Paris – October 11-21, 2008
20081011&12 – St. Louis to Detroit to Paris: Both of our flights left on time and arrived early. Got to STL airport two hours before flight time because the airlines worry about long security lines. Well, we were at the gate within 15 minutes of entering the airport. So we had a long wait. I had a CPK Thai chicken pizza for lunch and Sandy and Sharon joined us about 12:30 for our 1:35 departure.
Once in Detroit, we walked from one humongous concourse to another humongous one. And the Levins took us into the very plush NWA Club for our five hour layover. All four of us got onto our laptops with the nice free Wi-Fi. We played, worked, read, sat, ate until it was time to get aboard. The concourse is so long there is a tram inside it to take you to your gate. We settled into our seats on Northwest flight 50 on an Airbus 300.
Dinner was served about 10:50 Detroit time (4:50 AM Paris time). Robin was given a very nice entrée and mine was okay, but not as good as hers. We both listened to our iPods for a long time before dinner and then afterwards. I tried to sleep, but was too cramped and only got about an hour plus overall. I got up several times just to unkink my knees and feet. Next time, I will probably put my backpack overhead so I have more room to stretch out. Naturally, Sandy got a full night’s sleep since he took a pill upon boarding, had eaten before he got on plane, and went right to sleep. And they were in business class as well with plenty of room.
Breakfast was simple and served about 9:30 Paris time. We arrived around 11:00, half an hour early, and taxied around and around for a very long time before we were put at a gate. Went swiftly through passport control and there is no customs to go through. Took taxi into city. Stopped at our hotel since they manage the apartments where the Levins are staying and gave Sandy the key. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our suitcases, took our backpacks, and met the Levins right around the corner in front of their building.
We walked over to the Place de Bastille and went to the neighborhood street market (here every Thursday and Sunday). Lots of nice food as well as other stuff. Sandy bought stuff for dinner (roasted chicken, cheese, bread, greens for a salad, etc.). We snacked on falafel and humus from one of the booths. Then to the ATM for some money and back to the apartment. Robin and I returned to the hotel and our room.
Room 30 is up three flights of a spiral staircase with the steps small and tilted a bit downward. A schlep to say the least. You have to put a magnetic key in a slot in the room to have power. Great energy saving method … not here, no power since the key to the room is also attached to the mag card. Room is nice, but they took the two double beds and put them together into one bed and there is also a smaller cot-size bed. I asked about this at the desk (down three flights and up again) to find little sympathy. I will work on it again tomorrow since they have to make the bed in the morning. Then I plugged in my laptop to see about Wi-Fi. Yep. It’s there. However, it’s costly. I had to go down again to find out access and fees. It’s about $26 a day for unlimited service. Good thing is that most of the parks in Paris have free Wi-Fi and I think we can use the one the Levins use as well. So, updates and pix will be slower than usual getting online.
While Robin slept, I went with Sandy to a local market to buy wine for tonight and some other staples for their apartment. Looked at Paris maps to get my bearings and borrowed a couple of them. Then I walked past the hotel and down to the Seine to a bridge that goes to Ile St. Louis. Nice views down the river. Back at the room, Robin was still crashed. Supposed to go to Levin apartment for dinner around 6:00-6:30,
Had nice dinner of roast chicken, green beans, salad of lettuce and tomatoes, and several kinds of cheese (all purchased today at the street market) and a bottle of wine. Excellent dinner overall.
I could connect to the Internet from an open Wi-Fi in the building, could read/send email, but could not send pictures out to Flickr. So, will have to wait. And then I kept falling asleep as I was talking to others. So, we went home and were in bed with the lights out at 9:00.
20081013 Paris: Arose around 8:15. Did wake up now and then over the night, but really didn’t know what time it was since the room was very dark and the clock I brought does not light up. After morning ablutions, I went down to the basement for breakfast while Robin continued to dress. Breakfast is 10 euros and consists of juice, coffee, croissants (one with chocolate), baguette, and you can have yogurt, American cold cereal, and apple sauce, if you are so inclined.
