Paris

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Paris – mardi, le 9 octobre … oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

Heard Penny and Jamie’s alarm through the wall at 5:45, but the wake-up call for our room didn’t come … no problem. Took bags to the desk to pay for room #26 – no problem. The night man even gave me a great two-handled shopping bag for my cheeses and olives. Jamie left for the station before we did – his train was to leave at 7:29.

There was a problem with Penny’s credit card (Jamie had given it to her the night before). So Jo Anne tried to use her card – with the same result. Mine still worked (whew!) so I paid for room #25 also. They left to walk to the station while I called for a taxi … it was a short walk, but for a very few Euros the ride was better and quicker. As it turned out I left ten minutes after they did and arrived just a little before.

Bought a pain au chocolat in the station’s boulangerie then took he elevator up to platform B. Jamie was still there for a couple of minutes as his train was a little late. We checked where car 16 would be, moved down the quai and hopped on when it arrived. “Hopped on” really doesn’t describe the pull-push-shove required. That big red suitcase (now holding my sweet-sized carry-on) can be a bear to handle, and the sacks of cheeses and olives added to the trial! Plus our seats on this train were on the second level = stairs and turns! Thankfully this was a non-stop trip, so I left the bag near the door on the first level. Finally got upstairs and found Jo Anne, Penny and my seat and just about fell into it.

The trip was smooth, had to slow/stop once on the way … something about “security” but none of us caught the message. Arrived at 10:51, walked through the Gare de Lyon to the taxi stand and off we went. The fee was only 15€ – we’d asked another free-lance cabbie and he’d wanted 50€! Live and learn!

Our apartment is on rue Surcouf and is adorable. Jo Anne found a perfect place for us. There’s a great room (living + dining), one bedroom (double bed), a sofa-bed in the living room, one bathroom (2 sinks and tub/shower plus a bidet) + clothes washer, a WC next to the kitchen and the kitchen (pullman) very well equipped. Pictures later. M. Cornette (the realtor) showed us the front door code (made us practice it), took us up in the elevator (yea, an elevator!) and had us try the keys in the door lock (practice again). He had us all login to the wifi (to practice that we could), but the only thing he couldn’t do was to get the television to work! After he left us, we ran through the place again on a discovery trip, “ooohing and “ahhhhing” at every new thing (perfect place Jo Anne!). Penny was the first to try out the clothes washer … she did a ton of laundry!

Lunch was our next plan … so we walked a couple of blocks along rue Surcouf and found at least six restaurants/cafés and three traiteurs (carry outs). We chose one because it was packed – good choice. Ready? Here’s more food!

Fish soup with aioli and cheese
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Onion soup + goat cheese salad20121009-085323.jpg
Tomato / mozzarella salad20121009-085335.jpg Duck + dauphinoise potatoes20121009-085345.jpg

20121009-091611.jpgIf you’ve watched “ladies of a certain age” out to lunch together, going over the bill and figuring out who owes what … not that we’re old or anything, but it was fun to watch.

After lunch the girls wanted to go to the market for supplies (and walk around a bit), but first we had a “technology minute” as they tried to load their cell numbers onto each other’s phone … it was a long technology minute. I stayed out of it … because I am still the only person without a cellphone!

While they were out Jamie called from Charles de Gaulle airport to say that there was an engine problem on his 13:50 flight to the USA so he was still in the waiting room. He called again a couple of hours later to say that the flight had been cancelled (he had a meeting on Wednesday and had to get home), and that he’d been booked into a hotel and onto a flight leaving at 7:00 Wednesday. He’d spent all day at CDG waiting … what a shame!

The girls returned at about 18:30 from the store and a stroll to the Eiffel Tower area to see where Jo Anne had stayed before. Dinner was steamed asparagus plus a selection of the cheeses and olives bought in Nîmes, along with some leftover bread and a new bottle of wine. Dessert was apples and chocolat. No coffee … they’d bought beans instead of ground coffee … oops!

20121009-151147.jpgWe discussed plans for where to visit over the next six days, and how to get where we wanted to go, then pulled out the sofa bed, made it up, hit it hard! Hope I can sleep like Pascal!


