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Day 13

Slept fitfully - too much fun happening in the streets below during the night and we wanted to be part of it…
We decided this morning to change our travel plans. We will cancel our reservation in Bruges, Belgium. We will visit there another time. The logistics of getting there from here are somewhat complex and Carol is now getting my cold. It is another fresh, sunny day in Paris and we have extended our stay here another day. A short conversation with Marie, our Concierge, and Voila! it is done. We will have to move to another room, but hey, C'est la vie…
Today will be a shopping day - gifts and souvenirs for family and friends like our wonderful neighbors Jim and Kathy, who are helping Mary keep an eye our house and our pup…
Took the Metro to Place de la Concorde near the Louvre, where we walked through the west end of the Tuilerie gardens where we saw a film in production. Strolled slowly west along Champs-Elysees. Paris is waking up. It is sunny and cool and breezy and we are sitting on a bench enjoying the air. In just about every direction we look, we see tree-lined avenues, lush and green, and here are there are patches of multi-hued Spring flowers.
Spring flowers
Walked further west along Champs-Elysees toward the Arc de Triomphe, past many shops, cafes and American-style department stores. We are in slow motion today after yesterday's marathon stroll from one end of Paris to the other. Carol is now shopping at Monoprix and I am catatonic on a bench watching the flow of the city in the sunlight. I notice a dapper fellow in traffic on his gleaming BMW motorcycle with a bubble to protect him from the weather. The plexiglass bubble is open on both sides. His scarf wrapped around his neck and blowing in the breeze, pipe in his mouth, smile on his face - he looked sublimely content on his way to wherever. As I sit on this bench, two suited American businessmen behind me are schmoozing about their venture capital incubation projects. One is putting 6 million is this project, the other is putting 4 million in that project. Finally their wives show up with a report on their purchases - mustards, teas and Hollywood gum for the boys. What a world we live in…
As already mentioned, today is a DSD (Designated Shopping Day) and Carol has humanely left me peacefully catatonic here on this bench along busy Champs-Elysees while she floats from shop to shop, one of her favorite states of being, especially in this city. And I am perfectly content and can think of no place I would rather be. I am surrounded by a smorgasbord of languages, music to my ears.
Carol finally came to retrieve me and we continued walking up towards the Arc de Triomphe - for photos see our 1999 trip. Took the RER/Metro to Mabillon, where we thought there would be an indoor market, but what we found was a mall in the worst sense of the word. Got out of there, toute suite… Walked in the direction of St-Germain-des-Pres. Along the way we found several very unique and enticing small shops. Went into Gudulc, a shop selling silver jewelry of all sorts by weight. I bought an Indian bracelet, and we continued window-shopping along the narrow and quaint Rue Saint Andre des Arts and ended up at a bistro very close to our favorite people watching spot on Boul Mich where yesterday we had sat in the afternoon sun watching the sea of humanity flow bed.
Our waiter took our order of Leffe beer, orange juice (Carol did get my cold,) ham sandwich and salad Nicoise. As he went from table to table taking orders, he never wrote anything down, and we wondered how he could possibly keep it all straight. We remember being impressed by this on our last trip. How do they do this? It remains a mystery to us… (By the way, our waiter actually got our order totally wrong…)
It is a gorgeous, sunny Monday. Our bistro - La Gentilhommiere - is full of people relaxing at 12:45 - friends, lovers, families, business associates - all meet over wine or beer or coffee. The French seem to have know forever the importance of stopping and "smelling the roses." It is something that we in America do not do enough…
The weather today could not be more perfect. It must be 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a bright, cloudless, sunny blue sky and a cool breeze coming off the Seine… At the table next to us is a French woman and her son and their Golden Lab, Tuffy, who took a liking to me and proceeded to stretch herself out and laid her head on my foot and fell asleep. Tuffy was born in New Jersey - this family has a house in Paris and a house in New York City. Both mother and son spoke perfect English, and Tuffy was the only bilingual dog we have ever met (seriously…)
Tuffy the bi-lingual lab
We walked up and down the alleys of the Latin Quarter, shopping for gifts for family and friends. Bumped into our friends Koki and Hazel again, who had done the tour of the sewers of Paris, which sounded interesting.