Met the Levins in front of their apartment at 10:00. We spent the day walking mainly. Our morning was all in the Marais. We started with a walk around Place des Vosges (a nice city park where we plan to go again since most of the city parks have free Wi-Fi). Then through the heart of the Jewish quarter where lots of venders were selling esrog and lulav for the season. Passed by both trendy shops as well as traditional kosher delis and markets.
Around 11:30 we were outside the Pompidou museum. There is a wonderful pool with lots of sculpture in it including several by Niki. We had café crème on the street and then went into the museum. Robin and I decided to buy four-day passes to all the museums since, at the worst, we’d break even but probably would do much better. The escalators to all floors are mounted in tubes on the façade of the building. We went all the way up to the top (sixth floor) where we could see over the rooftops to Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, etc. We ate on the terrace up there at a lovely restaurant (I am convinced that most museums have good restaurants). I had an excellent cheese omelet.
We then all went into the museum. It’s on the fourth and fifth floors and consists of almost all modern works. Very interesting to see some of the same artists we had just seen in Kansas City, some of our favorites, etc. Good collection.
Met Sharon and Sandy at 3:00. Sharon headed back to their apartment and the three of us walked up Rue de Rivoli all the way to the Place de Concorde. We walked through the Tuilleries from the Louvre to the Place de Concorde. Sandy and I got superb gelato (mine mango, Sandy’s cassis). Then Robin and I went into the Orangerie to see the two rooms of Monet water lilies. Excellent. Always thrilling>
Sandy left us to take the Metro back. We walked along the right bank of the Seine all the way home. Most of the time, we were right next to the water. Passed by private boats with exquisite furnishings. Saw the tourist boats like Bateau Mouche. Even say a TV show being filmed. When we got to the first bridge that went to Ile de Cite, we crossed over and wended our way to Notre Dame. What a lovely church. We were there when the light was really nice and even saw the beginning of mass.
It was now getting late (after 6:00) and we wended our way by a circuitous route back to the hotel getting there about 7:00, just in time for washing up, some downloading of pictures, and meeting the Levins in front of their apartment at 7:30. We walked around the Place des Vosges and down a side street to a place Sandy wanted to take me to(“best chocolate mousse in the world”), Chez Janou (2 Rue Roger Verlomme). We ate outside in front. I had grilled mussels followed by a wheat risotto with scallops. Robin had a spinach salad followed by penne nicoise. Then there was the mousse. The waiter arrived with a whopping big bowl of it and spooned mounds into each of our dishes. It was thick and wonderful. No way I could finish what I was given. Really outstanding as Sandy had promised.
Finished dinner around 9:30, walked home, and got onto the computer to write this, download pictures, etc. Will try to get stuff uploaded to the Internet tomorrow.
20081014 Paris: Got up around 9:15. Had a not-so-good night. Sandy had warned me that the second night could be bad given you are rested, but your body clock has not adjusted. Well, we worked until 1:30 last night and I had a hard time getting to sleep. Guess I finally did so in the middle of the night given the time I awakened to get up.
We left here around 10:30, stopped at a local shop to get croissant and OJ and went to the park at Place de Voges for free Paris Internet service. You get two hours. The first hour the service was fine for me as I uploaded lots and lots of pictures from the first two days, worked on emails, etc. Around noon, however, it slowed down to the speed of sap movement in winter. I could not do any heavy-duty stuff. Robin had better luck altogether.
Around 1:00, it was getting cold (and we had not brought jackets even though we were layered). So we went back to the hotel, dropped off our gear, got coats, and headed out. We crossed the river near the hotel going across Ile St. Louis and over to the Left Bank. We walked up the river all the way to the D’Orsey, quite a schlep. I was getting tired and crabby with little breakfast and no lunch so far. We had looked into several places on the way back to the hotel from the park, but did not go into any of them. I ate a lovely panini of cheese and tomato along with an espresso bought from the stall outside the D’Orsey.
We spent from about 2:00 to after 5:00 in the museum. The building is terrific and is as much fun to see as the artwork. Highlights included the Impressionists and a special exhibit featuring the museum’s pastels. Hard to describe the experience of being in a museum like this. You just have to be here.