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Paris – mercredi, le 10 octobre

Quelle nuit! There are sofa beds … and there are sofa beds, and I used to be younger and could sleep anywhere, anyhow … like Pascal … I guess not any more! Plus, the WC is across the living room from the bedroom … the sofa bed is in the living room … you can figure out the traffic pattern during the night.

20121011-163815.jpgToday, for the first time, the weather wasn’t very cooperative … drizzling and kind of cool … probably be a day for museums or other indoor activities … like lunch. We had a quick “technology time” then bundled up with our new scarves (très chic) and walked two blocks to Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg (our métro station was there). We stopped at a café for breakfast of a buttered tartine with jam, a croissant, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a café au lait or café crème (they’re the same thing). It only cost 7,80€ and the juice was welcomed!

Crossed the street to a tabac to buy subway tickets (a pack of ten is only 12,70€ = $1.60 per ride), then headed down the stairs of the Tour-Maubourg station. Gave Penny a short lesson in métro and off we went. We were going to the Middle Ages Museum known as the Hôtel de Cluny, so we had to make one line change and about nine stops before getting off. Penny did great and we arrived without a hitch … well, there were very many stairs to go up and down.

The Hôtel de Cluny is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, houses in Paris. Its style is Flamboyant Gothic (you know: pointed arches, statues, stained glass – “flamboyant” = over the top). It was the home for the Abbots of Cluny (in Burgundy) when they came to Paris for a church meeting. It was built in the 1400s right on top of the foundations of an ancient Roman thermal bath complex (like a day spa). Today it highlights the arts, daily life, social and religious history of the Middle Ages in France and is called the Musée National du Moyen Age. I think it’s my favorite museum … it’s not huge (like the Louvre), but it’s a jewel! Its website is http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/ang/index.html

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20121012-124018.jpgWe had lunch at Chez Jaafar, a nearby Moroccan couscous spot recommended by one of the museum guards, and it was really good. It turned out to have been listed by TripAdvisor too. Penny and Jo Anne had lamb tajine with onions and prunes, and I had a chicken tajine with vegetables and saffron. It was so hearty we decided that this would be our one big meal of the day. We learned that we had sat at the same table frequented by President Jacques Chirac! After lunch we went back to Cluny, and I was delighted that Penny was enjoying her visit so much. We had arrived before 11:00, and didn’t leave until after 17:00! Like I said, it’s a jewel with stained glass windows, statuary from Notre-Dame de Paris that was sacked during the French Revolution, gold and silver items like reliquaries, crowns and jewelry, and of course those fabulous “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries! When next you’re in Paris … stop by Cluny even for an hour.

The weather held all day … cool, maybe 65º and overcast … perfect for walking. We left Cluny and stopped at a bookstore across the Boulevard Saint-Michel (Boul’ Mich from the métro, and Jo Anne bought “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” in French, Penny bought (in English) “Whiteout” by Ken Follett. In the métro station Jo Anne bought “Le Monde” newspaper – she’d wanted “Le Figaro” but learned they were on strike (go figure). Picked up a shopping bag at the apartment and Penny & Jo Anne headed to the store (several blocks away … my hip was done) for fruit, bread, coffee (exchanged the beans for ground), and wine (if you’re keeping count we’re consuming 750ml a day ÷ 3). A nice little pastry for me rounded out the list (something’s rounding me out too … but I’ll take care of that back home).

20121012-163726.jpg“Dinner” was bread, cheeses, olives, apples, wine and for dessert chocolate and pastry. Later, the girls went to a tabac for a “Pariscope” to see what movies were playing. They wanted a film in French with English subtitles, but didn’t go because it was so late.

Jo Anne moved to the sofa bed (bless her heart) and I shared the bed with Penny!

Bonne nuit!

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Paris – jeudi, le 11 octobre

OH EMM GEE! (Oh my goodness) What an unbelievable day!

