Although I've now been in Paris for the last 10 days, and have been mostly on my own except for the very few days Michael, Tim, Jill, Nicholas and Chelsea were here, and I've been having a mostly wonderful time, been to many great places, had many delicious meals and snacks and desserts, so far I haven't been documenting this trip as thoroughly as I've usually done when I've traveled out of the US, or even on my trips closer to home.
This lack of enthusiasm for documenting this trip might have something to do with having not even started processing any of the hundreds of photos I've already taken earlier this year. I had computer, Internet and wifi problems at home for about three months in the Spring, which kept me from doing much of any of my usual computer-related hobbies, and I'm still trying to catch up.
Being the detail-oriented (at least semi) nerd that I am, and liking to research things that interest me, I am way over-prepared for this trip to Paris. I've read and collected far more information about Paris and its history and cultural and scenic offerings (at least eight travel guides and countless web pages) and its history (three books) than I can remember, and created a web list for myself with far more cultural, scenic, or just interesting places to visit than I can possibly get to in the three weeks I'm here. I am not going to provide many Internet links in my travel notes, only for anything not included in my lists above--locations arranged alphabetically or by area.
My practical strategy is to have some knowledge of and familiarity with all the wonderful cultural and scenic opportunities and where they are in relationship to other places, and to enjoy seeing and going to as many places as I can.
And so let me begin at the beginning of my trip.
Because it would be winter in Paris, I wanted to take two different winter coats (neither of which I'd worn before), two sweaters, and two sweatshirts as well as enough clothes to last eight or nine days to minimize the number of times I needed to do laundry at the laundromat around the corner. All that took two full size suitcases. I also had my hatbox (of course), a book bag (also of course), and Chris's cane which became Mom's when Chris died and became mine after Mom died (Mom's folding metal travel cane went in one of my suitcases).
I really didn't want to use public transportation with all those bags, either in Paris or between home and the Miami airport, so I booked a private shuttle between home and the Miami airport and back, and also from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to my hotel and back. (In the past, I have taken shared shuttles between both the Fort Lauderdale airport and the Miami airport and home, but sharing a ride to/from the Miami airport takes way too long from where I live).
I did my walking for exercise early Saturday afternoon, since my flight wasn't leaving until about 9 PM. The traffic wasn't too bad between home and the Miami airport, and I was through security and at my gate in the terminal quite early. The Air France nonstop flight from Miami to Paris/Charles de Gaulle was very, very nice. Because this was such a long flight, I booked a seat in premium economy because I've been having problems with arthritis in my knees and prefer as much leg room as possible.
Premium economy turned out to be very comfortable. Although the seats in that section didn't recline, that didn't make very much difference to me since I don't particularly like recliners and can't sleep sitting up anyway. We had two very pleasant and tasty meals during the flight, and the inflight entertainment played on the back of the seat in front of me and offered lots of different choices to watch or listen to, which started when you wanted.
I'd slept very poorly Saturday night, and even if I couldn't fall asleep on the plane, I was way too tired to read or even to listen to any of my podcasts, so I just watched "Maleficent" and "Cloudy with a chance of meatballs".
Although I had confirmed my pickup at Charles de Gaulle with the hotel before I'd left, I'd neglected to confirm exactly where I'd meet my driver. It had been three years since I'd last flown out of the US, and so expected the departure area to be like it is for domestic flights in the US, where you usually just go out the exit nearest to where you pick up your bags. When I turned on my phone in the airport I saw there was a text message from Xavier, my driver, and although I had his number there on my phone, I have to admit I had to call Verizon (a local US number) to find out how to dial the + character on my iPhone so I could call Xavier back. When I finally got hold of Xavier, he didn't speak very much English but found another driver who did. I told them I was sitting in the baggage area facing carousels 33 and 34, and it turned out that they were pretty much just right behind me in the hallway. Xavier and I waved at each other, so we'd recognize each other, and the second driver told me I needed to collect my bags and head on out through French immigration and customs, since there was actually only one exit out for international flights, and Xavier would meet me there.
I had a moment of panic when my debit card didn't work in the ATM at the airport, since I had checked with my bank to make sure it would do so. I had to ask Xavier to stop at a branch of BNP Paribas (which my bank partners with so there'd be no transaction fee) on the way to my hotel, and was very relieved when I could withdraw funds from that one. I later figured out that my problem at the first ATM was that I had asked for more euros than matched my daily dollar limit for withdrawals.
It was gray and cloudy and foggy in Paris when I arrived, but the sun started breaking through the clouds on the way into town and to my hotel.
When we got the hotel's neighborhood, Xavier had to drive around for a bit until he figured out where he could park closest to the Grand Hotel Malher, since that part of the Marais is closed to vehicle traffic and is only open to pedestrians and bicycles Sunday afternoons.
By now I had been awake for over 24 hours straight and felt not terrible but not welllow in energy, not thinking too clearly, a bit shaky and slightly dizzy. I liked what I saw of the hotelthe lobby matched the pictures I'd seen on the hotel's website, and since my room was ready I could check in. The room wasn't huge but was very pleasant and comfortable and looked out on a central courtyard.
I unpacked a bit, sent Michael and Tim text messages to let them know I'd arrived, and collapsed on the bed for a couple of hours. Although I didn't fall asleep I did feel much better, especially after I'd taken a shower and changed clothes. I felt awake and conscious enough to get on with the rest of my day.
When we first started planing this trip, which for Michael and Tim was mostly to distribute some of Mom's ashes where she had requested, Michael had insisted that he specifically wanted to stay at the Grand Hotel Malher because he and Renee had stayed there a couple of years ago. He didn't recognize any of the pictures of rooms on the hotel's website, but he figured that we because the hotel had done some remodeling, which they had. I wanted to make sure that at least two of us stayed in the same place, so that's where I had also made my reservation.
I had done a lot of playing around looking at the hotel's neighborhood using street view on Google Maps, and really liked what I had seen of the area and the hotel's proximity to Notre Dame and the Louvre, and there is a metro station just around the corner from the hotel.
The hotel's a nice, slightly older hotel in the Marais, and they had done a lovely job with renovations a couple of years ago. I had booked my room with the breakfast plan, which was served in the lovely small room in what we would call the basement.
My room was up on the 5th floor (6th floor to us Yanks) just around the corner from the small but clean and efficient elevator and the stairs. There were privacy curtains and thicker drapes on the windows looking out on the central courtyard.
The room was small, as apparently most hotel rooms in Europe are, but was very comfortable for just me. There was a small fridge in the closet, a very comfortable bed with end tables on each side, and a much better desk/table than I'd had in the last couple of hotels I'd stayed at back home in Florida. The room was very nicely lit, and on the whole quite quietI could often hear the bells from St Paul's Church around the corner.
The en suite bathroom was quite pleasant, with a tub that's higher than I like (even higher than the one I have at home), so I had to be even more careful getting in and out of it. The shower was handheld but if fit into a bracket at normal shower height, so that was OK. Although it wasn't the very best shower I'd ever used, being low flow medium efficiency, it was also better than several I've used at home in the US.
If you want to see what the room looked like, I didn't take any pictures of it while I was thereI'd have had to do so before I moved my bags into the room and unpacked. The ones on the hotel's website are pretty representative, though.
I had booked a ticket for the concert at the Opera Bastille that night, which is a very short walk from the hotel, so I did my exercise walking by wandering around the neighborhood for about 45 minutes while making sure I knew where the concert was and finding some place that looked good for dinner.
It was a lovely concerta couple of Beethoven's symphoniesin a very lovely concert hall.
Most of what I did today involved getting to know the neighborhood around the hotel, and doing some necessary shopping. As I mentioned earlier, beginning long before I got to Paris, I had been doing a lot of poking around using street view and Google Maps, so I already had some familiarity with the area, and knew where many of the places I was interested in going were in relationship to each other and to Grand Hotel Malher.
Although I had ordered online, and received three voltage converters that were supposed to work with French outlets, they didn'tthe prongs were way too short to fit into the sockets. The guy at the desk in the hotel when I checked in gave me a spare USB charger, but I still wanted to be able to plug my laptop in and charge more than one device at a time. I knew that the big department store up the street, the BHV Marais, is supposed to have one of the best electronics & hardware sections in the city (basically everything you could need except lumber) so I walked on over and bought a couple of the right adapters and a small night light (I knew that if I closed the thicker drapes at night it would be very dark in my room, and I do feel more comfortable with a little bit of light when I wake up in the middle of the night).
When I got back to my room, I plugged the power bar/surge suppressor I'd brought with me into one of the adapters and plugged that into the socketand promptly blew out the power in the room. After the lady at the front desk very kindly came up and reset the circuit, I decided I'd try just plugging my laptop directly into the adapter, and that worked fine. I then tried each of the digital alarm clocks I'd brought with me but they didn't work. When they didn't work plugged into an outlet downstairs in the lobby I knew they were too old to be able to handle the current without a power converter, not just an adapter, or I could just buy a French digital alarm clock instead.
