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Day 8

I slept for 12 hours and woke up feeling ill - I definitely have a head cold but am determined not to let it interfere. So nurse Carol bought some grapefruit juice and I loaded up on Vitamin C and we set out to explore Paris at noon.
It is cool, gray and raining today. We are glad we brought our umbrella. Walked down the hill of Rue Cardinale Lemoine from our hotel to the Metro stop, where we purchased a carnet of 10 billets (day travel passes) as well as 5-day museum passes. Had a bit of trouble making connections via the Metro, but that is par for the course the first day or two in Paris. Finally we arrived at the Musee d' Orsay.
This large, ornate train station has been reconstructed in 1978 into a fabulous museum for art between 1848 and 1914. We spent hours there, and finally found ourselves in the Impressionist exhibit, where are displayed the works of Cezanne, Monet, Mantet, Matisse, Gauguin, Toulouse-Latrec, Seurat, Pissaro, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh, among many others. We saw Whistler's Mother. It is an incredible feeling to be in such close proximity to the works of these masters. The colors and brush strokes of Van Gogh are startling.
Musee d' Orsay
My favorite Van Gogh was L'eglise d'Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet (The church at Auvers-sur-Oise, view of the apse,) with its cobalt sky, ultramarine stained-glass windows, violet and orange roof, the peasant woman walking away, the thick, jagged brushstrokes, expressive and magnificent, painted a month before his suicide. Carol was overcome with emotion and had to sit for a while. All around us were sculptures by Pompon (the Polar Bear) and Rodin.
Inside Musee d' Orsay
L'eglise d"Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet
When we finally walked out of the museum, we were stunned and had to sit for a while, so we found Café Evangelista, a short walk south, where we had two croque monsieurs (bread, ham, cheese on top, grilled) and water.
We then walked two blocks to Rue St. Germain and headed west, window shopping and people watching. We realized we were near the restaurant where we had had our first meal in Paris in May '99 (lambs intestines…) so we turned the corner and found Le Bourbon. The adjacent part was swarming with police and demonstrators. Apparently there was an imminent strike of transit workers, and they had picked this park adjacent to the restaurant to assemble. There was much loud and vocal disenchantment, and suddenly a well-dressed gentleman appeared and entered the crowd to cheers and applause and began to speak. He was apparently from "the other side" and had come to listen to the grievances of the people. All of this occurred within a stone's throw of the Academie Nationale, built in 1722 for the Duchesse de Bourbon but confiscated during the Revolution and now a seat of French government.
Strike near Le Bourbon
Assemblee Nationale
Since we were in the neighborhood, we walked past the Hotel du Palais Bourbon, the hotel that was our base in Paris in 1999. Then we strolled up Rue de Varenne, past the Rodin museum (been there, done that) to the Boulevard des Invalides, where we rested in Café du Musee with hot soupe a l'oignon, beer and hot chocolate in the shadow of the gold-gilded dome of the massive Les Invalides, the "dormitory" built by Louis XIV as a military hospital and home for French war veterans and soldiers who had been reduced to begging to survive. Later Napoleon dedicated it to house injured citizens returning from the Revolution.
It poured while we sipped our beer and hot chocolate and we watched as the people outside found various ways to deal with the sudden downpour. Once again we happened to be in the right place at the right time and had a perfect, cozy spot to watch the show outside…
Then the sun suddenly reappeared. The weather is a bit bizarre - it can get dark and dreary and blustery cold, then five minutes later the sun is out and it is warm and sunny. We are constantly peeling off or putting on layers. That is the way to travel at this time of year - in layers that can easily be folded and stored in a daypack. Today I have worn dockers, my comfortable Rockport shoes (God bless you, Rockport,) a blue denim collarless Henly long sleeve shirt, a wool scarf and my long Italian leather coat. Carol is dressed similarly, and it was relatively easy for us to be comfortable no matter how fast the weather changed.
dml in layers
Hotel Invalides was just across the Boulevard des Invalides from the Café du Musee and when the sun returned we felt rested and walked across the boulevard and gazed at the massive dome, built by Jules Hardouin-Masart for the Sun King, Louis XIV, in 1676. Louis wanted to use it for his royal tomb, but that plan was abandoned after his death, and instead it became a monument to Bourbon glory.
Les Invalides and the tomb of Napoleon
Dome of Les Invalides
In 1841, Napoleon's remains were interred here, near "the banks of the Seine and the French people I love so much." Napoleon's body is encased in six coffins and rests in a marble crypt. In the same building are the tombs of Napoleon's two brothers, Marshal Foch (a WWI hero) and the heart of Vauban, Louis XIV's military architect and engineer. The impressive gold-gilded dome can be seen from all over Paris. It was first gilded in 1715 and last gilded in 1989.
Napoleon's tomb
We decided to rest at the hotel before pursuing the Parisian night life, so a quick Metro ride to Rue du Cardinale Lemoine and we were "home," where we took naps. I was sound asleep before my head hit the pillow. All too soon my travel partner was rousing me to dress so that we could go out and melt into a cool Wednesday evening in Paris.
Courtyard in the Latin Quarter near our hotel
So out we went. Strolled south of the hotel for a couple of blocks until we came to a small interesting square called Place de la Contrascarpe, which played such an important part in Hemingway's Paris, with cafes and brasseries on every corner. We picked the inviting Café Delmas and settled in for wine (cjl,) Kronenberg beer (dml,) a plate of various cheeses and bread, and pommes frites (french fries.) First-class people watching spot, especially in the evening. Narrow Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest market streets in Paris, runs along the west side of Place de la Contrascarpe, and at one time was the major road between Paris and Rome.
Place de la Contrascarpe
At 9:30 PM it is still light out, and friends meet and greet each other in the French tradition of the kiss on both cheeks, and settle in at a brasserie to chat and to drink. The French had such a distinct social "style" and we love to be here to observe it all…
We left Café Delmas and walked south along Rue Mouffetard, where there are dozens of quaint restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisine. We noted the menus, since we will probably sample one or two in the nights to come. Had a delicious gelato-style ice cream cone at a small ice cream shop along Rue Mouffetard as we walked arm-in-arm.
The markets of ancient Rue Mouffetard
At 10:00 PM, and still light in the sky (Paris is at the same latitude as Vancouver,) we decided to walk back to the hotel for a good night's sleep before getting up and tackling the Louvre…

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