Here we are in Gay Pahree!

Well, Buckaroos and Buckarettes! Look who’s back! Long time no see! Here I am, once again blogging about another adventure. And this time it is a month in Paris. Fall 2013. About time!

Let me say a few words about how we got here:

Monday morning, September 16, we closed the blinds on our windows, took our packed bags to the front door, and waited for Tim to come pick us up and take us to the airport. Our flight (to Montreal) was supposed to leave at 11:30am. Tim came at 9:30 and off we went. Now Sue has a motto that guides her attitude when it comes to travel — “Expect the worst, and hope for the best!” That way, when things don’t quite work out as planned you are already prepared, because you ‘expect the worst’. And if things turn out “very perfect” (another one of her sayings) it’s all good too, because you were hoping for that. A winning philosophy. So after all the worrying Sue did about whether she had packed the right shoes and jackets, and whether we’d get to the airport on time, and what we would do with 5 hours to kill in Montreal, and what would our apartment in Paris really be like, and — well, you get the idea — but the thing is, everything about our trip here turned out “very perfect”. Tim got us to the airport at just the right time, our flights were great, we enjoyed a few hours in the Montreal airport, and the shirts, sweaters, vests, and jackets that Sue wore on our way here were the EXACT right clothes for the trip. About the only not very perfect thing was the baggage ‘carousel’ at the Charles de Gaulle Airport. We arrived there to see a mass of passengers, 8 deep, all along the short wall where presumably our bags would appear. With everyone queued up against the carousel there is no way to see if yours (or anyone else’s) luggage is ready to be picked up. The saving grace is that the luggage is dispensed SO SLOWLY and sporadically that eventually, one by one, people at the front of the line manage to yank their suitcases off the carousel and push their way back through the crush of passengers, and finally, after an hour, the baggage area has cleared out and there are only a few passengers and a few less suitcases left in the hall. And then you can take your bags and ‘wheel’ them up the stairs and down the hall for about a half mile south to the Paris train station. After that, everything once again went “very perfect”. We took the train to the Gare du Nord train station from where we dragged our bags to our apartment. Got there at just about 12 noon.

The lock combination to get into the building worked. We found the keys where they were supposed to be. Once inside our first story flat, we found a bottle of wine, a few packages of Nespresso coffee capsules, and a nice welcome note from Peter, from whom we are renting the apartment. Everything was as expected (well, NOT if you’re expecting the WORST, but you know what I mean!). After looking around a bit, we went out for a walk around the block. The weather was ‘fall-ish’, cloudy, but not raining. We looked in at a few fruit markets, a few bakeries, and even found a big supermarket not far from our place. We bought sandwiches — well, there are special French names for all these things here, but we’re not so quick with that. In fact, more than once, after buying something at a store here I’ve said ‘Gracias!’ instead of ‘Merci’. Anyway, we bought some cheese and a few beers and went back to the apartment. We heard the phone ringing, and soon after it stopped ringing we managed to find it in a cupboard in the living room. It rang again a few minutes later — Peter, calling us from New York, just checking up on us.

Sue had a bit of a ‘lie-down’ — we were determined to beat the jet lag and NOT go to bed in the afternoon. I hooked up my ipod to the sound system and spent a bit of time at my computer. We had a glass of wine and at around 7pm we headed out again. We took our umbrellas with us because it was raining lightly. We went to a nearby restaurant to get out of the rain. Had a nice pasta meal with drinks. Then back out and a bit of a walk. We didn’t want to wander too far at night since we really didn’t have a map and we didn’t want to get lost on the first night. Eventually we found our way back at the Carrefour (big grocery store) and Sue did some grocery shopping.

Back at our apartment, we put away the groceries and sat at watched a bit of BBC tv until a little after 10pm. A respectable hour to go to bed. Finally! The bed is good. So is the bedding. Pretty much everything today has gone “very perfect”. We’ll be fine here. End of Day One.

Sacré-CÅ“ur, Paris Day Two

Wow! Thirteen hours after going to bed, we finally rolled out of bed this morning at 11:00am. I woke up once at 5:30 and thought to myself, ‘Not bad’ — but instead of getting up, I turned over and went right back to sleep. And if I hadn’t got up when I did, Sue probably would have slept for a few more hours!