In my quest for an alarm clock, I went back down to the BHV Marais but didn't find one, although they had plenty of battery powered clocks where the display only comes on when you press a button on the clock.
A word here about my knowledge and command of French. I had taken 2nd year French as an undergrad in college, and then again ten years later at Portland State, but that was about 20 years ago. Since May or June, I had been working my way through the Rosetta Stone French course (I hadn't finished when I leftstill haven'tbut did take my headset with me so I could still do the lessons there in Paris). I also have the Larousse French-English English-French dictionary on my iPhone and Kindle, so I can usually figure out how to say in French what I'm looking for or would like to order or buy in restaurants, stores, and ticket offices. It was a lot of fun using my French in Paris, but I felt like I had "American" emblazoned somewhere on me in ink only French persons could readmany of them would let me practice my French, and then they'd practice their English.
I knew that FNAC is the largest electronics retailer in France, as well as having a large selection of CDs and selling tickets. The one nearest to the hotel is in the huge Les Halles underground shopping mall not far from the hotel, and not far from the Pompidou Centre. When I got to Les Halles, before I saw the FNAC I saw another large electronics store (Darty), so I went in and did find a reasonably priced plug in alarm clock. I still went to the FNAC, but this time I was looking for French Christmas CDs. The woman I asked in the CD section looked at me as if no one had ever asked for such a thing. She had to ask someone in the classical music section, where I only found two CDs I liked the look of out of the small selection there. (I wound up buying and downloading several CDs of French Christmas music from Amazon and iTunes instead.)
Before I describe a very pleasant day, I want to mention that I'm sleeping at least slightly worse than I do even at home, and have been getting between and 4 to 6 hours of sleep nightly since I've been here. I certainly can't blame the bed or the hotel or not being tired at the end of the dayI just don't fall asleep easily or early or stay asleep as long as I'd like.
I had three things planned for today. The first was to walk over to the pickup location for the Paris Pass. I already had the one I had ordered online and had sent to me at home in Florida, but since the pass is only good for six days in a row, and I'm going to be here for three weeks, I ordered two additional passes to cover most of my time in Paris, which I said I'd pick up at the office. Since the pass covers admission to lots of museums as well as a unlimited travel card on the metro or busses, they'll still save me money.
I had the official Paris transit website bookmarked on my laptop and an app on my Kindle, but the best app of all was the official one for iPhone. That includes everything, and has one crucial bit of information the Kindle app didn'tnot only does it tell you which bus or metro line to take, it tells you towards which direction you need to go.
I had also used Google Maps to plan out a walking route over to the Paris Pass pickup location, which is at a sweet shop near a large cinema. The walk over was very pleasant, and I had lunch in the area before taking the metro back to my hotel, which I had figured out how to do using the iPhone metro app.
Long before I left home, I had found the website for an organization called Paris Greeters, which hooks people up with a volunteer who will take them on a private walking tour of their area. My guide and I had corresponded several times by email before I left Florida, and he worked out a walking tour that would leave from Eglise St Paul just around the corner from my hotel, and would finish where I could take a bus to get to my third and last event of the day.
I met my guide, Alain, over at St Paul at 2 PM. He turned out to be a very nice gentleman, I think a few years older than myself, a (perhaps retired) chemist and a very long time resident of the Marais. I don't remember everywhere Alain showed me, and for some reason thought it would be intruding on his company to take pictures along the way, but I do remember several of the places we went. Alain took me to many lovely, interesting places, was quite informative, and seemed to respect and appreciate that I'd done some homework and had at least some background information about the places we went and their history.
We started at St Paul, went through the Hotel de Sully across the street, and on over to the Place de Vosges (near where Tim, Jill, and the kids would be staying when they got there in a couple of days), back across the Seine to the Institute du monde arabe where we went up to the observation deck for the very nice view from there, up the Left Bank into the Latin Quarter, with a stop at the very lovely medieval College des Bernadins (which I don't think was mentioned in any of the guidebooks I'd readI certainly hadn't collected any web sites about it), on to Saint-Sulpice, over to Place Vendome, and as promised to where I could catch a bus.
One thing I brought back from Mom and Dad's when I went there for one last time before the estate sale was a Florida cookbook I'd given Mom one Christmas. Before I left home, I'd asked Alain if he cooked and, if so, could he use an American cookbook? Alain said yes to both, so I asked him if I could give him the Florida cookbook I had given Mom. I told Alain I thought Mom would love it if she knew that a Florida cookbook I had once given her was now in the collection and kitchen of a resident of Paris who had taken her son on a personal tour of his home neighborhood, and that Mom had loved Paris as much as she once loved cooking. Alain wouldn't accept a tip from me, but he did accept the cookbook.
My last stop for the day was the Eiffel Tower, where I had a summit ticket for 5:30. The bus was packed, and I had to stand up all the way, hanging on for dear life (my balance and knee problems can sometimes make standing up on buses or the metro more interesting than I would like).
I got to the Eiffel Tower early enough to wander around the area and grounds taking pictures while it was still light before heading inside and up. I loved it and had a great experience going all the way up to the top. I do have problems with heights and vertigo, but I learned a long time ago that things will be all right if I have faith in the structure or mechanism I'm on, and looking mostly out and not straight down.
The weather was cold and clear that day, so the night views were lovely (but I found out much later while finally working on the pictures I'd taken none from that night came out well). I didn't wander around on any of the levels, but went from one elevator to the next, and straight up to the last elevator platform. I didn't take the stairs from there up to the highest level, though.
Coming back down was much less pleasant. For some reason, I couldn't find the entrance back inside from the top level I was on so I could take the elevator back down to the next lowest level. I eventually gave up and had to take the stairs instead, and it was a long way down, and I had to keep stopping to let faster people pass me. When I finally got to the next level where I could take an elevator, it was so busy I had to stand in line for what seemed to be over an hour.
By the time I got all the way down to the bottom again, my knees were bothering me so much I really didn't want to chance having to stand up on a bus or the metro and also really didn't want to have to go up or down the stairs in the metro stations themselves, so I took a cab back to the hotel instead. I had no problem telling the driver in French where I was staying and wanted to go to St Paul in the Marais. I enjoyed the scenery and the lights of Paris at night in the holiday season, and was very glad not to be the one driving.
I had dinner somewhere in the hotel's neighborhood, and called it a night.
The next few days were centered around my family. When Mom died in November 2012, she had set aside some money and requested that we disperse some of her ashes in Paris, a city she loved and had visited a couple of times.
I have the most flexible schedule of my family, only having to worry about when I can take time off from work. After Mom died, I told my brothers Michael and Tim that I would go whenever it fit their schedules the best. For some reason I don't understand, they both decided to wait and go to Paris in December 2014.
Michael's wife, Renee, decided she couldn't join us in Paris because she herself was leaving right after the New Year for an almost six month long Fullbright Fellowship in London, and Michael wanted to be home himself for the holidays, so he decided he could only be in Paris for four full days, arriving on the 17th and leaving again on the 22nd. Tim, Jill and the kids Nick and Chelsea decided that due to various demands on their schedules, such as Nick having a job over Christmas break, and wanting to be at home for the holidays, they could only be in Paris for a day less than Michael, arriving on the 18th and leaving on the 21st.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this narrative, I didn't start keeping notes of where I went and what we all did until after everyone else had all gone home. I had to ask both Michael and Tim to remind me of what they did when during their stay in Paris. Their answers helped a great deal in typing up this section.
I don't remember what I did the morning of the 17th before Michael arrived in ParisI think I went to the very lovely and well done Musee Carnavalet, which is near the hotel.
As I said earlier, when we began planning our trip to Paris, I had asked Michael where he wanted to stay so I could make a reservation in the same place so at least two of us would be together. Michael specifically said he wanted to stay in the Grand Hotel Malher because he and Renee had stayed there before and really liked the hotel and the area.
Michael's room wasn't ready when he arrived at the hotel, so he came up to my room to leave his luggage. Before we left for a bit of a walk, Michael said he hadn't recognized the walk over from the metro stationwhich is only a short block from the hotel. I told him that was very odd, because he had specifically said he and Renee had stayed at the Grand Hotel Malher, and there is only one of those and it had always been in the same place. When we were out wandering around to kill some time before his room was ready, Michael kept saying he didn't recognize the area.
When we got back to the hotel, Michael's room was ready so we decided to meet and go out for dinner after he'd unpacked and maybe taken a nap and a shower. This time we headed on over to the area by the Place Bastille and Boulevard Beaumarchais, and that's when Michael started recognizing places.
He later figured out that he and Renee hadn't actually stayed at the GHM after all; the reason he had been looking at it for years as a screen saver on their desktop computer is that he had taken a picture of the hotel because Mom had stayed there on one of her visits to Paris. I told Michael that if the Grand Hotel Malher hadn't turned out to be such a nice place to stay, I would have kicked him.
Michael also later figured out that the hotel he and Renee had actually had stayed in had either changed hands or its name, and had renovated with the scheme of having each room be uniqueand when he found the hotel's new web page, he didn't really like what he saw of the hotel.
