The Eiffel Tower - Photo Taken September 2010

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wrapping it up: Reflections

Allowing 3 hours at CDG is a good idea.  The Novotel Paris CDG Terminal is located right next to the airport tramway that links the terminals, so it didn't take long to get to Terminal 2E, which was packed with people.  When I had checked in online from the hotel, the Delta website directed me to the Air France website because they partner the flight.  So, I figured that I needed to check in at the Air France counter.  I wasn't able to print my boarding pass at the hotel, so needed a boarding pass and to drop off my luggage.  The self-service kiosks at Air France weren't working right and when I finally got to one, I got a slip that told me to check with an attendant, and then I learned I needed to check in at Delta, which was right next door. 

The line at Delta was long, but moved fast.  I struck up a conversation with the woman behind me, who lives in Vancouver, BC, and is also a quilter.  Since I had already checked in, I didn't need to wait for a self-service kiosk, got my boarding pass and checked my luggage.  Then a fairly long walk down the terminal to the security line.  My gate was M43, which required another ride on a shuttle before going through security.  Again, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Olympia, and we sort of stuck together until we boarded the plane.  Once through security, I was intent on spending the last 12 euros in my pocket.  I bought a couple of tins of salted caramels for 11 euros and came home with just 1.65 euros - a cheap souvenir.  I really planned my money well, and even have a few budgeted dollars left, as well!

The flight home was smooth except for a few bumps, but seemed long. I watched 3 movies and read a little, but didn't sleep.  We arrived a little early.  I quickly got through passport control and customs, and was home by 2 pm.  Living 10 minutes from the airport is very nice.

Now that I am pretty much recovered from jet lag, which I find is worse coming home than going, I want to take a little time to reflect on the trip.

My apartment, La Belle du Marais, rented through Cobblestone Rentals Paris, was exactly as pictured on the website, but perhaps a bit smaller than it appeared in the pictures.  It is located in a 16th century building that has no charm of its own.  The elevator was tiny, but reliable.  The free wi-fi and long-distance phone calls to the US were very convenient.  The building is located in the southwest corner of the 3rd Arrondissement, on a limited traffic side street just one block east of Blvd Sebastopol, and a longer block west of the Pompidou Center, off Rue Rambuteau.  There is a supermarche about a block away, and lots of shops and cafes just steps away.  There are also 2 north/south and 1 east/west bus lines close by, as well as 3 Metro stations.  I really liked the location.  There was a lot of pedestrian traffic and energy in the neighborhood, as well as some street noise.  The popular bar l'Art Brut Bistro is right across the narrow street, and it generated quite a lot of noise which was amplified by the narrow street.  Fortunately, it was cool enough that I could keep the window closed at night. 

Because my knee was acting up, I decided to ride the bus rather than using the Metro.  Sometimes I rode the bus just 2 or 3 stops, to save my knee for when I got to my destination.  I still did a lot of walking, and there are lots of stairs.  In all but 2 of the cafe/restaurants I was in, "les toilettes" were either up or down a flight of stairs. And, climbing stairs was required in most museums.  Some Metro stations have escalators and/or elevators, but most have only stairs, and there is quite a lot of walking involved once you get into the Metro tunnels.  I actually rode the Metro only one day when I went to Chateau de Vincennes, then up to the Champs Elysees on Line 1.  The Paris Bus map book, which I bought at a newspaper kiosk for 6.50 euros was invaluable.  It shows the bus lines on street maps, making it easy to see where the stops are and where one can make transfers to other lines. 

Without exception, the Parisians I met were warm and helpful.  I used as much french as I could, and if I was having trouble, the other person would ask if I wanted to speak english.  My main problem was understanding the french spoken to me.  I found that most of the people working in tourism related jobs spoke excellent english, but were very tolerant of my attempts to speak french. It is critical to learn and use a few basic french phrases before visiting Paris, or any other part of France.  Saying "bonjour" at the beginning of any encounter with a french person is imperative.  Saying "merci," and "au revoir" are also important.  It wasn't unusual for me and whomever I was speaking with to use a combination of french and english on both sides.

