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david and carol

Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 1
Europe 1999
London, Paris, Venice, Florence


David and Carol




Day 2


Good night's rest after yesterday's first long walks. Showered, dressed and went downstairs into the small dining room for coffee, croissants, and baguettes with sweet butter and jam. Delicious, and oh so French…
After le petit dejeuner, we walked through the narrow streets near our hotel and down towards the Seine. We were still hungry, but for the flavors of Paris. It was cold, cloudy, gray and windy. We were glad we brought jackets along. We strolled past some incredibly huge, ornate buildings such as the Assemblie Nationale and the Musee d'Orsay, all so grandiose, majestic and breathtakingly beautiful. We watched barges slowly make their way down the brown Seine. On the bridge Pont Royale, which crosses the Seine to the Louvre, we saw a papier mache art exhibit of American Indians, slaves and settlers, done by an African artist. Walking across the Pont Royale, we found ourselves along the Right Bank, and quickly located the first of bazillions of toilettes for Carol. We continued walking along the Right Bank, amidst lush flower stalls and pet shops, then crossed back to the Rive Gauche, or Left Bank. We were in search of Notre-Dame. It wasn't where we thought it should be, and after some searching, we found the magnificent cathedral at the far end of the Isle du Cite, not far from the Palais du Justice.
Although there was much scaffolding along the ornate and massive front of the cathedral, we were nonetheless struck by its ancient history and gothic grandeur. Begun in 1163 and "finished" 200 years later, how many generations of architects had a hand in her construction? How many generations of Parisians came for salvation? How many weddings and funerals had this ancient monument held in her bosom?

 David at Notre-Dame
Passing the large statue of Charlemagne, we walked along the south side and took in the gruesome gargoyles, many whose heads had literally melted away over centuries of weather, such a shame. Around the back, in the shadows of the flying buttresses, I was overcome with emotion and had to sit for a while. Loving Victor Hugo's great descriptive novels of life in Paris, and currently re-reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, I could feel the presence of gloomy Dom Claude Frollo in the shadows and I could sense Quasimodo lurking up in the bell towers amongst his only companions, the crows and the gargoyles. The gray sky really helped to set a chilling and gothic mood. To be in the proximity of these ancient stones, towers, statues, gargoyles, spires, windows, doors and history was an awesome, humbling and emotional experience. Long after we are gone, these same stones will long remain, until the weather has finally reclaimed all of her. We kept coming back to her during our stay in Paris. Her attraction is magnetic and irresistible. Truly a monument among monuments.

 Statue of Charlemagne at Notre-Dame
After much quiet contemplation, and reading aloud some passages from Hunchback, we walked across the short Pont St. Louis to Isle de St. Louis, its street lined with small charming shops selling cheese, wine, candies, soaps, oils, fruits, olives and vegetables. We had a bite at a tiny and cozy sandwich shop, then walked up through the Bastille district and found a street festival with stalls offering garlic, cheeses, hams and breads, which we happily sampled. Walked further along into Marais, where we saw a synagogue and many Jews returning from Saturday morning services.

Carol at a flower shop
We decided to walk back to the hotel and stopped at an outdoor café where we had wine and beer and schmoozed with an American couple who lived and worked for TRW in England - Ken and April. Had very pleasant conversation and a nice rest, then bid our friends au revoir and continued on our way past crowds of people and many, many shops and cafes. I was, at this time, in search of Cuban cigars. Went into the massive, famous Samarathine department store (yes, in search of a toilette for you-know-who,) then out onto the busy Rue des Lombards until we found a shop where we bought some Camembert and French bread with the intent of having a small, impromptu picnic.
Continuing along, we found a bench near a park where we stopped and rested and enjoyed our French lunch. Delicious. A moveable feast, indeed.
After our repartee, we strolled further along the Rue des Lombards where a kind elderly pipe-smoking Frenchman gladly assisted us with directions. Before we left him, I took note of his pipe and asked him where one could purchase Cuban cigars. He smiled, and with a twinkle in his eye pointed to a sign across the street - Habanas ("Havana.") We were there in five seconds. Although the female clerk was a bit snotty, I was died and gone to Havana heaven. We bought $110 U.S. dollars worth of Cohiba Paneteles and a box of Montecristo minis. I managed to make the minis last the whole trip and enjoyed quite a few of the nearly priceless Cohibas. I decided to try to get the remainder of the Cubanos home. Strong and oh so delicious. The Cubans do know how to make a cigar.
Finally made it back to the hotel and took a mid-afternoon nap, then strolled in the early evening sun to Montparnasse where we found an outdoor café and had wine while we watched the Parisians go about their ways as the day wound down. Hungry, we then discovered a nice-looking brasserie where we sat inside and had wine, soupe a l'ongion and cheese. After dinner we moved outside and sat for a good hour drinking wine, smoked a memorable, tasty Cohiba and watched the Parisians enjoying a pleasant, cool Saturday evening. We slowly strolled home, arm-in-arm, through the deserted streets of Paris. She was ours.

Previous Day

Next Day

Day 1 London/Paris | Day 2 Paris | Day 3 Paris

Days 4 and 5 Paris/Venice | Day 6 Venice/Florence

Day 7 Florence | Day 8 Florence | Day 9 Florence

Day 10 London | Day 11 London | Day 12 London

Day 13 Home | Reflections

 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved

 email david@davidandcarol.com