A snack "on the road"
Back to the hotel so Carol could rest. Her cold is getting worse and she needs to lie down. So guess who sleeps for two hours? Me - Carol could not sleep - too much life happening in the streets below our second floor hotel room. But I slept like a baby and Carol did rest. We don't want to waste this gorgeous afternoon, so showered and refreshed, out we go, to blend into the cacophony and make our own noise…
[During my nap I had a vivid dream that I was in a bi-plane flying over a beautiful river surrounded on either side by tall, magnificent, green trees. The plane was being flown by a handsome Indian Prince, and his wife and young son were there, and they all had luxurious, radiant, shiny, long, flowing black hair that billowed in the breeze as we flew slowly over the river. As the river turned, the Prince banked the plane and the world was delightful, peaceful and gorgeous. I think that this bracelet I bought this morning was owned at one time by an Indian Prince…]
[A note about my lovely wife and traveling companion - she is the most organized traveler on the planet. She is the one who researches and plans these Magnificent Journeys of ours. She will spend a year doing in-depth research for a trip. Then she will create actual books in small binders full of notes about restaurants, museums, currency exchange rates - these are incredible little "survival guides" with miniaturized charts and maps. It is her research that makes our journeys so "perfect." God bless Carol - I married an angel.]
We walked down the hill of Rue du Cardinal Lemoine and stumbled (literally) into a travel agency where we were able to purchase train tickets for the four-hour trip from Paris to Amsterdam we plan to make on Thursday - the last leg of this current Magnificent Journey. We also located a place to change the Belgian francs (Carol, the ultimate trip planner, is so prepared that we always come with a locality's currency instead of waiting until we arrive) to French francs.
Across to the Quai St. Michele, in the shadow of Notre Dame, where we enjoy beer and Beaujolais as the bells toll from the great towers of the ancient cathedral. It is 7 PM and the day is winding down, although it will not become dark for another three or four hours. As we sit here, a procession of gendarmes in several official vehicles, sirens blaring, stops traffic to pass through. In the center of this caravan is a large prison truck, with mesh windows, through which we can glimpse several unhappy men. It is a transfer of prisoners and brings to my mind similar scenes from two of Hugo's novels - the procession of chained prisoners in the countryside in Les Miserables, and the daily exercise and transfer of prisoners in his sad "The Last Days of a Condemned." Some things that seem to change stay the same. They just look a little different.
The pedestrian in Paris is persona-non-gratis. Heaven help you if you happen to be crossing an intersection without the "Green Man" - those of you who have traveled here will know exactly what I mean - you will receive honks, yells, the finger, but if lucky, you will survive the ordeal. The driver is king of the road here, especially those on two wheels. It is amazing that there are not more tragic accidents here, although we are constantly reminded of Princess Diana's tragic accident…
We took the Metro to Ecole Militaire for dinner and to experience Le Tour Eiffel at night. We chose La Croque Au Sel in the 7th Arrondissment. I ordered smoked salmon and whitefish appetizer, chicken a la Provencale, and L'ile flottante a l'ancienne, a soft meringue in caramel sauce. Carol ordered goat cheese with walnuts, whitefish in a flaky pastry and flan. We also had a half carafe of the house red wine. Our dinners were exquisite, and to add to the romance, an Edith Piaf-style street singer came by and sang love songs at our table. We gave her 10 francs and enjoyed the ambiance.
Serendaded by Edith Piaf (?)
The sun has set and it is cooling down. As darkness descends, we walk the few blocks to the Eiffel Tower, lit up from head to toe. We bought tickets to the top level and crammed like sardines into the elevator with 100 other tourists.
La Tour Eiffel all gussied up for the evening...
At the second level we all had to get out and try to figure out which lift took us to the top. This is one of the few places where French crowd control was weak and or non-existent. We finally found the correct elevator, queued for several minutes, crammed in like sardines again, and finally found ourselves at the top, well worth the ride. The view at night from this height is beyond spectacular, with most of the landmarks throughout the city below colorfully lit up. Unbelievable and breathtaking. Crowded in the small space. Spent several minutes taking photos, jostling the crowds, then waited at least a half an hour in the long queue to descend. Finally we made it and were glad to be back on Terra Firma. We then walked several blocks to the Metro, and 9 stops later we were home and exhausted. Another terrific, memorable day…
Self-photo taken at the very top of a very crowded but wonderful Eiffel Tower.

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