Sleeping was excellent last night … what a soft mattress … slept ’til 8:00, I am a happy girl! We made breakfast in the apartment: coffee, banana, yogurt (inflavored), and it was just enough. Hit the subway for the Louvre and arrived at about 10:30 Métro Palais Royal / Louvre. Entered on the level below the Pyramide Pei and used the automatic ticket buying machines. Penny’s credit card still didn’t work so Jo Anne bought her a ticket. The entry was 11€. We headed for the already long line to enter the museum’s exhibits, but were stopped by one of the attendants who, seeing my crutch, ushered us past everyone else. I like it, but I don’t like it … it feels like I’m taking advantage – and told him so, but he would not be put off! Once upstairs we all bought an 5€ audioguide (many of the displays have an earphone icon and number that you key in to hear about what you’re seeing … I guess we have them here in the States).

Ticket machine
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Getting audio sets
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20121011-130841.jpgThe exhibition hall “Art of Islam” just opened this year … on my birthday! That was a surprise, but I was going there first anyway. The space is enormous – two floors each about 150″x150″ (it could have been larger, I just pictured putting my and my neighbors’ houses there). The items ranged from carpets, pottery, decorative items (dagger sheaths, cane handles, mirrors, etc.), jewelry, intricate carving in stone, wood, pottery, sculptures, stelae, and that’s just what I can recall right now. Awesome is too weak a word to describe it … tour de force is more like it. Oh, and they had room-sized mosaic floors (30″x30″) … remembering that, I have to recalculate the size of the whole thing.

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We had lunch at the Louvre Café (a sit-down restaurant, not the snack bar). I had entrecote, a steak – but the cuts are very different from in the USA (you won’t see NYstrip or sirloin), Penny had Tandori chicken and Jo Anne had Grilled salmon. It was a nice, but a little expensive (the steak was 21€).

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After lunch I visited the exhibit “Mediterranean Art of the Roman Period” (expecting more northern Mediterranean vs. Egypt so really glad I’d been to Cluny), Napoléon’s apartments, and France’s crown jewels in the Salon d’Apollon. There were the crowns of Charlemagne and of Louis XV, plus other jewels, ceremonial vessels (cups, vases, bowls, plates) and decorative items.

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20121012-161155.jpgI was on the way out to pick up my driver’s license (I’d handed it in as my I.D. in order to get the earphone & player), and stopped at the exhibit hall’s entrance to thank the attendants there and to tell them what a great day I’d had (they’d remembered me probably as the American who kept asking questions). Well, as I was walking away, one of them called me over to the ticket desk and asked if he could give me a pass to the Raphael exhibit! That exhibit just opened today and required an extra fee (so I hadn’t opted to see it). I looked at the ticket/pass and noticed yesterday’s date, and said “that’s okay, I was tired anyway” (in French). He asked if I could wait five minutes – I did – and as he got off work, he walked me to the exhibit and got me in free! This is a temporary display with art from some of the leading museums in the world like the Prado (Madrid), the National Gallery (Washington, D.C.). The website is http://www.france.fr/en/art-and-culture/event/late-raphael-exhibition-louvre-museum. I finally left during the “sweep” at 17:45 when all the attendants herd everyone out of the building.

Went back on the subway to the apartment, arriving by 18:10. Penny and Jo Anne had left the museum earlier to walk to Notre-Dame de Paris to buy scarves and t-shirts in that neighborhood (we’ll go back on Sunday for services). They arrived “home” at 19:20 and we were going to a local spot for a light dinner, but when we hit the street, it was pouring! Back upstairs to dinner “loaves & fishes” – cheeses (getting really ripe now), olives, sardines (the can I’d bought in Vác), bread (plus a roll from lunch), apples, chocolate, the leftover bun, and coffee. We planned for Friday’s trip to Chartres and its cathedral, opened the sofa for Jo Anne and went to bed.

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Paris – vendredi, le 12 octobre

Chartres day!

With all this Middle Ages information recently, I wondered if France ever had, even in feudal times … king vs. serfs, a scenario like our Old West “cattlemen vs. sheepmen? Cattlemen arrived, didn’t want sheep in their land or even on open range because they ate the grass so short, and didn’t want fences to keep their steers from going anywhere they wanted. Just a thought.