Michael had asked the guy at the front desk at the hotel for some recommendations for places to to go for dinner, and that night we had a very nice meal at Caruso's, an Italian place around the corner.
That morning Michael and I went over to the Isle St Louis and Ile de la Cite to scope out possible locations to disperse some of Mom's ashes in the Seine. We stopped in at Notre Dame on the way back, and had no trouble getting in and didn't have to wait in line.
Michael's not the most culturally interested person I know. When I lived with him in Seattle for the two years I went to library school at the University of Washington, I had a hard time getting him to go with me to concerts or other cultural events.
He said he had pretty much seen most of the museums in Paris he wanted to see on his previous visits, so he'd just kind of wander around the neighborhood while we waited for Tim, Jill and the kids to arrive, so I went up to the Musee Cognac-Jay, another very nice and very well done museum in the Marais not far from the hotel.
Because my family members usually had more disposable income than I did, I usually tried to come up with Christmas presents that were special and personal but didn't cost too much. I told Michael and Tim that this year my Christmas present to them all would be to buy dinner for everyone one night. Tim suggested Au Bourgignon du Marais, a restaurant that was not far from the Grand Hotel Malher, and just around the corner from Eglise St Gervais-St Protais, which is where Mom and Dad had renewed their wedding vows on their last trip to Paris together (and we all have a picture of them taken outside the front door of the church). I had stopped by the restaurant earlier to make a reservation, so we all met there and had a very very nice dinner and dessert, which wasn't too terribly expensive for all six of us.
Today was the day we had picked to scatter Mom's ashes, and it turned out to be a lovely, sunny morning.
Michael had been trying for about a year to find some way he could legally bring Mom's ashes into France so we could scatter them somewhere like Pere Lachaise cemetery, working with the French consulate in Chicago and a funeral parlor/crematorium near where he and Renee live in the Chicago area, but he had no luck, so he decided to get creative and do it unofficallybasically, that meant that in addition to buying several pieces of jewelry made for keeping some cremains, Michael smuggled some of Mom's ashes in small containers that once held talcum powder (which I think Mom would have found hilarious, although she would have been dismayed at all the trouble Michael had been through trying to do it legally and officially).
Before Michael arrived I had gone on one of my exercise walks all around the perimeter of the Ile St Louis, and Michael and I had been over the same territory the day before. We met Tim, Jill, Nick, and Chelsea at St Paul, and headed on over to the Seine by way of Au Bourgignon du Marais where I'd bought every one dinner the night before, and with a stop at Eglise St Gervais-St Protais to take pictures of the famous front door where the picture of Mom and Dad had been taken after they'd renewed their wedding vows inside.
It turned out that Michael had thought a couple of different places we'd looked at were better than the ones I'd thought suitable, so I was a bit confused on our way over to what Michael thought was the best place. We wanted a spot where we could get directly over the Seine, somewhere without a bank. We wanted the spot to be directly across from Notre Dame. I thought we wanted to do it in a spot that was somewhat secluded from passing boat and foot trafficand the spot Michael had picked was right across from Notre Dame in between a couple of passenger barges, which I didn't think was too secluded.
After we'd scattered the contents of the two talcum powder containers, we went across to Notre Dame and went insideonce again, we didn't have to wait in line. (Every other time I went past Notre Dame between then and when I left, there was always a very long line waiting). We crossed over to Rue de Rivoli near the Hotel de Ville where the ice skating rink was quite busy.
I can't remember what I did that afternoon. I probably went somewhere in the neighborhood of the hotel. I had been able to pre-book an individual summit ticket for the Eiffel tower for a specific time the day I went before everyone else got to Paris. Tim hadn't been able to do so, but had been able to book tickets for all five of them as part of a guided tour, so after we parted and I headed back towards my hotel, they walked to the Tour past the Jardin des Tuilleries and down the Champs Elysee. Michael told me later that the weather had been not awful but not very goodcertainly not as clear as it had been when I went, so the view from the Tour wasn't as nice that night as it could have been, but the tour guide made up for it in being entertaining and informative. Then they took the metro back, and had dinner somewhere near Notre Dame. Tim had wanted to go to a pretty fancy restaurant someone had recommended but apparently they were all feeling kind of tired and jet lagged, so they changed their plans.
Today we went to the Musee d'Orsay. We all met over at St Paul, then walked across to the Gare Austerlitz on the other side of the Seine to take the RER-C train on over to the museum. I have to admit I had a bit of trouble trying to keep up with Nick and Chelsea, who kept racing ahead, and Tim kind of kept an eye on themmuch as if they were still much younger.
When we got to the museum, Tim, Jill and the kids wanted to start at the bottom and work their way uptaking the stairs between floors. Since I'm not too good on stairs, I decided I'd take the elevators all the way up to the top and work my way down. Michael kindly decided to stick with me and keep me company. When we had come in, Tim had gotten a single claims ticket for all of our coats, so I had a moment of panic after we'd split up because we hadn't arranged where or when to meet before leaving so we all could get our coats back, but Michael managed to find Tim before they'd gone too far. Michael & Tim went back to the coat check, where they put Michael & my coats on a separate claims check, which Tim gave to Michael.
I love the Musee d'Orsay. First off, it's just a gorgeous Art Deco building, which has been very well taken care of and looked after. The art covered by the museum is from some of my favorite movements/periods and some of my favorite artists, and the staff has done a beautiful job displaying the art there.
I don't remember what Tim, Jill, and the kids had planned to do after the museum. Michael and I headed back towards the Grand Hotel Malher, and got separated while taking the metrohe went on first, but I got delayed when some idiot standing in the doorway wouldn't get out of the way so I could get on and I got my arm stuck in the outer automatic door. When I got to St Paul on the next train, I was a little worried to not see Michael on the platform, but he was waiting for me outside up top (he probably felt the need to have a quick smoke).
I think Michael and I just hung out in our separate hotel rooms before going over to Place de Vosges to join Tim, Jill, Nick and Chelsea for dinner at a restaurant right near their hotel. It was actually warm enough to dine outsideOK, we were all bundled up quite well and the restaurant had their outside heaters turned on, but it was very pleasant and a good meal.
Tim, Jill and the kids were heading home today. We asked them to call us before they left, and then send us a text message or email when they arrived home safely. Our family has always had a rulewhen traveling, always check in with someone when you get there. That person, of course, used to be Mom.
Before leaving home, both Michael and I had separately watched the same Rick Steves video, where Rick went on a tour of Paris at night in an old Citroen 2CV with a company called Paris Authentic. I told Michael that if he wanted to go with me the night before he left Paris, I'd be glad to pay for it, and he had said yes, so we had arranged to be picked up at our hotel about 9 PM.
Michael spent the day by taking the metro over to the Franklin D Roosevelt station, then walking over to the Arc de Triomophe, then back to the Marais through the Jardins de Tuilleries.
I wasn't feeling too well in the morning, and got off to a slow start. I spent a couple of hours washing my clothes at the small laundromat around the corner from the hotel, which was actually quite easy to do, although the washing machine seemed to take a lot longer than I'm used to at home, or even in laundromats I've used in the US. I was also never quite sure whether I'd gotten the amount of detergent right, eitherthe clothes felt a little stiff after coming out of the drier, but that might have just been because I didn't have any fabric softener sheets as I almost always do when I do laundry at home.
After dropping my laundry off at the hotel, I went for a late lunch at one of the Chinese places in the neighborhood I'd been to beforeit was good, quick, and inexpensive. On the way back to the hotel, I heard a small band playing right by the St Paul metro station. They were pretty good, kind of a cross between a small brass band and a jazz band with some vocalists. I called Michael to let them know he should come on over, bought one of their CDs and headed back over to the hotel when I thought they were packing up because I was still wearing just a light sweatshirt since I hadn't planned on being outside for long. Michael was going to wander around the neighborhood some more before we met for dinner, so he was wearing a warmer coat. He told me the band came back and played some more.
We had dinner at Hugo's, another restaurant in the area that had been recommended by the same guy who had told Michael about Caruso's. We then went back to our hotel rooms for an hour or so before we'd be picked up by the driver for our tour. Michael planned on finishing his packing.
I was waiting in the hotel lobby when the driver came by, and Michael came down soon after. The tour was quite fun, although the car itself isn't anything I'd want to go on a long road trip in. The driver was a nice guy, spoke very good English, and was entertaining and informative. Paris is very lovely at night, and even more so over the holidays. Michael told the driver we were both very glad that he was the one doing the driving and not us.
Unfortunately both Michael and myself were not feeling very well for some reason. Michael had to ask the driver to stop long enough so he could go in and use a bathroom somewhere. By the time I got back to my hotel room, I felt so unwell that when Michael came to check on how I was doing I told him I'd just see him in the morning before he left.
Michael's private shuttle (I think he had the same driver I was using, Xavier, who was recommended by the hotel) was picking him up about 9 AM. Long before I had left home, I had decided this would be a good day to make a trip out of Paris, and I'd purchased a ticket to Chartres online.
Although I hadn't slept well the night before, both Michael and I felt much better than we had last night, which was very fortunate. We visited for about half an hour before I left to catch the metro from St Paul over to the Montparnasse train station for my trip to Chartres.
