Arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in the morning. First impressions—wow, people smoke in the airport! Also, men’s urinals are very exposed to the public. The airport design seemed pretty poor—the baggage claim was all against wall, and people crowded all in one area to pick up their bags. The door to the men’s restroom was right next to the elevator where people crowded waiting for it. Also, in the men’s room, the hand dryer was right over the sink, so that you occupied a sink while drying your hands.
Asked a guy at information for info on how to get to our hotel, he told us about a pretty direct train there, no changes. We checked in (Hotel California, on Rue de Ecole). Small room, but fine.
Bought little baguette panini sandwiches at a shop owned by a Vietnamese guy. Heard Laotian music—turns out that a Laotian guy worked there, and a Laotian radio station was turned on. Notre Dame, took photos (great weather, not many crowds). We started the walking tour listed in a book called ParisWalks. It was good, but a little too much information—every 10 steps it seemed like you had to stop and read a whole page of information.
Had a really hard time staying awake—I was incredibly tired 5 or so, Eric not so bad. Walked down to Louvre, Rue de Rivoli. We had dinner along Rue de Rivoli, I had a salmon salad, Eric a chicken with French fries. Pretty good. It was fun using my French. We then walked right to the Champs-Elyses, where the stores started, then took a metro back (first metro).
Slept alright, except that we work up at 4:30 and didn’t get to sleep until around 6:30.
Woke up late, at 10:30. Missed breakfast, bought another baguette type sandwich on the street (camembert and tomato and chicken. We took the Metro to the Louvre, it ended up taking a while because the junction we wanted to take was closed. In general the Metro is very easy to figure out—there’s about 14 lines, and you just take the direction you want, change, etc. Pretty well laid out.
The Louvre—went straight to the Mona Lisa, to get it out of the way. The crowds weren’t too bad—I’m glad we’re here in the winter instead of summer, when supposedly there’s tons of tourists around. We saw mostly Italian Renaissance paintings. That place is incredibly huge. Slow museum walking is pretty tiring.
We took a break from the Louvre, and did a little walking tour of the right bank. Through Jardin du Palais Royale, saw a woman feeding birds from her hands. Looked at Opera, wanted to look at Ritz hotel, but they wouldn’t let us. Also Ste Marie Madeleine church—strange looking thing, like a Greek temple.
Then down the Champ-Elyses, lots of fancy shops, also McDonalds and Planet Hollywood. Looked at Arc de Triumphe (get there through pedestrian underpass, it’s surrounded by a huge roundabout). Dinner on a side street of Champ-Elysese, tropical theme. Eric had chicken chutney, I had chicken/cheese sandwich with coleslaw. After diner, we walked back to the Louvre to look at Greek antiquities. Eric was a little disappointed at not being able to understand any of the labels. Tried taking a metro home, but the line we wanted appeared to be closed. On the way home, we stopped and watched a woman getting out of a parking spot she had been wedged into. It appeared that she had just about 4 inches free space to work with. It took her about 10 minutes but she got out.
Got up at 9 by the alarm, had breakfast downstairs (really thick, rich hot chocolate, a croissant, and a quarter baguette, with butter and jam). Good tasting, but jeez—pretty unhealthy. Took the Metro to the Opera, then went to Galerie Lafayette, where we’d signed up via the internet to attend a fashion show. It was quite interesting, and I took tons of photos. They had about 6 models, who must have been switching their outfits extremely quickly. Everything that they had on was for sale at the store. Later we went to the top floor where there was a balcony and a good view of Paris. We took the picture of a black American couple, and they took ours. They had meant to go to the show as well, but had gotten up too late. I showed them some of the photos on the digital camera.
Then we walked to Fauchons, which I’d found a reference to somewhere on the web. It’s basically a big fancy grocery store, but has only things in boxes and jars—not very interesting. We saw a demonstration of striking hospital workers right in front of the Opera—I also talked to one of the strikers on the train a little bit. He said that they were workers at the public hospitals (he was a nurses helper) who wanted raises. He’d been in Seattle, had landed there, rented a car, and driven around in British Columbia.
Then to the grocery store attached to Monoprix, a lower priced department store. Pretty small, but bigger than the grocery stores I’ve seen so far. We bought some chestnuts in a jar, a hunk of camembert cheese, a baguette, and some sausage, thinking we’d do a picnic for dinner. Then the Metro, and back to the hotel room for a little rest, and to write up these notes.