We walked home through the Saint-Germaine quarter. Saw the nice shops along the main thoroughfare, stopped at a crepe vendor for an afternoon treat. First time I can remember eating Nutella (although Robin says she and her sibs ate it a lot during late 70s, early 80s). I was dragging by about then. The walks we have taken over the last two days are really pretty long.
Got back to the hotel about 6:35, did some quick washing up, etc. and went around the corner to meet Sandy and Sharon in front of their place at 7:00. Walked to Place de Bastille and got on the Metro heading toward a brasserie Carolyn had recommended near the Bourse (stock exchange). Very nice dinner at Brasserie de Vaudeville. I had fish soup, duck breast with figs and Dauphine potatoes, and cassis, citron, and mango sorbet. Sharon had profiteroles, so Marian should be pleased. Nice wine from the Loire region.
Took Metro back and walked home. Downloaded pictures and wrote this. Robin is working hard at her computer. ASL should pay her extra for working on vacation. It’s midnight now. Time to go beddy bye.
20081015 – Paris: Had another hard night to start with. So took a sleeping pill and got up this AM at a bit after 9:00. Nice. Had breakfast in the basement. Now I am switching to tonight’s dinner and will come back to the rest of the day.
Went to Le Bambouche on the Left Bank, a restaurant that Carolyn and Howard said wonderful things about. And it was indeed wonderful. Too nice of a restaurant for me to take pictures of the food. And really hard to describe what we ate. The “befores” consisted of a soup of cappuccino and cuttlefish ink. Robin’s was pumpkin. I started with a mille fuille (if that is how you spell it) of crab with mango sauce, a baby artichoke. The presentation on all the dishes was right out of the best food magazine you’ve ever seen. Robin had a mushroom soup … several different kinds of mushroom, some cepe ice cream, even. They fixed an exquisite veggie plate for her with all sorts of things in small balls, some different kinds of potatoes, etc. I had some lamb with polenta, but that doesn’t do justice to what it was. Two small medallions of lamb on one axis of the plate and two small rounds of polenta on the other with sauce in an artistic design. Between the starter and main courses, we had a spoon with apple and apple jelly on it (again, does not do it justice). Then I had a set of crème brules … yes, four of them … quince, marshmallow, hazelnut, rose. Then they gave us an “after” of some apple foam and yummy piece of chocolate. See the check in our pix from today. Really one of the best meals I have had in a very long time.
* Lots of the men around here need to take more frequent baths.
* All the streets with saints in them are hyphenated (e.g., Saint-Antoine).
* Each night we eat at yet a more expensive restaurant (with the corker on Monday).
* The ice cream/gelato around here is stupendous.
* It’s 60 steps from the bottom of the staircase to our room three flights up.
So, after my breakfast, we walked down to the river and took the Metro to the Louvre where we spent most of the day. We wended this way and that. Saw lots of Egyptian stuff. Lots of huge paintings. Wonderful halls and galleries. Got lost and backtracked a few times through stuff we’d already seen. Saw lots of my favorites along the way.
And the Mona Lisa room is a carnival. Look at the pictures of the crowds trying to get close and take all sorts of flash pictures. We went to the side and were near it when we took our pictures. It’s a real zoo.
Went to the Café Richeleau in that wing of the museum and had a nice lunch. I had a club sandwich that was really three different sandwiches: one cheese, one chicken salad, one smoked salmon. Came with a nice green salad, slaw, chips.
It was a bit raw when we emerged. We walked down the Right Bank to a bridge to Ile de Cite where we tried to go to Sainte-Chapelle, but the line was way too long and it was cold. So we walked around the outside of Notre Dame and then over to the monument to the deported Jews at the end of the island. But it was closed for the afternoon.
We crossed the bridge to Ile Saint Louis and walked down its main street. Didn’t go into any of the wonderful shops except for one where I got a glace of passion fruit with chocolate chips. Woo hoo. Then back to the hotel for a restroom stop. Afterwards, we walked along Rue Saint-Antoine for several blocks. Lots of lovely food shops (chocolate, cheese, bakeries, butchers). Went into Monoprix, a department store with a good food area. Didn’t buy. Just looked. It was spitting rain by now, so we walked home and did computer/picture stuff until it was time to meet Sharon (Sandy was meeting us at the restaurant). We took one Metro to Concorde and then transferred to go south to the restaurant, which is near Bon Marche. And, as I said earlier, it was outstanding.