I had bought my online train ticket to Chartres through a third-party site, which I thought was Rail Europe, and had a copy of my receipt with me which I also thought had the code I needed to print my ticket at the station, but when I got there I found that neither email I had with me either in print or on my iPhone had the right code. There might have been some problem with communication hereI asked in the ticket office what I needed to do, and went to the automated machine I thought they sent me to, but that didn't work. I finally gave up and just bought a new round trip ticket instead since it wasn't expensive.
The train trip from Montparnasse to Chartres is very pleasant, and the train wasn't crowded that morning, although varying amounts of people got on and off at each station in between along the way. Once the train gets outside of Paris, which takes surprisingly little time, you go through very pretty countryside, rather scenic even if there's not much to see.
I loved Chartres the town, and the cathedral. I knew I could pick up a map of the town at the visitors' center, and thought I knew where that was. I wandered around for a bit, enjoying the town, but never quite found the tourist office. When I finally gave up and asked a couple of people where it was, they directed me up some stairs to the street above us, and I easily found it after that. As I was leaving with my map, I recognized several places I'd been past while looking for the tourist officeapparently I had been past the corner right by there a couple of times.
I was tired from not sleeping well, and hadn't much to eat before leaving my hotel in Paris earlier that morningI think I had a banana and a yogurt I had in the fridge there. Right before I asked the couple where the tourist office was, I had been sitting on a bench trying to find it on my iPhone and trying to decide if I wanted to spend the night in one of the pleasant looking hotels I'd passed while wandering around, check in, take a nap, then explore the town in the afternoon and evening when I felt betterbut that would have meant I'd have to find somewhere to buy a charger for my iPhone, and a change of clothes for the morning.
I had passed a local branch of fnac a couple of times, and knew how to get there from the tourist office. I knew fnac sells iPhone chargers for French outlets, and went there and bought one. Even if I decided not to spend the night in Chartres, I could use the new charger in my hotel room and use the adapter I already had to charge my Kindle Fire at the same time. When I left the fnac with my new charger, I discovered that I had left my new map of Chartres which I had just picked up somewhere. I made my way on over back to the tourist office and picked another one up.
I also stopped at a pretty café over between the tourist office and the area by the cathedral, and had a very nice meal. I felt much better then, and decided I wouldn't find a room in a hotel in Chartres but would continue with my original plan and visit the cathedral and explore more of the town near there instead of trying to see more of the town further away from the center. I would then head back to the train station to see if I could catch a return train earlier than the one I had booked a ticket for.
Over by the cathedral I saw and heard a man using and playing what I thought sounded like a small calliope, which turned out to be a new model of an old-style hand cranked barrel organ, which uses small punch cards to control the instrument's sound. I listened to him play a couple of songs, then we actually had a short conversation in French about how the barrel organ worked, and how Jacquard had used the same sort of punch cards to operate looms, and how the cards had been used to program early computers.
I loved the cathedral very much, both inside and outside. I didn't spend as much time there as someone else would who was intent on extracting the slightest detail of meaning from the religious symbolism in the sculpture, stained glass windows, and other artbut then again, I didn't at Notre Dame or the Louvre, or any of the churches and museums I'd visited, either there in Paris or any I've visited in the US, Ireland, or Scotland. My brain doesn't work that way, and I don't really care about the symbolic details.
When I left the cathedral, I wanted to go to the Beaux Arts museum next door but they're closed on Monday. I forgot about the stained glass museum nearby, but the stained glass store also near the cathedral was open, so I went in for a quick visit and thoroughly enjoyed it.
By then it was about 4:30 and already getting dark. I headed back towards the train station, figuring I could always just find somewhere pleasant to hang out and have dinner before catching the train back to Paris at 7:30 if I couldn't catch an earlier train. The nice person at the ticket counter looked at my ticket and said there'd be no problem, and I could just catch the next train which was leaving soon if I wanted, and the very nice person on duty at the train platform very kindly escorted me across the tracks to the correct platform the train to Paris would leave from instead of my having to go down the stairs to the tunnel between platforms and then back up to the platform level on the other side. Sometimes it helps having one of my canes/walking sticks with me, and if my knees are tired enough I'll take advantage of that.
When I got back to the Montparnasse train station after a very pleasant day, I was tired and my knees hurt just enough that I decided I really didn't want to take the metro and have to walk down the stairs, through the tunnels, and back up the stairs, so I took a taxi back to St Paul instead and had dinner at a local restaurant I hadn't been to yet before heading back to my hotel room for the night.
I had now been in Paris for over a week, and still hadn't gone on any of the bus or Seine tours I'd read about and collected information for, including either trip included in the Paris Pass. The weather wasn't ideal today, but I decided not to wait. Although once you get on the bus tour, you can get off and back on wherever and whenever you want for the day, if you want to use the Paris Pass you have to start over at the office of the tour company which is over in the Opera district, so I walked on over.
Although the weather was damp and cool, I was mostly dressed warmly enough that I wasn't too uncomfortable riding around on the open top deck of the bus for optimal picture taking. Earphones for the recorded tour in several different languages are available as you get on the bus, but I didn't notice at the time, but I had been listening to my iPhone on the walk over so I used my own earphones.
The recorded tour was interesting and amusing, and the bus route does show most of the major sights in Paris, and I often knew where I was because I'd seen a lot of the places we went past in the week I'd been in Paris already. After the bus made a stop or two, I was able to move from my original aisle seat to one on the side, which made for even less obstructed picture taking.
I had originally planned on taking the tour once all the way around and then get off over at the Eiffel Tower to take the boat tour included in the Paris Pass, go back to the tour bus stop after the boat tour, then take the bus around again to Notre Dame, which is the closest stop to the Marais. However, after one whole trip around, the weather hadn't improved so I decided I really didn't want to take another tour on the open top deck of the tour boat, and got off when we got back to Notre Dame.
I walked back over to the Grand Hotel Marais, and a bit later went out for dinner somewhere new in the area. I didn't keep track of where I ate most of the time, but I did try and go somewhere I hadn't been before, and always to somewhere that listed their menu and daily specials outside (I hate having to go into a restaurant and only after looking at the menu deciding I didn't like the prices or the food on offer). So far I hadn't been disappointed, and had many very nice meals for not too much money in very pleasant placesbut there was one otherwise very nice place down the street from the hotel, with excellent food at reasonable prices and a pleasant and helpful staff, which had a slight problem in the form of at least two little mice that kept sneaking out and wandering around a couple of times while I was there. At least one other patron spotted them, and notified one of the staff, who then notified the manager on duty, who set out a trap.
I went to the Louvre for the first time today. Every tour book I read tells you to not attempt to see the entire Louvre in just one day, and they're all right for very good reasons. It is claimed that the Louvre is the largest museum in the world. The place is huge physically and in terms of the volume of the collection.
Various solutions for dealing with the Louvre's huge size and quantity of items displayed were proposed in each of the tour books I read, and on the Louvre's own web page. These include strategies such as doing a speed search for the main attractions, and treasure hunts for items of a particular theme or type.
I chose my own strategy. The Paris/Museum pass allows unlimited access to featured attractions for the duration of the pass, and my original pass and the additional ones I purchased covered pretty much my entire stay in Paris. Since the Louvre is divided into three wings, I decided I'd do each wing on three separate visits, starting by taking the elevator to the top and making my way down floor by floor. I started with the Sully wing today.
The Sully wing is built around a central courtyard, so I took the elevator to the top and worked my way around the periphery until I got back to my starting elevator, and then went down to the next level. All in all, I was there for between two and three hours.
I know I didn't see everything there was to see, but after a while I got to the point of artifact overload. Even if I occasionally got lost on a floor and missed a section, I made a good effort to see as much as I could on each floor. By the end, all I really wanted to do was find an exit and make my way back outside. I also felt that the visit to the Louvre was enough for the day, and headed back to my hotel, but I did venture out to find somewhere in the neighborhood new to have dinner.
I knew a lot of places would be closed today for the holiday but when I checked to see if Pere Lachaise Cemetery would be open as usual I learned it would be, so that's where I headed.
I had planned a walking route from the Grand Hotel Malher over to Pere Lachaise, and successfully followed it over taking pictures along the way until the batteries in my camera ran out. I had spares back in my hotel room, and in one of the pockets of the coat I wasn't wearing that day, but I found a small store near one of the entrances to Pere Lachaise that was open. I then had a very pleasant lunch at a small cafe/restaurant near by before going into the cemetery.
I had done some research and had made a list of who interesting was buried where, but I decided to follow much the same strategy as I'd done at the Louvre the day beforenot to look for anyone's grave in particular, but to just wander around and see as much as I could before I got too tired or cold and heading back to the hotel. I just wandered around for 2-3 hours, taking pictures of the graves of famous people or just interesting monuments, or new ones, or ones where someone had left flowers recently. To my surprise, it looked like Pere Lachaise is still an actively used cemetery. I did accidentally find several people who were on my list anyway, including Oscar Wilde.
