Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paris: First day

The following post is from an email I sent family and friends while in Europe.

Window in our hostel room

  We flew in to Paris a bottle of shampoo, bottle of lotion, and tube of sunscreen poorer. Going through security in the Basel airport, the man at Air France looked sadly at me and said "ne pass pas."   I didn't even think about the security.  If we had taken the train we would have been allowed to keep our humble articles of hygiene.  Oh well.  As usual, Derek got patted down before being allowed to board the plane.  I told him the security personnel take one look at his pecs and can't resist. (My, what beeg muzzles you have, beeg boy!)

If Paris was the first place we had visited on our Europe trip, I would have gotten back on the plane and flown home.  The metro into town was crazy.  When we got onto the street I couldn't believe how crowded it was.  Worse than New York.  We struggled our way through the throng and finally found our hostel.  A very old building with uneven stairs and a sloping floor in our room.

 View outside our room.  Next to the McDonalds is a Turkish falafel shop.  I had my last meal in Paris there.  Wonderful way to end the trip.

was feeling very discouraged, when a miracle happened.  We left our hotel and looked for a place to eat.  Next door was a pastry shop.  We entered...into a shop?  No...a heavenly place where people go to know what food truly tastes like.
I thought the Italians knew how to cook.  They know how to cook pasta.  The French win baking hands down.  Derek ate a chicken and ham quiche and some magical concoction that involved bread, melted cheese and more ham.  Oh my goodness!!!  The food melted in our mouths, to coin a phrase.

Our room.  The shower flooded the tiny bathroom the first time one of us showered. The shower nozzle was a rabid maniac possessing a demonic soul.  We learned to keep a firm grip on it while we showered or it would flail about like a snake on steroids.
(And flood the bathroom.)

 I had a salad that contained more ingredients than I could count.  Who knew a salad could be a three course meal? We were so full afterward, we waddled our way back to the Metro to go downtown.  But not before I helped steer a Russian couple in the right direction to their subway.  Traveling has done things to me.  One hour in Paris and I am already helping give others directions.

More photos outside out hostel

 And by the way, I don't know where people think Parisians are rude.  I still have two days to go and things could change, but all the French I have met have been very friendly.

Case 1:  After we got off the train from the airport that took us to downtown Paris,  we had to change trains underground. We were clueless.  Our directions said to go to train two on level two.  What level were we on?  Where's level two?  Up or down?  

I asked a woman next to me in my execrable French for directions.  She answered me in her execrable English which left us both confused.  Finally, she said, "Eh.  I take next train."

 She then grabbed me by the arm and escorted us up two flights of stairs and down a labyrinth of halls, through a turnstile (using her own ticket for herself-that cost her a ride) and brought us to the right train.  The whole time she gave us advice:  "Hold purse close.  Wherez map?  Keep. Put everything in purse, hold close etc.."

   She looked at me and smiled.  "OK?"

    We all said, "Merci beaucoup!"  

She said, "Cool!"  and walked back to her train, which I'm sure she missed and had to take the next one.

Case 2:  That night when we returned to the subway to go down 
town we were trying to figure out how to buy our tickets from a machine (we had metro passes but they started the next day.)  

Two young men came up behind us and asked us where we wanted to go.  They then held our hand, figuratively speaking, and walked us through the whole procedure.  Then off they went after they helped us.

"Merci beacoup!"  we called after them.

Legion of Honor museum.  Interesting to see how many Americans were awarded it:  Generals Pershing, MacArthur, and Eisenhower to name a few.

Case 3:  We're getting on the train.  A man had watched us study the map.  "You want to go where?"

We told him.  "Get off this train and go to the other side." 

"Merci beaucoup!"

Street next to Musee d'Orsay below.  In the distance, on the right is the bakery where Derek and I bought our lunch.  Next to that shop was a tiny store where I bought a couple of t-shirts.  I was dressed too warmly so I bought them to wear.  They had no dressing room but the lady who worked there brought two racks of clothes together and I changed behind them.  I'm not sure I would have gotten away with that in the U.S. but "Vive la France!"

Others helped us find the Eiffel Tower.  Interestingly, nobody knows what you mean when you say "Eiffel Tower".  They say "Tour en Fer".  Of course our horrible pronunciation probably didn't help.

In the Legion of Honor Museum

After seeing the most awesome Cathedral in the world, Notre Dame-and that's saying a lot because we've seen St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and the Duomo in Milan- and listening to a concert in front of Notre Dame, we made our way to the "Tour en  Fer".  We wanted to see it at night.  It was worth it.  When the lights first come on, they sparkle like a huge Christmas tree for several minutes before settling down and glowing in the night.  Can't describe it.  Gorgeous! (I don't have any photos  of Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower for this post because I forgot to bring my camera that evening. However, I took photos when I returned to those places.  I'll show them in future posts.)