I showered and got dressed. Then, while Sue made coffee and showered, I went out to the corner bakery and came back with a crusty baguette for Sue and a chocolate-filled pastry for me. Good breakfast! We sat around and read some of Peter’s Paris tourist books and talked about where to go in the afternoon. We almost left once, but when I looked out the window I saw it was raining. Oh well, we’re here for a month! More reading. Finally at around 4pm we left. Headed for the Sacré-CÅ“ur, a famous big old catholic church up on the highest hill in Paris. Not far from our place here in Montmarte. I looked at google maps to figure out the walk there. We would be climbing quite a few steps up to the top.

sacre-coeur-paris-day02-01 Along the way we stopped at the Place du Tertre, a square not far from Sacré-CÅ“ur, famous for the artists that sit in the square and do portraits of/for tourists. Sue and Alex had their portrait done by one of these artists when they visited Paris 14 years ago. No time for posing today, other than for a photo. We continued on up the hill to the church.

sacre-coeur-paris-day02-02There were lots of tourist shops and cafes, and a surprising number of tourists, considering the time of year and the cloudy/showery day. But the climb had warmed us up a bit and we thought the temperature was probably “very perfect” for this kind of outing.
sacre-coeur-paris-day02-03And it didn’t take long for us to reach the church — it really is only about a 10-minute walk from our apartment. We walked around the outside. sacre-coeur-paris-day02-04We had a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris, which is mostly to the south of the basilica. Although it was overcast, we could spot many of the famous landmarks of the city from this vantage. And then it started to rain.
sacre-coeur-paris-day02-06So instead of getting all wet, we opted to get under the awning of that Irish pub we passed on the way here. And why not sit down and have a Guinness while we watch tourists filing by for an hour or so? So for 17 Euros (about $24 Canadian) we had ourselves a Guinness and stayed out of the rain. We were almost all the way back down all those steps when Sue remembered that she had left our backpack under the chair at the pub. So we warmed up a bit more by running all the way back up — picked up the backpack from where we’d left it! and headed back down.

We got back to Montmarte close to suppertime and so we stopped at a cafe just around the corner from our place and ordered a pizza to go. Back at the ranch, we sat down in front of the TV and had our pizza and a bottle of wine. We’d found a big library of DVDs in Peter’s bookshelf, many of them with a Paris theme. So we have some movie-watching to do. Tonight we watched “Paris, je t’aime”, a 2006 movie made up of 18 short films, each by a different director and cast, and each one filmed in one of the arrondissements (districts) of Paris. It was okay! I guess the jet lag isn’t quite done with us yet, as we both were tired and tempted to go to sleep. But we stuck it out, and then, after the movie was over, Sue read and I got busy on my blog for the next few hours. And by midnight we were still both up, and awake, and not really tired. But by 1:00 we put away our distractions and went to bed.

Champs-Élysées, Paris Day Three

Okay, before I begin, I have to confess that it was actually around 2am that I finally went to bed last night. And Sue and I both had trouble falling asleep. I guess we stayed up TOO long! But we finally did fall asleep. At 9:30 this morning I could hear the garbage trucks down below on the street — and I knew it was time to get up, or we’d probably sleep until after lunch again!

I made a pot of coffee and ran down to the corner bakery to pick up a fancy-shmancy custard-filled pastry for my breakfast — Sue still had crusty baguette from yesterday. We had fruit, yogurt, and pastries with coffee for breakfast.

Then Sue read and I worked on the computer until it was lunch time. The forecast for today called for showers, but we really didn’t get any.  It was already a bit after lunch time when we headed out. Again, I scouted out the walk on Google maps and Sue jotted down our turn-by-turn directions on a piece of note paper. And so we set off.

champs-elysees-paris-day03-01Our ultimate destination was the Arc de Triomphe. Our first diversion came when we got to the Galleries Lafayette — an upmarket French department store located on Boulevard Haussmann. It’s where Princess Diana and Sue shop. So we went in and had a look. The smell of perfume nearly overwhelmed me, but I managed to take a few photos of the elaborate dome in the ‘ladies’ section of the store.

From here you can see the Arch in the distance, the massive avenue, the National Assembly, the Madeleine church, the famous Hotel de Crillon, the Grand Palais, the Obelisk of Luxor, and the Eiffel Tower rising behind it all.

