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Day 12
We slept like rocks, worn out from Saturday night's festivities.
Walked around the corner to ancient Rue Mouffetard, once a main thoroughfare between Paris and Rome, where we found a patisserie and had a delightful petit dejeuner - orange juice, café au lait, pain au chocolate and tiny biscuits. Delicious.
We are so glad Carol chose the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles and this area. It is so lively and there is too much to see and do here. Excellent markets, shopping, dining and history - the Pantheon and the Sorbonne are a block away. Notre Dame is down the hill as is a wonderful open-air moving market.
We decided to go to Versailles today. Bought tickets at the metro and caught the 40-minute train to Versailles at Gare d'Austerlitz. It is another gorgeous sunny, warm Spring day in Paris.
Took the double-decker Fick train from Gare D'Austerlitz to Ville de Versailles. The first clue should have been the hoards of loud Americans on the train. When we got off the train and walked around the corner to the Palace, we were confronted with about 4 bazillion people. We stayed for an hour, saw the state apartment of the king and queen, the hall of kings, the organ in the Chapelle Royale, peeked at the massive gardens and got the hell outta there. Hint - do not go to Versailles on a Sunday. If you do, prepare to spend the day waiting in line. It is well worth it, but Carol and I were back on the train, destination Paris, to meld into the city once again. We will do the whole of Versailles another trip.
The crowd at Versailles
There are many different styles of travel. Carol and I always try to "go with the flow". When something does not feel right, we try to step out of the scene and into another. That is exactly what we did at Versailles. It is not wise to fight against the river, so we decided to spend the beautiful sunny warm Sunday experiencing the delicious flavors of the neighborhoods of Paris. It just felt right. The energy at Versailles did not feel right today. C'est la vie . . .
The trip via train to/from Versailles takes about 40 minutes and makes stops at several places along the route to or from Gare d' Austerlitz. Lots of apartments and office buildings, and many quaint small stone houses with tiny gardens. It reminded us somewhat of Tuscany. Graffiti everywhere. The train back from Versailles was covered with it, as were buildings. Some people consider it cultural art. Some of it does show artistic talent, but most is vandalism in our opinion.
Got off the train back to Paris from Versailles at Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. On the street we could not see the Tower. Walked a block, turned a corner, looked up and were stunned by the sheer size of the Tour Eiffel in front of us. We walked underneath it, then on to the Champs de Mars, which was full of couples and groups lounging and enjoying the sun and the sight of the grand landmark.
Le Tour Eiffel, perhaps the best known landmark in Paris
Le Tour Eiffel as seen from Champs de Mars
To the south of Champs de Mars was a very large and boisterous demonstration against the noise that commercial jets generate taking off from Orly and Charles De Gaulle airports.
Anti-noise pollution demonstration near Le Tour Eiffel
Anti-noise pollution demonstration
Walked to the corner of and sat at a brasserie called Le Dome taking it all in. Waited too long for service, so we blew that taco stand and walked a few blocks to Rue Cler, where we found Café Roussillon and ordered Kronenberg, frittes and soupe a l'oignon (we are obviously determined to see who makes the best onion soup in Paris… We never could decide…) Our waiter thought it was so funny that we ordered onion soup and french fries. "How American! Do you want ketchup as well?" We all laughed. (We had what the French have with their frittes - mayonnaise.) An Amstel beer topped off lunch.
Carol in cafe
Europe has its cafes, where one can rest along one's way and sit and enjoy the world, visit with friends, or simply meditate. America had its malls, its K-marts, it McDonalds. There is something wrong with this picture. Europe is about people, love, communication, style, about walking, about history. America is about things, about dollars.
We walked east until we came to Rue de Grenelle, at Les Invalides, and we strolled north long the wide and grand Boulevard des Invalides, one of the widest boulevards we have ever seen. One end leads to Les Invalides and the other crosses Pont Alexandre III, our favorite Parisian bridge over the Seine, so ornate and gold and glittering in the Sunday afternoon sun. All along Place de Invalides are lovers embracing, fathers caressing their young babies, picnics, countless soccer matches, friends, strangers, dogs, trinket vendors, thousands of people enjoying the day, which could not be more spectacular. The sky is azure and cloudless. The temperature is around 75 and there is a slight, cool breeze. It is so wonderful to see all these people enjoying the joie de vivre… A perfect Spring Sunday afternoon in the most romantic city on the planet.