I had a banana, yogurt and coffee before we left for the huge Gare Montparnasse to catch the train for Chartres. We were worried about the weather, it was cool in Paris, but the sun came out strong before noon so it was a perfect weather day. Bought two packs of métro tickets to pay back Penny what she’d loaned me. At the station, the round-trip (aller-retour) tickets were only 26,10€, and I finally learned where the “chip” was on my credit card. Mélanie, the station assistant (they are everywhere) mentioned a “pin” and I thought that was the end of my purchase at the machine (Jo Anne and Penny were in the regular line … it was long … time was short). Well voilà! in went the card, buttons got punched, I saw the word “Approved”, and out came my tickets, even with a senior discount. Did it again two more times and we were off to Track #18. The trip only took about an hour even with stops at eight little towns along the way (Versailles was one).

20121012-154542.jpgAt Chartres it was about a four-block walk to the square in front of the cathedral. Parts of the front have been cleaned, and the “friends” of the cathedral group is hoping to raise money to continue the work. Jo Anne and Penny went inside while I found the tourist office for a city map (it turned out that we didn’t need it – because we couldn’t go to the art museum or to the stained glass window exposition and still get the train back by 17:00). The tourist bureau building itself was precious. When I entered the cathedral Penny was walking the maze / labyrinth. They were doing repairs along the apse (behind the altar) so we couldn’t see all 40 of the scenes of the lives of Mary and Christ. I hadn’t remembered how stunning the sculptures were, and the stained glass – I think Chartres’ windows are famous for they’re rich deep blue color, but am not sure.

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20121013-034215.jpgOutside again I saw a St. Jacques de Compostelle plaque on the pavement. A guide and his client came up and he was telling her all about the St. James pilgrimage walks to Compostela in Spain. Of course I listened in, and even (surprise, surprise) asked a question when he was through. The plaque said that Compostela was 1625k from that mark … I wondered how long it would take a pilgrim to walk that far. He said that 25k a day might be done, so the whole pilgrimage could take 4-5 months! Made me want to reread Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” (for entertainment this time, not to pick it apart), because the guide mentioned the less-than-pious travelers who would ride in wagons/carriages with their staff bringing all their “stuff”.

We broke for lunch at about 14:00 at La Picoterie, a not-to-touristy crêpe / waffle place that I’d seen on the way to the tourist office. I’d stopped for a café crème (and to use their bathroom … I just didn’t want to have to pay to use the WC adjacent to the cathedral). Looking at the menu I saw several items that looked inviting, so thought I’d mention it to the girls later. We tried cidre which I’d never tasted (and don’t think I will again). There are two kinds: doux (slightly sweet – so I was told, with 2% alcohol) and brut (4% alcohol – like light beer). Jo Anne and I tried the fish soup (she preferred the one she’d had in Paris), and we all had omelets: mine was Emmenthal cheese, tomatoes, onions and fines herbes, Penny had mushrooms, onions and bacon, Jo Anne’s was mushrooms and Camembert. No dessert and no wine … are we filled up yet? Learned a new expression, at least for me, “une douleur dans le bout” or maybe more slangy “dans le cul“.  I emailed a friend for advice and was given: Colossians 3: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Yes, I needed that reminder.

A lovely family sat next to us and we traded taking each other’s photos (emailing some to them after lunch).

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At 15:00 we left the restaurant, and decided to see if we could catch an earlier than 17:00 train. We already had our tickets, so just had to insert them in the machine at the Chartres station and wait on the platform. The train left at 16:36 and arrived in Paris at 17:50. We took the subway to Invalides, then walked along the Seine for a bit, then up the Esplanade leading from Le Pont Alexandre III.

20121012-153143.jpgWe turned off toward the apartment and I stopped to watch some “old” men playing boules on the sand under the trees. I bought bananas and pears at the little Casino market, and checked out the Vietnamese carry-out spot. Jo Anne and Penny went walking and brought more wine, some ratatouille, bread and figs. That was supper. We watched news (BBC, CNBC, CNN and France 24) for a while, and I tried to stay up to see game five of Yankees / Orioles. It was on at 5:30pm in the States … 23:30 here. It was finally over at 2:00 Paris time … LES YANKEES GAGNENT !