At no time did I ever feel unsafe or threatened.  While petty crime, such as pickpocketing is fairly common in Paris, especially at the big tourist sights, I didn't encounter any of it.  Several times I was approached by the "petition girls," young women, usually Roma, who want you to sign a petition, and then either try to get you to give them money, or a confederate tries to pick your pocket.  But, all I had to do was shake my head and wave them away.  Twice, I encountered the "gold ring" scam.  This is when someone "picks up" a gold ring in front of you, wants to know if it's yours, then tries to get you to pay money for it.  In both cases, I just shrugged and walked on. 

The meandering streets in Paris are like small villages, each with its own character.  You can walk over one or two blocks and be in a completely different "village" with an entirely different flavor.  That is why walking and cafe sitting in Paris is so much fun.  And, Parisians use and enjoy their parks.  The parks have lots of chairs and benches where one can sit, enjoy the passing parade, and soak up the sun. 

French children (and dogs) are well-behaved and welcome everywhere.  Restaurants don't have children's menus. Parents teach their children to try and appreciate different foods. 

There is a lot of discussion on the various travel forums about what to wear when in Paris.  Most tourists want to blend in with the locals.  I took a monochromatic wardrobe: black slacks, black shoes, black raincoat and sweaters, and black and white patterned tops.  While I don't think I exactly blended in, but I don't think I stuck out either.  While I saw some very stylish women, most everyone dresses pretty much like we do in the US.  I did notice that most french women in dresses wear hosiery.  I also saw quite a number of young french men wearing brightly colored Nikes.

For a purse I used a Baggalini with 4 outside zipper compartments.  I tucked my camera into one pocket, and apartment keys into the smallest pocket.  I put my credit card holder into an inside zipper pocket and put my coin purse in a separate pocket from my bills.  I usually started the day with about 100 euros and kept the rest of my money at the apartment.  Keeping my money and credit cards in separate compartments ensured that I wouldn't loose everything should I be pickpocketed.  I carried a photocopy of my passport, leaving the original at the apartment.

Living as a Parisian for two weeks was an adventure that I'd do again in a heartbeat.  Traveling solo allowed me to do what I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it.  While I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, I usually didn't decide what I would do on any given day until that morning.  There were many things on my "list" that I didn't do.  I didn't do any day trips out of Paris, mostly because there was so much to do in Paris.  Having been to Paris before, I didn't have to go to some of the big Paris sights unless I wanted to.  I walked past Notre Dame several times, but didn't go it - I went in three years ago.  I didn't go up the Eiffel Tower - the weather wasn't good, and the best views of Paris include the Eiffel Tower.  I did go to the Louvre, but to a wing I hadn't been to before.  I enjoyed walking in neighborhoods that I had not been to before, and I enjoyed 3 of the many Paris street markets.  There is still so much left to see and do - I could go back a dozen times and still have a reason to return.

So maybe there is another trip to Paris in my future - I sure hope so, but if not, I'll hold onto the memories of this trip.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Au revoir, Paris...

My last day in Paris. 

I had a pleasant surprise while eating breakfast this morning.  The owner of the apartment called to say I could stay in it all day!  That meant I didn't have to take my luggage up to the Gare du Nord and stash it in a locker.  Yes! So, I called the taxi company and changed my pick-up time to 4:00 pm.

After breakfast I finished packing and tidied up the apartment.  I hadn't decided what I would do today, but it was sunny, so I decided to go up to the top of the Montparnasse Tower. 