Afterwards I headed back to my hotel to warm up and have a rest, before going out to have dinner somewhere I hadn't been to before that was open Christmas.
I decided I'd only do one major thing today. A couple of days after he had taken me on the walking tour last week before I caught the bus over to the Eiffel Tower, Alain, my guide from Paris Greeters, had sent me an email asking if I'd like to go on his other tour, which concentrated more on the Marais. I had of course said "Yes!". We had arranged to meet over at the Cirque d'Hiver at 2 PM today.
A word about my walking for exercise while in Paris before I go on with describing today. A couple of times I had mapped out a circuit which I thought would take me about 45 minutes to an hour and then walked those routes as fast as I could. Most of the time, though, I just went for total walking time during the day, and walked from place to place as often as I could, and a lot of the time those trips took at least half an hour.
One of my planned routes had been down the Rue de Rivoli to the Place Bastille then up the main street where the hotel Michael and Renee had actually stayed in was, down that road for quite a while, then over to a major cross street that would take me back to a final street where I could head back towards the Seine and my hotel's neighborhood. That trip took me past the Cirque d'Hiver, but I decided that this time I'd take the route suggested by Google Maps when I went over to meet Alain. I used Google Maps a lot, at home before I'd left, and on my laptop and iPhone while in Paris. The route to Cirque d'Hiver suggested by Google Maps actually had more turns than the route I'd walked before but was probably a bit shorter.
I hadn't done much that morning, just enjoying a morning off. I had a banana and a yogurt for breakfast (I kept my little refrigerator stocked with small yogurts), and planned on having lunch somewhere near where I was meeting Alain. I found quite a pleasant little café near the Cirque, which seemed to have quite a few regular customers while I was there, and had a very nice omelet and dessert.
This time Alain made a point of telling me more of the history of the Marais, showing me maps and pictures he had on the tablet computer he'd brought with him. He showed me a map of where the medieval wall had been, and we saw part of it later.
During Alain's tour we saw many places I'd been to or by in my earlier wanderings around, as well as many other places which were familiar to me only from my research and were on my list of places to visit. This time I took lots of pictures, but forgot to ask Alain if I could take his.
We ended up back at the Place des Vosges, said goodbye, and I headed back to my hotel to warm up before heading out that evening to find somewhere new for dinner as usual.
Today I went back to area where I'd picked up my Paris Passes before, walking a different route so I'd see different things. When I got down to the area I noticed something I hadn't spotted beforewhat looked like a huge arch in the roadway. As I got up to the arch I realized I knew exactly what I was looking at from my previous research, even if I'd never seen it before on any of my wandering around or on the bus tour. I was at one of what used to be two huge gates, the Porte St Martin and the Porte St Denis a couple of blocks down the street.
Before taking the metro back towards the Bonne Nouvelle station on the first leg of a trip back to the Louvre, I had a very pleasant American-style lunch at a place called Indiana which seemed to just have pictures of Native Americans as its only decoration.
I'm not ashamed to say that when the guard outside the Louvre showed me where the priority line was for people who already had tickets or the Paris Pass, then directed me to the even shorter line for people with disabilities, since I had one of my canes as usual, I took her up on it.
On this trip to the Louvre I again followed my previous strategy of picking one of the three wings, taking the elevator all the way up to the top, then working my way down floor by floor. Today I picked the Richeliu wing.
I wanted to stop by St Chappelle afterwards, where Alain had taken me on his first tour, and despite apparently not following my own written directions and getting a bit lost on the way, I did eventually find it and had a very nice time while looking for it. When I got there, however, there was a rather long line waiting to get in, and since I could always come back later but earlier in the day, I headed back to the Grand Hotel Malher toyou guessed itwarm up, have a bit of a rest, and venture out again to find somewhere new to have dinner.
My plan for today was to visit three of the remaining museums in the Marais I wanted to see but hadn't been to yetArts et Metiers (science), the Picasso Museum, and around the corner from my hotel, the small museums of Automata and Magic.
The walk over to Arts et Metiers took me past two lovely churches. St Merri was on my list of places to visit, and was as lovely as all the descriptions I'd read said it was. I hadn't heard of the other church, St Nicholas aux Champs (Nicholas in the fields) before I was in the neighborhood this morning and saw the signs for it, and it was another lovely church.
Other than on the first night I was in Paris, I hadn't been to any concerts or recitals as I'd planned and hoped to do. Masses were in progress at both churches as I quietly wandered around, taking pictures without using my flash, and there was music for the masses at both churches.
I had a pleasant lunch at a small café near the museum before going in.
I really liked Arts et Metiers, which turned out to be the only science museum I went to in Paris. It's a very lovely building, with very well done exhibits with lots of scientific equipment and instruments and lots of informative signs near each exhibit. What makes the museum so family and kid-friendly is there are tons of hands-on activities and electronic kiosks. Part of the museum is actually a beautiful old church which houses the original pendulum Foucault used to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.
I eventually found my way over to the Picasso Museum, walking part of the time with an American family I met along the way.
I like and enjoy a lot of Picasso's art, but it holds no meaning for meexcept for wondering how much Picasso was enjoying pulling people's legs with his work. Many other people seemed to be getting more out of the art on displayor putting more into itseeming to stand there in rapt contemplation of the symbolism or whatever.
The final two places I wanted to visit today are small twin museums housed in the same building around the corner from St Paul, between Rue de Rivoli and the Seinethe museums of Magic and Automata. I first stopped for lunch at one of the Oriental places in the neighborhood I'd been to before, for the usual reasonspretty good food, pretty quickly, and not expensive.
I'd never been down the street the two museums are on before, and it's another very pretty neighborhood. Both museums turned out to be not expensive, small, but quite fun, rather interesting and very well done. The museum of magic also includes two different magic shows done throughout the day. The show I saw involved audience participation, including me taking part in a trick with supposedly exactly eleven cards which always turned out to be more or less than that number.
I went back to my hotel for a couple of hours before heading out for somewhere new to eat. When I'd been over near the Place Bastille I'd seen a restaurant called Hippopotamus, which is part of a chain. I'd taken a look at the menu online, and it looked pretty good and wasn't expensive, so that's where I went tonight. The restaurant turned out to be popular with families, and I had another very nice meal there more quickly and with less waiting than at many other places I went to in Paris.
I didn't feel too well this morningnothing major, just a bit unwell and not in a hurry to get started with my day, so I didn't.
I went to the Louvre for my third and final visit today. This time I went in an entrance along the Rue de Rivoli and had to walk down a couple of short escalators that weren't working to get in. I visited the Denon wing today, the last of the museum's three wings. As usual I found an escalator and went straight up to the top floor, making my way down floor by floor.
The Louvre, like the rest of Paris, is surprisingly busy and crowded during the Christmas holidays. Walking along the sidewalks to get anywhere, including to the Louvre today, I constantly found myself having to dodge around groups of people often walking three or four across. Most of the Louvre was just as bad today, especially near the main targets. It was very nice to occasionally go down a side corridor with fewer people.
I did see the Mona Lisa, or La Giocanda to give her French namefrom off to the side and way back behind a crowd of what seemed like a couple hundred people. Using the zoom lens on my camera I did get a nice view of it anyway. I also found the Winged Victory of Samothrace, which I saw from across the stairwell where it's located, and again using the zoom lens on my camera I probably got an even better view of it than I could have up close since I had a more direct view.
I never found the Venus de Milo, though.
I had planned on going to the Cluny medieval museum after the Louvre and went on over to the area. Since I hadn't had lunch yet, I had a tasty omelet at a lovely small place where although I could often see my waiter buzzing around it took longer to get my check than it should have, even in Paris. Although the Cluny is one of the museums I definitely want to see while I'm here in Paris before I leave at the end of the week, and it's closed tomorrow, I decided to save it for Wednesday when I can see it, Sainte-Chappelle, and the Pantheon all in one trip if I leave earlier than I did today.
There are maybe four or five tour boat operators on the Seine. The one that is included in the Paris Pass leaves from all the way over by the Eiffel TowerI also already bought online a ticket for the cruise to see the fireworks late on New Year's Eve. I plan on taking the metro over, probably early enough to have a late dinner somewhere nearby, and taking a cab back to the hotel since the metro stops running too early to take back.
One tour company, the Vedettes de Pont Neuf, leaves as the name suggests from the Pont Neuf, which is only about a half an hour walk from the Grand Hotel Malher. I took advantage of their special online deal for an early afternoon cruise which is good for several days. I decided that the weather today after lunch was as good as it was going to getcold but not too windy and not rainingso I headed on over for the 4:15 PM cruise.
The cruise was very enjoyablethe boat was lovely and pleasant, and the guide who gave the commentary in French and pretty good English was a local student who sounded like a nice giy and did a very good job. I had a seat along the side on the open front deck which allowed me to get some very good, relatively unobstructed pictures.
It turned out to be a wonderful time of day to take the cruise, because on the way back to the dock the sun was going down and all the lights were going on all over Paris.