We stopped on our way out and bought a crusty sandwich baguette and a chocolate croissant for lunch. We sort of got lost because we hadn’t counted on going into the store — but we managed to find our way down to the Champs-Elysees. I knew we were there because I recognized it as the place where the penultimate day of the Tour de France happens. I saw the Egyptian obelisk, the palaces and fountains, and the cobblestone streets that the cyclists have to race on.

champs-elysees-paris-day03-12champs-elysees-paris-day03-13And then we were there! To our left was a big park, the Tuilerie Gardens. And then the sun came out. So we decided to check out the park. We strolled through it (along with about a thousand other tourists — and is it just me, or do even the women tourists look gorgeous here?). Fountains, and lots of metal chairs surrounding squares of green grass with statues to look at. And it’s not high season! We actually got a chair to sit in for a while and watched the people passing by.

champs-elysees-paris-day03-10We walked through the park and before you know it we had stumbled on another sight! Wasn’t that the famous Louvre pyramid ahead? I didn’t know it was all connected like that! Well, we won’t go in there today — we’ll keep that for another day. I think the museum will take a good part of an afternoon to explore.

champs-elysees-paris-day03-11Between the museum and the park was the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, not to be confused with the actual Arc de Triomphe we were on a mission to see this afternoon. No, this is a smaller version of the other arch.

champs-elysees-paris-day03-19From here we headed due west, down along the majestic Champs-Élysées. There were far too many very expensive shops along the way. And quite a few tourists, although we kept reminding ourselves that it must be ‘CA-RAZ-Y’ in high season. It was about 2.5 kms from the park to the Arch. When we got there champs-elysees-paris-day03-24Sue really wanted a photo of the two of us. We got someone to help us out. And now we still had a long way to walk back home. Unfortunately I had thrown away our little ‘map’ with the wrappers for our sandwich in the park, so now we had to find our own way back home. Along the way we stopped for a cappuccino at one of the many little cafes along the way. We ended up heading to that big Carrefour store again to pick up groceries for supper.

Back at the apartment, Sue tried out the oven by frying a fish and baking some potatoes for supper. After supper Sue read her book (“My Paris Wife” by Paul McLain) on the ipad and I wrote my (too long) blog entry. And we drank a bit of wine and listened to John Prine on the stereo. Sue called her mom to say hello. It was 10:30 — I’d spent way too much time writing and adding photos to the blog. It’s almost time for bed! I used to laugh at tourists who saw their whole trip through the viewfinder of their camera, but this is even worse! I’m spending more time writing about it than I am ‘doing’ it! This has got to stop. Tomorrow I will take ONE photo and write two paragraphs. And it will be better than this — for YOU and for ME!

Moulin Rouge, Paris Day Four

I woke up at 4:30 and thought it was time to get up — but perseverance paid off and I was able to drift back into la-la land until 9:30 when Sue finally got up to make coffee. It’s pretty good in our place — not cold, very comfortable. Our couch and chairs are good, the bed is great, and it’s surprisingly quiet. We thought that having a bedroom overlooking the street would maybe be a problem, but so far everything is great!

We frittered away a good part of the morning. I went to the bakery to pick up breakfast pastries. We listened to music on the stereo and Sue read while I computed. Around 1pm I went out to pick up a sandwich which I brought back to the apartment. Sue had her leftover pasta from the other night. It was a bit warmer and quite sunny outside — so we scheduled a walk for late afternoon.

I called my mom and dad just after 4pm — that would make it just after 9am at home, so at least I wouldn’t be interrupting the funeral announcements on the radio. They were fine, happy for the call, and yes, they had already listened to this morning’s funeral announcements, and no, they hadn’t heard their own names announced yet so that must mean they were okay. Dad asked me if we were in Paris, and did everyone only speak French or could we get by with English. Mom didn’t let me down either — when I told her that Sue and I had gone for a long yesterday and were planning on going for another walk right after the phone call, she said, “Well! Walking you can do in Steinbach too!”