Came home around 10-something. Washed my clothes and had a hard time trying to find some place to hang them to dry. Every knob in the place has a sock on it now. We went on paid Internet for 24 hours unlimited usage (each did this) and have been on ever since … it’s now 1:30 and I am taking a pill and going to bed!
20081016 – Paris: Seems like we go to bed later each night. It was 1:45 before I climbed in between the sheets and Robin was later. Up at 8:30 this AM. Still gray and cold and rained over the night.
I did laundry before embarking on my computer stuff. Well, all that travel underwear and socks are still damp this AM. And the t-shirts? Ha.
* Showers here are only partially enclosed. Wall only extends about 3 feet on side you get it. And this is typical of Europe. So you have to be really careful or there will be water everywhere, as I learned the first morning.
* There are no wash cloths, and this also is usual. Sandy gave me one from his supply. Gotta have a wash cloth.
Had nice conversation over iChat with Marian last night. Good to see/hear her. Ah, the wonders of the modern age. And another one with Tracy this AM (was 1 AM in LA).
I had breakfast in the cellar around 10:30 and then we headed out. Robin picked up a long roll she thought had raisins in it, but it turned out to be chocolate chips. She ate the whole thing along with a brioche. We got on the Metro to Concorde and then on the RER to Rive Gauche-Versailles. It took about 45 minutes or so.
It was a raw, blustery day when we got there. Spitting rain and cold. We walked from the station a few blocks through town and then up toward the chateau. Wandered through most of the building. Koons sculptures are in several rooms. Interesting on one level but not a biggie given how wonderful the surroundings are. We went into living chambers, saw the chapel, hall of mirrors, etc.
When we were done in the building, we wanted to go out into the gardens. It was now raining steadily and blowing cold. We huddled under an arch until it got semi-bearable and then headed out. We walked down the main canal, went through into the wooded area where I got a panini and café crème. Panini here are long rolls filled with meats and cheeses and nicely grilled.
Out of the woods, we headed down the waterway some more and then took a right and the long walk to the Gran Trianon and Petit Trianon. The gardens around both were wonderful. We liked the Petit Trianon the most with its different small buildings at the end of paths in the gardens. The Queen’s Theater is a wow!.
It was getting late. Around 4:00 or so we headed back for the long walk to the chateau and into town for the train. Took the train and got off at Tour Eiffel. Was getting cold again. The highest we could go was the second stage since they were overbooked and jammed on the third (summit). But it was high enough and the sun was getting low and the view was great. So we took lots of pictures and headed down.
We crossed the main street there to a crepe stand and both had cheese crepes. Hit the spot. And then the lights started on the tower. First a series of strobes and then just light as it was sunset. We walked along the waterfront, crossed over the Seine, and headed east toward a Metro station where we took the #1 train to Saint-Paul (near us) and went to our room for a quick washing/bathroom stop. It was now 8:00 PM and we had reservations for that time around the corner.
Went to la tete ailleurs (yes, lower case). Robin started with a salad of chevre that had a crispy outside and grilled tomatoes. She followed that with penne with mushrooms and truffles. I started with zucchini flowers over greens and followed with a wonderful flaky fish over onions and fennel (very sweet) with a tomato-based sauce. Then I ordered the lemon tart which was very tart and dense and wonderful. So, Robin had some and loved it. Chocolate and dessert all in one day. Will wonders ever cease?
Had a long conversation with a Parisian couple on one side of our table. The very young couple on the other side spent most of their meal kissing and cooing. Guess it aids digestion. We struck up a long conversation with them (not the kissing ones). He spoke fluent English and translated for her. They are liberal and are rooting for Obama. We discussed American politics, right to bear arms, how nice all the French we have met have been, etc. Very nice people. He works for an American company based somewhere outside of NYC.
Got back to the hotel a bit before 11:00. Long day. Writing this. Will download pix from al three cameras (I took over 300 pictures today and don’t know how many Robin took yet). We hope to get up fairly early tomorrow and go to Sainte-Chapelle, but we shall see. And we had fun on an iChat with Marian along the way this evening.
