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Day 11
We slept like babies. My cold is much better. Excellent petit dejeuner at the hotel. The skies are blue and inviting...
We can't wait to get outside and into the hustle and bustle and become part of Paris again. Down the hill to Notre Dame, short wait in the queue for the towers. We met a wonderful, fun couple from California - Koki, who is a retired professor of mathematics, and his lovely wife, Hazel. Together we climbed the countless steps of the North Tower to an incredible view of all of Paris below us, then up more steps to Quasimodo's bell tower, with its enormous bell and clanger.
Koki, Carol and Hazel
More steps to the top of the South Tower and the best vantage point from which to view the cathedral's many unique gargoyles, the city of Paris and her environs below… We all could have spent all day there, picking out landmarks. We shot two rolls of film here, then climbed back down and found ourselves out in the sun and the crowds.
Gargoyle at the south tower of Notre Dame
Gargoyle at the south tower of Notre Dame
Walking along the south side of the cathedral we met Haydee Ons and Willy Bakeboord, daughter and Mom, from Surinam. Very lovely, charming and warm people. Chatted with them for several minutes and snapped a photo.
Haydee Ons, Carol and Willy Bakeboord
Also bumped into a rowdy group of multi-colored Englishmen. I took their picture and inquired about the colors on their faces and in their hair and was told it was for their upcoming rugby match (Leicester Tigers) that afternoon. Indeed, the Brits do takes their sports seriously/humorously…
multi-colored Englishmen
At the Pont du Sully at the very east end of Isle St. Louis I noticed an ancient, bent, gnarled woman, one arm steadied by her cane, her other arm gently leading her retarded son in a manner that made it obvious that she had spent much of her adult life leading him this way through the world. He was in his late 60s. It was a beautiful, if sad, sight and I did not want to take a picture…
We walked quite a distance, past the Place de la Bastille, east along Rue du St. Antoine Farbourge, until we came to La Place d' Aligne, a crowded historical market offering fruits, vegetables and antiques. Carol bought a beautifully colored Indian purse for under $3. We stopped to listen to a wonderful sidewalk performance being given by a jazz group as people danced in the street.
Jazz band at the market at La Place d' Aligne
Carol in her favorite environment - a market in Paris
Exhausted at noon. Already our feet our tired from the climb up the towers of Notre Dame and the long stroll to and through the market. So a café called Mory's Bagels caught our attention on the corner of Rue de St. Antoine Faubourge and Rue de Charonne. Had a sandwich and a rest and watched the stream of people flow by our table…
Enjoying the Joie de Vivre
Then we strolled back to the Place de la Bastille where we caught the #5 Metro to Gare D' L'est, changed to the #4 Metro to Chateau Rouge, and walked trough the West African section, up several hills until we came to majestic, white Sacre-Coeur, with its panoramic view of the sprawling city of Paris below. The view was worth the climb.
Spent some moments taking in the grandeur of the city and picking out landmarks, then walked north through quaint Montmarte until we came to Rue Vincent. On one corner is the (supposedly) last vineyard within the city of Paris and on another corner is the famous Le Lapin Agile, one of the quaintest-looking cabarets anywhere. But its quaint looks are deceiving - at night it becomes a rowdy, jumping nightclub. We walked further along the winding streets of lovely Montmarte until we decided to sit and rest and eat at Le Cepage Montmartrois.
Au Lapin Agile
Warning - watch out for the French drivers - they are truly maniacs when they get behind the wheel. Many of the cars are quite small. The Parisians seem to love to get their cars and motorcycles onto tiny alleys, usually cram-packed with tourists, and proceed to put the pedal to the metal, full speed ahead. If you are lucky, you have time to jump out of the way. These are not the polite drivers we had come across in London. Quite the opposite. We have seen several accidents since we have arrived in Paris, at least one a day. Saw a bad one happen this morning at Place de la Bastille. The last time we were in Paris, in'99, we saw a young fellow struck unconscious by a bus. You must pay attention to the corner pedestrian traffic "green man/red man" indicators - Carol and I are constantly saying to each other "Green Man, Green Man," which means "It is OK now to cross this street, so run like Hell, dear," or we say "Red Man, Red Man" which means "if you try to cross this street now you will probably die…"
Tiny car
We sat and had coffee and salad and chocolate mousse at Le Cepage Montmartrois. The French coffee, café au lait, is served strong, hot and with milk that is frothed on top - very delicious. We have noticed a lot of espresso here as well, but I have not had the guts to try it since the night in London when I could not sleep a wink due to caffeine in medicine I had taken for my cold.  
We have found the French to be amicable, accommodating, polite, generous, maybe a tiny bit aloof, but we see reasons for the hint of coolness. I have always thought of Paris as the center of Western civilization, and the loud, obnoxious American tourists who demand to be spoken to in English and to have their lunch cooked "their way" makes many of the French look upon us as barbarians at the gates… I can't say that I blame them… It has been our experience as we have traveled through different countries and cities, but especially here in Paris, that if you make an attempt to communicate in the language of the place, you will be welcomed. It all comes down to the basic aspect of respect. Thanks to Carol's grasp of the French language, we have thoroughly enjoyed our encounters with the French people. A simple merci beaucoup and s'il vous plait goes a long way. When in Rome . . .
