  when I didn’t order a full meal, the waiter got disinterested in serving me, which wouldn’t have been a problem if I had had cash on me.  But I had used all my daily ration of cash and needed to pay with a credit card.  Finally, after a long wait, a cashier came & took my charge and I could leave. I didn’t leave a tip because the service was not good.  So the experience was negative on both sides.  But the day had so many gifts and delights, that I can’t hang onto the one negative incident.

I have completed the must-do items of my Paris experience.  I have three more days here.  So tomorrow I will go to Les Halles and la Marais.  They are within walking distance and there are several museums in the area.  Saturday, I plan to buy 2 bus tickets to go to and from Montmartre.  Sunday I will return to les Iles.  And one evening I have to stay out past dark to see the Eiffel Tower lit up.  That’s the plan. We’ll see.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Versailles and Musee D'Orsay

9/7/11  Wow!  A day that went according to plan.  I got up early, had petit dejeuner, and got ready for my tour pick-up for Versailles.  There was a little drama while I waited.  Some street guy came into the lobby and provoked our hotel staff.  The two men were yelling at each other, insulting, and the crazy man even pushed the hotel concierge and I almost got shoved.  Police were called, the combatants were pulled apart.  That Latin temper! 
Versailles was lovely though really not my taste in any way.  Way too opulent.  I would have been a revolutionary back then, a peasant not royalty.  Which would you have been?  The gardens are beautiful.  Our van was all Americans who are so much more friendly than internationals.  We all took pictures.  Our guide was a very nice young woman who knows everything about the Sun King and his successors, the Revolution, and French history in general.  The town of Versailles is very nice too.  Quieter than Paris, but old, well-maintained, lovely, lots of trees, old brick/stone streets, and trop cher.

After the Versailles tour, I ate the rest of my cheese with bread (just a quick bite in my room).  Then I walked over to Musee D’Orsay and spent the whole afternoon in the museum.  Of course my favorites are Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh.  But I was exposed to some artists I hadn’t seen before.  I took sit-down breaks, then saw another room I had missed.  And I bought souvenirs – a book about the museum for myself and lots of boxes of cards as gifts.  Lovely afternoon.

And I had enough energy to walk over to St Germain des Pres, find Procope Restaurant, and have a     lovely dinner at the restaurant where Benjamin Franklin dined when he was in Paris!  Since I had saved on lunch, I splurged on dinner – three courses, salad, beef and mashed potatoes, and crème brulee.  Delicious!  I had a nice walk home.  A hot bath.  Winding down. 

The desk clerk told me I had a message: my friend cannot come into town tomorrow, but wants my email address.  I’m not really surprised.  She is busy with her life, moving back to Paris after eight years in LA, enrolling her son in college.  It was nice of her to call and tell me, she could have just not shown up.   So tomorrow I will spend the day at the Louvre.  (I hope the museum has a lunch venue, I will need a food break during the day.)  C’est tout pour aujourdui.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Islands in the Seine

9/6/11 Quelle jour!  Days just don’t go the way I plan them.  I had mon petit dejeuner dans l’hotel.  Then I set out walking to Ile de la Cite.  My plan was to cover the island, climb to the top of Notre Dame, then go on to Ile St. Louis, then to la Rive Gauche to find the little walk-only streets, then have dinner at Procope (where Ben Franklin used to dine).  It was very cold & windy this morning, so it took more energy to walk against the wind.  I stopped at a café for un café.   Then on to Notre Dame.  I was looking up at the top of the cathedral to see people up there where I planned to climb.  I didn’t see the low curb & stepped off and fell, skinning my right hand and left knee.  People helped me up and pointed out that the hospital was around the corner.  So, I went to the emergency room.  The staff there are tres gentils.  I was seen by a nurse and a doctor.  Diagnosis was just skinned palm and knee.  Palm cleaned & bandaided.  And released to climb to the top of Notre Dame.  So that I did.  But not all the way to the top, just to the second level.  I took pictures of the views of Paris from the viewing platform.  Then down to walk in the park.  I had taken my bread & cheese, so I had a little picnic in Square Jean XXIII.  Lovely.  Then I went to Ile St. Louis for a little walk around, crossed over to la Rive Gauche.  But I was tired, lots of sitting in parks, so I started back towards my hotel.  Another Paris surprise!  There on the bridge was a film crew, in the process of filming a scene!  I watched for a while, took a few pictures, then wandered back to the hotel.  After a little rest, I went out again to mail my last postcard (to myself), buy some bandaids, eat a nice salmon salad at Café Royal near my hotel.  It was very good.  Came back to the room, took a hot bath.  I have to accept that I cannot go all day & into the night.  I am exhausted.  And now both my wrists hurt a lot.  Tomorrow I have a tour of Versailles & truly hope to go to Musee D’Orsay in the afternoon.  I just hope some ibuprofen takes away the pain in my wrists, so I don’t have to go back to the hospital. 

Paris is such a young, energetic city.  I’m tired.  Actually Paris is extremely old, so much history, but I’m still tired.  Actually Paris is so old and still young and energetic.  I think it has always been on the cutting edge of creativity, art, literature, architecture.  New, modern sculptures and art immersed in the center of old architecture.  The Louvre is in the old palace built over 500 years ago.  And the entrance to the museum is a group of modern glass pyramids.  Old and new in the same space.  Paris is not stuck in its past. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

City Tour and Boat Tour

9/5/11  Much  better day today.  Amazing how sleep helps change the attitude.  Got up early today to go on a bus tour of the city.  Petit dejeuner ici dans l’hotel.  Then met the tour guide.  He had three other pickups, then our tour began.  We drove by so many palaces, government buildings, monuments I can’t name them all.  I took pictures of some of them.   Our first stop was Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.  I took some pictures of the view from the hill and of the exterior of the church (pictures not allowed inside the church).  Then I walked over to Place Tertre to see the artists.  And I let myself get taken by a street caricaturist (for 20E).  I felt really stupid about it.  Oh, well.   Then we stopped at Notre Dame, which was lovely.  Our tour guide took my picture for me in front of the cathedral.  Our last stop was for photos of the Eiffel Tower.  One of the more interesting sites was the Roman ruins in the Latin Quarter.  I really don’t feel the need to go up in the Eiffel Tower.  There are so many more interesting places to go.  And I really would prefer to see the rooftops of Paris from the top of Notre Dame.  After our tour, I bought a delicious brown bread, a block of reblochon fruitier cheese and a bottle of water, walked over to Jardins Tuilleries and had my picnic.  Then I found myself walking down Champs Elysses to the Arc de Triomphe (which we had driven by several times earlier).  I got a little lost getting from there back to the Eiffel Tower for my boat tour, but I found it eventually.  I had thought I’d do the boat tour at night when la cite is lit up, but decided to go at 4:30.  It was a nice trip & went a little further east than I plan to go, so I saw a little new territory.  It was a pleasant ride.  And every tour gives a little more information about Paris history.  I walked back along the river after the boat tour.  Had another public restroom experience.  This one was free. It was so modern, opened & closed the door automatically after each person, with a thorough cleaning between users.  Of course I took a picture!  I didn’t see a restaurant I wanted to eat at as I walked back from Tour L’Eiffel to the Louvre.  So I ate at Brasserie Louvre, very near my hotel and had a delicious shrimp salad.  Back to write about my day’s adventures & rest my hurting hips.  Lovely day.   Tomorrow I plan to go to Ile de la Cite again & take my time there.  And hopefully I’ll have energy to go to Procope in St. Germain des Pres for dinner