Paris, France July 2000

0002_22A.jpg (104408 bytes) 0008_16A.jpg (62044 bytes) 0008_17A.jpg (30600 bytes) 0008_22A.jpg (52836 bytes) From my journal, 26 July 2000:

"We're not as quick to get our bearings here as in other places, a combination of the strange language, cryptic menus, and general culture shock for two Americans who've never left home.  Last night we broke down and ate hamburgers and french fries.  Things are looking up, however; today I ordered a pancake filled with sausage, onions and cheese, and Mom agreed it was excellent.  We've been eating sandwiches for lunch until now.

The Louvre overwhelmed us fast and we fled.  I'd forgotten to grab a map, and the city-sized, greatest museum in the world swallowed us. We hit the ancient Greeks and Romans before heading for the exit.   We'll try again tomorrow with a better battle plan.  I think we're tiring in general.  A day off tomorrow might be in order.

We met an English couple on the bus, touring the city for a week-long holiday.   They said they wouldn't be taking the elevator up the Eiffel Tower.  'We climbed it in 1947,' the old gentleman said.  'When we were young.'  He talked about how much he loved his hometown of York and was happy to hear that I'd enjoyed J.M.W. Turner's work and the views of Yorkshire the painter favored so much.  'We can see exactly where he was when he painted some of them,' he said.  His wife had been a nurse, so she and Mom chatted about how it was all going to hell in medicine."


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Rodin's The Kiss
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Rodin's The Thinker
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Rodin's sculpture of Balzac
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Napoleon thought quite highly of himself.  Had this among other impressive displays in his large tomb building.
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Orsay Museum in a renovated rail station
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View down the Champs Elysees from the top of the Arch
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Notre Dame
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Napoleon's Tomb
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Arch at night
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Inside Notre Dame
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Friday 28 July 2000:
"Paris is an acquired taste.  We've adjusted to the mood and rhythm of the place, but still find things slightly off-key.  For instance, the hotel staff seems inexperienced to me and I suspect the place is under new management, as the old, elegantly-printed menu is unfamiliar to room service and the promise of same-day laundry service  ignored.  They're friendly enough, especially as I throw my tiny French vocabulary around, but I feel like we're in some police drama, and instead of real receptionists and bell boys, we have detectives waiting to spring some patient trap.   Meanwhile, they have to deal with the likes of us.

"We waited nearly an hour for a cab this afternoon outside an Air France bus station.  A Parisian woman opened a ziplock bag of potato chips and offered them around to everyone waiting.  She spoke English, among other languages, she said, because she worked for the Ministry of Defense.   She pointed to the gray stone building across the street with an emblem: "RF" for the Republic of France.  She asked where I was from in America and nodded approvingly when I said Texas.  She wore dark glasses with a purple tint, and her red hair was piled high on the middle of her head.  The first time I yelled "taxi" perhaps a bit too loudly, she said, "Ooh la-la!"  The cabs passed us up, either filled or off-duty, we decided.  Finally one emptied at the station and the large female driver waved us in and then nearly ran down a motorcycle in the Esplanade near the Hotel de Invalides.

"After the Louve today we loitered in the Cafe de Flore where Picasso hung out, and we sipped hot chocolate and cafe' creme.  French coffee is rich, only enjoyable if you can relax with it and allow it to cool as people hurry back and forth.  I suspect that is the point."

[Background: The receptionist at our hotel had told me our train reservations for Milan could be made by phone since I had a Eurail Pass, and that I didn't have to worry about doing it any time soon.  I had hoped he would take care of it for me since I didn't have enough French to communicate well over the phone.  He promised he would but never seemed to have time, so I called myself holding the phone with one hand and the translation book in the other. I learned that indeed I was required at the train station, the Gare de St. Lazare.]  From Sunday 30 July 2000:

"I told the effeminate receptionist at the hotel that I'd made the train reservations myself, that I'd been required to show the Europass in person, and had spent four hours that morning at the train station.  He told me it wasn't true--that I didn't have to go in person--but waved his hand in agreement when I told him the lady on the phone had told me to come.  It was noon when I walked back through the door, tired, disgusted, and hungry.  There wasn't time for Versailles or at least there wasn't the energy.   I wanted to see the Orsay Museum anyway, so that's where we went in the afternoon, strolling along the Manets, Renoirs, Van Goghs, and Cezzanes.  Crowds filled the Impressionist rooms and hovered near the Van Goghs, in particular the self-portrait done just before his suicide and the cramped terror of  "The Bedroom."   I wondered if we loved his work or the madness beneath it, like voyeurs.

LEAVING FRANCE  31 July 2000

"We're rolling through the French countryside now, just south of Paris, bound for Provence then Milano.  I'll hate not stopping in Avignon or Arles, since I wanted to leave France with a ballast to the high flying Parisian experience.  Small villages fly past the window: wooden barns filled with timber, tall church spires marking the center of town with stone houses and flat-roofed shops clinging to the green hillsides.   The sky is a distant fading blue that I've convinced myself is different than at home.  Makes sense since we're still much further north.  Low LCLs today and the lonely cumulus hover just above the treeline.  Looks like a storm day to me. Strange not knowing."