The weather today is fantastic - sunny but cool. We are sitting next to a young couple and their friends and their young baby son, all out enjoying the Saturday afternoon.
Rested, we walked a short distance to the Metro and took the #12 to #4 and got off at Les Halles and melted into crowds of thousands of people shopping and partying. Had a juice and kept walking to the Marais, where we strolled along large Rue de Rivoli in the midst of hordes of people. We ordinarily try to avoid crowds, but for some reason, we love to be part of this hustle and bustle in this incredible city.
At a flea market near Les Halles Carol shopped for a scarf but could not decide. I bought the second shaving brush for my new collection at aromatic L'Occitane, a popular soap and fragrance shop. So far I have two shaving brushes - both from Paris. I want to try to collect them from the various places we may travel to. Farther along Rue de Rivoli we came across the same bistro near Hotel de Ville where we sat in '99 and chatted with an American couple who worked for TRW in England. Now the bistro is called the "Low Rider Café" - how sad.
At the Clundy de Sorbonne Metro stop
It is a delightful, lovely Saturday afternoon, sunny and slightly breezy, and all of the sidewalk cafes and bistros are packed with people relaxing, drinking, eating, schmoozing, smoking, engaged in lively conversations or embraces - in short, simply enjoying this gorgeous Spring afternoon and each other's company. Carol and I fit right in. We enjoyed beer and croque monsieurs and a Montecristo.
dml enjoying the cafe scene
The French toilets are interesting. Many in public bathrooms have no seats - you just have to squat and hope for the best, and on the toilet itself there are two "flushes" - one seems to give a bidet effect and the other is a normal flush.
Everywhere people meet it is always the "double-kiss" a peck on each cheek. Everyone does this, regardless of the sex…
Time to stroll some more, en route to the hotel for our afternoon siesta. We walked south and across Pont Louis Philippe to Isle St. Louis where Carol spotted Izrael, open this time, a splendid spice shop offering a variety of spices, candies, liquors, seeds, fruits and nuts from around the world. There we so many delicious frangrances, and everything looked so inviting. We had to tear ourselves away and we walked the short distance to Pont St. Louis to the east end of Isle de la Cite, past majestic Notre Dame, across Pont de L' Archeveche, up familiar Rue Monge and "home" for a nap.
Carol, happy at Izrael, the spice store
Spices at Izrael
As I write these words, we are relaxing at the hotel. The day is winding down into night. The windows are open and there is a wonderful breeze. From the street we hear a delightful cacophony of people strolling and chatting in several different languages, the laughter of children nearby, and somewhere close by someone quite talented is practicing the violin. Bells from churches across Paris can be heard. The buzz of motor scooters zooming up and down Rue Monge. Dogs barking. Life…
8:30 PM - time to browse the area for an enticing restaurant. So we walked to Rue Mouffetard, near our hotel. On the way to find a restaurant, we came to a bar where about a dozen girls were gathered around a girl dressed in a wedding dress but painted like a clown. They were way beyond drunk, were obviously having a great time and were singing songs and carrying on. We thought it was some sort of sorority stunt (we are in a very young "student" area). It was actually a "bachelorette party" for the bride.
Bachelorette party
On Rue Mouffetard we found La Brouette. Ordered a bottle of Chateau Les Marechaux Bordeaux 1998 - delicious. Very busy, lively restaurant. The gentleman siting next to Carol kindly offered us a sample of his plate of sautéed mushrooms, which we declined. Tough decision regarding the menu tonight - everything looks so tempting. A couple at a nearby table sat with their dog and were cooking strips of beef on a hot plate - "pierrade". Looked delicious but we were still a bit concerned about Mad-cow disease. So I ordered soupe a la oignon, grilled shrimp and apple tart. Carol ordered escargot, plat du jour (chicken) and crème caramel. Dinner was great, but we were sorry we did not try the "pierrade..."
Later, after dinner, as we walked along Rue Descartes, we came across a similar group at the same bar. This time all young males, gathered around a guy dressed in a wedding dress and painted like a clown! All were 3 sheets to the wind, and we got a picture of him with Carol. Turns out this is a wedding - he is the groom and the girl we saw earlier was the bride. This was the bachelor party. Viva la France . . .
Bachelor party
As we strolled after dinner, we came across an interesting place we had seen a few days earlier. An Egyptian coffee house where groups of people were sitting around tables smoking large hookahs. We had to know what this was all about, so Carol we in to inquire. They drink strong Egyptian coffee and they smoke a natural non-nicotine tobacco compound (like cloves). Must be the in-thing, the rage du jour . . .
Went back to our nearby hotel to pee, came back out to find a group of ten older (60's) Italian folks, quite plastered. One of the women was singing an Italian love song at the top of her lungs. A group had gathered. As she finished, we all applauded. People sitting in open windows enjoying the night waved to us as we walked by. No other city, even NYC seems this alive on a Saturday night.
Our hotel is great. We are very close to the Sorbonne. This area is full of young students. It is a Saturday night. Everyone is out partying. Our hotel room looks out over the strees (Rue du Cardinal Lemoine) yet with the windows closed, we hear nothing from the outside. It is quiet and private. Even the magnetic key to the place is interesting. You rub it on a pod and the huge, heavy courtyard door opens.
At 11:30 we have had our fill. We must conserve our energy for tomorrow's adventure. Bon nuit . . .

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