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Eiffel Tower from a garden part of the Champ de Mars.
Tom has breakfast on the balcony on Friday.
Kids can take pony and donkey rides in the Champ de Mars.
Invalides, viewed from Ave. Breteuil. Just south of here is a part of the quinzieme that is like the septieme. We like this neighborhood very much.
Hydrangea in bloom in the Champ de Mars.
Sacre Coeur, on Montmartre
Blue mime on Montmartre
Graffiti on La Folleterie
View of rue du Commerce from our balcony
Dog and cat sleeping while human organ grinder works
The Eiffel Tower pops into view unexpectedly many times in the 7th arrondisement. This is from avenue Rapp.
Art Nouveau door on avenue Rapp.
Statue of Second Empire soldier, Zouave, at the Pont d'Alma
Armenian Church in the 8th arrondisement
Notre Dame de Consolation
This cat lives on the boat with the green top
Blue sky and sun, at last
View of the Champ de Mars from beneath the Eiffel Tower. You see the École Militaire at the end, and the dreadful Montparnasse skyscraper in the background.
Quiet area just to the west of the Eiffel Tower's base
Saturday, July 7
For the fourth year in a row, we are spending the summer in Europe. We stay in the same apartment in Paris each year. It is located in the "quinzieme arrondisement" (fifteenth district), a non-touristy, very real Parisian neighborhood in the central city. It is convenient, spacious, and filled with 10,000 books, mostly in English. The owners go to the U.S. every summer. They rent out the apartment to someone who can be trusted with books. We, fortunately, qualify. We also know how to fix things in the apartment, should anything go wrong. So, we more than qualify. We are extraordinarily grateful to them for allowing us to be here. It feels like home away from home. Very familiar now.
We left Sanibel Island on Wednesday with a taxi driver who talked nonstop about his new career in professional bowling. Driving a taxi gives him the flexible schedule he needs to pursue his dream. Everything about the flights on Delta went smoothly. We had noisy children behind us from Atlanta to Paris, but they did quiet down after a while. On this new, high-tech Boeing 777, we had a choice of in-flight movies and personal screens on the back of the seats in front of us. Tom and I picked "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," a magical and beautiful film.
When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2C on Thursday morning, we knew the drill. Tom waited for luggage while I called the Airport Connection shuttle service, which we had reserved in advance, to say that we had arrived, albeit 30 minutes late. No problem, they said, and when both bags finally reached us on the conveyor belt, we made our way to Gate 8, where the shuttle waited for us. Only one other passenger rode with us to the central city -- a young girl from Houston who was going to study at the Louvre for six weeks. We thought it seemed that the young driver was interested in her, so we bet that we'd be dropped off first this time. We were right.
We take the shuttle instead of the train because we are jet lagged, and the train is a bit too complicated to catch (it involves taking a bus first -- depending on which terminal you arrive in -- and then buying a ticket, finding the train, squeezing into it with your baggage, and then switching to the correct Métro, maybe even having to change Métros, squeezing into the Métro car with your luggage, and then struggling from the Métro station to the apartment with the luggage). Theoretically, the train is faster, but look at all the hassles on either end. It isn't worth it when you are jet lagged. The shuttle only cost $13 per person, tip included. (Airport Connection, 011-33-1-44-18-36-02 -- English speaking staff)
We had rush hour traffic to contend with, but the shuttle seats are comfortable, and we just relaxed and enjoyed the ride, knowing that the freeway ugliness would soon give way to the beauty of the central city. And it did.
We did little for two days except for sleep. On the ride to the apartment, I noticed that L'Epopée on Ave. Emile Zola was open. This was a restaurant that we really wanted to try last year, but by the time we knew about it, they were closed for vacation. So we didn't even have to think about where to go for dinner. We went there the first night, and it was delightful.