Moulin RougeAfter the call we high-tailed it out. We couldn’t just sit inside all day! We were halfway to the Moulin Rouge, the famous ‘red mill’ cabaret, when we realized I had forgotten my map back at the apartment. Oh well, we wouldn’t go far enough to get lost. Not that you couldn’t get lost here — the strip clubs and sex shops that lined both sides of the street could get a guy off the track in a hurry! But Sue kept me on the straight and narrow, and guided me right past the distractions. It was still bright outside, only 4 o’clock — I bet this place looks quite a bit scarier later on a Friday night!

montmartre-cemetery-paris-day04-03Well, properly inspired by my parents’ enthusiasm about the funeral announcements, Sue and I decided to get off the main drag and visit a cemetery. The Montmartre Cemetery isn’t the Paris’s most famous, and although we walked right around the outer walk of the 25 acre cemetery, we didn’t actually see the grave of anyone we might have heard of before. But it was quiet and shaded and there were quite a few very interesting tombs and tombstones. And it was a nice ‘teet-fedreef’ (as they say in France). We considered whether the Nikkel family should ever invest in such an elaborate monument — many of the stone vaults here had stained-glass windows, iron grating, decorative doors, and fat little cherubs watching over it all. Hmmm… maybe not.

It was quite nice in the graveyard, but you wouldn’t want to spend ALL afternoon there (never mind eternity!) so we made our way back to our place, stopping along the way at a little wine shop. Sue bought a couple of bottles and then we asked the cashier for some dining advice. He wrote down the names of 3 nearby restaurants that he could recommend. We went back to the apartment and had ‘happy hour’ while we watched parts 2 and 3 of our ‘Visit to Paris’ video series we started last night. The parts that we didn’t snooze through were pretty good.

At 8pm we headed out around the corner to an Indian restaurant for supper. It was okay. Not too spicy, and the big stain that Sue got on her jacket sleeve washed out easily enough. Lots of people eat out here (and lots of them smoke too) — and by the time we ambled back home most of the outdoor tables were full. Not just at the Indian restaurant, but at all of the ones we passed along the way.

Back home we changed into our ‘lounging’ clothes and opened a bottle of wine. Sue watched some crappy CNN on tv and I sent some emails and updated the blog. By midnight it was probably too late to watch another movie, although I was feeling dangerously awake. If we don’t go to bed soon, we’ll probably be up all night! Au revior, or however you say that.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris Day Five

Saturday, I woke up at 10:30. Made coffee. Sue joined me at 11. I went to the bakery for bread to go with the scrambled eggs Sue made for breakfast. No bacon — Sue is on a diet. We finished watching the french movie we couldn’t stay up for last night — “La Vie Moderne” — which ended as badly as it began. I’d say it was a waste of time, but really, we have all the time in the world. We listened to music and read. I updated the ipad’s system software to iOS7, which was WAY more exciting for me than for Sue. Then at around 3pm we skyped with the kids. Mixed results. The good thing was that when Max heard and then saw us, he got a HUGE smile on his face and hurried to see us on the screen. The bad thing was that he really wanted to get through that little window and play with us, and quickly got frustrated. But it was great to see him and Tim and Alex — and to know that everything at home is going well. Although not so well for the Bombers, I see — let’s hope that things go a bit better for the Giants and Vikings tomorrow afternoon.

The Church of St Eustace, ParisAfter the skype we headed out for the day’s walk. Today we went down Rue de Martyrs down to the ÃŽle de la Cité (an island in the Seine). Our destination was the Notre Dame Cathedral. The day was sunny and warm. Lots of people out too. Cool shops along the street, and the small outdoor cafes and bars were all packed. We got close to the Seine and stopped to look inside another big old church on our side of the river — St. Eustache. It was big and old and beautiful — but then what isn’t old and beautiful around here?

notre-dame-paris-day04-03We continued on across the Pont Neuf bridge and soon arrived at the big cathedral. Hmmm… seems we’re not the only ones that thought today would be a good day to visit this tourist site! The line-up to get in went snaking around the front area of the church and then out across the street and around the block! Well, we’re here for a month, and a couple of pilgrims like us can easily come back another day for a look at the INSIDE of the church. We’ll just take a few photos of the majestic front of the building and then maybe wander around to the little park at the back, and then head back across the river and make our way back to the apartment. (Check out my photos)
Pont de l'Archevêché - famous bridge in Paris where lovers attach their 'lock of love' to the bridge. The love padlocks are each engraved with a message of love. After locking the love padlock onto the fence, lovers toss the keys into the Seine river - a sign of their eternal devotion.
Pont de l’Archevêché – famous bridge in Paris where lovers attach their ‘lock of love’ to the bridge. The love padlocks are each engraved with a message of love. After locking the love padlock onto the fence, lovers toss the keys into the Seine river – a sign of their eternal devotion.