The Montparnasse Tower is widely regarded as the ugliest building in Paris.  When it was built, it caused such an outcry, that buildings of its type have ever since been outcast to the suburbs.  But, from the top (59 stories), there is a fantastic view. Some say even better than the view from the Eiffel Tower because from the Montparnasse Tower you get a view of the Eiffel Tower without having to look at the Montparnasse Tower.  It cost 13.50 euros to ride the elevator to the 56th floor where there are windows, a cafe/snack bar, and a boutique.  You have to walk up to the 59th floor where it is open air, but surrounded with plexiglass.  Fortunately, there is an open space between the upper and lower pieces of plexiglass so you don't have to take pictures through the plexiglass.  While the sky was blue from the ground, it was a little hazy from the height of 210 meters.  I think that might be a little higher than the Space Needle.  But, still the view was well worth the trip up the stairs.

I rode the bus back toward the river and got off at St. Germain des Pres, and walked around for a little while.  I was tempted to have lunch at Les Deux Magots or Cafe de Flore, but decided against it as they were both very crowded.  I found a little Italian place down a side street where I ordered one of the specials, having no idea what it was.  It turned out to be a large ball of fresh mozzarella - nearly the size of a tennis ball - on some greens with cherry tomatoes.  Not exactly what I had in mind, but it was good.

I walked down Blvd. St. Germain to the Odeon Metro Station, then turned down toward the river where I came out at Pont Neuf.  On the way, I passed Le Procope, which is one of the oldest cafes in Paris.  I got to the bridge a little before 2:00 with the idea of take a cruise on the Seine.  The Vedettes du Pont Neuf leave from under the bridge and I was just in time for the 2:00 cruise.  The cruise lasted an hour, and it was nice to be out in the water with the breeze in my face.  The monuments look different from the river than from the either the street or from the top of a building - so now I've seen Paris from three different perspectives. 

Officially, today was the last day of summer, and everyone in Paris seemed to be taking advantage of the sunshine.  All along the banks of the Seine people were soaking up the warmth of the sunshine.  In the two weeks I was in Paris, this was the nicest day, and one of only 4 or 5 that had any sunshine at all.

After the cruise I walked to a bus stop and took the bus back to the apartment, arriving about 3:30.  I was able to cram my luggage and myself into the elevator and get everything out on the street where I waited for the taxi, which arrived right on time.  G7 is the most reliable of the taxi companies in Paris and they have an english-speaking operator.  The traffic was terrible getting out of Paris and the driver tried to take me to the wrong Novotel (I think I saw 4 of them in this general vicinity), but he did get me to the right one - at the terminal - and I checked in.  Nice room; beautiful bathroom with walk in shower.  After climbing into a tub to use a hand-held shower for the past two weeks, I'm really looking forward to that shower in the morning.

I had dinner at the hotel.  Baked penne with lots of cheese and a little bit of chicken.  It was pretty good, if only because there was lots of cheese.

It's been a wonderful trip, but I think I'm ready to go home.  I'm so tired right now.  I think being away from the energy of Paris has a lot to do with it.  I'm crashing and I've set the alarm for 6.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Day 14 - Musee Carnavalet and Le Marais

My first thoughts this morning were about getting organized to get packed up as this will be my last day in the apartment.  I need to be out by 10 am tomorrow.

After breakfast I rode the bus down to the Carnavalet Museum.  It is a former mansion that now houses the museum of the history of Paris.  Most of the history is told in paintings contemporary for the era they depict.  I found the section on the French Revolution to be the most interesting.  There is a recreation of Marie Antoinette's chamber while she was imprisoned - it didn't look too uncomfortable.  Of course all of the signage was in french, so it was a little hard to tell what everything was all about. The museum has a lot of steps, but it is free.

It was actually sunny today, but I wore my raincoat and carried my umbrella for insurance.  It was too warm for the coat, though.  I walked down to the Place Vosges, which looks very different in the sunshine than it did the first time I saw it in the rain.  People were sitting on the grass and enjoying the sun.  I had my most expensive cup of coffee yet at a cafe under the arcade - 5.80 euros for a double cafe noisette.  It was worth it.