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Paris – samedi, le 13 octobre

Slept on the sofa last night (not the bed part), and it was very comfortable … kind of cuddled me and my hip. Plus I stayed up to get the play-by-play of the Yankees win over Baltimore which didn’t end ’til 2:00 (a.m. here).

Had breakfast (yogurt, banana, coffee) with Jo Anne and Penny, then they left for a day of walking – through the Marais and more. I really wasn’t interested in walking areas I already knew, so before leaving I did a little hand washing, put Jo Anne’s phone in my pocket with my camera, turned off the coffee pot (glad I’d looked around), and headed out. Rain, drizzle, some wind … what a day.

20121013-181210.jpgOn the way to the subway it was just a heavy mist, but when I finally came back above ground it was pouring. The expression is Il pleut des cordes, and it was! I was getting pretty damp so since it was already 13:10 I decided to get dry and have some lunch.

Stopped at “Les Deux Palais” (3 Bd. des Palais), just around from La Sainte Chapelle at the Cité métro stop. I tried to phone Penny / Jo Anne several times to see if we could connect, but they didn’t answer their phone (or I did it wrong). The place was packed, and one of the owners actually took my order to help out the waiter. I chose chateaubriand (described as “sirloin” steak), with haricots verts and pommes vapeur (like a very thick-sliced potato chip), and a small pichot of the house red.
Good wine, great steak … tender and tasted like it was grilled over a real fire. It was a perfect portion size (3″x4″x1″) and cooked exactly à point (sort of medium rare, leaning toward rare). Ummm! When I sat, there were two British girls just leaving – getting ready to run a 20k race tomorrow. Then both tables next to mine were quickly filled. On the right, a couple from Spain, and on the left four young Italians (I wished Jamie had been there to converse with them). The Spaniards both ordered onion soup and then pizza and Chateabriand. The Italians chose roast chicken-frites, and an omelette (it was puffed and beautiful). Both tables requested ketchup for their potatoes … and I thought only Americans did that! Yes, I took pictures again.

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The owner asked if I’d like some fromage to finish … but no way, I was so satisfied. I asked where the “toilette” was – and of course it was downstairs … down a very narrow, circular staircase. The owner’s partner, as I hesitated before taking the first step, hummed the “Mission Impossible” theme. I just love the French humor. Paid the bill at 14:30 (steak = 19,80€ and wine = 7,50€).

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There was a long line of visitors to get in to Notre-Dame de Paris, it was no charge, just crowded, and the pouring rain didn’t seem to make a difference, so I was glad to be ushed in. I’d sampled the prices at each shop on the street leading from the cathedral to buy gifts for home … (touristy I know!) … then had another café crème on rue Notre-Dame, overlooking l’Île Saint-Louis.

20121013-165335.jpgWho should I run into but the same four Italians from lunch. They explained the hand gesture they’d used to say that the meal was good … touch your cheek with your index finger and rotate it back and forth (like a screwdriver). So we caught another passer-by, and had our photo taken to be emailed later. The sky opened again, so instead of going home via Boulevard St. Michel’s subway, I went back to Cité. Stopped at the flower market and inquired about growing an olive tree in Richmond … Penny expressed an interest in doing that. The gardner said that zones 7-8 (Virginia) were perfect, just like our wine-growing regions.

When I arrived home the sun was shining and the sky was blue … and I was so damp! Dried off, and waited for Penny and Jo Anne. They had gone to Les Halles shopping center and seen a movie – they’d been looking forward to doing that.

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We went to another local café for dinner and Jo Anne and Penny finally were able to get lapin (stewed rabbit) … I had chicken in cream sauce with a paté de campagne starter and an apricot tart for dessert.

20121014-044210.jpgAfter dinner they walked to see the Eiffel Tower lit up (the lights twinkle so it sparkles), then came back to a party downstairs that was sharing their cigarette smoke with us through the vents … that didn’t help Penny’s cough. They were considerate though, and ended the party by 00:15.
Opened the windows, pulled up the comforter (I’m ensconced on the sofa again … YES!).

