dimanche 3 juillet 2011

Week II - Solstice

Place des Vosges
Courtyard, Hotel de Sens

Marina, Canal St-Martin
We started out with another day of keeping it local by heading off to our much-loved Place des Vosges, where we sat for a while in pleasant sunshine for some people watching.  Then Carolee led me through a corner passage from the place and we ambled down to the Hotel de Sens, which holds a specialized library for textiles and clothing and where Carolee had earlier researched for a term paper.  Then along the Seine past the Arsenal Library (it houses lots of early manuscripts), and over the Canal St-Martin again, and that was it for the day.
     The next day it was time to test the bus system, so we chose an easy ride over to the left bank so that Carolee could register for classes.  The bur riding turned out to be as easy as hoped.  Descending at St Sulpice, we tool a quick look inside the church.  Didn't like it - dark and dingy.  It has a very famous organ, but we didn't hear it.  Then off to the Luxembourg Gardens, where I found a seat by the pool and waited while Carolee ran off to do her registration.  I noticed quite a few police and Carolee explained that the French Senate meets right there in the Luxembourg Palace.  We threaded our way back through narrow streets to St-Germain des Pres, where we caught our bus back home.
Carolee, tomb of Gustave Caillebotte

Duane, grave of Jules Romains

Tomb of Heloise & Abelard
Rue Mouffetard, see?

Arenes de Lutece, now a playground

Jardin des Plantes
      Embolden by success with the bus system and ready to walk more, we went up to Pere Lachaise Cemetary for an afternoon of finding the tombs of the famous.  The number 61 bus dropped us at the main entrance (by now I was not going to go around by metro as a regular thing) and it was slowly up a hill along roads winding among densely-packed tombs.  The 19th century tombs tended to be grim little houses like sentry kiosks, and 20th century tombs were mostly variously worked stone slabs on the ground.  At my age this should be beyond me, but it was creepy.   Many of the older tombs were obviously unmaintained and in some the hinges had rusted through and the doors lay at the bottom.  Near the entrance was one of my favorite French authors, Jules Romains.  Not far from that was Colette, and the reputed remains of Heloise and Abelard.  The heavily-visited tomb of Jim Morrison was a letdown - shoehorned in between others.  A guard was posted there to keep people from damaging the nearly tombs.  With the help of a guide-sheet we found the tombs of various celebrities, but upon reaching the level area at the top we'd had enough.  An expresso at a cafe just outside was memorable, then it was off to find our bus stop in the remarkable evening confusion that is the Gambetta circle.
     The next day's jaunt was back to the left bank, where, influenced by guidebooks and a famous photo by Cartier-Bresson, I wanted to walk along the Rue Mouffetard.  Our education with the bus system continued when the bus driver dumped his whole load of passengers just past the river and drove off.  His break, maybe.  The next bus would be along in seven minutes, in any case.  But we walked along up the hill, passing a favorite restaurant of Carolee's and turned onto the fabled street.  Not worth a special trip was my reaction - only a bit more charm than many streets we'd seen already.  Improvising, we opted to walk home past the Arenes de Lutece and the Jardin des Plantes.  The arenes is the site of a roman amphitheater, but it didn't look like any roman ruin I've seen before, it was so heavily rebuilt.  But it was a great place for kids to play, and whole classes of schoolkids were being led in and out as we rested a while.  Four backpacks on the ground defined two soccer goals.  A short distance away we entered at a corner of the immense Jardin des Plantes.  This was a discovery: part English Garden, part French, part horticultural display and part museum and menagerie.  It was pure delight.  After a rest there we crossed a busy circle to the Austerlitz bridge and a longish final lap homewards.  Here I had a problem with faintness, but a few minutes of internet doctoring at home indicated that I hadn't been drinking enough water.  This was confirmed by the simple experiment of drinking a few glasses of water.  We now carry water with us.
Cafe life, waiting for gay pride parade

Waiter in traditional costume

Parade stretching down Blvd Henri IV

White & Black
     Saturday - Carolee had read of a gay pride parade terminating at Place de la Bastille, so our day's adventure came to us.  In the afternoon we strolled over there and made our way through heavy crowds around the circle to a cafe, where we found an open table and sat down to nursing overpriced drinks and waiting.  The big surprise was the size and length of the parade: at 6 pm it still appeared to be endless.  People brought their children to watch, the little ones on their shoulders.  There was nowhere near the freakiness and shock tactics of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade.  Getting out from the cafe required some determined but delicate maneuvering through the throng.  A good time was had by all.  
      The next day, Sunday, was quieter, but the temperature was up.  From the newspaper we chose to see an ecology exhibit at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).  Bland, it was.   As, apparently, was the day.
Tour St-Jacques (St James Tower)

No handrail down to Sq du Vert Galant

Square du vert Galant, tip of Ile de la Cite
     Continuing on Monday, another scorcher, in the same area, we left the bus at Tour St-Jacques, a belfrey without a church anymore, where the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela started out.  From there we went across to the Island, where we noted the long lines to see the Sainte Chapelle and wondered if we'd ever see it this time around.  At my request we went to the downstream tip of the island and descended a long flight of stairs to the charming Vert Galant park for a rest.  After the arduous climb back up we crossed to the left bank and to a bus stop near St-Germain and home.

St-Eustache church, clean

Garden of Palais Royale, boules

Garden of Palais Royale, spray, sun bathers
     Tuesday we went once again to the center and on to the church St-Eustache, which is highly rated in the guidebooks.  The outside was indeed well-cleaned and strikingly beautiful.  A helpful Parisian gave us the story.  But the interior was another disappointment - soot-stained and generally dismal.  It did hold the tomb of Colbert.  Only a few blocks away was Dehillerin, Carolee's favorite cookwares store.  Absolutely crammed with the best of cooking gear.  From there to the Palais Royale for comfortable sitting and gawking in the enormous garden.  Deciding it was time to go back, we had trouble finding the bus stop, so Carolee parked me at one of the new fountains in the Louvre courtyard among zillions of tourists while she scouted.  It took a while, and we finally set off for home after a long, sweltering wait.

The last few years have left me with an ailment of the nerves in the legs which makes the muscles weak and seriously compromises balance,  It was a bit of a dare to come here at all, and I wouldn't have attempted it without Carolee.  So how'm I doin' with it?  Some pleasant surprises here.  In San Diego I'm doing well as long as I can still drive.  If I lose that, and I could, I'll be stuck at home and dependent on others to drive for me.  Here in Paris when I go out I'll see, in a few hours, a couple dozen people getting around with canes.  In addition to that, a couple of blind people and occasionally someone in a wheelchair.  They're getting by.  How?  The simple answer is compactness.  The apartments and flats are small and numerous.  Ours, at 550 square feet, is large.  So local business can also be dense.  Within 300 yards we have several grocery stores, a department store, any number of cafes, bistros and restaurants, two laundromats, two banks, a post office, a hardware store, pharmacies, bakeries, a hospital, a walk-in medical lab, and even a McDonalds and a Starbucks.  If we widen the circle to 600 yards we include another hospital, two major transportation hubs and an opera house!  There are plenty of people on the street to offer aid where needed, and they do.  All it would take is a small circle of friends and I'd say I'm better off here than in San Diego.  Wish I could afford it.
     Carolee, not a naysayer, points out that compactness has its downside: noise and odors.

1 commentaire:

  1. Thank you Duane and Carolee for your hospitality and sincere effort which allowed us to enjoy a very memorable visit.

    The car rental and taxi inconveniences will fade from our memories - until we decide to return on our own without the benefit of your support!