My plan was to walk back to the apartment through the Marais and do some shopping along the way.  I passed a little creperie by the church of St. Paul and wished I was hungry.  I walked a little further up the street, and back-tracked, thinking "I'll be hungry soon."  I had the Galette du Jour at La Cidrerie du Marais.  A buckwheat crepe (galette in Brittany) filled with bleu cheese, ham, pears, and walnuts.  If was very good, especially washed down with a cup of cider.  Just like in Brittany.  Lunch = 10 euros.  Continuing my walk after lunch, I found a bead shop.  A very nice one, too. It seemed to have all the necessary supplies and lots and lots of beads.

I thought I might get a flat-rate box at La Poste to send some stuff back home, especially my guidebooks which are heavy.  A 2 kg box (the smallest they had) would cost about 60 euros to ship.  I decided I could leave these books behind and buy new ones for less than that.  So bagged that idea.

I walked along Rue des Rosiers and Rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnaire, doing some serious window shopping.  I went into a few shops, but nothing really reached out and grabbed me.  I haven't found anything special to take home for myself.  The problem is that I have developed a mindset of "no more stuff!"  I guess I'll just have to take home my experiences and memories of all the good food I've had.

The shops are very nice with high quality goods.  Pretty expensive.  Lots of leather goods, clothing, and jewelry.  Some very unique shops with quirky stuff, too.

I got back to the apartment a little before 3pm and headed for the laundromat.  It is so much easier to pack clean clothes.  Then I started to sort out everything for packing.  I feel so settled in this apartment, the task is almost daunting.  Could it be that I don't want to go home?

As small as it is, this apartment has worked well for me.  I wouldn't  recommend it for more than one person.  There is nothing special about the building, no charming courtyard or lobby, just a narrow hallway and a winding staircase.  It's old and creaky, but there is an elevator, which isn't found in a lot of these old buildings. The location is great.  Close to 3 bus lines that have gotten me wherever I've wanted to go; also close to 3 Metro stations and an RER station.  A 10 minute walk to the Seine.  Lots of shops and cafes close at hand, including a supermarket.  Lots of activity on the street.  Maybe a little noisy, but that really hasn't been a problem for me.  Fortunately, it has been cool enough that I haven't needed the window open at night.  I've really enjoyed my home in Paris.

Tonight I met my TA friend for dinner at Ambassade d'Auvergne, which is just a block or so from the apartment, and turns out to be one of her favorite restaurants.  It is a very charming place, specializing in dishes from he Auvergne region of France.  One of their specialities is "aligot," which is potato, cheese, and garlic, beaten until it is a gooey consistency.  They bring the pot out to the table to show you.  It is delicious.  For a starter I had blood sausage on a bed of white beans with vinaigrette, and for the main course roasted magret de canard (duck breast) with the aligot.  The duck was perfectly cooked.  For dessert I had another of their specialities, chocolate mousse, which they serve in a large serving bowl, allowing you to have as much as you want. It was dark chocolate, and heavenly.  Unfortunately, more than half of the bowl (both of us shared it), went back to the kitchen.  We shared a bottle of red wine and had a very delightful evening.

My suitcase is partially packed. Want to pack some more tonight, but will still have a lot to do in the morning. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 13 - The Louvre and a Quilt Shop

An update on the Laduree macarons that I bought yesterday, but didn't eat until last night.  They were delicious and the flavors very intense.  I think the best I've had.  Note to self: Eat them when you get them, don't carry them around all day so they get all smooshed and crumbly.

This morning I started out for the Louvre.  I rode the bus part of the way and walked part of the way.  I enjoyed walking under the arcade opposite the Louvre on the north side of Rue de Rivoli.  There are some interesting shops and just across from the entrance to the Louvre, there was an exposition called "Bois et Foret" (Wood and Forest).  They had plantings of different kinds of trees, seedlings really, there was a wooden model of the Eiffel Tower, a small log cabin, and an area where people could learn how to make different things out of wood. 