20081017 – Paris: Got up at 7:00 (set the alarm). It’s really dark at 7:00 here. Didn’t get light until near 8:00. Did computer stuff, showered, dressed, went down to the cellar for breakfast.
* We’re convinced the weather got better yesterday at Versailles after Robin meowed a Jewish prayer.
* Also at Versailles, when walking through the gardens, I called out: “Oh, piss boy.”
* In Paris, they have faucets at gutter level and run them full blast for a long time to flush out the gutters. They also wash the light posts.
* Lots of Smart cars around here. And people part literally touching the car in front/back of them. Don’t know how they get in or out.
* What I get in the morning at breakfast is café au lait, which is strong coffee and hot milk as compared to café crème, which seems to be weaker to me with too much milk.
After breakfast, we headed across the Seine, up Ile St. Louis onto Ile de Cite, around Notre Dame, and to the Palace of Justice to get into line for Sainte-Chapelle. We were there right before it opened. Not many people in line at 9:30, so we really had it almost to ourselves. No way that pictures or descriptions can give one the feel of the place. It’s just something you have to experience firsthand.
Lots of pictures later we headed back to the Right Bank and along to near Hotel de Ville where we bought an all-day pass for the Bateaubus (a water taxi that does a route from Eiffel Tower on one end and the Jardin de Plantes (beyond Ile St. Louis) on the other. We took the boat to near the Louvre, walked through the Tuilleries, and went up Champ Elyses all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. Wall to wall people all along the way up the street. Lots of fast food, sidewalk cafes, brand-name stores, etc. Have to do it once.
At the arch, we headed toward Rue Faubourg/Saint-Honare and walked down it to where we could turn to the Madeleine. I had lunch at Fouchon right behind. Nice smoked salmon and an espresso. Then toward Galeries Lafayette (too much of a zoo with crowds to go in) and to the Opera. Then back toward the Louvre to the river and got on the Bateaubus again. It headed down river to the Eiffel Tower and then turned back upriver. We stayed aboard all the way to Jardin de Plantes.
This park is an old botanical garden. We walked along paths lined with flowers that Robin knew. Very lovely. Beautiful old buildings (Museum of Natural History), greenhouses (under renovation). We retraced our steps back to the river and the boat/bus. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was 5:30.
We downloaded pictures, dressed, and met Sharon to take the Metro to Jean (8 Rue Saint-Lazare), a one-star Michelin restaurant. Excellent dinner. I had baby squid, but even the pictures don’t really show what it was like. Veal with sweetbreads was my main course. The veal is really baby beef (not milk-fed) and it was prepared two different ways and presented on two different plates.. As Sandy said, it is serious food with lots of ingredients and sauces. Sandy and I both had a cheese course. Mine was so big Robin and Sandy helped me finish it. Only Sharon had dessert.
Metro home. It’s now midnight. Hope to get some sleep. Didn’t do well last night. Could not get onto the paid Internet. Payment kept crashing. Ah, well.
20081018 – Paris: I got up around 8:00. Another rough night. While I was falling asleep at the table in the restaurant, doing stuff on the computer, etc. wakes me up. I am not sleepy at all when I turn out the lights (last night at midnight). I also did laundry last night with the hopes that it’s my last batch. The t-shirts take forever to dry. The underwear is the fastest and the socks next, but they are not dry overnight (well, I don’t have a line to put them on and there are not enough hangers in the closet, which does not help).
* Too many people still smoke here. Scary to see really young people (not into their teens) with cigarettes. And parents pushing their infants. Yikes.
* Sandy tells me it’s not a lack of baths. It’s that many people don’t like to use deodorants.
* Posts line many of the sidewalks to keep people from parking there.
* Right of way is an issue here. People seem to walk on both sides of paths/sidewalks and in the middle. And they stop and block your way. A bit chaotic when you are trying to go somewhere and keep having to stop short or dodge people when they are side by side filling the width of the walk and not yielding.
* Any place where I have Place des Vosges it should be Place de Vosges.
I awakened Robin a bit before 9:00 and I went down to the cellar for my yogurt, café au lait, croissant, pain chocolate, and OJ. Back upstairs, I worked on a photo album for 10/16 and started on one for 10/17 before we had to leave.