Our Huntington Check Card that we use to get cash from the ATMs wasn't working, so we had to call the Huntington in the evening. It was a network problem due, I think, to the fact that they switched over to Chase Bank to manage all their credit card business. Anyway, we got the problem fixed and we were able to get cash to buy bread at our favorite bakery, Maison Kaiser, on Friday morning. We still lazed about on Friday, but finally went out at 4:30PM and walked for three hours around the neighborhood, the Champ de Mars, and a part of the quinzieme that is much like the neighboring, fashionable septieme (7th district).
The Champ de Mars was alive with people of all kinds. We enjoyed the loveliness and liveliness. Kids were taking pony and donkey rides. Much later in our walk, when we were on the ordinary streets of the quinzieme, we say these same animals being walked home. We stopped at a café and had a large bottle of Badoit (mineral water), marveling at the large amount of ice we were given in our glasses. That usually doesn't happen anywhere in Europe. We then went on. We ended the trek with a trip to the FranPrix (grocery) to get four little bags of necessities which we carried a couple blocks back to the apartment.
Then we had a late dinner at one of our favorite places, La Folléterie, very near the apartment, on rue Letelier. The dinner (fish two nights in a row!) was wonderful, as always. It was raining when we left the apartment, and it rained much of last night. We don't have to water all the plants on the balcony! What a relief.
The sun is starting to come out now -- a bit after noon on Saturday. Time to go out and play. More later.
Monday, July 9
Tom's been on a cloud lately because he received in his e-mail a message from Philip Gura, a distinguished professor of American Literature at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Professor Gura was writing to say how very much he liked Tom's new book, The Ivory Leg in the Ebony Cabinet, and he even offered to help promote it! We don't know Professor Gura personally, but Tom sure knows of him by reputation. The message from him also let us know that the book is now available out on the streets. I sent a message to our friends to let them know.
Yesterday we walked for several hours again. We first took the Métro to Montmartre, which is always mobbed with people on Sundays. We disembark at Lamarck Caulaincourt instead of the stop most people take for Montmartre, which is Abesses. From Abesses, one spends yet another Métro ticket to take the Funiculaire, a cable car, up the hill toward Sacre Coeur. This involves waiting in line. Much prettier is the walk up the hill, using a pedestrian way constructed of stone steps through little park-like areas from the Lamarck Caulaincourt stop. On the way, you can go by the church's vineyard and the Lapin Agile where all those writers used to hang out.
I never had so many of the portrait artists beg me to let them do my portrait. Is it because my hair was down, instead of tied back as I usually have it when we're out & about? I don't know. We saw a couple adorable mimes as we walked around the Mont, and then we settled down on the steps in front of the church, with the glorious view of Paris spread before us, and listened to a group of musicians from Guatemala or Peru. They were superb, and I was overcome with the feeling that we were in the center of the world -- sitting there with the view of this world-class city, on a prominent hilltop, surrounded with people from all over the world. Everyone comes to Paris, it seems, either to work or to play.
I wish I got more pictures, particularly of the Peruvian musicians, but the camera batteries were low. We eventually left the Mont to find some lunch. First we explored a street called rue des Trois Freres (street of the three brothers). I had a feeling it would be interesting, and it was -- with a mix of shops that included fabric stores that sold fancy yard goods for making stage costumes (Blvd. de Clichy is just a block or two away, after all) and all sorts of ethnic restaurants.
We found a nice little place on the rue de Martyrs for lunch -- Chez Claudine. After Tom finished his omelette and I my quiche Lorraine, we took the Métro from Pigalle to Madeleine. We wanted to walk part of the way home, so that's why we stopped there. We walked through Place Vendome (where the Ritz hotel is, where Princess Di had her last meal) and were surprised to find a lot of new sculptures installed there on the plaza. They were like Henry Moores, but not quite as good. I think the artist's name is something like Olivier Segelle.
We continued down the rue de Rivoli, which was delightfully crowded with shoppers, and tried in vain to find the Espace Pierre Cardin on Place de la Concorde. This is where the new French American center is supposed to be. We couldn't find it, but I'll keep trying.