After checking out the mob of people waiting to enter the Louvre through the pyramid, and shooing off a couple of petition girls, I went down to the shopping center under the Louvre where there is a less busy entrance.  The shopping mall is called the Carousel du Louvre and it is full of high end shops.  I found the shops to be very interesting and unique.  There is a nice restroom - I think part of a cosmetic shop - that charges 1.50 euros for the privilege of using their facilities, but it was worth it.  There was a bit of a line waiting to get into the Louvre, but it was for security only.  It was about 11:00 when I got into the area under the pyramid, so I had a cup of coffe and a wonderful tarte citron (lemon tart) to tide me over for a couple of hours at "Paul" the boulangerie since 1889. 

After checking my coat I went to the Richelieu wing.  Almost everyone heads for the Denon wing because that is where all the "biggies" are, eg., the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, etc.  The Richelieu wing has paintings (French, Flemish, German, etc.), statues, objects d'arts, and the apartments of Napoleon III.  There are also about one-tenth as many people as in the Denon wing.  My main objective was the Napoleon's apartment.  I wasn't disappointed - they were pretty impressive.

After finishing in the Richelieu wing, I thought I'd pop into the Denon wing.  Since it was lunch time, I thought there would be fewer people - not!  There were just too many people, and since I'd seen all of the "biggies" before, I left. 

The Richelieu wing is very easy to navigate, especially for someone with mobility issues as there are escalators and elevators, but I didn't see anything but lots of steps in the Denon wing.  I'm sure there must be some elevators, but I didn't see them.

My next objective for the day was a quilt shop Le Rouvray on the Left Bank across from Notre Dame.  I rode the bus to Petit Pont and walked along looking for a place to have lunch.  I finally ended up at Bistro La Grange on rue La Grange.  I ordered a Croque Monsieur, and it was delicious. It was a slice of rustic bread with pesto, ham, and cheese, toasted and served with a lettuce salad.  I ordered a Coca Light (Diet Coke), and it even came with a piece of ice!  I was in heaven!  Lunch was 11.80 euros. 

I found the quilt shop.  It is quite small, but very nice, and the owner was very pleasant.  There was a couple there from Upstate New York, and as we always do when 2 or more quilters are together in a room, we talked quilting.  I bought a piece of toile fabric (french fabric with scenes printed on it; usually red, green, blue or black on a white or off-white background).  Unfortunately, the owner said she was going to have to close the shop at the end of October because her husband is out of work and she needs to get a job.  She said she'd open another shop next year.

I walked along the Seine and crossed over the "Love Lock" bridge to Ile St. Louis.  There were 3 armed soldiers on the bridge - they are non-threatening, but I couldn't help but wonder what was going on.  Were they there to keep people from putting more locks on the bridge? I was thinking I'd go to the famous Berthillon Tea Room, which arguably has the best ice cream in Paris.  When I got over to the island, I was too tired to walk all the way down there, so stopped at the Brasserie de L'lsle Saint-Louis, which I knew to be very touristy, but they advertise that they have Berthillon ice cream.  I ordered a cafe noisette (coffee with milk) and 2 boules of ice cream (chocolat noir and caramel sale).  The scoops of ice cream were very small, which was okay, but they cost 8 euros!  Total bill with the coffee came to 10.90 euros. Did I mention that this is a touristy place?  There was a nice couple from Boston sitting next to me, so I had good company, and there was an unending parade of people to watch:  A woman walking her cat on a leash; a street mime; a fellow playing french music on an accordion, and a couple dancing to the music.  Considering the entertainment, it was good value.  Sitting there, I thought there was no place else I'd rather be.

