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Day 7
London / Paris
I could have slept for days. I have apparently caught a head cold but I do not intend to allow it to hamper our adventure. Slept until 9. Carol incredibly, but not surprisingly, had packed everything while I slept in preparation for our trip to Paris today. I married an angel. She brought me breakfast in bed and I felt better after toast, juice and a shower.
David, our gracious and accommodation hotelier, allowed us to stow our bags in his office that we could once more savor the flavors of London. We walked several blocks to Covent Garden, where we sat at a sidewalk café in the sun and enjoyed juice and coffee. A few yards away, under the covered Market, a young fellow and his female friend were entertaining early morning diners with lovely opera arias.
Early morning at Covent Garden
For a city as large a London, it is surprising how accessible everything is. In little time, a brisk walk will take you to just about anywhere. Last night we laughed when we realized that we could walk back from the theater to the hotel faster than the Tube took us from the hotel to the theater. And what great exercise! By the end of our wonderful stay in London, we estimate that we have walked 50 miles or more, and averaged about 10 miles per day. It is a fun, economical and healthy way to experience the great cities of the world.
We are sad to leave this awesome, historic and charming place, but we know in our hearts that we will return, again and again.
Back to the Morgan to grab our bags, say farewell and thanks to David for a delightful five nights in his comfortable and cozy hotel, then out to Bloomsbury Street to catch a cab to Waterloo Station for the express Eurostar train (the Chunnel) to Paris.
The past five days have flown by at the speed of light, although we managed, as we usually do, to experience quite a bit. It is always sad to leave Londontown…
At Waterloo International Station, one of Europe's largest and most popular train stations, we relaxed (we had arrived the suggested hour early,) had delicious fresh orange juice and watched people, obviously one of our favorite pastimes… We had sat in this same station in '99, also en-route to Paris. There have been so many times during this journey that we have felt as if we had not been away for two years. There is something about the history and culture of the Continent that has its hooks very deeply in us, and has since we first visited in the '70s, and draws us back again and again. To walk down the same cobblestone paths where Edward I and Henry VIII strode is truly a privilege, and Carol and I try to constantly be aware of how fortunate we are. To travel is to live and to learn…
It is wonderful NOT to have to drive anywhere; to be in a place where trains are still so omnipresent and still so charming and romantic. It is a wonderful way to travel. We have always been fascinated by the grand old train stations of Europe. My brother Jim and I had spent the summer of 1971 backpacking through Europe and had used a Eurail pass ($125 for the summer) and had used the trains as our transportation, our hotels, our restaurants, and had come to love the many ancient smoky stations we spent time in. In 2001, so much has changed, yet so much remains the same. The smoke-encrusted steel beams, girders and glass are still there, but the billboards now advertise Cisco and Alcatel Cellular phones. I see the 2001 versions of Jim and Dave, backpacks and headbands, at every station.
An interesting note - the security we passed through today a Waterloo Station was more thorough than any we have ever experienced at any U.S. airport. Also, there are many more modern conveniences this year, such as escalators up to the tracks. Also, the Eurostar train we boarded was brand new and sparkling clean, unlike the age-old "boxcars" Jim and I inhabited, or even the older Eurostar train Carol and I had taken on this same course two years ago. Change is good…
Eurostar at Gare du Nord
Soon the Eurostar pulled out of Waterloo Station and slowly made its way south through Chelsea, Brixton, and small towns and villages, past rolling green English farmland for about an hour until we came to the southern coast of England where the EuroTunnel (the chunnel) connects England (at Folkestone) to France (at Calais.) As in '99, I was amazed at the line of trucks waiting at the entrance to cross, transporting everything imaginable to and from England. The trip via train under the English Channel lasts about twenty minutes and Voila! we are in the north of France.
On the Eurostar Chunnel train
We sat across the aisle from a young trio on holiday - 2 Brits and a Yank - Andrew, Kunal, and Andrew - as they attempted to locate their Parisian hotel on a map. Carol assisted, and it was only through her skill with the French language and currency that we will successfully navigate our way through Paris's streets and culture.
Andrew, Kunal and Andrew (sorry about the quality...)
Andrew(1) was born in London, Andrew(2) is from Dallas and is somehow related to Kunal and they are visiting Paris for a few days before returning to London for a wedding. Andrew(2) had flown in for the wedding. We compared notes about the nightlife in our respective homelands. Andrew(1) was somewhat peeved that the pubs in London close their doors at around 11 PM. I have to say that I share his opinion…
We all became excited the closer we came to the magic city of Paris. It is always a thrill to spot the Eiffel Tower poking up above the city. We wished our young friends bon voyage and detrained at Paris's Gare du Nord. I have been in this ancient, gray, grandiose station in '71, '99 and '01. We decided to avoid the Metro since it was rush hour - see our '99 pickpocket incident (http://www.davidandcarol.com/europe01.htm,) so we stood outside in the long taxi queue where there had to be at least 200 but moved quickly. Our Chinese cab driver spoke no English but Carol's skillful French got us through the usual heavy traffic and to the Hotel des Grande Ecoles, within earshot of the Sorbonne and the Pantheon. Words cannot describe our delight at being back in our beloved Paris, truly the City of Light.
View from the entrance to Les Hotel des Grande Ecoles, facing the gardens
Our spacious room - this is just half of it...
The lovely hotel was quiet, the room (#148) was large, modern, and on the grounds is a quaint French garden where one can sit and sip coffee and rest and meditate. We quickly settled in, read an email message from our dear friend Eleni in Florence, Italy (Hotel Romagna - http://www.hotelromagna.it/) and out the gate we went, into late-afternoon bustling Paris. We walked straight down the Rue Ecole to Rue St. Germain and across busy Quai de la Tournelle to the Seine to behold once again the awesome form of Notre Dame. Why can I not gaze upon her ancient stones without getting a lump in my throat?
The Grande Dame - Notre Dame along the Seine
We were hungry, so we walked across Pont St. Louis to Isle St. Louis and a found a brasserie called La Chaumiere en l'Isle on Rue Jean due Bellay. I ordered a Kronenberg beer, and the waiter asked if I wanted petite, medium or grande. Naturally I ordered the grande, and he bought out a mug of beer the size of Montana. We all laughed (until I realized that this monster beer cost 12 U.S. dollars) and it did not go to waste.
So happy to be back in the City of Light...
Just as we sat down it began to pour, and the Maitre D quickly hand-cranked the canopy over our table. What great timing! It is around 70 degrees but overcast and raining, and here we sit, cozily protected as Parisians and tourists alike try to dodge the raindrops. Fun to watch…
I ordered soupe a l'oignon, which was heavenly, salmon which came encrusted with kosher salt (delicious) and chocolate mousse to die for. Carol ordered lamb with garlic sauce, onion jam and duck pate and chocolate mousse, all superb. This was actually our most expensive meal to-date, mostly due to the gargantuan beer, but it was worth every franc. We slowly savored every bite and stayed snug in our corner table under the canopy as the world, somewhat damp, flowed by.
Our waiter, Tony V., took a liking to us and asked if we wanted him to take our picture, which we did, and then we took one of him and Rich, the maitre d'. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at La Chaumiere en l'Isle…
Rich and Tony V.
It turned windy and chilly, although the evening sun began to poke its head through the clouds. We decided to make an early night of it and planned to attack Paris at dawn. So at 9 PM we walked back across Pont St. Louis, past grand Notre Dame, across the Seine at Pont de L'Archeveche, and up the hill of Rue Ecole to our hotel, where Carol soaked in the deep tub and was in heaven. It is indescribable to be back in this remarkable, romantic city…

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