|Subject: Final parts of Paris Trip (long)|
Friday, July 23 On My Own Again
Last night I was falling asleep during #Amadeus,# so I turned it off. Mozart#s maniacal laughter was getting to me anyway.
A very tiring day today, as I spent over 6 hours at Forum des Halles. It#s a very confusing maze, but at least it was air conditioned. The other bad feature is that there is no place to sit in the mall. Even the fast food places (mostly French) had no seating except for McDonald#s. My feet got so tired that I had to improvise, like for a few minutes on a chair in a shoe store (after getting the owner#s permission), on a dining chair in a Pier Import store, on a narrow ledge, and finally at McDonald#s, where I ended up eating so I could sit. I would have preferred food from one of the French places.
When I first got off the Metro at Les Halles and went up the escalator to the first floor of the mall level, I saw a store called La Redoute. I stared at it, wondering why it sounded so familiar. Then it hit me -- my women#s clothing catalog from France! Ohmigosh, they actually have stores, and here#s one! When I went inside, I saw it was so much better than La Samaritaine, which is vastly over-rated.
I found out that the dressing rooms are called #cabines,# and the check-out area is called #caisses.# I ended up getting a pretty, sweater-knit sleeveless top for only 8 euros. (The summer Soldes are on!)
Then I stopped by an art poster store and picked up some poster cards for the kids and myself.
I saw there was a large 3-story discount store there called FNAC, so I decided to try to find it from the map they had in each corridor intersection. It was heck to find it, though, in all that maze of corridors. What#s cute is that they#re named like in a town -- rue this and rue that, and where they converge is called a place this or that. Place Carrere was the one I had to remember to get back to for the Metro entrance by La Redoute.
I finally found FNAC, and it turned out to be a 3-story electronics store! They did have books and maps on part of the first level, though, and I got some French maps. I finally realized it was an electronics store when I got to the 3rd level and saw nothing else. From there, though, I spotted the top level of a store across the way called H&M. When I entered it, I saw it was a huge discount clothing store on 3 levels, and with the summer Soldes going on at up to 70% off, the prices were even lower. I liked a lot of their clothing, and I picked up some cute things for around 7 and 8 euros apiece. They were all matching pieces in pink coral, a color I love.
While I was at Les Halles, I saw two optique stores (I think there are a total of eight in the mall!), but they don#t have clip-on sunglasses either. In one of them, I was told (in French, but I got the gist of it) that the French people who wear glasses get the photosynthetic kind that change from clear to dark when you go outside, and vice versa when you go inside. So, no clip-ons.
That was enough shopping, so I worked my way through the maze again and finally found a sign for Place Carrere. On my way there, I stopped at the McDonald#s to rest my feet and have something to eat.
I found the Metro station, and the train pulled up as I got to the platform. I now know that rue Pepin (I never saw a rue Pepin around the hotel, though!) is the exit I should take to end up at the little park across from the hotel. It really saves on walking when you#re tired.
(An observation: Parisians seem to always be in a hurry and rushing
everywhere. I keep getting bumped into and almost knocked over
everywhere on sidewalks, in the Metro stations, in the stores, etc. And
they say Americans are always in a hurry! Maybe in New York City, but not
in Southern California; we#re more laid back
As I rode up on the tiny elevator at the hotel, I saw that Thierry had posted a notice in it about the times tomorrow for Versailles (12:30) and for the evening dinner at Le Procope (7 p.m.). He also had our names on a schedule showing when we would each be leaving for the airport on Sunday. My time is 7:30 a.m., as my flight leaves at 10:15 a.m.
Back in my room, I spent over an hour pre-packing since I#ll be having a busy day tomorrow.
----------------------- It is now almost 9 p.m., and I am going to walk up the street to McDonald#s for an ice cream sundae.
----------------------- 11:30 p.m., and I#m back from my big evening out. It was quite a walk to get to the nearest Internet café that#s open 24/7, and it was hard to find, as most buildings don#t have numbers on them. When I did see a #17 on a building, I knew I#d gone too far. I had found one, but it was closed. So I crossed the street and went back up the other side. I finally found it, but it looked abandoned, with signs pointing further up the street saying X-Arena. So I kept walking and found the new location just past the KFC restaurant. I went inside, paid 3 euros for an hour, and found an empty spot at a computer. Since everything was in French and it had a French keyboard instead of the QWERTY I#m used to as a touch typist, I was having problems, especially when everything was in a different place, and I wasn#t familiar with French computer terms. There was an English girl sitting at the computer next to me, and she asked if she could help, so she got me started. What was especially hard was that 3 common keys (a, m, w) were located differently, and to use a period you had to shift. With the colon, you didn#t have to shift -- just the opposite of the QWERTY. I logged on to pincity.com (which I am using for my calls from Paris to San Diego to talk to my kids, and which was recommended by someone on the Travelzine list) and re-charged my card for $10, with an option to add $20 if it drops below $5. I was down to a little over $2 from my original $20, but that was with a number of calls to Greg and Michelle, so that was really good. I then checked my e-mail and sent a message to both of them (very slow because of the different keyboard).
I left there about 10:30 p.m. and walked up to St. Denis for a chocolate sundae at McDonald#s. It tasted just like the ones at home, but it cost 1.50 euros, about $1.80!
Saturday, July 24 Versailles
I#m just back from breakfast and will do some more packing for about an hour before going on the Versailles trip.