Dinner tonight at Chou Chou, a bistro down the street from the apartment that gets good reviews on Trip Advisor.  I had confit de canard with pommes sarladaise.  A duck leg & thigh with potatoes a la Sarlat (a town in the Dordogne that is famous for ducks and geese) with a lettuce & tomato salad on the side, and some red wine.  Chocolate molten cake with creme anglais and "un cafe" for dessert.  Less than 25 euros and they had live music - a guitarist and bass fiddle playing nice jazz.  Rue Rambuteau is just as busy at night as during the day.  At least 2 or 3 other bistros have live music as well, and not just tourists.  Heard mostly french being spoken. Loved the vibe.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 12 - l'Orangerie and Jacquemart-Andre

Another overcast day,  but I didn't let that stop me.  I walked over to the bus and rode down to Hotel de Ville where I changed to a bus that would take me to Place de la Concorde.  My destination was l'Orangerie.  As I walked from the bus stop toward the museum, I crossed Rue Royale with a great view of La Madeleine at the other end of it.  The first thing that came to mind was Laduree, and the second thing was macarons.  So a quick detour up Rue Royale.  It was a little past 10 and as I got close, I thought I hope they're open.  They were, and there was no line.  I bought 6 macarons for 11.80 euros.  I'll have some for dessert tonight, then I can compare them to ones I've already had from Galleries Lafayette and Pierre Hermes.  Frankly, I think it is more a case of the best ones being the ones you are eating now.

As I walked back to La Concorde, another woman picked a gold ring off the the sidewalk in front of me - nearly the same spot where it happened last week - she looked at me and kept going, didn't try the scam on me.

When I arrived at l'Orangerie there were two lines.  One for people needing to buy tickets and one for those of us with prepurchased tickets or passes.  Neither was very long, but the latter was shorter.  They control the number of people in the museum at any one time.  When people leave, more people are allowed to enter.  Again, the line was for security, and once I'd passed security (walk through metal detector and a peek into my purse) I could go directly into the museum with my pass.

The reason people go to the l'Orangerie is to see Monet's water lily paintings.  These are huge canvases, four in each of two oval rooms.  They depict the pond in his garden at different times of day and different seasons.  I have to say they were not as breathtaking as they were the first time I saw them in 1994 - probably because I knew what to expect this time.  Since 1994, the building has been renovated and the canvases have been moved from the lower level to the upper level where they are seen under defused natural lighting from a huge skylight in the roof.  They are now displayed the way Monet wanted them to be displayed, according to his own plans.  They are still awesome and anyone who is seeing them for the first time has to be blown away.

On the lower level of the museum is a collection of art by Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, and other artists.  It is a very nice collection and probably under appreciated since Monet's huge canvases are the big draw.  But I appreciated that I could actually get close to these paintings as there are not the crowds of people as at the d'Orsay.

I walked back to the bus stop and got on a bus headed to Boulevard Haussmann and the Musee Jacquemart-Andre.  This museum is actually a 19th century mansion that was owned by a couple who had no children, but travelled around the world collecting art and decorative items to furnish their home.  It has been a museum for about 100 years.  It is more like visiting a furnished house than a museum, but it is gorgeous and there are some very interesting things in it.  They have a very nice cafe where I had a tomato and cheese quiche and salad for lunch. 

Riding the bus along Boulevard Haussmann, I passed several embassies, including the American and British embassies.  It was neat seeing the American flag flying over our embassy. 

I changed buses at the Opera, and while looking for the correct stop for the #29, I went into a Swatch boutique for a few minutes.  When I started to leave, it was pouring rain, so I darted back inside to get my umbrella out.  It rained so hard!  Fortunately, I wasn't far from the bus stop and the bus came fairly quickly.  The rain had mostly stopped by the time I got off the bus at the top of my street.

I went to the apartment to dry off and rest for awhile.  As it was not longer raining, I went out again to go over to Rue Montorgueil, the popular market street that I visited the first Sunday I was here.  There were more shops open today, and it was quite busy.  There was even a demonstration of sorts in front of one of the supermarket chains, protesting how eggs are produced.  At least that's the gist of what I could figure out.  I bought some peaches and bananas at Le Palais de Fruit.  I now have enough food for the three breakfasts I have remaining in the apartment - just need to go out to get a fresh baguette or croissant each morning.