I was cold, even with a sweatshirt on under my coat. I had pulled the hood of my sweatshirt on up over Dad's cap in case it was windy out on the river since we had a couple of windy days earlier when one of my hats was blown off my head and fortunately caught by someone nearby, and I was very glad of the extra warmth. Somehow I had managed to lose the right glove from the pair I had bought back home for this trip. That wasn't too bad, since I would have had to take it off anyway to use my camera, and kept sticking my hand in the coat pocket between taking pictures.
Afterwards, since I was cold and wanted to warm up and rest a bit before going out to find somewhere new for dinner about 7:30, so I went back to my hotel room for a while. Every time so far that I'd been past any of the restaurants with dine-in seating in the pletzl, the Jewish quarter of the Marais, they'd all been too busy but I decided I'd try again this evening. For some reason it wasn't as busy tonight as it had been every other time I'd been through, and so I had a very tasty mixed plate at King Falafel Palace, which is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in that neighborhood.
A word about what I've been drinking while here in Paris, before I go on to describe today. I like the taste of the tap water at home in South Florida, but the water here in Paris, both here in my hotel and at all of the restaurants where I've asked for it, may be even tastier with a lovely touch of sweetness.
I've never been much of a wine drinker, although I once took an evening college-level class about wine at Portland State many years ago to educate myself about the subject. I've always been much more of a beer or hard cider drinker than a wine drinker. It turns out that not everyone here in Paris drinks only wine. Every place I've been to so far, ranging from a small neighborhood café to a larger, more formal restaurant, has had a decent selection of beers on tap and many also have hard cider, in a bottle if not on tap.
I do make an exception to not usually drinking wineat home I'm very fond of a good sangria, and have found several available in my grocery stores and on my occasional visits to Trader Joe's. Winter in France is the time for vin chaud, which many of us from the cooler, more wintry parts of the US know as mulled wine, and tastes a lot like a sangria served hot. I've had it several times while here in Paris in different places which probably use slightly different recipes and love it.
Today I woke up early enough, and felt well enough, to have breakfast downstairs here in the hotel. As usual I had OJ, tea, pain chocolate, and a croissant with butter and jam. I'd been here for over two weeks and didn't learn yogurt was also available for breakfast until someone else asked for it this morning.
The two main places that I wanted to visit today, which I know are open on Tuesdays, were Sainte Chappelle and the Pantheon. Both are very lovely places, although there seemed to be very little signage in English at either place indicating where people who already had admission tickets or the Paris Pass should go instead of standing in line with everyone else who needs to buy tickets. I didn't mind standing in line too much today because it was lovely and felt a bit warmer although that might just have been a relative lack of wind.
Sainte Chappelle is very easy to walk to from the Grand Hotel Malher, by going down a main road parallel to the Seine until you get to a cross street which crosses the Seine to the Isle de la Cite and straight to Sainte Chappelle and the Palais de Justice complex. Every one and their bags have to go through metal scanners, so I was glad I'd left my pocket knife in one of my suitcases back in my hotel roomit's a nice, compact pocket knife I like a lot and would hate to have it confiscated so I'd have to replace it.
Both parts, the upper and lower portions, of Sainte Chappelle are very lovely and beautiful. I even went up the tricky (for me, anyway) stairs to the royal chapel upstairs with its very high ceiling and wonderful stained glass windows.
Note 5/3/2016 It was only yesterday when I was finally going through the pictures I took on this date that I realized I had been wandering through the Sorbonne on the way to, and after, Sainte Chappelle. I had also stopped in at another lovely church whose name I don't seem to have taken a picture of.
The directions I'd written to get from Sainte Chappelle over to the Pantheon turned out to be correct and fairly easy to follow. On the way I went past a small shop that very cleverly had a display of gloves on a table outside. I found a warm pair that fit comfortably and wasn't expensive and bought one.
There was a bit of a line when I got over to the Pantheon so I decided to have lunch first at what looked like, and turned out to be, a lovely little place called Café Juliette with a pretty interior dining space. I ate on the enclosed front porch where they had big portable heaters going, so it was actually quite comfortable. I was sitting there looking out the windows, waiting for my lunch which was very tasty when it arrived, and I noticed I could see the Eiffel Tower straight in front of me in the distance.
By the time I left it was after 3:30, too late to do justice seeing anywhere else that's open on Tuesdays, so I headed back to my hotel. Although taking the metro back over involved two transfers and turned out to be pretty crowded on both legs of the trip, and didn't take much less time than it would have to walk back, I decided to use one of the prepaid transit tickets that come with the Paris Pass.
Note 5/3/2016 When I was working on the pictures yesterday, I saw that I had indeed gone to the Pantheon on this day, or that's the date all the pictures of it said they were taken, walking past the St Genevieve Library which is right nearby on the way. I don't think I went in, though. The Pantheon was amazing and surprsing and often very beautiful.
Before going back to my room at the Grand Hotel Malher, I stopped by Michael's favorite bakery across the street to pick up one of their small quiches in case I decided to skip breakfast downstairs in the morning and a couple of things for later tonight.
That evening for dinner I went back to a place I'd been to on one of my first evenings here in Paris, somewhere in fact I had known I had wanted to go to long before arriving here. I had noticed it while poking around the neighborhood using street view in Google Maps (that's also how I had known there was a laundry around the corner from the hotel, which I've been to twice so far and will probably make a third and last trip before packing up to go home).
The place is the Cidrerie du Marais, which specializesof coursein serving their own hard ciders and cuisine from Brittany (I had to look up their specialty just now while typing these notes up here at homeall I'd written down was that it was from "a particular type of regional cuisine (I've forgotten which region, if I ever knew)". I have to confess that the first time I went here I had a very tasty omelette because I hadn't figured out that their other specialty, a galette, is just a square shaped wheat pancake they serve unrolled and use as the basis for whatever you order. It was delightful and very tasty as was the cider. I had a crepe with caramel ice cream and caramel sauce and a vin chaud for dessert because as I said to the lovely waitress "parce que pourquoi pas?".
I almost forgotit was amusing and interesting seeing the waitress dash across the street between that restaurant and the Spanish restaurant across the street three times while I was there.
All in all, I had a very nice time with a couple of nightmares both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
I didn't feel very well the morning of New Year's Eve, with a combination of mild stomach problems and a resurgence of the mild cold I've had since shortly after arriving in Paris. I wasn't in a hurry to get going and do anything much, so I spent the morning hanging around my hotel room and had a banana and a yogurt from my refrigerator for breakfast.
One of the first places I had decided I really wanted to see when I began researching this trip to Paris was the Cluny medieval museum. I have several favorite mystery series set in this time period and have been interested in that period for a long time.
The Cluny isn't far at all from the Grand Hotel Malher, and the Pantheon isn't far from the Cluny, so it was a nice walk to each place and back. I loved the Cluny and had a delightful time there. It's a beautiful museum and setup, with a lovely and interesting collection. I even went down the sometimes scary steps to the crypt below.
On the way over between Sainte Chappelle and the Pantheon, I went past St Severin , a lovely old church in the Latin Quarter I had visited with Alain, my guide from Paris Greeters on my first tour with him. I hadn't taken any pictures at all on that tour with Alainsomehow I had felt it would have been too intrusive. As I said, on my second tour with him, I took lots of pictures, and he didn't seem to mind although I did forget to ask to take his picture.
There was a service going on at St Sevein while I was there, but as usual I wandered around taking pictures without using the flash on my camera. During the service there was a female speaker who even I could tell got very emotional at one point even if I couldn't understand a word she said. There was also some music from a small string orchestra, a vocal soloist and a small choir which was excellentall in all a very lovely visit to a lovely church.
It turned out to be a day of not very French meals. On the way over from the Cluny to the Pantheon, I didn't stop to eat at the nearby McDonald's but I did have a cheeseburger at an outlet for a French burger chain, Quality Burger.
The Pantheon is also an amazing and very beautiful place. There I even went down the tricky (again, for me) and somewhat scary because uneven stairs to wander around in the crypt, where I saw the tombs of many interesting and important people like Marie and Pierre Curie, Voltaire, Rousseau, Alexandre Dumas pere, and Victor Hugo.
I wanted to have some time off before going out for dinner and then to my special event for New Year's Eve, a late evening cruise along the Seine to see the fireworks on the Bateaux Parisiene, which meant I'd have to make it from Saint Paul over to the Eiffel Tower and find the ticket office well before 10 PM, so I took the metro from the Pantheon back to Saint Paul.
When I headed out for dinner that night, there didn't seem to be many places open in the area on New Year's Eve. I had decided to eat at any of the restaurants which were open around the corner from Saint Paul I had seen when I was over at the museums of magic and automata. The only place open in the area was a Japanese place, Shjinjuku Sushi, where I had their pretty good teriyaki special.
I left the hotel about 9 PM, and both legs of the trip on the metro turned out to be quite busy. It looked like tickets were not required this evening.
I got to the cruise ticket office in plenty of time to pick up the ticket I'd ordered online. When I got there I realized I had left my cell phone and the email I'd received as confirmation of my reservation back at my hotel. They were able to look up my reservation and give me my ticket after seeing my Florida driver's license. Because I had one of my canes with me as usual, the woman staffing the boarding line let me wait in the much shorter line for those with impaired mobility, but I still had to wait in line for about 45 minutes before boarding.