I planned to stay up to watch the first game of the ALCS (Yankees / Tigers) starting at 2:00!

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Paris – dimanche, le 14 octobre

20121014-044850.jpgA DARK DAY IN PARIS … raining / cold … Derek Jeter’s out for the season !

The high today was supposed to be in the upper 50ºs … plus drizzle … plus I’ve now checked all the boxes on my Paris “do list” … maybe this is the “relax … do more laundry … dry stuff with the hair dryer … read my book” day … or …

20121014-155740.jpgJo Anne and Penny spent a couple of hours deciding whether or not to attend another movie, deciding on “Les Saveurs du Palais” at the cinéma Gaumont Ambassade on the Champs-Élysées. Since we didn’t start out until about noon, we decided to have lunch first at a café on the Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg (we’d been there for coffees). The formule (fixed price meal) was 19,50€ and I had coq au vin – pommes vapeur after a starter of soupe à l’oignon, and finished with my first mousse au chocolat. Jo Anne and Penny followed suit except for the coffee that I had (no charge!).

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There were a lot of children there, so well-behaved (they all seemed very used to eating out from a young age … there was no leaving the table and running around like I’d seen so often at home).
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Fortunately, the métro stop (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was right in front of the theatre (!) – wow, I couldn’t believe it, but we came above ground and there it was! The film tells the story of Danielle Delpeuch, who was, for two years, the private chef for the President (1981-1995) of France, François Mitterand. When she’s hired she doesn’t know why, and really not even where (except Paris) … the first hint is when someone says “55” (that’s like 1600 to us = the White House address). It was simply spectacular for me, because 1) the food and dishes were so visually perfect, and 2) it was in French.

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Jo Anne and Penny wanted to walk down the Champs-Élysées (Jo Anne’s to do list), but walking for walking’s sake still wasn’t good for me, so I went back to our neighborhood and sat at a café where I had a “martini” (sweet red vermouth). They called to say they were going to the 18:30 service at Notre-Dame, and would call me (I had Penny’s phone) with their plans for afterward, so I went to the apartment and journaled until 20:00 when they called to say they were going to stay and eat where they were. So, instead of going out into the neighborhood alone again, I opened the refrigerator for butter, some leftover ratatouille (just the tomatoes and peppers – not the eggplant, I’m allergic) eggs … and made a tasty omelette, with a lot of inspiration from the film. Add the last part of a baguette, coffee, and some Gourmandise for dessert and “J’ai bien mangé” and I’m “très contente“! After supper, while I journaled, I watched a rebroadcast of a daytime outdoor performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (from Place Stanislas in Nancy). Four solo opera singers, full chorus and orchestra … outstanding! We probably are familiar with it as “Ode to Joy”. Jo Anne and Penny returned at 21:30 just before it ended, and snacked on chocolate, pistachios, apples and tuna spread – they must not have had enough dinner.

Made individual “to do” lists for our last full day in Europe, and lights out at 23:40 … except for one iPad still on mlb.com! GO YANKEES!

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Paris – lundi, le 15 octobre

Our last full day … Penny and Jo Anne left for the second time at 9:35 (they’d asked the concierge to arrange a taxi to the airport for Tuesday, then they’d made reservations for lunch at a place recommended by Penny’s friend, and come back to report).

Their plans were to walk through Parc Monceau, along rues Cler and du Bac – both “adorable” shopping streets (aka. Carytown with style, panache, French flavor and €€€), then meet for lunch at 13:00 at La Ferme Saint-Simon. Only an 80% Tripadvisor rating … hmmm, maybe we’ll be “eating the wallpaper”?

My plans were Guerlain at the Madeleine, a snack at Laduree then meet for lunch at 13:00. Very easy métro travel, but very hard to find because 1) there was repair work going on where Guerlain was supposed to be, and 2) the Google map was out-of-date! So I asked questions and found out that Guerlain was on rue de Tronchet (behind the Madeleine). You know when you walk in an Italian restaurant, and it smells so good you say “I’ll have whatever that is”? … same here, you enter and the perfumed air isn’t overwhelming, but you want to stand there and breathe! I stocked up on Shalimar (my favorite – winter fragrance), and Imperiale (my summer choice – really a man’s cologne). My credit card took a deep breath too!

