vendredi 9 septembre 2011

Week XI, Visitor

Tuesday, August 23, Carolee had her next-to-last school day.  The final three days were spent in a contest between classes: certain questions had to be answered from clues scattered about in the broad vicinity of the Alliance Francaise.  My own morning was spent on a long stroll across the river and through and around the Jardin des Plantes.  In the southwest corner is something called the labyrinth.  It turned out not to be any kind of maze but simply an artificial conical hill.  Grinding up and down it was good for my walking skills but afforded no good view from the top because it was well planted with trees.  The rest of the park was as pretty as ever.
     Carolee came back with the news that her class had won again!  The prize was a DVD for each student.  On Wednesday, mid-afternoon, we packed off to the Gare du Nord, where we met the Eurostar from London and Carolee's friend, Marian, from the Court in LA.  We walked from Place de la Bastille down the Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine in order to show her the Paris street life.  A dinner at home was prepared as Marian settled in.
Liberation of Paris Commemoration at police building

Military salute, liberation day commemoration
     On Thursday, Carolee had her last morning of school, but she had researched an interesting morning for Marian and me.  August 25 is the anniversary of the liberation of Paris in 1944, and there were local celebrations in our (12th) arrondissement, as well as the others, I suppose.  I led Marian down the Rue de Daumesnil and the Viaduc des Arts for some pleasant window shopping.  Our first stop was at the police headquarters.  A number of officials had gathered around a memorial plaque on the wall, and there were a very few onlookers like ourselves.  Following a military salute with a bugle call, wreaths were formally placed below the plaque and the short speeches were delivered from a portable podium.

Liberation commemoration

Wreathes laid before WWI memorial
Mairie (City Hall) of 12th Arrondissement

Police Building decorated with Michelangelo's Slave

       They had another such ceremony to do and we followed along.  This one was at a memorial to the first world war, and the ceremony was identical.  They were surprised to see us again.  The third stage of the event was hoisting glasses of champagne in the hall, the Salle des Outres Mers, at the nearby local city hall.  We had hung back but were welcomed in.  Before long we were chatting it up in fractured French and English with some aged veterans (Vietnam, it seems, not WWII).  It didn't hurt to be Americans, given the history.  The youngish police chief, clearly a skilled politician, complimented my French.  We drifted out with the others and returned along the Promenade Plantee, where we got a good photo of the astonishing police building (photo, infra).
Liberation Day ceremony at Hotel de Ville
     But there was a bigger event coming: we had been given tickets to a 5 pm celebration at the Hotel de Ville.  We were unprepared for the size of it.  The parvis (plaza, maybe) in front of the Hotel de Ville was covered with thousands of chairs facing a temporary stage backed by an enormous video screen and a powerful sound system.  Our blue tickets got us into the left section.  Veterans were given white tickets for the center, and no doubt tickets for the right section were red.  The event started off, of course, with a military parade.  Then various generals and veterans were honored.  The center of the program was patriotic, with music alternating with speeches.  We had, of course, the Marseillaise, and I wish I could have sung along.  Two students were chosen to give speeches to show, I think, that the young were appreciative of the importance of the liberation.  All this could have been the program for a 19th century event, and probably was many times.  But in our 21st century, we were shown a slick video history on the giant screen of the seven or so days of the Resistance's uprising and the liberation.  The deportation and murder of French Jews and Rom was the subject at the end of the video.
Doctored do-not-enter sign on Ile Saint Louis
     The program all done, we drifted through a thinning crowd over to Notre Dame, which we entered finally, noticing that the line was uncommonly short.  A mass was in progress, but gawkers were allowed at the back and sides.  We walked Marian back home through the crowds on the Ile Saint Louis, then through the barren Arsenal quarter, then over the Saint Martin Canal footbridge with its lovely panoramas in both directions, and finally back to the 12th and home.  A long day.
     Friday, Marian and Carolee went off to the Musee d'Orsay and followed this visit up with a long walk home.  I stayed home with a game leg.  Crepes and cider for dinner that evening.  We made plans for a visit to Giverny the next day, although somewhat worried by a forecast of rain.
Carolee by lily pond

Monet's house beyond arcaded path

The lily pond

Garden in heavy rain and wind

Sparkling garden after the rain had cleared
     Getting up real early we saw heavy rain through the windows, so we slept in for a while.  Two hours later the rain was gone so we got rolling to the Gare Saint Lazare, bought tickets and got onto a train for Vernon just in time to arrive before noon.  About 200 tourists like us also got off at Vernon and we all lined up for the bus to Giverny.  This took a while, what with everybody having to make payment, but eventually the packed bus lumbered off through the narrow twisty streets of Vernon and into a gentle countryside for a few kilometers' ride to the village of Giverny.  A quarter-mile hike through the charming village brought us to Monet's house and gardens, where we were quickly admitted by friendly attendants.  Of course you go immediately to the gardens.  These were extensive but divided in two main portions:  a garden in numerous rows near the house, and the lily pond on the other side (underpass) of a road.  It was all, of course, very special.  At the outside border of the pond area one could see how the terrain there looked before the garden was built: a rather shabby marshland.  Eventually we went up to the house, just in time as it turned out, because a summer freshet came through pretty hard with the rain moving at a 45 degree angle.  We liked the well-preserved house and furnishings a lot better than, say, Victor Hugo's.  Heading back we were lucky to be delivered to the railroad station just in time for the last train for three hours.
     Sunday Carolee's back was bothering her so we worked out a plan where I would deliver Marian to the Eiffel Tower, where she would go up but I would take an easy route home.  We waited together in one of the long lines until I couldn't stick with her any more.  We had taken the #69 bus, which was fairly empty on a Sunday morning, so Marian got glimpses of some of the best sights in Paris, in particular the Louvre Pyramid.  Taking the same bus back, I got off near the Louvre and crossed over to the left bank for a pleasant stroll along the bank.  Found a book by a good author at Shakespeare & Co.  Marian arrived back in the early evening after some really impressive walking.  After the tower visit she hiked up to the Trocadero for the view, then up Avenue Kleber to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysee, along the river, through the Tuileries Garden, by the Pyramid and eventually found her way home without mishap.
Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III by night

Eiffel Tower from Pont Alexandre III
Montmartre, Lapin Agile

Montmartre, steep hill

Montmartre, steep steps

Near Sacre Coeur - Space Invaders

Marian, Sacre Coeur

St-Martin Canal lock to Seine
     Monday the main event was a visit to Sacre Coeur at the top of Montmartre.  This time we tried to minimize climbing by getting off at the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro stop, a bit north of the peak.  There was still plenty of slogging up steep streets, but we saw the really charming semi-rustic streets.  Halfway along we passed the Lapin Agile, made famous by the Picasso crowd so long ago.   After a longish spell with the expansive view of the city, Carolee and Marian strolled down the grand stairway below Sacre Coeur while I tried my hand, or rather legs, on a side stairway which had a good sturdy handrail.  We met easily at the bottom and descended through a couple of crowded blocks lined by schlocky souvenir shops.  In the metro I took trains home while the other two went on to the Cite stop to see the Deportation Memorial.  It turned out to be closed that day, but they had a pleasant walk back along the Seine left bank to the Austerlitz Bridge.  In the evening we all went out for some night photography, starting at the Esplanade des Invalides and crossing over to the Place de la Concorde.  Big success, it was.
      Next morning, Tuesday, Carolee went with Marian back to the Gare du Nord for check-in to the Eurostar.  I think we mostly rested that day.  Marian made it back to London, no problem.

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