Sandy came over to the hotel at 11:00 and we took the Metro way northwest to an exposition hall where there was Pari Fermiere, 100 boutique vendors of all sorts of foods, wines, spices, etc. All small farms and shops. We were among very few Americans there. Good thing to have Sandy along to speak for us. We shopped for dinner food and also had lunch there. Wines, chocolates, pastries, breads, cheeses, jams, poultry, pork, escargot, pates, fois gras, nuts, prunes, etc. And almost everyone wanted to give you a taste whether you were buying or not. Wonderful stuff. For lunch, Robin and I each had a sandwich with chevre, yellow tomatoes, lettuce, and an eggplant spread. Sandy had a plate of cold sausages and pates. I finished lunch off with a poire glace. Yowie.
We got on the Metro. Sandy left us at the Opera station where he transferred to go home. We stayed on to the end of the line and the Cemeterie du Pere-Lachaise. We walked up and down and up and down many of the streets, rows, stairs for a couple of hours. Very pretty day to be outside. Very interesting place.
From there, we walked home, which was a good distance. We stopped at a pastry shop for me to get a palmier. Later, at Place de la Bastille, Robin got a cheese crepe. We did a little shopping and then headed back to the room and our laptops.
We went to the Levin apartment at 7:00 for a dinner of the goodies from today plus whatever Sandy bought in addition. We had wine, cheese, sausage, pate, mushrooms, duck rillette, tapenade, baguette, salad, melon, raspberries, and chocolate. Yummy. Went home around 9:00.
The Metro stop we used to leave the food fair is called Louise Michel, the only one named after a woman. She was a revolutionary who was shipped to New Caledonia, served her ten years, returned and was an anarchist. She died in 1905. Any relation to us?
20081019 – Paris: I had a good night’s sleep. Well, I took a pill and slept from about 12:30 to about 8:00. Ahhhh.
* The name of the boat/taxi is Batobus, as I am sure you discovered from looking at the pictures.
* We’re up to 1.7 GB of photo storage on my iPod. And we’re up to 2,700 pictures between us on my iPhoto.
I went to the cellar for breakfast around 9:00. We met Sandy and Sharon at their place at 10:30. We walked through the Marais. Our first stop was the Picasso Museum, but we found it was closed until late October. Next we went to the Cognacq-Jay Museum. It’s the result of a private collection by the folks whose names grace the museum and it’s in an old building. It’s mostly 18th Century French painting. Nice.
Next we headed to a place for brunch, a novel idea in France. Well, this was even more strange for here. It was “all you can eat” buffet with about every cold and hot dish one could think of. It’s the Bar du Marche des Blancs Manteaux on Rue Vielle du Temple. Fresh fruit, salmon, pate, cold meats, cous cous, frittatas, eggs, hot meats, etc.
We waddled away to one of the neatest museums we’ve ever seen: Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature. Now one would think that a museum devoted to hunting (the chase) would be a yawn. It was very innovative as the pictures will show. It’s recently been modernized and the way things are displayed is quite unique and well done. We met one of the board members there who was with his grandson and who filled us in on the museum. Really terrific. Gotta see place.
Sandy and Sharon left us to go home to work. Robin and I walked over to the Musee Carnavalet (City of Paris museum) which includes a collection that depicts the history of Paris. Again, this is a must see. Terrific building and unique collection. See the pix for an idea. Old Paris signs, a collection that included the bedrooms of some famous people, rooms with brocade wallpaper, rooms of different Louis reigns, lovely gardens, miniatures of parts of the city, of specific buildings, etc.
From this museum, we walked a few blocks to the Saint-Paul Metro station that is near us. We took the Metro to a transfer station to get on an RER train. Well, while this morning was quiet with almost no one on the streets as we went from museum to museum, we were at the opposite end of the spectrum going on the subway and train. Hordes of people. Train cars jammed more than rush hour. Very long tunnel with moving sidewalk to transfer from the Metro to the RER station. Then, two stops later, we were at Luxembourg Gardens.