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Rode the métro back across town to Rue du Bac, and walked to Rue Saint-Simon to meet Jo Anne and Penny at a restaurant that Penny’s friend Beth had recommended as a “MUST GO’ place.

20121015-102821.jpgI’d checked the reviews on TripAdvisor and Zagats and some were over-the-top but others were the opposite. It’s a lovely spot in a nicely upscale neighborhood, and walking inside felt good and welcoming. Penny and Jo Anne each ordered the 29€ menu and had fish soup and salmon as starters, with main dishes of lamb and tête de veau (yep, calves head meat). I chose foie gras poëlé (sauteed goose liver) which was very good – I’v made it myself and had it elsewhere, so know what to expect.

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My main dish was ris de veau (sweetbreads in a brown sauce). Both of my plates were presented well, but I was disappointed that both sauces tasted alike – or so close that they could’ve been cousins, and I’ve got a pretty good palate. Of course I should have asked about it more, and would have preferred the sweetbreads in a white sauce, like those I had (and can remember) years ago at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. I think sweetbreads should be tender, almost soft, without pully connective tissue (if trimmed properly). Penny was satisfied with her lamb choice, but just “satisfied”, and Jo Anne mentioned, and showed us, the large amount of inedible fat that she’d cut from her veal. My dad always said “you can’t eat the wallpaper” and he would have been on target today. My question after a meal used to be “Did you like it?” … now I only ask “Would you get it again?” Today’s answer, for me at least, was NO !

The atmosphere was excellent, the decor charming … nothing else was (except the service). FYI – I am a charter member in the “clean plate club”, and have to be really sick not to eat everything put before me, and I’ve been known to swipe my finger (daintily and with style and class) through remaining sauce when I’ve finished a dish. When I asked the server to remove my plate – I had left over half – he looked puzzled. Penny and Jo Anne were still eating, and I fully expected him to ask what the matter was … but perhaps he’s had to do this before. Jo Anne had asked the waiter to split the bill … he did as he was asked, but then we all would have paid the same price … not fair to Penny and Jo Anne since mine was almost double theirs (even with their wine). So he recalculated to we each paid for what we ate.

Tête de veau20121015-105807.jpg Agneau20121015-105818.jpg Ris de veau20121015-105828.jpg

Ah well, this was an interesting “learning experience” for 51€. Did I mention that I would not be returning to LaFerme Saint-Simon? My Zagat and TripAdvisor comments will come later.

Penny and Jo Anne were going walking again – maybe to Montmartre’s Sacré Coeur, and were going to call me again to discuss dinner. I figured this would be a good time to return our neighborhood, so I did, stopping at a traiteur for some carry-out salmon quiche for my supper tonight (Jo Anne had said that she didn’t want to spend her last night in Paris in the apartment – and I completely understand, but I’m happy to do so), and at a patissierie for a croissant, pain aux raisins, pain au chocolat, and two somethings I can’t name but were slightly sweet, almost like a palmier. Then I stopped at another café for a martini rouge and to eat the croissant, followed by a rest stop to watch more boules being played on the area in front of Les Invalides.

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The girls returned by 17:30 … they’d been to Parc Monceau and Montmartre … plus the post office for stamps (Jo Anne planned to write cards tonight) … tired feet all around!

Next plan … pack! The taxi Jo Anne booked should be here by 7:00!

====================
Paris – mardi, le 16 octobre

Dressed and finished my last banana, yogurt and a croissant, from the boulangerie yesterday, by 6:30. Downstairs at the front door by 6:40. A taxi passed and Jo Anne flagged it, and ran to the corner, but that driver didn’t know our address, so I sent him on. Ours was scheduled for 7:00 and would have stopped at the door. She was sure I’d made a mistake and we wouldn’t get a ride on time, so there were some tense minutes before our taxi came at exactly the right time and place. The ride only took thirty minutes and cost 55€ … we each gave 20€ and Jo Anne kept the extra.