The crowds enjoying a gorgeous Spring Sunday on Boulevard Des Invalides
A word about the rumored public toilets in Paris - there aren't any. We have seen exactly two so far this trip. In '99 we saw them everywhere and made good use of most of them, we estimate. The disappearance of these modern, clean, welcome 2 franc bathrooms is certainly a mystery and a disappointment to those of us with weak bladders…
It is now around 4:30 PM on a Sunday. We have actually walked from one end of Paris (the west end) to the other (the east end.) The city is abuzz with life. We have walked east along the left bank of the Seine from Pont Alexandre III for most of the past two hours. Sunday in Paris in the Spring had to be seen, smelled, felt, experienced to be believed. Even New York City does not seem to have this kind of heartbeat, this pulse of electricity.
We are now sitting in a café called Au Saint Severin at the corner where Boul Mich (Boulevard St. Michele) meets Pont St. Michele at the Seine. We are near the Place St. Michele, with its wonderful fountain and pink marble columns. Our people watching has never been better. We are sipping beer and wine for 50 francs. We feel that for tourists, we have certainly been able to feel the souls of London and Paris…
St. Michael killing the Dragon at Place St-Michele
We are witnessing the constant flow of the sea of humanity past our table on this busy boulevard. Every human being is a book, a story. There are volumes to be told here. Beautiful people of all kinds, shapes, sized, backgrounds, languages. We are sitting here judging books by their covers… We were here two years ago watching this same river of humanity, a never-ending movie. On our left side is the sculpture and fountain of St. Michael killing the dragon, by Davioud. On our right is the ever-flowing Seine and the Palais du Justice and St. Chapelle.
Self-photo at the café called Au Saint Severin on Boul Mich
We spent at least an hour resting, watching and dreaming, then strolled through the Latin Quarter until we came to Shakespeare and Company, the famous bookseller, where I bought a copy of Shakespeare's King John, one of his earliest plays. This picturesque book shop has many large and tiny rooms crammed with shelves full of books large and small. I found a cat lounging on a shelf in a cozy corner and took a picture. A struggling student can still, if he pleads with the ancient proprietor convincingly enough, gain room and board here in exchange for work.
Cat in the book stacks at Shakespeare and Company
We continued on past Notre Dame on Isle de la Cite, across Pont Louis Phillipe to the Rive Droit (Right Bank), up past St-Gervais-St-Protais, a large cathedral named after two Roman soldiers martyred by Nero until we found ourselves once again in the midst of the Marais, with its tiny winding shop-lined alleys. Found the well-known L' As du Fallafel on Rue des Rosiers where the line for delectable falafel sandwiches a the take out window was half a block long. We went inside and immediately were seated and ordered the falafel, humus, salad and eggplant sandwiches this small restaurant is known for. The fresh orange juice quenched our thirsts. Fabulous.
We have easily walked 20 miles today, possibly more. It is now 7:30 PM and although we are tired, the night is young…
In the restaurants and cafes you can pay with credit cards. The waiter brings a small hand-held electronic device to your table, runs your card through the machine, which then uploads to a base unit somewhere in the restaurant, and Voila! you are on your way. This is such a quick and sensible system, we are surprised we do not see this in use in the U.S.
We were shortly on our way through the Marais, which means marsh or swamp. In the 17th century it was a place of Royal residence but was abandoned to the People during the Revolution, becoming in effect an architectural wasteland. In the 1960s it was "rediscovered" and resurrected. There are fashionable shops, elegant restaurants, cafes, boulangeries, galleries and boutiques. We stopped to photograph Jo Goldenberg's, the famous kosher restaurant. The hustle and bustle in the evening is energetic and frenetic. This is also the Jewish section, which is reviving after having been obliterated during World War II.
Jo Goldenberg's famous kosher restaurant in the Marais
We have walked more today than any day of our trip thus far, and our feet can take no more, at least for now, so we jumped on the Metro from Rue di Rivoli/St. Paul to Bastille, changed at Bastille to the Metro to Gare D' Austerlitz, changed there to the Metro to Cardinale Lemoine, and we were home in a flash. A short walk up the hill, our shoes came off, and our feet were thankful.
Carol soaked in a bubble bath, which revived her, and I rested for an hour, writing in my journal, and then at 9 PM we walked from the hotel west a short block to Rue Mouffetard then south two blocks to buy glaces (ice cream.) Then back up Rue Mouffetard, with hordes of people reveling in the night, around the central fountain of Place de la Contrascarpe, past the Egyptian coffeehouse, and home to bed. We were just about asleep when the phone rang - it was our house-sitter Mary calling to report that all was well and that Cody, our Australian Shepherd, did not eat for the first few days but started eating again. We were relieved to hear that our baby was OK. Back to dreamland…

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