Emerging onto the street, we were in the middle of a huge, I mean huge, student demonstration march. Reminded me of ten years ago when we were here. We ran into the marchers again and again when we went home. Before going into the gardens, Robin bought some roasted chestnuts. They were quite delicious. I don’t remember if I have ever had them before.
The National Police were at the gates and had anyone who had any badges or stickers from the protest remove them before entering. We spent some time in the garden wandering around in a full circle. Saw the palace which now houses the Senate of France, the Fountain of the Medicis. Lots of people sunning, resting, walking.
We left by the gate we had entered. The protest parade was still passing by. We weeded through the marchers and went to the Pantheon (also the area of the university). After looking around at the building, we headed toward Saint-Germain, but detoured since the marchers were there filling the whole street. So we walked some side streets over the Ile St. Louis and up to Pont Sully and back to the hotel.
At 7:20, Sandy and Sharon came over and we walked back across Pont Sully and up the main street of Ile St. Louis to Le Fin Gourmet for our 7:30 reservation. Very nice, small restaurant. I had courgette stuffed with crab followed by scallops and frog legs followed by a mille feuille with lemon and basil custard in it. Robin had a nice green salad and some mushroom ravioli.
Got back at the hotel around 10:00. Gotta rest up for our ginormous eating day tomorrow at 1:00. I think we’re in shape, though.
20081020 – Paris: This was a day of walking and eating. We got up at 7:00, did our morning things, I ate in the cellar, then we walked over the bridge to Ile St. Louis, up its main street (for the umteenth time), and onto Ile de Cite. We then got in line to climb the Notre Dame north tower.
It opened at 10:00 and we were there before then. We were in the second batch that ascended. It’s a heckuva climb … 387 steps … no elevator. You first go up a little way into the trinket shop. Then they let your group ascend up and up and up to near the top. You emerge on a balcony where you can walk 360 degrees and look at stuff all around. Oh, there’s the Eiffel Tower. And over there is Sacre Coeur. Ah, the Pompidou. Wide view both ways down the Seine. And on and on.
We passed on climbing the wooden steps up to the big bell. It’s encased all in wood since its vibrations would crack the stone tower. Then we climbed the last many steps that got narrower and narrower as we went up all the way to the top of the tower and grander views in all directions. It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was cool and nice. Great day to be up there. Since they only allow a certain amount of folks there at a time, you are not crowded.
The two landing railings had stainless steel grids rising above head height. Guess they don’t want to see anyone fall. Especially after seeing the big bell.
Well, it was down and down and down and down until we emerged on the street. It was 11 something. We walked back onto Ile St. Louis and went into several small shops, looked, didn’t buy anything. Back at the hotel, we downloaded the morning’s pix, washed up, and changed for lunch.
We met the Levins at 12:30 and walked to Le Grand Vefour. It took about 45 minutes down Rue Rivoli (another street to avoid if you don’t like crowds) It’s behind Palais Royal and only one of two three-star restaurants in Paris that serve a lunch menu. Behind the Palais Royal is a long block of luxury apartments that look inward on a quiet garden. We walked through the garden to get to the restaurant.
Lunch was elegant. It’s close to the dinner menu, but about a third of its price. Wine is expensive, though. There was a before with salmon and a shot glass of a cold avocado soup. I followed this with fois gras of duck. Then I had cabalaud (I think that’s the spelling), a nice white fish (cod?) with a painting of squid ink on the plate and some olive oil foam. See the pictures, please. Robin had a salad (beautiful with edible flowers and such) and then a plate of vegetables and mushrooms (exquisite presentation). We all had a separate plate of two scoops of mashed potatoes. The cheese cart was out of this world. The waiter took a picture of the whole cart for us. They gave me three mild cheeses, each more wonderful than the next. With the cheese course, they always tell you the order in which to eat them (mildest to strongest). The afters started with a plate of fluffy cookies and some chocolate pastry along with a tray of jellied candies of two colors. We were given a small shot glass with tiny fruit, wondrous liquid and yummy foam on top. This was followed by my dessert of apricot surrounding a filling over a cake with apricot glace next to it. Robin had rhubarb and lots of other stuff. Hey, look at the pictures. Then came a small piece of cake (sort of like angel cake, but not), a choice of a zillion different chocolates and coffee or espresso. Oh, during all this we had a premier cru Chablis during the first course and then a Margaux for our main course and cheese. This whole extravaganza took from a little after 1:00 until about 4:00.