Legion of Honor Museum

 At 11 PM we returned to the dreaded subway, although we were feeling more confident at this time.  Our tickets had expired and we had no more change.  Ethan was all for crawling under the turn stile.  Lisa was considering it.  I told them to stay there.  I ran up to level ground and looked around.  There was a gift store a block away on the corner.  I ran to the store, blindly picked ten postcards (only 2 euros, a steal!)  Brought them to the clerk and said, "Please give me change in coins, I need them for the subway."

Louvre across the Seine

The man behind the counter was a cutie and he knew it. He said, "Only for you because you are zoooooo zweeet!!!"
I said, "Thank you soooooo much!!"
He said, "You are welcome zoooooo much!"

Playground on the Seine

 I ran back down the street, down the stairs, to the subway where Lisa, Ethan and Derek were waiting for me.  We bought our tickets and prayed there were still trains running.  There were and we got home safe and sound and collapsed in our beds.  

This morning we filled up on croissants and excellent coffee and are on our way to the Musee d'Orsay and maybe the Louvre, depending on how we feel after the first museum.  At least Derek and I are.  Lisa and Ethan are spending the day at Paris Disney.  

Riverwalk by the Seine.  

Before going to the museum we found a small bakery shop down the street from the museum.  Derek got some kind of ham and cheese concoction and I got a baguette filled with three different kinds of cheeses:  Brie, Swiss, some hard cheese that was incredible, topped off with lettuce and tomato.  This baguette was about a foot long so I told Derek he could have what I didn't finish.

Didn't happen.  I ate the whole thing.  I couldn't stop.  Will I ever eat this well again after I leave France?  Doubtful.  Need to savor what I can.

 Like Venice, honeymooners like to place their locks on the bridges that cross the Seine and throw the key into the river.

After the museum, Derek and I walked up and down the Seine, talking and enjoying the scenery.  A woman walked by us, stopped suddenly, and acted surprised.  She picked up a golden ring off the sidewalk and looked at us.  "Yourz?"  she asked.

Luckily I had already read about this scam.  A person pretends to find a golden ring and you both agree to sell it and split the difference.  The catch is, you have to give them money as collateral.  Yeah, right.

I said, "No thanks" in my most sardonic tone and we walked on.

Musee d'Orsay.  It used to be a train station.  This is where the French Impressionist art is kept.  There was only one Manet.  The rest were on exhibition in Venice.  Grrr...

The Tuileries Garden.  It is across the Seine from the Musee d'Orsay and sandwiched in-between the Louvre and the Orangerie Museum where Monet's "Water Lillies"  paintings are kept.

Derek and I spent a good bit of the afternoon sitting in the Tuileries garden.  There's hundreds of scenic spots to just sit and breath in the garden scents, people watch and just enjoy the peaceful environment.

Derek told me that just sitting and talking for hours with me was his favorite part of our trip.  I think he enjoyed both of us being alone for a change.

 Me at the Tuileries

Scenes from the Tuileries

The Louvre
The entrance is through the glass pyramid.

After spending most of the afternoon at the Tuileries, I told Derek that I wanted to see what we could of the Louvre before it closed.  We had a two day pass but I knew the Louvre was big and we would need to see what we could today.  

 My son, the ham.  He just can't resist.

We had less than two hours but we managed to reach the Mona Lisa.  She's a very popular lady.  We worked our way through the tight mass of tourists and got our pictures taken in front of her.

It was strange.  I've seen so many prints of this painting that I had to remind myself that this time I was viewing the original.
Moi in front of the Mona Lisa or "Gioconda"

 Derek in front of the Mona Lisa

And the lady by herself.

Incredible first day.  We didn't see Lisa and Ethan until extremely late.  We all slept soundly in our little room with the uneven floor and flooded bathroom.


  1. Very cool trip. When we travel I also found that the best places to eat or those you stumble onto.

    I still can't get used to the glass pyramid.

  2. Zohar: I don't think there is a bad place to eat in Paris. I also was surprised at the modernity of the pyramid in the midst of those old buildings. I think it was a king's palace at one point.

  3. This post made me hungry!

    I am really glad to hear that Parisians were so nice. Sometimes a reputation feeds on itself and distorts reality.

    1. Brian: I don't know if I'll ever eat that well again. As for the Parisians, I think people are people where ever you live. I lived in the Northeast and I found New Yorkers to be as nice as anyone I've ever met anywhere.

  4. These are great. I also have a lot of memories from visiting Paris.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.