July 3, 2007


"There's going to be a lot more walking than yesterday," Julie said.


I smiled. Look at that guy on the bike down at the bottom of the page-I'm an endurance athlete, kid! You tell me it's a 40-mile ride, I'm there!


We had managed to get an earlier start, thanks to figuring out the alarms, and the new bounce provided by croissants that were only a few minutes old. Ken had picked up fresh bread, critical to our journey. Today we weren't trusting the ham sandwiches to anyone but ourselves-Ken made lunch and we set up a backpack.


I've taken hundreds of pictures, but how they're getting to you is my keenly constructed office in the solarium, a room the length of the apartment that has my docking station and laptop, and yes, as a matter of fact, I DID pack a keyboard and mouse to bring to Europe. What of it?



Our first stop was the Musee d'Orsay, which involved a couple Metro switches across two different train lines. Once we got there, the museum was closed, which freed up about an hour to two hours of our day right there.


As we were walking, I pointed out to Julie that Iggy Pop and the Stooges were going to be playing at Palais de Sport. Ken kind of nodded and smiled. We had noted the night before that Iggy was no longer of the age where he was going to cut himself with glass and smear peanut butter all over himself, and we couldn't decide if that was good or bad. Now, I've had "The Passenger" in my car for the past two months or so, and I knew that singing along would be great with a bunch of non-English speakers or expats, but we have work to do the next day-we're off to London.


We walked through the main shopping district, including Bon Marche, which was a lot like-gasp-Marshall Field's. The branch that we were at was France's first department store, Zola wrote a book about it, and we went through its food store, which had everything upmarket and down from wherever you could imagine. It's not often you would walk into a mall and see a selection of about 230 types of cheese, or nine different pates, or chickens and turkeys that were quite dead, but still containing heads and feet-there was a butcher behind the counter who would attend to that for you if so needed.


I would have loved to have gotten pictures of all of this, but I suggest you take a walk through Albertson's or Jewel and start taking pictures of the butcher; you'll feel as awkward as I would have. I have enough European cityscapes to paper my walls for the rest of my life (and will still get more) without the need to take pictures of the grocery store.


Julie took us through the suggested walk and we saw dozens of shops, including one called Cafe Coton where I could have bought a very nice dress shirt for 112 euros. I declined. We saw the cafes getting ready for the lunchtime business, crates of fruits and vegetables being loaded in straight off the sidewalk. There is no Sysco truck here, at least none that I saw. They weren't aggregating the stuff themselves, someone did it for them, but there was no pre-chopped premade anything that I could see. Bottled drinks and veggies. That's it.


We went through a church built in the 13th century (there was one part of it that was; the rest of it was from around 1700) and saw newspaper articles regarding the Da Vinci Code. There was a mass in progress, and though it didn't take place in English, the rhythms and cadences were familiar enough that I understood what was going on. For as many issues as I have with organized religion, they were the ones who retained the history of mankind through the Dark Ages. Not bad.


Note: I don't take pictures of the insides of churches, particularly when there's a mass going on. Bad form.


Oh, take a very careful look at this poster. we liked the idea and figured we'd get tickets. We'll come back to it later.




After that it was on to the Jardin du Luxembourg, where we had already worked up a decent appetite.



We'd been walking for a couple hours, and it was time for a break. I had mentioned while we were looking at Stade Roland Garros (home of the French Open) from the Eiffel Tower, that I'd never seen a clay tennis court. We thought they may have some here, but there weren't.


We were watching a group of profoundly incompetent tennis players, who appeared to be on their lunch hour, hitting backhands into the net, missing the end lines, all manner of nonsense. It was so bad that, as the three of us sat there eating our ham sandwiches, we said, "Hell, put me out there right now in jeans and dress shoes: I'LL kick their ass."


Following lunch, we made our way further into the park. We saw a playground that obviously hadn't been hurt by the Trial Lawyer Menace:


That's a replica Eiffel Tower, made out of bungee cords and about 25 feet tall. In America the builders of this thing would be attached to it with safety ropes. In France, the kids climb to the top of it and have a ball.


Then it was on to the boules court. What's boules, you ask? It's also known as petanque. It's kind of like bocce, only the target ball is very very small and the balls you throw are made of metal. There were six people playing, they took no notice of us, but it's me and Ken and a sporting event, so obviously we could turn this into something.