We all separated and Robin and I walked for about two hours wandering here and there. The idea was to try small streets, look at shops, avoid crowds. We saw the gardens at the old Les Halles, down Rue Montorgueil, and on and on. We ended up back in the Marais and, eventually, back at the hotel a bit after 6:00.
So, up the spiral stairs at the tower and down again. Then up Rue Rivoli all the way to the Louvre and Palais Royal and back again by a much more circuitous route. Don’t think we’re too hungry at this point. And nothing sounds good. Oh, I could eat a simple cheese omelet like the one I had at the Pompidou I guess.
We worked on pictures for over three hours before going outside to the river to see the lights on our last night. Oh, we’re up to over 3,000 pictures.
About 9:30 we headed out and walked toward the river. We walked on this side to the second bridge connecting to Ile St. Louis. After crossing, we saw a nice restaurant and went in for a crepe, a quiche, and some sorbet. Yes, eating again. We headed home along Ile St. Louis and the Seine to Pont Sully, crossed and back to the hotel. Ah, the last night in Paris for this trip. Nice to get out. Peaceful. Cool. Beautiful.
And when I went to log on and export pix to Flickr, it told me at first I had exceeded my upload limit. Then it said my professional account had expired. A little VISA and that was fixed.
20081021 – Paris: Got up at 7:00, which proved to be a bit too early. Dark as pitch out there and it was raining and a bit chilly. We did our morning stuff and packed up everything ready to go. Then we went out to Rue Saint-Antoine (sharing Robin’s umbrella) and found a café for breakfast where I had OJ, croissant, simple omelet, and coffee. Robin had a croissant. Didn’t take too long and then we were back in the hotel to sit in our room watching TV until about 10:30 or so when we went downstairs to the lobby with all our gear to wait for the Levins. They came a bit before 11:00, turned in the key to their apartment (it’s managed by the hotel), and we waited for a taxi to the airport.
We left the hotel about 11:00 and got to Charles de Gaulle Airport just a bit before noon. Our plane was at 2:00. It took over an hour and a half to make it to the gate with the line at checking in and the line and process at security. Here, not only did you have to take off your shoes (they offered booties to put over your socks), take out your quart bag of liquids, and take out your computer, you also had to remove any electronic device (iPod, camera, etc.) from your stuff and put it into a tray for scanning. The line was very long, like some ride at Disney World. You were sorted into the green line or the yellow line on an I’m-not-sure-what basis. We were in green. Looked originally like it was green for US and yellow for EU, but as the line snaked around, we were shifted over to a yellow line. And then there are the folks who push you aside in line to get in front a couple of spaces. Or the ones who run you over with their carry on luggage as you are walking down the concourse.
Got to the gate about 1:15 and they were boarding. This time, I put both my suitcase and backpack in the overhead rack so I had room to stretch out, so to speak, with nothing under the seat in front of me. It’s almost nine hours from Paris to Detroit. The video/sound system kept crashing (it’s Windows-based). The food was good, both Robin’s and mine. I listened to a book on my iPod and tried to drown out the conversation of a woman in the row in front of us who talked at just that pitch and volume that is grating … and did it most of the flight.
Got into Detroit on time. Smooth flight. Went over Iceland, Greenland, and Labrador which were all ice and snow covered. Saw lots of mountains, glacier lakes, etc. Clear skies and good viewing all the way. We went through immigration and customs pretty fast. Didn’t have to wait for luggage since we had it all with us. Then joined the Levins in the lovely NWA Club, got online there, had a cookie, and then went to our gate for the flight to St. Louis. I had not slept on the Paris-Detroit leg since we were to get back to St. Louis at around 8:00 PM and I wanted to try to get into that time zone with my body. However, on the Detroit-St. Louis leg, I slept pretty much the whole way.
Fun to see Marian, Jeff, and Donna at the airport. Jeff and Donna took Robin home while Marian and I went to the neighborhood Ihop. I had an egg-beaters omelet. Yucko by comparison to what I had in France. Then home, unpack, and to bed.
What a wonderful trip.