We saw that all the bleachers were already set up for next week's parade on Bastille day. We crossed the Seine on what I think is the prettiest bridge, Pont Alexandre III. There we were met on the left bank by the park that leads up to Invalides. It is being taken over by rollerbladers. Kids even had a hockey game going in one corner of the park, near us. I wondered if a passing pedestrian might get an eye put out by a hockey puck since the sidewalk is several steps lower than the paved area where hockey is played.
We stopped at the American Church to get literature in English about what's going on in Paris. It was late afternoon, and church services were long over, so the church was locked up as was the gate to the garden. But the inner walkway was open, and that's where we found what we were looking for. A couple people were checking out the postings for jobs & apartments on the bulletin boards (very useful info). A German tourist couple came in with us, and I was shocked to see the woman climb over the locked garden gate so that her husband could take a picture of her in the garden! What gall!
We continued homeward through the fashionable septieme arrondisement, down the rue de l'Université. Another big museum is being constructed there, between the rue and the Seine. Tom had lost our map, but I knew the way home. In fact, I knew how to surprise him by continuing on the rue de l'Université, until it takes a little bend in its last block, then WOW -- the base of the Eiffel tower is nestled in the trees right in front of you. Amazingly, you don't see it coming.
So we had another lovely walk through the Champ de Mars, which was full of people on this Sunday afternoon.
Tom was incredulous about the graffiti I told him was on the side of the building that houses one of our favorite restaurants, La Folléterie (on rue Lételier). So we stopped there on the way home and took a picture of it. It says "Thanks for stopping the depositing of your turds here." Then we went across the street to a tiny, tiny little grocery called "Tot ou Tard" (sooner or later) to pick up a few essentials (on Sundays, the regular groceries are closed). The proprietor was EXTREMELY nice. We'll go back there. They have miraculously crammed anything you could possibly need into a very small space, and the prices are reasonable. Well, at an exchange rate of 7.8 francs to the dollar, everything is reasonable.
We rested, and then went out for dinner at our favorite place for Sunday evening dinners, the Italian restaurant on the Place du Commerce called "Della Piazza." The owner came out and greeted us because he remembers us from prior years. This is like coming home.
Tuesday, July 10
Yesterday we tried to pick up laundry for BC (our hostess/landlady) but we found the blanchisserie closed on Mondays. This makes sense. If they're to be open on Saturdays, why not close on Mondays? So we just went on up to Monoprix, a large discount drygoods & groceries chain store (well, large by French standards, but not by ours) and did some real shopping. But real grocery shopping still does not involve the kind of quantities we'd get all at once back home, because we must carry these bags several blocks back to the apartment. Sizes of packages are much smaller than in the U.S., and people generally go to the store much more frequently than we do.
After that chore, we decided to make it a shopping day all around. So we took the number 8 Métro to l'Opéra and went to Brentano's, an English language bookstore, where Tom bought some French language textbooks and I bought a few guidebooks, including the new Michelin green guide for Paris. It is a real improvement over the old ones, and I was also delighted with a book called Around and About Paris: The 13th-20th Arrondisements by Thirza Vallois. This entertaining book is full of historical anecdotes -- a good read.
We next went to the department store, Galeries Lafayette, and picked up a few more of their free city maps. We find these to be the most convenient maps to carry around, and they tend to get lost or worn out. I penetrated the store and its mob of shoppers a bit farther to buy some more of my favorite French perfume, Rive Gauche by Yves St. Laurent. Then we got the heck out of there because it is absolutely packed with crazed shoppers from all over the globe. We wandered to the North, and encountered an organ grinder on a busy corner. He had a cat and a dog in a little bed at his feet. The two animals were adorable, sleeping together there on the tiny bed. Then we found ourselves at St. Trinité, a church built during Haussman's day (circa 1876). I thought it was very pleasing in all its balanced decorations, but I think Tom was not impressed because it is so relatively new, as far as Paris churches go. After a rest there, Tom was ready to go back, so we went into the Trinité Métro and bought more tickets. The cashier told us there was a problem on the Métro, and Tom had the presence of mind to ask where it was -- at Madeleine, she said. We decided then to walk the several blocks back to l'Opéra and take our number 8 directly home. We did that, and although the number 8 also goes through Madeleine, there was no problem for us on this line.