Looks innocuous enough, huh? Bunch of people standing in a sandbox?


Uh-uh. I present to you (from top to bottom):


The Viper and Slick Rick (Slick Rick because he wore a nice suit and had an overall demeanor like he was posing for a magazine cover, The Viper because we felt that at least one player on the court should have that name)


Bean, The Hammer and Sarge (Bean had a resemblance to Rowan Atkinson, the Hammer was a very skilled player who would throw the ball twenty feet into the air, causing it to land with a thud close to the target, like horseshoes with double or triple the altitude, and Sarge was about 80 and had a look about him like he could use an air of menace)


The whole crew mentioned previously with the exception of Spicoli (a woman about our age who was wearing flip-flop sandals)


We'd see a good shot and go, "Oooohh." We'd discuss strategy. We'd duck out of their way when they suggested to look out and laughed. It was hilarious.


We sat for a while at the gardens to get ready for our afternoon march. Re-energized by the sight of a perfectly groomed garden and children sailing boats in the fountains, we were on the move again.



We started our march to the Pantheon, where the notables of France are buried. Victor Hugo's here, as well as Voltaire, Rousseau, Alexandre Dumas, Marie Curie, and others, about 45 people in all. It's a huge ceremony to be in here; they do one about every 5 years, but there's no schedule. Imagine if you combined the notables at Arlington Cemetery with Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Richard Feynman. One building that said "This is our history. This is who we profess to admire as a nation." Or, like the top of the building said, "To great men, the grateful fatherland" (Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante)


What's that you say? It's been ten minutes and you haven't gotten a streetscape picture yet? Well, by all means!



That's the Pantheon, straight ahead.



I am a sucker for historical vistas. I remember the first time I'd traveled anywhere, to Washington on a class trip. I stared out in front of the Lincoln Memorial over the reflecting pool and realized this was where Martin Luther King spoke, where history has happened, and was transfixed. I got the same feeling here, even though I'm not French. Everything about the building drives home that you are in the final resting place of greatness. Even the empty spaces were inspiring-sort of like, there's more people of destiny out there.


My "no pictures in churches" rule applies, because the pantheon is a crypt, not a memorial, but I would suggest the Wikipedia link.


Then it was off to the Latin Quarter. Students at Ecole Universite de Paris were getting their final exams, and these pictures are meant to provide the definitive evidence.




Definitive evidence of what? That college students look precisely the same all over.


(The other evidence is that there's never a shortage of nonsensical English on the clothes here, as evidenced by the agitated-looking chap in the "Swing Lagoon" shirt in the second photo.)


Some stuff doesn't get lost in translation, though. Dig this:


Ken and I demanded crepes. We stopped across from the Cathedral at Notre Dame and watched the traffic roll by.


We started talking about picking up the orchestra tickets (the poster above) Julie said they had them at FNAC, a store a lot like Best Buy. She knew of one that was on the street that we were currently walking on, on the next, really, it's close, there's someone with a FNAC bag, that's it, we'll be fine.


Three miles later, we were at the FNAC store. It was under construction, but still open. There were good-sized crowds. We went downstairs, where the tickets were being sold. There were several people standing in line in front of two employees doing nothing.


Julie started laughing at what this guy was saying, and it apparently was, "I don't know why these people are waiting in line. The computers are down. I guess they have nothing better to do with their lives."


"So no tickets?"


"No. But I remember seeing that they were also at Galerie Lafayette; that's right over there at Tour Montparnasse."


We made our way through some very interesting traffic...



...and wound up at Galerie Lafayette, where we trooped up to customer service. The woman very politely explained that no, they didn't sell tickets here, only at the flagship store in another part of town entirely, and which we were nowhere near. As Julie said, "That's so French. They looked right at the poster, which was wrong, and smiled and said there was no way they could help me."


Following that night, we wound up on the Tram Rapide, which was supposed to takes us at 9 km over a moving walkway, but didn't move any faster than the 4 km walkway.


We measured out that we walked seven and a half miles that day. I'm cheered by the fact that I made it. That justified the tarte tatin with cream at dinner.


More coming soon. I realize I'm a day behind, but (in real time) we've just arrived in London. I'll give you more details very soon, but I can tell you:


1. The weather is cold and rainy and sunny all at once.

2. Security is very, very tight.


Update soon...


Previous - Next


Get free Dreamweaver templates and extensions at JustDreamweaver.com