Walking back to the apartment it started to rain again, but not so hard this time.  More charcuterie for dinner tonight.  Some terrine and/or sausage from the Charcuterie down the street, and little cheese, some salad, some wine, and baguette - makes a nice supper.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 11 - Musee d'Orsay, Musee Rodin, and Tour Eiffel

The day's weather promised to be a repeat of yesterday's, so I donned my raincoat and grabbed my new umbrella before setting out.

I rode the #69 bus over to the d'Orsay museum.  There was a huge line of people waiting to buy tickets, and a shorter line for those of us with passes.  The line got longer after I got into it; however, that was just the security line.  Once inside, I walked right in after showing my pass.  I knew it would be busy today because the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, so that means everyone flocks to the d'Orsay. I should listen to Rick Steves.  Oh, well. 

I toured the right half of the main floor, then went up to the 5th floor where the Impressionists are.  I decided that I probably wouldn't see everything anyway, so I may as well start with what I really wanted to see.  It is pretty exciting to see the originals of the prints you've seen all of your life.  At one time a print of Monet's picture of the woman and child walking in a field of poppies hung in my office at Marsh, so it was neat to see the original.  Then I went down to the 2nd floor to see the Post-Impressionists.  I had just read "The Yellow House," a book about Van Gogh and Gaughan when they lived in Arles, so it was fun seeing some of the pictures that were described in the book.  Unlike many museums that allow photos without flash, the d'Orsay doesn't, but we could take pictures from behind the clock and from a balcony that overlooks the main gallery.  It is quite an impressive building, and originally was a train station. By the time I had finished with the Post-Impressionists I felt fairly satisfied with what I'd seen, and even though there was still a lot more to see, I was tired and hungry, so I left.

I had a quick lunch at the cafe right across the street from the museum.  It was an onion tart with a lettuce salad.  It was relatively inexpensive for Paris (11.80 euros), but pretty pricey for what it was.  I think it was frozen and microwaved as the pastry was pretty soggy.  But, it was quick and I wasn't hungry after I finished it.  There was a couple from Oklahoma at the table next to me and I enjoyed visiting with them.

I hopped back on the #69 bus and got off in front of Les Invalides, and walked over to the Rodin Museum.  I didn't go into the building, but walked through the garden.  Rodin was a contemporary of the Impressionists, and was himself an impressionist.  While there, I topped off my lunch with some dessert and coffee at the cafe in the garden.

I decided to ride the #69 to the end of the line at Champ de Mars, so I could get closer to the Eiffel Tower.  When I got of the bus I noticed a group of men playing boules nearby.  The Eiffel Tower is pretty darn impressive when you're up close to it, but I was still quite a distance away.  I'm ready Edward Rutherfurd's "Paris" right now and he spends quite a lot of time describing how the tower was built, so seeing it brought that to life for me.  The weather is such that it just doesn't make sense to go up the tower as you wouldn't be able to see much, and besides the best views of Paris have the Eiffel Tower in them!

I rode the #82 back through Montparnasse, a new area for me.  I can certainly see why so many people like to stay near the Eiffel Tower and in Montparnasse - the apartment buildings in that are are quite nice, and I think expensive.  The end of the line was at the Luxembourgh Gardens where I changed to the #38 that took me to my neighborhood where I bought some supplies for tonight's dinner.

It actually didn't rain today, but it was windy and cold.  Fall is definitely in the air. Only 4 more full days in Paris. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 10 - Pompidou Center and the Islands

The sky was grey when I looked out this morning, but it was breaking up with some blue sky when I went out for my baguette.  I let my high hopes for the day override my common sense and left home without either my raincoat or umbrella.

I planned to go to the Pompidou Center this morning, but since it doesn't  open until 11, I walked around the side streets in the area around the PC.  Many shops are closed on Mondays, and those that aren't don't open until 11, so the streets were pretty quiet.  It's interesting to walk around when the streets are waking up.  Shopkeepers sweep their front walks, trash is being picked up, streets are being cleaned, and finally shutters are rolled up and the shops are open for business.  