We left the cathedral and headed back across the Seine by way of the Pont de l’Archeveche bridge. We walked for quite a way, until we stopped at a Metro station to check a map, and realized we were heading SOUTH, the opposite of the direction we wanted to go. So we backtracked and eventually got back to familiar territory. We were hot and tired and thirsty and luckily for us it was ‘happy hour’ at many of the bars we passed. So we stopped for some cool refreshment before continuing our way back home. Once we got back into Montmartre we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some sausage and mustard and beer. It was already getting dark outside by the time we got home. We had baguettes and cheese and sausage for our picnic supper. We’d walked more than 10kms and we were tired. We finished our day by watching the same news story (a shooting rampage in Nairobi) repeat about 40 times on CNN. Sue did some crosswords and I sorted through my photos. Went to bed at around 2am (again!).

Sunday Night NFL, Paris Day Six

Sunday night at the Belushi Bar, just across the road from the train station at Gare du Nord, about a mile from our place. Unfortunately the Giants lost to the Panthers 38-0! and the Vikings lost (another) heartbreaker to the Bengels. But it was fun to watch NFL Redzone tonight.
Sunday night at the Belushi Bar, just across the road from the train station at Gare du Nord, about a mile from our place. Unfortunately the Giants lost to the Panthers 38-0! and the Vikings lost (another) heartbreaker to the Bengels. But it was fun to watch NFL Redzone tonight.
Woke up VERY late today (probably because I was up until after 3am last night, downloading the latest Elton John album (The Diving Board). When I finally got up I made coffee and sat on the couch for a while. Sue eventually made her appearance as well, and then it was time to think about breakfast. I noticed that the little convenience store across the street was closed today — I guess that’s how they do it in civilized countries — most shops are closed here on a Sunday, except those that are not closed. I went to the corner bakery — not sure if they would be open, but they were, and they were doing a roaring business today. So I brought home some pastries and another baguette. We listened to some great music on my ipod and had our breakfast.

A lazy afternoon followed the morning’s frenzy of activity! Sue read and diddled around on her ipad. I made some new cool Paris banners for the website, but didn’t post them (yet) — we’ll leave that excitement for another day! Sue made me a sandwich for lunch (she had porridge) and then we did nothing for a while again until it was around 6pm. Time to start thinking about the 12noon NFL games happening back home. I googled around for a nearby NFL bar — and we decided to venture out for the evening. We walked the 1.5kms (back along the way we first came here when we arrived on the train last Monday) and found the Belushi’s Bar which advertised that it was showing NFL games inside. Went in. Only soccer on all the TVs. I asked and the guy at the bar invited us to go downstairs. We did, and discovered a big screen, a bar, and a bunch of leather couches and chairs. And no other people! We sat down and waited for the 7 o’clock kick-off. Eventually a few more crazy NFL fans found their way here and by the end of the first game it was full! We even bet on the outcome of the first (9) games, a free beer going to those who could pick 7 winners. Well, NOT US! My Giants were demolished by the lowly Panthers, and the Vikings lost in the last couple of minutes to the surprising Bengels. And the burger we had was sans cheese and not very cooked! But the beer was drinkable and the place probably warrants a revisit a week from today.

We walked home at around 11pm and had a chocolate bar for night snack. Maybe a movie too, we’ll see.

Eiffel Tower, Paris Day Seven

The Eiffel Tower, view from the Champ de Mars Park.
The Eiffel Tower, view from the Champ de Mars Park.
A week ago Tim took us to the airport for the beginning of this month-long adventure. It’s been a great first week here in Paris.

After watching another couple of NFL games on my computer last night, I started watching the ‘evening’ game but soon gave up. I was too tired. It was already after 2:00am and I just didn’t care all that much about the Bears or the Steelers.

View from the Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower
At 10:30 this morning I finally woke up. I made coffee and by lunch time it was time for breakfast! The day was warm and sunny and too good to waste — especially since at least 2 out Sue’s 5 weather apps are forecasting rain for later in the week. So we decided to go see the Eiffel Tower today. Not only that, but since the tower is quite far away and we would probably be doing a lot of walking once we got there, we decided to take the Metro there, then, if we were not too tired later, walk back home.