Emerging from the Commerce Métro stop, we were overcome with hunger so we went to the grocery store near there and bought a few things we forgot at Monoprix. Then we stopped at Maison Kaiser and bought a loaf of our favorite bread. We went home, had a snack of sparkling water, cheese, bread, and cherries on the balcony, then sat down to read. We both fell asleep in our chairs for a half hour or so! Walking through crowded streets is tiring, I guess. Then we read more, and had a light supper on the balcony at 9:30. It is staying light now until about 10:30.
Wednesday, July 11
Yesterday we managed to pick up BC's laundry at the blanchisserie. Tom really wanted to go back to Morot Gaudry for lunch. It is a very expensive place frequented by business people on a tiny street, Cavalerie, off of La Motte Piquet, near the École Militaire. But alas, the restaurant was closed for work being done on the building. We surmised that (a) with so many old buildings, many of them are being worked on at any given time, and (b) it seems that businesses are closed much more of the time than a comparable business in the U.S. would be. It is just the way things are here. So we had a simple lunch on the sidewalk terrasse at Oh! Poivrier, a place we go for ordinary, pleasant café lunches.
Then we walked up the Champ de Mars, almost to the middle, and took a diagonal walkway that turned into a diagonal boulevard, avenue Rapp, that lead straight to the Pont d'Alma over the Seine. We had always walked on the other side of this bridge before, not noticing that on the east side, down at the water level, is one of four statues from the original bridge. It was done by none other than Antoine Bourdelle (whose studio/museum we visited last year in Montparnasse). The original bridge had four of these Second Empire soldier statues. This one, depicting the beloved Zouave, remains. In the flood of 1910, the Seine reached his chin.
After crossing the bridge, to the right along the banks of the Seine, is a lovely park that is nice for walking despite all the traffic noise. It has magnificent rows of mature, manicured chestnut trees, and one can look down on a number of sightseeing/dinner cruise boats that are docked there. In the gardens near the beginning of this park (Cours Albert 1er) is another Bourdelle statue, this one depicting the Polish poet, Mickiewicz.
To get away from the traffic, we came back to the Place d'Alma via rue Jean Goujon, a stylish street with handsome Haussmanian buildings and some designers' shops. But the really swanky street for shopping for designer clothing and accessories is avenue de Montaigne. The Théâtre des Champs Élysées is on this street -- closed now for the season. It, too, has carvings by Bourdelle on its façade, although it seems to be much more modern than I would have associated with Bourdelle's work. Many significant arts events happened here, including Stravinski's premier of Rite of Spring, so controversial at the time that he had to run from the auditorium to escape outraged patrons. Here, too, Josephine Baker danced "half naked" in the Negro Review while Sidney Bechet played saxophone. Important people stay on this avenue at the Hôtel Plaza-Athénée -- a lovely stone edifice with overflowing window boxes of red flowers.
We left ave. de Montaigne on rue François 1er and headed for rue Marbeuf, passing La Fermette Marbeuf where we had a memorable gourmet lunch last year. Somewhere along the way here we passed a beautiful little Armenian church with gorgeous crystal chandeliers, which were all lit because the cleaning crew was there. Then we passed a little Notre Dame de Consolation church that had a sign posted out front telling about a terrible fire that occurred there during a church bazaar in 1897.
When we reached the avenue George V, we noticed guards and undercover security people (easy to spot) around here and there. This is because the American Cathedral is located here, and Bin Laden has said that American institutions will be hit by terrorists in the coming weeks. We continued up to avenue Marceau because I wanted to see if the Église St. Pierre-de-Chaillot was indeed the bell tower that I keep seeing from our side of the Seine. Indeed, it is. This church was rebuilt in the 1930s, and it is relatively simple in design, but its art deco carvings are nonetheless pleasing. The façade is a rather elaborate carving depicting the life of St. Peter (carved by Bouchard). The stained glass windows near the alter are phenomenal for their intensively red colors.
