Paris Journal 2003

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Thursday, July 10

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Snow leopards Yesterday, Tom wanted to go to the zoo and see the animals.  So we did.  We went to the old fashioned zoo (as opposed to the newer zoo at the Bois de Vincennes) in the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement.

My favorites were the cats, of course.  Here are two stunningly beautiful snow leopards (left).  The cats were hard to photograph because they were moving around too much.  It was feeding time.  Have you ever watched a cat eat raw meat?  Fun.

The Jardin is home to the Grand Gallery of Evolution, the Natural History Museum, the Menagerie (zoo), a botanical school, and gardens.

Jardin des Plantes Although it is on the other side of Paris, the Jardin des Plantes is extremely easy to get to from the apartment.  We just take the nearest metro, the number 10 at Emile Zola, all the way to the end of the line at Gare d'Austerlitz.  The trick is making sure to take the right exit out of the metro station, to avoid the mass hysteria of the train station.   We managed to do that right, emerging in front of the McDonalds on the blvd. de l'Hopital, right next to the entrance to the Jardin.

Here's the huge French garden that makes up much of the Jardin (left).

Aldabra Giant Tortoise This big guy (left) is an Aldabra Giant Tortoise, from the Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa.

Below, a great horned owl.

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Llama Llamas.


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Lion monkey

Lion monkey

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Brown bear goes for a swim (below).

Brown bear

After this lovely, long summer day with animals, we rode the metro home and went out to eat at what is quickly becoming one of our top three favorite restaurants, the Restaurant Le Boudoir.  My brother will be pleased to know that this place is VERY close to the hotel where he and his friend will be staying in August.

How the French can make vegetables so good . . . amazing.  I had a 'variation around the tomato and the eggplant,' and it was so divine that it would make anyone a fan of eggplant.  That was followed by lamb chops, done perfectly.   Tender, juicy, and seasonings just right.

Something I've been meaning to mention is the use of English we experience in restaurants.  Over the five years we've been coming here, we've noticed a big change.  Not only are more French people speaking English, but more and more foreign visitors are relying on their knowledge of English to get by in France.  And when an Italian has dinner with a German, they most likely will speak English to each other.

Brown Bear It is not uncommon at all for Italians, eastern Europeans, Asians, and others to blurt out all their requests - in restaurants, stores, museums, etc. - in English, without even asking if the poor recipient of these requests can understand English.  People from other countries seem to EXPECT the French to know English.

The French have my sympathies.  English is a very difficult language.  That fact was confirmed by a talented woman I spoke to on the phone yesterday.  (I had to call DHL about a delivery.)  She is not a native French or English speaker, but she speaks four languages, including French and English. She should know.  She says English is the toughest.

We still use our French wherever we go.  But now we know that some of the restaurant proprietors we've been speaking French to actually DO know some English. 

Brown bear The use of English is becoming incredibly common, and the change over the past 6 years is dramatic.

Other things have changed, too.

Six years ago, it was still possible to find pissoirs (public urinals) in Paris.   There was one still in the Luxembourg Gardens five years ago!  Not anymore.   I don't see them anywhere.

And those truly awful toilets where one must put one's feet in particular spots on the floor, and then squat over a hole (really!) -- those primitive things we used to see still in the toilettes in the brasseries and some little restaurants  -- they're gone, too, as far as I can tell.  Maybe there was a French campaign to get rid of them, involving free toilets and installation discounts offered by the bureaucrats.  I don't know.  But these improvements, along with the diminishing volume of dog shit on the sidewalks, are most welcome.

And this has all happened in a remarkably short period of time.  Viva la France!


Prairie dog

Flamingoes (left) don't seem to have enough shellfish in their diet, so they are more white than pink.

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