The Bateaux Parisiene ship we were going out on that night was one I'd actually noticed when I was on the Vedettes de Pont Neuf cruise earlier, because it was named after the French actress Catherine Deneuve, whose name I remember but not what movies she appeared in. The boat was very lovely, with an open top deck which at first I assumed was closed because I didn't see open stairs going up to it when I boarded. I had wanted to be up there for the more unrestricted view.
The enclosed, climate-controlled cabin is rather luxurious and very nice. Each seat has a cabled audio player you can use to listen to the prerecorded commentary in your choice of several different languages, and there were at least two very large monitors showing the view from a camera apparently looking forward from somewhere on the bow of the boat.
Almost everyone aboard that night, including some people who probably shouldn't have due to their age, received a gift bag with a small bottle of champagne, a plastic flute glass, a paper party hat and noisemaker, and a small bag of macaroons which I saved for later. Although a lot of people apparently waited until later to have their champagne, I decided to have mine while it was still cold.
I stayed downstairs, listening to the prerecorded commentary and watching the monitors, for about half an hour before noticing there were people on the open deck upstairs. The stairs from inside the cabin, which were behind where I was sitting and which I had not noticed before, were open so up I went and spent the rest of the cruise up there.
I know I keep saying it but Paris is lovely at night, especially during the holidays and especially along the Seine with all the bridges as well as the buildings beautifully lit up. I hope the pictures I took during this cruise, as well as all of the pictures I've taken without using the camera's flash in museums and churches, turn out OK.
I was amazed that there were what seemed to be thousands of people lining all the bridges and along the banks of the Seine. The boat was in the right spot to see the fireworks fired at midnight from the Place de la Concorde, as well as many other probably unofficial places as well.
We disembarked about 12:30 or 12:45, and that's when the nightmare part began. Even though cops twice told me later to take the metro back to Saint Paul, only five of the lines and very few of the stations were actually open then.
Not only had I accidentally left my phone but my maps as well back in my hotel room, so I really had no idea where I was. I thought it would be pretty easy to catch a cab back from the Eiffel Tower, since I had done so on my earlier trip there. As I wandered around trying to find an open, unoccupied taxi all I knew was that I was getting further and further away from where I had started. The two times I asked cops I saw where I could find a taxi, they turned out to be sympathetic but unhelpful, telling me to look for a taxi stand but not where to find one of those. There was a very heavy police presence which also included armed military personnel everywhere I went that night.
It took over two very frustrating hours before I could get a cab to stopI could easily have walked back to my hotel if I had either my maps or my cell phone with me, or if I had my phone I could have called for a cab after I finally found a cab stand near an open and very busy nightclub. In theory, cabs have a green light lit on top of the cab to indicate they're available and a red light to indicate they're not. By this time I was so frustrated I just tried to flag down any cab that passed, whether it had a red light or green light or no light lit at all. Eventually a cab with no light lit pulled over. The driver was probably acting off the clock and book, unofficially. He was going to charge me 40 euros to take me back to my hotel, and although I knew it was excessive I was ready to pay him just to get home by this point.
Right after I had gotten in the cab, a younger American couple who had been waiting nearby and were obviously as desperate to get home as I was came up and told the driver they'd give him 100 euros if he'd take them along as well, and he could even drop me off first. The driver said that was up to me, so of course I said yesI was finally in a cab and it wouldn't cost me anything to get back to my hotel.
The woman got up front with the driver, and the guy got in back with me. They were a nice couple, and we had a pleasant visit on the drive back to near my hotel.
I got back to the Grand Hotel Malher about 4:30 in the morning. I'd always been back around 10 PM at the latest, and never been down to the lobby once I got back to my hotel room, so before I'd left earlier I'd made sure someone would be around to let me back in.
When I'd talked to Michael before leaving earlier, I had learned that Renee was leaving New Year's Day for her five month Fulbright fellowship in London, so I called to have a bit of chat before my body began strongly telling me it was time to call it a night and get what sleep I could.
I slept poorly again, especially considering how late I got to bed after finally getting home last night. I woke up about 7 AM, coughing and thinking I was going to choke to death from sinus drainage due to what had been so far a mild cold.
I finally gave up trying to go back to sleep and got up about 9:30 or 10, showered, and had one of my small quiches from the bakery across the street I had in the fridge, then headed out for the day.
I knew that two of the places I wanted to visit while in Paris were open New Year's Daythe Orangerie and Sacre Coeur--Sacre Coeur, of course, because it's a popular working church devoted to private prayer and open every day with daily masses as well.
The weather was lovely today, sunny if still cold but eventually warmer than yesterday. I didn't feel like I even needed to put on my gloves.
The walk to the Orangerie was delightful, from the Grand Hotel Malher down to the Jardin de Tuilleries and the Place de la Concorde across the street from there. For the first part, I walked along the lower road right beside the Seine, which seemed to be closed to vehicular traffic this morning and there were lots of people and their dogs out walking and lots of bicyclists.
About half way there, I decided I had better move up to the upper street where I could more easily see where I was. I wasn't sure I'd be able to spot the large ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde from down below.
This was the first time I'd been all the way through the Jardin de Tuilleries, which I liked a great deal even in winter with all the outdoor sculptures and hundreds of chairs to sit in throughout the park.
I also liked the Orangerie itself very much, both the physical layout of the museum and collection and of course the artwork on display there. It's a smaller museum, so it doesn't take that much time to see the entire collection but as usual I didn't stand around in rapt contemplation of the art. Quite a while ago, I had seen a somewhat controversial documentary claiming that the reason Monet's art at the period of the works there in the Orangerie were so impressionistic with few actual sharp details was because he was having serious vision problems, and that later after he had eye surgery details again appeared in his paintings.
There was some sort of huge New Year's event going on at the Place de la Concorde with music, and I could see trucks from the Cirque d'Hiver. I decided not to stay and find out what was going on, but to continue heading on over to Pigalle and Montmartre and Sacre Coeur as I had planned, since this was my second-to-last day there in Paris.
The metro was quite full for parts of both legs of the trip, and so were the streets and sidewalks of Pigalle and Montmartre when I got there. Before I looked for the funicular, which goes from part of the way up the hill to just below Sacre Coeur at the top, or took the tour on the Petit Train de Montmartre, I had an OK slice of pizza at a small and very busy place on the main street near where I had gotten off the metro.
The ride on the Petit Train was quite fun, with occasional but informative commentary. The streets and sidewalks were very crowded and the driver often had to blow the horn and wait for pedestrians to get out of the way so he could get past.
I seemed to be in the middle of a foreign tour group while waiting to board the funicular, and their guide who spoke what sounded like some Slavic language didn't shut up the entire time we were waiting.
The funicular stops just below the bottom of the stairs right below Sacre Coeur. Even here the stairs were packed, with lots of people just standing around taking selfies and pictures of each other and of the scenery. I basically had to elbow my way through all the way up, politely saying "Excusez moi" the whole time.
Getting into the basilica itself, which was done through only one door open at the time, was even worse. The door was at one corner of the porch and people were body to body, shoving in from behind and from the sides, and jerks kept shoving even when there was nowhere to go. It was very easy to understand why Sacre Coeur is a favorite place for pickpockets as well, although they couldn't easily get away with anything they stole.
Sacre Coeur itself was worth it, though, and is a very lovely, quiet, peaceful place. Although one guard asked me to take my hat off because I'd forgotten to do so when I got inside, none of them seemed to enforce the signs saying no flash photography was allowed.
There was a service going on when I finally got in with organ music which lasted for the first part of my visit. After the service ended there was an announcement asking people to be quiet, reminding them they were in a place of prayer and contemplation.
When I left, I once again had to shove my way through the crowds just to get down the stairs. I decided not to walk back down, even though I had seen many lovely and interesting places I had wanted to take pictures of during the ride on the Petit Train, but took the funicular instead. When I got to the station, it seemed they had stopped requiring tickets by then.
I wound up at a different metro station slightly further down the line from where I had gotten off earlier. I knew I could take the metro from there back to the Place de la Concorde, where I could transfer to another line back to Saint Paul. It was only about 5 PM by then, and since I wouldn't be ready for dinner for a couple of hours I headed back to my hotel. They didn't seem to be requiring tickets to ride the metro then, either, which wasn't surprising since the metro and the funicular are part of the same transit system.
I hung out in my hotel room until about 7 PM. I called Tim to say "Happy New Year!" to him and his family before heading out. On my way out, I mentioned to the younger man at the deskwho turned out to be the son of the older gentleman I had met there several times before, usually in the late mornings and early afternoonthat I was looking for somewhere nearby I hadn't been to before for dinner, maybe over by the Place de Vosges. He suggested Café Hugo, which I remembered he had also suggested to Michael when he was there as well. Café Hugo turned out to be a very nice, cheery place, with pretty colored glass tubes on the light fixtures, quite busy with very reasonable prices and relatively speedy service, especially for Paris. I had the onion soup and some grilled fish with potatoes mashed with something, followed by an apple crumble with creme fraiche. The staff were all very pleasant, friendly and helpful, but the highlight of the evening was one of the waitresses who was quite beautiful, dressed simply but stylishly, and had a delightful voice and sense of humor.