We took the Metro from the nearby Pigale station. We had to switch lines once, and then got off at the Bir-Hakeim station. From the station we could already see the tower. We walked across the street and up to the North leg of the tower and got in line to buy tickets — entrance tickets and an elevator ride to the top (14.50 Euros each). The line-up for the ticket booth took 45 minutes. The line-up for the elevator took another 45 minutes. We took some photos from the second level and then a few more from the very top. A great view. I exercised extreme restraint and only took about 50 photos. Here are some:

From the Eiffel Tower we wandered towards the Champ de Mars, the large expanse of lawns next to the tower. We stopped at a corner café and had a large beer and a ‘croque-monsieur’ (a French specialty, basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich). It was getting close to 5:00pm, but the western sun was shining brightly and there’s nothing that’s much better than sitting at a busy street corner, drinking a big cold glass of beer, and watching beautiful people walking by!

And, in case I haven’t mentioned it before, although pretty much EVERY corner in Paris boasts a historically significant building or a museum or a statue or a fountain worthy of at least a photograph if not a paragraph in some idiot’s travel blog, Paris is a “people-watcher’s paradise”. Seriously! The women here are gorgeous! Almost all of them. Not just the French women (although especially them), but even the women tourists are better than average! They dress nice, they walk nice, the look fantastic. And there are WAY fewer overweight people here than at home (side note: most of them smoke, which may or may not help them to keep slim — just speculation on our part, though). And the men? Nothing special! Okay, maybe I have turned my head a few times when one of those French ‘gay boys’ with the pants that are tight all the way down to the ankles walked by, but mostly the men are old and frumpy-looking with messed-up comb-overs and bagged-out old suit jackets. But the women? Ooh-la-la!

Too bad they mostly speak French, a language that completely befuddles us. When it’s time to pay our cheque I just hold out a palm full of coins and hope the waiter or the clerk can figure it out. Of course, we could get with the times and have one of them fancy new iPhones with google translate on them — but THAT reminds me of another thing I’ve noticed on this trip. Of the 7,181,090,312 people currently on this earth, Apple must have sold 7,181,090,300 iPhones! No, that’s not right either — I was figuring that Sue and Rudy are about the only 2 people who do NOT have an iPhone, but then I remembered that quite a few people here have MORE THAN ONE! On the Metro, the guy in front of us is texting on one and facebooking and listening to music on the other one! So that cancels out us NOT having a phone. Maybe he “LIKED” himself from one phone to the other! But I digress.

Suitably refreshed we continued our walk. We visited ‘Les Invalides’, a large facade with a glistening gold-covered dome, which is now an army museum and the burial place for Napoleon Bonaparte. We took a few photos of the cannons inside and the finely trimmed trees in the front garden.

From there we walked across the Pont Alexandre III bridge — our guidebooks regard it as the most beautiful of all the bridges that span the Seine River. And on the other side we passed a couple of palaces: the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. Click. Click. Ho-hum.

The Sacre Couer, as seen from Rue de Martyrs, "our" street.And then it’s just a hop, skip, and 3km walk back to our apartment. Once we hit Rue des Martyrs we can already look up the slope of the road and see the white dome of the Sacré-CÅ“ur church up on the hill behind Montmartre.

Yep, this is at McDonalds!
Yep, this is at McDonalds!
Along the way I visit my first McDonalds, but only to take a look and compare it to the McDonalds back home. I took a photo of the chocolate display case and hurried back out!

We got home and had a little ‘happy hour’ and a shower before heading out for supper. Tonight we again went to one of the little cafes just around the corner — and I had a bacon-cheeseburger and Sue had smoked salmon. Both good. Back at the apartment, we watched a French (with subtitles) DVD, “My Best Friend”. Good too.

And that’s the end of week one! C’était une bonne semaine. (Okay, I cheated, and ‘googled’ that!)

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris Day Eight

Okay, so here is what we did today. Me and the good-lookin' dame in this photo went for a L-O-N-G walk (again). Today our destination was the Luxembourg Gardens, way south of the Seine, about a 4.5km walk from our place.
Okay, so here is what we did today. Me and the good-lookin’ dame in this photo went for a L-O-N-G walk (again). Today our destination was the Luxembourg Gardens, way south of the Seine, about a 4.5km walk from our place.
This morning I woke up a bit before 8:00. I was surprised when I arrived at the corner bakery to pick up our breakfast — they were closed! Open every morning at 7am EXCEPT MARTES. Okay, I’ll make a note of that. That meant I had to go another block to find the next ‘patisserie’. Yeah, I could have bought our baguette at one of the several little mini-markets along the way, but once you get used to having FRESH bread that’s what you expect, and you’ll walk the extra block. Now I know that it might be tempting to have one of those new trendy allergies to wheat, water, or wine, but give Sue a minute or two in a little French bakery or at the neighbourhood wine shop and she’s feeling fit as a fiddle. So we again enjoyed a lovely pastry with our mug of coffee and platter of fresh fruit at breakfast.