I watched people line up for the opening of the Pompidou Center while drinking coffee at a cafe.  The line was just to get into the building.  Security involved opening our purses/bags for a quick inspection.  Once inside, those without tickets had to queue up to buy their tickets and those of us with a pass went right in.  The escalators to the upper floors are on the outside of the building; in fact, all of the building mechanics are on the outside (see photos).  I rode all the way to the top floor as the weather was clear and I wanted to get some pictures.  There is a wonderful view of Paris from the top level of the museum.  Unfortunately, the view is seen through plexiglass that isn't very clear.  The permanent exhibits are on the 4th & 5th floors - the 4th floor is contemporary art dating from approximately 1960 to the present, and the 5th floor is modern art from the first half of the 20th century. I was disappointed to learn that the 5th floor is temporarily closed until mid-October because that is what interested me the most.  The art on the 4th floor is interesting, but not really my cup of tea.  There were some fun exhibits, though.

The remainder of the day was spent on the Islands: the Ile de la Cite and the Ile St. Louis.  I rode the bus over to the Palais de Justice and walked along the Quai de l'Horloge to the Pont Neuf, which despite the name is the oldest of the bridges crossing the Seine.  This is at the western point of the Ile de las Cite and features a park and statue of Henri IV.  One of the "love lock" bridges is also here (see post for Day 4 for more about the "love lock" bridges).  It was lunch time, so I went to the Place Dauphine to look for a cafe. 

I went to La Rose de France and had a wonderful lunch, a bit of a splurge.  For a starter I had a plate of 3 preparations of foie gras.  One was foie gras "ice cream." It had an icy consistency with a salty/crunchy element on top.  At first it was cold on my tongue, then melted to a buttery consistency. It was really good.  The second was a foie gras "creme brulee," which came in a small ramekin with caramelized sugar on top.  The texture was just like a creamy smooth custard, but it was made with foie gras.  It was also very good.  The third was a slice of solid foie gras with some sort of glaze on top, and it was delicious.  The entire thing was heavenly.  After all that richness, I had wisely chosen a simple salad of sliced chicken breast with fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, and radishes on a bed of lettuce, for my main course.  While I was in the restaurant, the wind came up and it poured, and I didn't have either my raincoat or my umbrella.  But, it wasn't long before the wind died down and the sun came out. 

I finished my lunch, which was topped off with "un cafe" served with a perfect chocolate truffle, and started walking up the island.  Halfway up the block, it started to rain, and it poured.  I crossed over to the Left Bank because I knew there were several souvenir shops over there where I  could buy a parapluie (umbrella).  I found one, but not before I was pretty wet.  I stopped at a cafe just to get out of the rain - that's one thing nice about Paris, with over 10,000 cafes, it is pretty easy to find one when you need one - and had another cup of coffee until the rain stopped.  I walked around Notre Dame.  There were lots of people around and quite a long line of people waiting to climb the stairs up one of the towers.  I think the best views of Notre Dame are from the back where you can see the flying buttresses.  I walked over to the "love lock" bridge that I had crossed last week, so I could take some pictures, then went into the Deportation Memorial.  It is a memorial for the tens of thousands of Parisian Jews that were deported during the Nazi occupation in World War II.  Unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays, but I had been there before.

The Ils St.Louis is like a small village unto itself with narrow cobbled streets.  There are many very expensive mansions on the island and real estate there is quite expensive.  I walked around for a while and went into a few shops. 

It started to rain again, so I made my way back to the Palais de Justice to catch the bus back home. 

Three different times today I saw armed soldiers - once at the Pompidou Center, then at Notre Dame, and also at the Hotel de Ville.  Only 2 or 3 soldiers, but all were armed with automatic weapons.  Though I saw a military presence on Saturday during the Journees des Patrimoines, this was the first time since I've been here that I've seen armed soldiers.  I wondered what was going on.

One thing about France that I'll never get used to, even after five visits here, is the uni-sex restrooms.  I guess it's just one of those French things, I guess.  Vive la differance!