Category Archives: Paris

Une Démonstration

Paris: Magnificent and dirty. Maybe it gets cleaned up for the tourists before the summer but now, at the end of winter, the streets are full of litter, cigarette butts and ‘unmentionables’ – not everyone picks up after their dog.

Magnificent buildings, especially the ones that have been cleaned. Many are still filthy. London has done much better cleaning up buildings after the industrial revolution. They are so beautiful when the colour of the stone is like new instead of black from smoke and soot.

I was reminded in multiple instances that I’m not a city gal. Parisians walk very fast, staring straight ahead, ears plugged with wires and no connection with anyone around them – although I learned to ‘play the old lady’ and was then given a seat on the Metro. Being on my feet all day I welcomed every opportunity to sit down.

The weather has been variable, wind and rain some days, one day of warm sunshine, one day exceptionally cold – it was hard to know what to wear that would see me through each day. Going out in wind and rain for a while and then going home is very different from being out in it all day.

While fast food is available, one doesn’t have to search far for good food and wine and I have very much enjoyed my food explorations. All the exercise of up and down stairs and walking for miles has prevented any negative consequences.

I managed to make the hotel booking we were hoping for even though I found they don’t usually take groups. It’s a charming place with a large courtyard with a garden off the street and so peaceful, which is what will be very welcome after each day exploring the city.

I have been using Rick Steves’ guidebook, Paris 2016, which is extraordinarily good, with tours of the museums and walking tours of the different parts of Paris. I see no reason to struggle on my own when he has already done the work and is very thorough.

On the last day I visited places I needed to go to but had missed, either from being just too tired or cold and wet. Coming out of the Metro at Le Petit Palais, which I needed to check for a lunch spot, I saw a large demonstration outside which I know should be avoided. The ‘smoke’ I saw made me think of tear gas. But I wanted lunch so I asked a group of policemen what was going on. They smiled and said it was a demonstration by the police for more money! So there was no tear gas, only smoke from a torch-like feature and I worked my way around them all and into the museum for a peaceful lunch. All I kept hearing was how tired they were from working long hours. No doubt there was lots more, but that was what I could translate.

I have gradually become more confident with the French language after many years of non-use, but just in time to leave Paris and come to Holland to visit friends in their beautiful home. I hope it comes back more quickly when I return in September.

I’m enjoying this respite in Holland before leaving for Madrid on Tuesday and then Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

The Dutch in general are so sane and sensible and clean and…and…

Paris Metro culture

The Metro has a life all its own. Sometimes there’s hardly anyone there on the platform and the train is nearly empty. More of the time it’s packed and people are jammed in so tight the doors sometimes can’t close. No one could fall over when the train jolts; there’s nowhere to fall.

Unlike in London, there’s almost no escalators, so it’s all stairs and long corridors. I’m getting quite the workout.

In the corridors where several cross there are buskers playing accordions or the fiddle or singing karaoke style. Many of them very, very good. They deserve to be discovered in my opinion. There were a couple of men playing on the train this morning and a white cat traveling crouched on its owner’s shoulders. It reminded me of Mr Bijoux who came hiking with us in the forest of Romania last summer.

The upright poles to cling onto have three branches to them like a tree so there’s more available for people to hang on to. This morning there was a naked 2 – 3 ft plastic doll resting on the forks of the branches. I think I’ve seen it all, but I probably haven’t.

People are rushing from place to place with blank faces and things plugged in their ears. We are so very lucky that we don’t have to live this lifestyle.

I am an oddity – an older woman traveling alone. I’ve only seen one other so far. I’m also short! My umbrella is several inches lower than everyone else’s.

The weather changes from bitterly cold to less cold but raining. My umbrella is threatening to give up. April in Paris? This feels more like December in Paris.

I’m getting done what I need to do but am really pushing myself. I’m getting older and it’s inconvenient!

Flowers and bubbles in France

I had forgotten how demanding this research is!

The best laid plans of mice and men… do not take into consideration French rail strikes.

The train I intended to get to Vernon-Giverny was cancelled and the first one was 12:20 – two hours later.