After breakfast I had to haul out the washing machine manual for the new automatic washer in the kitchen so we could do a load of laundry. We’d already expected a European washer might take several hours to wash a single load, but after a bit of research we pushed enough buttons to get ours to whine like a Concorde jet taking off for only about an hour and a half. Sue hung up the wash on the racks in the spare bedroom and then made us lunch. Then it was time for today’s walk.

We considered taking the metro down to the Luxembourg Gardens but ultimately decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and walk there, with an option to take the metro back if we got too tired. So that’s what we did. It was warm and sunny and by the time we arrived at the bridge at the Seine River we were both pretty sure we wouldn’t be needing the extra jacket we each were carrying on this walk. But we still had a ways to go.

The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens, is the second largest public park in Paris. On a beautiful sunny fall afternoon like we had today, it was very busy, with lots of sunseekers sitting around the green space and the fountain. We spent an hour or so in the shade of the trees, sitting on a park bench and cooling off from the walk here.
The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens, is the second largest public park in Paris. On a beautiful sunny fall afternoon like we had today, it was very busy, with lots of sunseekers sitting around the green space and the fountain. We spent an hour or so in the shade of the trees, sitting on a park bench and cooling off from the walk here.
Once in the park we found a bench in the shade of big elm trees and took off our shoes and socks to cool off our poor feet. We sat there for about an hour. Then we took a walk around the park. There were lots of people there today — many of them sunning themselves in the warm afternoon sun.

After we left the park we decided to take advantage of where we were and wander by the Notre Dame Cathedral again — hoping that perhaps the lineup to tour the inside of the church would be reasonable during the week. We were there last Sunday but opted to forego the church tour because the wait would be too long. And so that’s what we did. The line was shorter and it moved quite quickly. Once inside the sanctuary, we did a quick ‘once around’ stopping to take a couple of photos of the large stained glass ‘rose’ windows that allow light in on three sides of the building.

We left and started the long hike back home. By the time we made a little grocery stop just around the corner from our place our feet were aching and we were too tired to think about going out for dinner tonight. We picked up a few things and went home. After a bit of a happy hour Sue got busy in the kitchen while I showered. We enjoyed a nice pasta with chorizo meal and then settled down to watch tonight’s feature presentation: “The Atomizer”. A bit of a weird movie but Sue filled me in on the parts I’d snoozed through. By 11pm we were yawning and ready to shut ‘er down.

Paris Day Nine

Rudy at the Apple Store in ParisAs you may have guessed from the title, nothing exciting happened today. I say ‘happened’ but I really mean we didn’t DO anything exciting. We got up before 9, which means we’re probably adjusted to Paris time. I went to the bakery as usual. I made some bad coffee (too little coffee for the amount of water I added) so we dumped it and had a couple of ‘Nespresso’ coffees instead. Sue finished her book. I did a bit of computer work. We had lunch. At around mid-afternoon we went out for a walk. It had been sunny all morning, but right when we went out it got cloudy and it looked like it had drizzled rain for a bit. My feet were still quite sore from the last few days of walking, so we opted not to go too far. I wanted to go buy some more Nespresso coffee refills so we sort of looked for one of their boutique shops. Along the way Sue stopped to look at purses and sweaters. We got close to the big ‘Opera’ square and that’s when I spotted the Apple store. We went in — it was very nice — but I didn’t see any of those new iPhone 5Cs.

The Palais GarnierWell, since we got a photo of me in front of the Apple store, might as well take a photo of the building right across the street from there (just another very impressive landmark in Paris — the Palais Garnier Opera House). It turned out the coffee refill shop was for ‘members only’ so we didn’t buy anything there. We meandered around and then headed back home. We went to the grocery store to pick up some more things and then went home for happy hour.

sue-at-evening-outdoor-cafeJust before 9:00 we went out for dinner — today the choice was up to me and we went to the ‘other’ corner — to ‘Bistro Smiley’. It was a lovely evening as we sat outside on the sidewalk — Sue had sea bass and I had duck. We sat out there for quite a while. When we got home we put on another of Peter’s DVD movies, “Dans Paris”. It was pretty weird and pretty boring. But we had (another!) lovely coffee with our ‘Three Chocolates’ ice cream. And that was Day Nine in Paris.