Later on we took a walk in the Latin quarter, saw some cool shops, almost got ripped off by a guy when we were buying our first crepe. It was 15 F, we gave him 50 F, and got back 25.2 F. He was hoping that we’d think the 20 centime coin was a 10 F coin (they both have a bronze color). After we’d walked away, Eric counted the change and realized we were short. We walked back and told him we didn’t get the right change. First he said he’d given us another 10 F coin, then he took the 20 centimes and gave it back. He’s going to go down in infamy on our web site (I got a picture of him).
The crepe was a nutella crepe—alright, but I think next time we’ll try something different.
For dinner, we ate the baguette, cheese and sausage that we got at the grocery. Bad night’s sleep—I only went to sleep after 1, and Eric work up very early. Still jet lag?
Went down to Pantheon area (burial area for atheists?) on our way to the market on Mouffetard . Bought some lycee fruit there, the first time I’ve ever had it fresh. Not bad, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again. Interesting market. Both Eric and I had our outer nylon pants on—not chic at all, but great in this cold weather (just above freezing). Lunch at a Thai restaurant nearby, not too bad. Then to the Ile de cite again, a quick trip in Notre Dame (where more of it was open than last time). We tried going to the Samaritaine department store, where the 11th floor panorama observatory was closed until March. Too bad, it’s supposed to be one of the best views in the city. I guess this city is so low in general that you don’t need to get very high up to get a view.
Then to the Pere Lachaise cemetery, where we took pictures of the graves of famous people. Jim Morrison’s grave is probably one of the most visited, but it wasn’t very well kept. A hippie looking woman with a cat was sitting next to it, smoking pot.
Then back to the hotel with the metro. Eric started having problems with his new shoes. We bought some apples at a grocery store run by a Tunisian guy, who was very chatty. We went back to the hotel where Eric changed into his old shoes (good thing we brought them along). Then, Sylvia had the great idea of making dinner out of sweets we found at various stores in Paris. We started with a pizza and a quiche. We then moved on to the sweet stuff by trying a meringue, but found it not very tasty. Then a pear tart, and a sugar crepe. Then we walked around for a while looking for a busy place to have coffee/tea. We ended up at a café near the Sorbonne where we sat near a number of young students in active discussion.
Got up at about 8:30 am but Sylvia was unable to get a good nights rest.. We decided that we would take the train to Chartres that day. Because the Metro workers were striking that day, we thought that maneuvering about the city might be difficult. We walked to the nearest train station which took about 30 minutes and easily bought a ticket and were on our way in less than 15 minutes. Upon arriving in Chartres we went to the main cathedral and found that a talk about the cathedral was to commence in 15 minutes by a man who had been studying this church for more than three decades, and had written at least two books on it as well! We paid 60 franks apiece. Eric liked the talk, but Sylvia thought the speaker (Timothy Miller) was curt and not open to questions. We then went on a walking tour of the old city. We took tons of photos, and found the architecture interesting and the setting very pretty. Eric discovered that his Palm Pilot was missing, and figured that he had left it on the train! We asked if they had found it at lost and found at the train station, but it had not shown up. We’ll try again later in the week. After returning to Paris, we thought we might attempt a metro ride to the hotel, as we had been on our feet all day. We sat in the metro tunnel for 15 minutes before they announced that no train was to come. We then hoofed it back to the hotel, getting a cheese and tomato crepe, cheeseburger, and apricot tart on the way!
Eiffel tower, Montmartre district, Pigalle district (red light district), back to hotel, then out for dinner at a French restaurant in the Mouffetarde (sp?) area.
Eric wasn’t feeling well this morning, woke up with a sore throat and feeling like he had a cold.
Went first to the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages, very close by. Interesting, much, much smaller than the Louvre. Cool tapestries, I took lots of pictures.
Then back to the hotel for a rest.
Then out again, with the metro to the flea market at Port de Clignancourt. Extremely crowded on the Metro. What a difference to the rest of Paris, practically everyone was either black or north African. Also, there were much more men than women, and almost no women alone. At first we thought there was nothing but places selling leather jackets and stuff like that, but then we found an indoor area that had all kinds of interesting antiques. For lunch, had a panini and a ham and cheese crepe.
Then took the Metro to the Marais area. Very chic, crowded, pedestrian. Centre Pompindou, strike at a Pizza Hut, coffee and tea in an extremely smoky café (after we’d tried a couple of them and rejected them as too smoky, we finally decided that we wouldn’t be able to sit in a café if we couldn’t stand some smoke.
Bought some candies for Eric’s sore throat, then back to the hotel to write up trip notes.