So I switched my day’s plan around and walked to the huge fancy stores – Galerie Lafayette and Printemps – first, instead of later in the day. The Art Nouveau stained glass dome at GF was stunning – so were the prices! Printemps has a lovely restaurant for us for lunch one day.

I got the train to Vernon and then bus to Giverny – a gorgeous place even in the pouring rain. Had lunch at my chosen hotel for September – which was delicious, with no theft attempts by a cat. Introduced myself and saw some rooms – all good. Then to Monet’s garden which was magical, even with rain flattened flowers from bulbs and pansies and wallflowers, which smelled delicious. No water lilies yet of course, but it will all be stunning when we get there in September.

The birdsong was amazing – I haven’t heard that since I was last in England – and the reflection of the trees in the large pond in his water garden, while not an unusual phenomenon, seemed especially beautiful in their forms.

I wandered the village in the rain finding beautiful things I’d like to buy for my home so must bring a shopping bag when I come back in September.

After exercising that discipline, along the street came some bubbles to meet me! They were floating down the street and then landing on the wet road and staying there, reflecting so many colours from all around them; coloured bubbles all over the road – it was exquisite. I wanted to take a picture to show you but found my camera battery needed recharging so that picture is only in my memory.

I took a nap on the train on my way back to Paris and then faced the Metro again. I thought the crowds in the morning were from rush hour but this was 8:00pm so that wasn’t the reason. We were crammed in like sardines in a can; there was no way anyone could fall over when the train jolted – we were packed in too tight to fall anywhere. Also, I’ve discovered there are almost no escalators so it’s stairs everywhere. I can manage this but a group with luggage on their way to Chartres wouldn’t have a hope. I must revise my plan and either use taxis to get to that train station or book a bus to take us to Chartres. This is why it’s important to do this research.

Chartres tomorrow, hopefully with no train problems…

Restaurant entertainment in Paris

My travels from Vancouver to Paris have been trouble-free and there’s been almost no evidence of added security at airports which I had expected. I was persuaded to take a shuttle van to my hotel rather than the train and, almost 2 hours later, I was regretting that. Then I remembered Rick Steves’ saying, ‘If things are not to your liking; change your liking.’ So I decided to enjoy the free tour of Paris that I was getting as everyone else got dropped off first.

People watching in airports is always fascinating; I’ve been doing a lot of that. My overnight in Madrid was very welcome – being able to get horizontal after 22 hours of travel. Although it was a short trip from the airport, the taxi cost 20 euros which I thought excessive, so next morning I found the bus and spent 1.5 euros instead to get back to the airport. I’ll be staying there 3 times in the course of this trip so it was worth knowing.

Once I settled into my hotel in Paris I set off in the rain to walk Montmartre, the haven of artists of all kinds past and present. Picasso lived here at one time as well as Lautrec, Rodin, Monet, Matisse, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein and many, many others. It was once a village outside the walls of Paris and still has a small vineyard as well as two wooden windmills. Artists were sitting under canopies in the rain still drawing and painting in the Place du Tertres.

I took one of Rick Steves’ recommendations for a restaurant for dinner tonight. It was a small restaurant with decorated mirrors and painted glass on the ceiling – very evocative. The restaurant cat joined me on my bench; I assumed it was because I was sitting on his/her favourite place but that was naive of me. The chicken I had ordered was absolutely delicious and cat clearly believed chicken was for sharing. I disagreed. After tapping him/her on the nose or paw several times saying “No” others started to notice and laugh. The delightful waiter took cat away a few times but it kept coming back. Finally he took it upstairs and shut the door by which time we were all laughing at its antics. The house Sauvignon was the best white wine I have ever tasted and I savored it. Cat didn’t try for any of that. Then there was a left over half bottle of a red going spare so I asked and was granted a taste of that one too.

I’m going to Giverny tomorrow to check the hotel we have booked for the September tour and visit Monet’s garden, even though the water lilies won’t be in flower yet. I want to explore the village and know my way around before the tour group arrives. I hope the rain stops.

Enough for tonight…