We got some help from one of the attendants getting Jo Anne through the boarding and bag check-in. Her flight left at around 10:00 so we made sure that she got through first. Then she went to the desk for her boarding pass. We still had plenty of time, so Penny and I checked in too. She used the self-register kiosk … I went to a “real person” who helped me through the machine and the boarding pass, and checking my suitcase. It only weighed 20.2kilos (!) … I had been concerned after all that I’d bought recently, and because it was also holding my “carry-on” bag. The gate for our flight was L24 … A looong way away + a tram ride! The desk lady told me that and said that I should get a wheelchair and I said “okay”. She said that it would take a while for one to become available … so I hugged Jo Anne and she and Penny headed for Gate L and security.

My wait was only about 15-20 minutes, and while waiting I stuck up a conversation with a couple also waiting. This can be such a small world … she asked where I was from … Richmond … said she’d gone to college there … really? Where? … “Westhampton” (not “University of Richmond”) … go figure! She had graduated only four years before me. Plus, he was a retired Presbyterian minister … they live in Lynchburg … and the knows our awesome Sunday school teacher and Union Theological Seminary library guru par excellence John Trotti and his wife Joan! This was so cool! Yes, another photo. Yes, another email (to them Martha and Bill, and to John and Joan).

My “personal assistant” this time was Mohamed, who apologized for his English saying “I slept in school” and sang Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” most of the way. We sang together with me doing some brushing up on his pronunciation (especially “dohn-cha-kum-bak-no-mo-no-mo”). So on to passport control … with a lot of “excusez!” and navigating through all the folks in line (in 1st class I might add), we zipped right through. Security was the same … iPad in a tray, school bag (well, that’s what it used to be) in a tray, crutch on the rollers … done! The bell rang either for the metal chair or the metal in me, so I was swiped and patted down. Zip zip, done!

I took a picture of him at passport control before he dropped me off at gate L24. A couple of minutes later Penny arrived at about 9:30. She went for some coffee, I went for some water … then we left that seating area for a small snack bar’s tables/chairs. She bought a piece of lemon cake, I ate the pain au chocolat that I’d bought yesterday. 10:30, only 3+ more hours to wait for our 13:55 flight which was about 30 minutes late, so I had time to put my head back and snooze (although to passersby I probably looked dead). The flight was smooth and although I couldn’t sleep, I did finish the delightful book Isabella had given me (The Elegance of the Hedgehog). Upon arriving at JFK another pair of assistants (Jennifer and Debra) whisked me through customs and security for the flight to Richmond. Their help was critical because I never could have covered the distances involved as fast as they did! Jennifer missed her calling as a driver for NASCAR! The quick flight to Richmond was more interesting than usual, because of meeting four sophomores returning to Westhampton College from their Fall Break. We talked about their majors, and you just got the nicest feeling about their futures, from the perspective of seeing myself there 47 years ago. Mark met me at RIC, got my suitcase and took me to meet Jamie and Penny for the ride home.

This was what greeted me! I am so blessed with such good friends!

Thanks Penny and Jamie for finding that charming stone house in Uzès!

Thanks Jo Anne for getting a super apartment in Paris!

Thanks Pascal for snuggling.

Thanks Isabella for the best food and outstanding travel hints!

Thanks Karen for sharing Pascal with me during my “I need quiet /alone” time!

Thanks Doug for finding me the perfect pair of traveling shoes!

Thanks Lea for loving me and being there (virtually) when I needed to “unload” my emotional bruises and get my hand held!

Thanks Phil for being a “cat minder” (if not whisperer) for a month! That is really above the call of duty and a friend beyond measure!

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========= C’est tout ! ==========

So much revisited:

l’Arc de Triomphe
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la Tour Eiffel
Eiffel
le Musee de Cluny
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le Louvre
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la Cathedrale de Notre-Dame
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la Cathedrale de Chartres – a day trip
Chartres

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One thought on “Paris

  1. Thanks for sharing, Cynthia. Good read. Love seeing the art and the food. Happy retirement!

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