samedi 25 juin 2011

First Days

Au Lecteur/to the reader - We're composing this blog with a few purposes - 1) as a journal for ourselves; 2) as a travelogue (or maybe statilogue, because we're hanging out mostly in Paris) for friends who asked for it; and 3) for others who may have reason to be interested.  So feel free to peruse as much or as little of it as you wish.  The opportunity was provided by Carolee's retirement from the Federal Court, and her sibling Duane glommed onto the opportunity.  The chosen duration was 3 months and an apartment was rented through a web agency.

[Duane] Carolee and I traveled separately with almost identical schedules, both with a transfer at O'Hare.  But, as we learned later, both were delayed there and had to scurry for dear life to connect.  We both made it but were, of course, worried about the other all the way.  Because of my cane they scheduled a wheelchair for me at Paris CDG.  I was too proud to be wheeled, but the attendant stuck with me and broze me like lightning through passport control and customs.  Out in the hurly-burly of the reception hall I sent the attendant off with what I hoped was an adequate tip and ten seconds later heard Carolee call my name.  Whew!  Moral: should have traveled together!  
At the blue gate to the courtyard

The courtyard

Door to front apartments

Blue gate from street, apartment above

     As a luxury, maybe a necessary luxury with my gimpiness, we had hired a car and driver to take us into the city and the apartment.  Heavy stop-and-go traffic on the Peripherique was replaced with heavy stop-and-go on a city street as we entered at the Port de Vincennes. But eventually we turned into our street in the twelfth arrondissement, and down towards the end found our number.  Our landlord called down to us and after a bit of confusion we entered through a handsome arched gateway, a handsome passageway into a handsome court and found the door to our apartment block at the right.  Up one flight of fine oak steps we met our landlord and were shown the ropes.  Soon enough he was gone and we did some basic setup, made a list, and went into the neighborhood for our first exploration and shopping.
     After the naps we had vowed not to take we walked under the viaduc des arts (picture later) and crossed the Canal St-Martin on a footbridge, then up to Place de la Bastille and back home.  A good beginning.
Marina, Canal St-Martin, Bastille Column

Aligre Market, covered section
Place des Vosges

Micky's Deli, Rue des Rosiers
     The second day Carolee introduced me to the Marche d'Aligre, a farmers' market a few blocks away.  Plenty of yummy produce and great prices on most of it.  The picture shows a shop in the covered portion where they have meats and cheeses - none of them cheap.  That afternoon a short excursion was made to the Place des Vosges and the Jewish district just west of it.  Dinner was at a very French place a few blocks away, Bistro de Paris.  Our entree, entrecote, was fairly chewy steak with a very good Bearnaise sauce.

By the third day we had become well acquainted with the neighborhood shops, knew what we wanted to buy and where, and began a routine of daily shopping and healthy eating at home.  Afternoons were for excursions here and there in the city.  By now we had bought a packet of tickets good on either metro or buses but hadn't yet braved the metro because of my gimpy legs.  So we gave it a shot and took our local line to the Opera, where I had to see, of all things, the Galeries Lafayette.  Why?  It has an amazing stained glass dome over the women's building.  We were properly amazed by this but also by the endless supply of high-class fashion clothing, accessories and suggestive advertising.
Galeries Lafayette cupola, glass & iron

Model strutting in Place Vendome
      Walking back to the opera we got scammed for 5 euros by a girl with an impressive act.  No big deal.  I wanted to cruise down to the Tuileries Gardens so we walked in light rain down the rue de la Paix past fashion house after fashion house and into the Place Vendome (Ritz Hotel), where we were amused to find a fashion model strutting for a gaggle of cameramen.  Crossing the Rue de Rivoli, we then descended into the gardens, which we had almost to ourselves because of the rain.  A comfortable if wet sit at the central pool was followed by our exit up and out and right down again into the Metro.  We got thoroughly bewildered by the change to a different Metro line at the Bastille station (long, poorly marked passages, stairs up and down) and vowed never again.
Carolee, Pont de Sully, Quai des Celestines

Duane, Square John XXIII

Line to enter Notre Dame
     Saturday's excursion was from the apartment to Notre Dame and beyond.  So it was over the Canal St-Martin once again and along the length of the Ile St-Louis and onto the main island, where we rested for a while in a charming garden at the apse end of Notre Dame.  Then it was along the north side ogling gargoyles and the long lines of tourists waiting to get in.  After a short rest, what the hell?, we went for more.  So it was across to the left bank to St-Julien le Pauvre, a favorite church of Carolee's, then through some restaurant-filled streets (see roasting piglet) to Boulevard St-Michel and up the quay past numerous book vendors to the Pont des Arts for a good view of the island.  More amazing than the island was the sight of thousands of small padlocks attached to the wire netting at each side.  We hear from Gertrude that this is a new fad for lovers  On through the Cour Carree of the Louvre for a view of the pyramid, then we called it a day and dragged ourselves back to the metro and home again.
Roasting chickens and piglets, Cluny area

"Fidelity" padlocks on Pont des Arts

Carolee, Louvre Courtyard, Pei Pyramid
Next day, Sunday, on our way to the market (very crowded) we heard amplified voices and turned over to the Rue Daumesnil where we found the terminus, we think, of a several kilometer footrace.  We helped urge the stragglers on as we walked along beside the Viaduc des Arts.  This structure is an abandoned railway viaduct which has been put to good new use with art stores filling the arches below and a park above, good for jogging.
Darkly, Duane by Viaduc des Arts

Parc Monceau, jogger, birthday party

Carolee at Rue Rembrandt, bourgeois paradise
      Sunday's excursion, an easy one, was to a favorite spot of Carolee's, Parc Monceau, near the Etoile.  Sunday afternoon in the park, you can imagine, was the place for joggers, birthday parties for kids, scout outings, and strollers like ourselves.  A brief sit, followed by a stroll first down the very ritzy Rue Rembrandt, then back to the Etoile and the metro home.
Duane by Seine near Grand Palais, segway enthusiasts

Pont Alexandre III, freshly gilded

     Monday, museums are closed, so we tried a big church, the Madeleine, which lay conveniently on Metro line 8.  A tiresome climb up broad steps for me, which rewarded us with an enormous but dingy space inside.  But we lucked into a  performance of music by a high school choir from Santa Barbara.  We noticed the parents and sibs of the choir sitting near us.  But the powerful reverberation in the church led us to move forward to actually hear the words of the pieces.  Following this, and wanting a little more from the trip, it was down the Rue Royale to the Place de la Concorde, from which, dodging taxis, we descended to a small hidden garden by the Grand Palais.  Hidden it was: a small. leafy concrete grotto with flowing water and stony walls simulated in concrete.  Good for a short rest, anyway.  Once up a set of dangerous rustic steps we opted for a bit more and walked along the Seine, where we were met by a file of segways,  Then over the Pont Alexandre III to the huge expanse of lawn in front of the Invalides, down, down, down into the Metro and home,

Music fans at Solsticial celebration, Bastille

Merguez sausage grilling
     Tuesday, vowing once again to take it easy, but never succeeding, we learned of a concert at the nearly Place de la Bastille, so trooped down there in the afternoon.  The band was from Quebec, and we heard much of Franco-Quebecois amity - between the loud songs, that is.  Vendors of grilled  merguez sausages aplenty.