We stopped at the American Cathedral on our way back to Pont d'Alma because we wanted to find a Paris Time Out guide. We'd been there before, but decided to visit the sanctuary while we were there again. This church is under strict security; one must announce oneself at the guard cage, which is enclosed in bullet-proof glass. Then one goes around the corner and the guard clicks open a security door also made of bullet-proof glass. Then one proceeds up the hallway to the front left corner of the sanctuary. It is a pleasing church, but nothing really special. Tom thought we could exit out the normal church doors, because they were marked "sortie," after all. But I stood back because I knew it was futile. There would be no point in the security measures if someone inside could open the door to terrorists outside. We did find our copy of Time Out, as well as other helpful publications in English, on our way out of the church.
We stopped at Café Indigo to have Badoit on the sidewalk terrasse and to rest and read. The weather was threatening, but there was an awning over our heads. We've had south Florida summer weather, but much cooler, with lovely mornings and cloudy afternoons, ending in showers.
We braved the number 6 Métro line and a change of trains at La Motte Piquet Grenelle, where Tom was robbed last year. It was really eerie, and I'm sure my blood pressure went up, partly because in each station along the way (we changed trains twice), they were announcing that a pickpocket was in the station at that moment. Indeed, we saw suspicious behavior, and we were a bit freaked to see the African drummer playing in the corridor at La Motte Piquet Grenelle -- the very same guy was in the same spot the day Tom was robbed. We were glad we did this route, because we needed to confront the memory. But we're much more careful this year. I won't go into all the precautions we are taking, but they are several.
We did our usual, stopping at little stores after emerging from the Métro station at Commerce, to pick up a roasted chicken, bread, wine, and other necessities for dinner. It is a civilized way to live. Bin Laden and violent thieves can't ruin it for us.
Thursday, July 12
Why Paris? It is easy to say that we choose it because it is affordable, we know a little of the language, and because it is aesthetically pleasing in many ways. But one of the best reasons is because Paris contains a little bit of everyplace else in the world. Ethnic communities of all kinds exist here, along with their corresponding grocery stores, restaurants, dry goods stores, places of worship, languages, and more. If an American had never ventured beyond the Americas (George W., par example?) and was only going to go once, to one place, we'd have to suggest Paris because it is here that the American can experience a little of almost everything.
Yesterday we visited the Musée Guimet, a museum that boasts about its "exceptional collections of sculptures, paintings, and objets d'art (45,000 items), illustrating the diverse cultures and civilizations in Asia, covering an area as vast in time (five millennia) as in space (from India to Japan)." The museum deserves to boast. We spent hours there, learning a lot about Buddhism and Hinduism in the process, and soaked up religious art until we just about died of hunger (we went before lunch and stayed until 3:30 or so). In other museums elsewhere, we've seen some good Asian art collections, but this one has so much more, and it is much more representative of the whole. No place before have I seen, for example, so much from Cambodia (Khmer), Vietnam, Korea, Nepal, and Tibet. Nepal is very important because it is the birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism.
When we arrived back at the Eiffel Tower, preparing to walk back through the Champ de Mars, we were amazed again by the mass of humanity gathered there. In that mass, the police had just arrested a young man and he was being led away in handcuffs. There is a police station just to the west of the Tower's base. This was one of many dark-skinned young men who sell miniature Eiffel Towers. One of the policemen had his set of little towers on a big ring, but also had a fanny pack and a billfold in his hand. We surmised that the vendor was also a pickpocket, and that he'd been caught in the act. Tom said he'd been suspicious of those vendors, anyway, because it just didn't seem probable that anyone could survive by selling little Eiffel Towers.
Just to the west of the little police station and the base of the tower is a bucolic park/woods/garden, complete with pond, cave and waterfall. As we walked along the sand path around the pond, we noticed a bunch of sparrows taking dirt baths and lounging about in the sand. Tom said, "Look! It's sparrow beach!" So we stepped over a fence, to avoid disturbing them, deciding that since many people there were already breaking the rule about not sitting on the grass, it wouldn't matter if we walked on the grass for a bit to avoid disturbing the birds.
Sparrow beach (or so we call it)
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