Paris, dix jours: Ernest & Gertrude

Sue has been completely absorbed in the life of Ernest Hemingway — she read “A Paris Wife” (a book ABOUT Hemingway’s first wife, fiction based on facts) and that led her to her current book, Ernest’s Hemingway’s posthumous memoir, “A Moveable Feast”. In that book Hemingway says: Il n’y a que deux endroits au monde où l’on puisse vivre heureux: chez soi et à Paris. (There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.)

Hippies use side door
Saw this along our route today!

After another VERY lazy morning at home, we finally ventured out at around 4pm. We once again headed down to central Paris. The plan was to walk down to the Musée d’Orsay on the left bank, and if we were too tired after visiting the museum we could take the metro back.

We arrived at the museum and got in line to buy tickets. Yeah, on a late Thursday afternoon at the end of September there is still a winding lineup at a museum! We bought the ‘complete’ ticket which got us into the regular displays as well as the special exhibitions (more on that later).

Musee_d_OrsayThe museum building itself is right along the Seine River. It was once a big train station, but in 1986 it was converted into a museum. So it’s a big open space with lots of little ‘rooms’ on either side, each one a little gallery for a specific artist or art style. We spent the next few hours slowly wandering around the various ‘rooms’. We saw lots of famous paintings and sculptures, by lots of famous artists; van Gogh, Renoir, Monet. It was kind of cool seeing something you’ve often seen in pictures ‘for real’. You go, “Oh yeah, I know that picture!” It’s usually quite a bit smaller than what you thought it would be, and you stand there in front of it and wonder how long you should stand there in front of it. I’m sure Marylou Driedger would have lots of things to say about many of the things we saw and would not have been at all satisfied by how quickly we managed to make our way around the big hall.

When we got to the end (well, actually, back to the beginning) of our tour there was still that ‘special exhibition’ for us to visit. And if we thought we hadn’t seen enough pictures and statues of naked people for one day, we were in for a bit of a treat! This is a case where if I’d known even just a little bit of French I probably would have saved myself a bit of money. The exhibition was called “Masculin / Masculin. L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 à nos jours“, which, when I put that into my handy-dandy translator on the computer, means “Male / Male. The naked in the art from 1800 to the present day.” So there we were, along with lots of (mostly) little old ladies, circling around in a maze of all manner of naked men displays. Yeah, you can look it up online (since I won’t be posting any pictures here!) — that’s what we saw! When I taught junior high I would have given these ‘artists’ detentions for doodling up some of these works of art! But when you hang the thing up in a frame and shine a little spotlight on it people stand in line and pay money to see this.

Les Deux Magots was a favorite cafe of Ernest Hemingway in the late 1920s.
Les Deux Magots was a favorite cafe of Ernest Hemingway in the late 1920s.

After we’d made our escape from the museum we took a long walk along Boulevard St. Germain. We were looking for the “Les Deux Magots” café, where Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein spent many a glorious afternoon drinking coffee and hobnobbing with their famous friends back in the day. Wow! Sue’s just read one book about Ernest Hemingway and now we are full-fledged groupies! Unfortunately the café was ‘closed due to an exception’ so we had to settle for a photo.

Sue at a small table at the Café de Flore.
Sue at a small table at the Café de Flore.

But wait! Right next to the café is the Café de Flore, ANOTHER café (those Parisians and their cafés!) and it too was a favorite hangout for Hemingway. And although it is completely packed, we are lucky enough to get a little table after only waiting a short while. So we sit down and order, just like Ernest and Gertrude, and watch people (many of whom are walking back and forth, hoping for an open table just like we did) while we slowly sip our beer and coffee.

We decided that after such a refreshing break we could easily walk all the way back home — so we did. We again made a pit stop once we got close to our place, picking up more groceries for supper. While Sue did her magic in the kitchen I called my folks on the phone. It was quite a bit after nine when we had a lovely stir-fry for supper. Sue called her mom. Then we got comfy on the couch and did our best to stay awake through tonight’s DVD movie feature, Amélie. It’s a 2001 romantic comedy that takes place in Montmartre, right where we are staying! We’d seen it years ago, but neither of us could remember what it was about. That probably didn’t change after tonight’s viewing either.

We’re living pretty happy here.