The restaurant for the quintessential dinner tonight is called Le Procope, as I saw on Thierry#s notice in the elevator. I just looked it up in my #Affordable Paris# book, as it#s the most accessible one in my suitcase. It says it#s the oldest café in Paris, and it#s on the Left Bank. It was opened in 1686 (!) by an Italian named Procopio. It has had many famous people as customers, including Diderot, Voltaire, Balzac, George Sand, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, etc. Also, the fomenters of the French Revolution met there. Napoleon forgot his hat there once, and it#s encased in a glass dome. Sounds like a very interesting place!
-------------------------- On to Versailles! We had a very good tour guide today, Veronique. On the way to Versailles, she talked about the sights in Paris that we were passing. I learned that the Palais Royal (right next to Hotel du Louvre and which our room last year overlooked) is where Louis XIV lived as a child. She said that all the statues of him were destroyed during the Revolution except for one. That one is in a museum.
We passed through the tunnel by Pont d#Alma where Princess Diana was killed. It#s a short tunnel, and the pillar the car hit -- #13 (ironically) -- has been left the way it was. You can see a huge black mark on it, and it has a crack. So, so sad.
We arrived at Versailles, most of which is now a town. The road we traveled through was the main road to the palace. At the time royalty lived there, horse-drawn carriages rode down it, while on both sides are two rows of trees that were planted at the time. Behind the first row of trees was an equestrian path (which you can still see), and behind the second row was a pedestrian path.
The palace itself is extensive with many acres of grounds, including the gardens and two huge reflecting pools -- one circular and one rectangular right behind it. We were there at the time the fountains flowed while classical music played. Very soothing.
We toured several rooms of the palace -- very sumptious. All the curved ceilings have been beautifully painted with various scenes, including one of the Roman goddess Diana. I saw Louis XIV#s bedroom suite, as well as Marie Antoinette#s, and the Hall of Mirrors -- all very ornate and beautiful.
On the way back to Paris as we traveled along the Seine, I took several photos from the bus, including where Princess Diana died. There#s a golden-gilded replica of the Statue of Liberty#s flame above the tunnel. It had already been there before, but now it is thought of as a memorial to Diana, and people lay flowers there.
We went past the Orangerie on the grounds of the Louvre. It has been gutted for renovation for quite some time. It was supposed to have been finished last year, but while digging, ruins of 15th century Paris walls were found, so everything was stopped. It#s unknown if or when the Orangerie will be finished.
------------------------- Later: What a disappointment! After getting ready for the excursion to Le Procope, I went downstairs to find out it had been cancelled! The restaurant lost the reservation, Thierry said, and couldn#t take all of us. He gave us receipts confirming that we will get our money back from GoAhead Vacations. He said he didn#t cancel the bus and suggested we all go over to Ile de St. Louis and find our own restaurant to eat at. The bus would bring us back about 10 or 10:30 p.m. Well, for one thing, I don#t do restaurants by myself, and no one offered to have me join them. It was mostly the rowdy group from the community college in Salinas (Calif.). The people I#m friendly with hadn#t signed up for this. Also, my right leg is hurting since all the walking on cobblestones at Versailles, so I don#t want to do a lot of walking. Thirdly, I would like to get to bed by 10 p.m. since I#m getting up at 6 a.m. for the 7:30 departure to the airport. I am very upset that the reservations weren#t checked before this. I accepted the cancelled trip to Champagne, which I was really looking forward to, but this was the last straw. I have an evaluation form to fill out, and GoAhead is going to hear about this.
As the others took off, I went to my room to leave my light jacket and
change from my purse to a fannypack. I wanted to do something, so since I
didn#t want to do much walking, I went the two blocks to the bigger
Monoprix, like Michelle did when she was lonely and upset. I found that
they had cleaned up their act. It looked much better organized and
better-stocked and clean, but the clothing selection is still sparse, and
not cheap. No Soldes here! I got a bar of olive soap, which is what
everyone on the Paris-Oui list seems to do when they come to Paris
I#m back in the room and just finished having some crackers and cheese. Now I#ll have a flan and piece of chocolate, see what else I can pack tonight, and then go to bed.
Off to home tomorrow, and I#m looking forward to it. I miss my kids.
ADDENDUM: Air France from Paris to Atlanta, Sunday, July 25.
They goofed on my seat assignment, putting me in the middle seat in the middle of the plane in the next-to-the-back row. They had not honored my prior seat assignment of a window seat in the center of the plane. It took some tears, but I finally got them to change me to an aisle seat in the very last row. Other than that, I really liked Air France. They passed out little amenity kits to those of us in coach, and they contained ear bud headphones to keep and to use on the plane for the movies on the TV sets inset into the back of each seat. Also, eye shades, ear plugs, a mint, and a moistened towelette. Later we were given little menus for our first meal, and I picked salmon. We were also given a second meal before landing in Atlanta.
For the last 3 hours of the flight, there was a 12-year-old American boy, Justin, who sat next to me, replacing his 15-year-old sister (the family had been separated on the plane). After introductions, I tried to sleep but couldn#t, and then he started talking with me. He was an amazing conversationalist and wise beyond his years -- very intelligent and articulate. The time flew by as we talked about everything from music to politics. His family has been living in Paris for a year and is flying home to Seattle for a visit of 4 weeks before flying back to Paris for another year. This was the best conversation I#ve had in a long time. I wish I could have stayed in touch with him.
Paris is over for this year, but I did enjoy myself in spite of being alone. Paris is so lovely, and I felt safe on the streets late at night. I didn#t see nearly enough of it this year, but I#ll be back next year.
Diana San Diego, California