I didn't feel too well this morning again, and wasn't in a hurry to get started with my last full day in Paris, but still I had been out of the shower and dressed long before housekeeping wanted to clean my room about 10:30.
I decided that, due to my late start, and wanting to do one last load of laundry before packing tonight in preparation for leaving tomorrow (I did consider just sticking all of my dirty clothes in one of the two suitcases I'd brought but decided to do laundry instead), I would go to only one of the places I hadn't been to yet and still wanted to see. I chose the Musee du Quai Branly, which specializes in art and artifacts from the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and Asia.
I left after having a yogurt and banana for a late breakfast. It was very crowded on the first leg of the metro ride to the museum, body to body for several stops. I had to stand up and hang on until I could snag a free seat when someone left. Oddly enough the second leg of the trip, after transferring to a different line, was much less crowded with plenty of free seats.
The Musee du Quai Branly is a short walk along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. It was very crowded in the immediate vicinity of the Tower, and I basically had to elbow my way through oncoming pedestrian traffic and veer around families and other groups of people walking from two to four persons abreast.
Right after I got in the museum, I noticed that the indicator on my camera said I needed new batteries. I, of course, had several packages of replacement batteriesback in my hotel room, with some in a pocket of the coat I had worn yesterday but hadn't transferred to the coat I was wearing today.
I asked in the museum, but the adjacent gift shop doesn't sell batteries. Because I was still using a valid Paris/Museum pass, I knew I could leave and come back, so I left and found a small local branch of the Franprix stores around the corner and bought batteries there.
I liked the Musee du Quai Branly very much for the interesting and attractive design of the connecting buildings, the wide range of art and artifacts from the subject geographic areas covered by the collection, and the ways the collection is displayed.
It was only about 1:30 PM when I left the museum. I hadn't seen any places in the area to have a late lunch when I had gone looking for batteries, so I decided to head back to the area near my hotel.
Instead of taking the metro back I took a cab instead because 1) I could easily find one, since they were now back to their non-late New Year's Eve availability; 2) I still had more euros than I could use for lunch and dinner today and my shuttle trip to the airport before I left the following day; and, 3) I wanted to see how much the actual, on the meter trip back to the Grand Hotel Malher would be from the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower and the Musee du Quai Branly back to Saint Paul. Instead of the 40 euros the driver was going to charge me New Year's Eve, which I would have paid because I was desperate by that time, the official trip cost less than 12 euros. I had lunch somewhere in the hotel's neighborhood.
I needed to make two phone calls back to the US that day. I was supposed to have an alarm tech coming the Monday after I got back to upgrade my system and wanted to make sure we were still on the schedule. The other call was to the shuttle service where I had already booked my trip from the Miami airport back home to confirm my pickup and find out exactly where I would be meeting the driver.
I hung around my hotel room until about 4 PM, when I called the shuttle dispatch office. I then headed on over to the laundromat around the corner. The larger load 6 euro machines I'd used before weren't working today (there are only three of them), so I had to split my load and use two of the smaller capacity 4 euro machines. These machines do indicate how long the cycle takes45 minutes--and how much time is left, so I set the timer on my iPhone for 23 minutes and set off for my last walk in Paris, planning to walk as far as I could in one direction before turning back to put my clothes in the drier.
As usual lately, there were lots of people out and about and crowding the sidewalks. At one point there were so many people on the narrow sidewalk on the side of the street where I was trying to walk, I got tired of trying to shove my way through the cross traffic at intersections so I gave up and crossed the street where actually the foot traffic wasn't as busy for some reason for a few blocks.
Back at the laundromat it took, as usual, five six-minute cycles of the dryer, costing 50 cents each time to completely dry my load.
I dropped my clean clothes back at my hotel room, where I started packing and hung out until about 7 PM when I went looking for somewhere new to have my last dinner in Paris. Although I tried to have dinner at places I hadn't been to before, I didn't care so much about having lunch in new places but several times ate at one of the Oriental places near the hotel including today before doing my laundry when I ate at the first Oriental place I'd tried, the one where there was a long line of students the first time I had tried to go at lunch time.
During my walks around the neighborhood I had noticed what is a bit unusual restaurant there in Paris called Frog Revolution down by Place Bastille. It's a French brewpub, serving their own beers, which has been in business since 1993. I had a burger which was OK if a little rare for me, but the beer, sweet potato fries, and ice cream I had for dessert made up for that.
I started packing shortly after I got back to my hotel room. I only packed one of the books I had brought with me, because it was the only one I had actually bought for myself since it was a new book the library where I work didn't have when I left. All the other books were free advance copies I had picked up at work, and would donate to the hotel in the morning before I left.
This turned out to be the worst night I spent in Paris. There was way too much noise coming from apparently one spot directly across the courtyard my room looked out onto. It sounded like a small group was having a very loud and argumentative conversation right near an open window. When I went downstairs after midnight to complain I checked outside and there was no one in the courtyard. The guy at the front desk was sympathetic but told me the noise wasn't coming from any of the guests in the hotel but from the private apartments in one of the buildings which also back onto the courtyard, and there was unfortunately nothing he could do about it.
When I got back to my room I felt like yelling out the window, asking the idiots making all the noise to move away from the window, quiet down, or just plain shut the window.
I had brought a very nice, small portable white and soothing noises generator but had packed it earlier and didn't feel like digging it out, but I used the wifi in the hotel to download a similar app for my iPhone which helped a bit but I still slept poorly and for too little.
My pickup was at 11 AM the next morning. If the weather was OK and I felt like it, I'd take one last walk for exercise here in Paris before leaving.
I woke up in plenty of time to shower & have my last French breakfast in the hotel before my driver picked me up at the hotel about 11. I was in the airport terminal, through security with my bags checked, and waiting for my flight with plenty of time left.
I had been able to get a seat in business class for the trip home, instead of in premium economy as I had for the flight to Pariswhich still had been very nice. I really liked business classthey treated, and fed, us even better there.
I also tried out the reclining bed/seats there in business class although I couldn't fall asleep. Those seats use some very clever engineeringthe seat back and frame are rigid, but the seats themselves move. Through a combination of the seat's tilting and reclining and utilizing the space under the seat in front, you can actually completely stretch out at a bit of an angle if not fully horizontal. What I found slightly disconcerting, however, is that although the side armrest moves with the seat the center one doesn't move at all, so unless I put that arm flat next to my body in the small space it stayed elevated which felt odd.
Although I can't usually fall asleep on my backI've never been able to, and need to be on my left side with enough room so I can stretch that arm out in front of meit did feel quite good to just stretch out and relax a couple of times during the flight. Every time I got up to use the bathroom or just to stretch my legs I saw lots of people apparently very soundly asleep in positions I would not have found the least bit comfortable.
I was too tired to read, and the occasional bit of turbulence during the flight made it unwise for me to do so anyway. Although there is probably a way to plug in electronic devices there in business class to keep them charged during the flight, I was also too tired to try and figure that out or even bother asking the cabin crew. I spent the flight listening to some of the music or watching some of the stuff available through the entertainment system when I wasn't just sitting there with my glasses off and my eyes closed hoping I could fall asleep.
I was also too tired to think clearly enough to realize that leaving the Miami airport after arriving on an international flight would be just like flying into Paris. I haven't flown a lot, and hadn't flown internationally since I went to Scotland and back over three years ago. I'm much more used to flying domestically into and out of Portland, Seattle, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where you just go out through the nearest exit by your baggage claim terminal. When I called the shuttle company to ask where exactly I was supposed to meet my driver, he called me back and reminded me that there is only one exit for international arrivals, after you go through immigration, retrieve your bags, and then go through customs, and that's where he'd meet me.
The private shuttle trip home was very pleasant, although the driver did miss a turn and we got stuck in Miami traffic for a bit. Once I got home I called to let Michael & Tim know I'd returned safely before going out to my patio to put feed out for the squirrels and ducks and other birds who visit me when I do.
Final thoughts? I loved Paris and really enjoyed being there except for those two slightly nightmarish occasionstrying to get back to my hotel New Year's Eve, and being caught in the shoving crowd trying to get into Sacre Coeur, a church.
I'll probably go back to Paris sometime, and will probably try to do so over Bastille Day, France's biggest holiday, but will then stick to doing things that day within walking distance of wherever I'm staying. I'm not sure when I'll go again, though, probably not for a couple of years at least. I'm already working on planning my two next big trips. Mom sent me on a tour of Ireland for my 50th birthday, and some of the money she left me will allow me to go back for my 60th birthday next year. This year (2015), for my 59th birthday, I'm planning on going to London for three weeksalthough due to someone else needing to take time off from work the whole week when my birthday actually is, I'll need to go later in the summer but will do so during the run of the BBC Proms, the world's largest classical music festival.