Category Archives: travelbunny

PARIS ’97: day 5: No wonder California works so hard to keep the French wines out of the stores…..

We all went up to Boulangerie Paul’s for chocolat chaud et pain chocolat. This little patisserie was getting to be a habit for Deb and me. Even one of the girls there recognized us and we talked a little. It was still rainy but not torrential, but not very cold.
Our new rule about going places was that you took the Metro to a farther out place, and then walked the rest form there. So, metro to Notre Dame, did touristy picture thing inside and out, grabbed an obscene amount of postcards and trinkets at some little crap shop, walked up rue St Denis toward Pompidou center in Beauborg. Found my first internet cafe, and we had a peek around, but I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe there are better ones out there, I hope so.
Skipped that and went up the tube escalators and went to the cafe on top of the Pompidou Center and wrote out postcards whilst re-establishing body core temperature again.
Since we were so close, we walked over to Les Halles and went into the shopping mall there. deb picked up the scent of shoes and went charging off into the distance. Ack and I found the FNAC (mecca of media) and after drooling over lots of $100 software, went home.
Nabbed 2 baguettes at out local bakery, ate leftover risotto, baguettes, and french wine for $2.25 at the local Kwik-E-mart….
Let me just rant and rave a little here about California wines….
We are being soaked for upwards of $12 a bottle for mediocre, non-imported (near vineger sometimes) wine. We got 2 bottles in a row of WONDERFUL French wine for 12 F, as I mentioned before, about $2.25 a bottle and the only thing you could buy for that in the states would be as tasty as lighter fluid, “Hey bubba, pass me that yummy Ronsenol!”. Yo! California wine producers, shape up or ship out.
…and the tomatoes here have actual flavor! Roma tomatoes, the only semblance of flavored tomatoes you can buy in a store have nothing on the tomatoes you can get here. I will eat 5 or 6 tomatoes by themselves in one sitting because they taste so wonderful. Amazing.
And while we are on a produce roll….white peaches are better than chocolate….think about what you are reading here, people…and who’s writing this. WOW.
estimated miles walked: approximately 4

PARIS ’97: day 4: anybody know how big a cubit is?

Deb ran off this morning by herself to nurse the muse. She left us a note that we found about an hour after we woke up. So we decide to explore up the other side of Fg St. Honore. Know what we found?
RAIN.
Well that and La Madeleine, a very Roman pillar and pagan looking church smack dab in the middle of town. Very nice, still wet though.
Shoes got a bit soggy from walking all that way but as soon as we found a store we popped in and bought some serious rain proof shoes. Mine are lumberjack boots, and of course, I had the lumberjack song in my head all day!
Found Achilles an umbrella so that he wouldn’t be totally soggy, and off we went. As you walk up the Fg. St Honore it changes into Blvd. Haussman and then it turns into Montmartre. To solve an old mystery that we have been questioning for a while, we stopped into McDonalds and looked. Quentin was wrong, its Royale Cheese, not Royale with Cheese.
Geez, those Hollywood types.
The Hard Rock was about 10 feet from the McD’s so I stopped in to get my customary guitar pin, I’ll try to take a picture of my hat with all of the pins from the various locations.) The conversation I had with the guy there was great! We alternated in French and English and talked about San Francisco vs. Paris. They covet our ocean, by the way, referring to the Seine as “that dirty thing in the middle of town.”
Having accomplished that vital mission, we cut across Rue St Denis past many charcuteries [butchers] complete with goat’s heads in the window (you know someone would scream satanism in the US, geez), rabbits, chickens (whole body, sometimes even with the feathers to make it look nice…) and basically things referred to quaintly as “variety meats” and I’ll spare you further details.
Gosh, no thanks, I’ll just go get a baguette. Ewwwwwwwww.
Dropped into Gare de L’Est for Amsterdam info, and after having located the info, ran into a guy from Dallas (who’s HS turns 100 years old in NY city), who is doing the as many countries as you can pack into 2 weeks. He sold us his leftover metro tickets and we chatted a bit and then Ack and I took the Metro home.
When we arrived back at the hotel, Deb was there all smug in that she smote the force of evil and chaos and managed to get some rice that would do for risotto. The risotto was a success, even with a minimal kitchen and forces of nature against her (terribly yummy risotto) Early-ish night since we’d been walking out in the rain and were kinda cold.
estimated miles walked: approximately 4 1/2

PARIS ’97: day 3: Le Shopping til you are dropping.

Achilles decided to abandon the women folk to do what we do oh so well…shop. He had an extraordinary walk, but if you want that description, email him yourself. Deb and I decided to pillage Prisunic (earlier rhapsodic reference to that if you are missing a description), we only spent about an hour in there, but I did restrain myself admirably remembering that I had to carry home anything I bought. No large french flower pots for me. Although, I will see if I can take pics of the paintings on the outside of the french farm animals making french barnyard noises…I’m quite the little gardener lately and that stuff makes me almost as happy as gadgets.
On the way back, Deb hit her favorite shoe store, but only drooled a little and didn’t bring out an Uzi and take the store hostage with demands of ‘one pair of shoes in each color or this sales clerk is toast!’ I think she is in a 12 step program for her Arche shoe addiction. Deb and I continue our quest for the rice, no such luck. We did however manage to locate all the other ingredients and get some really wonderful shrimpies before the guy closed up shop. We walked back and forth to the Blvd Grand Armees about 2 times before we gave up on the idea of finding an open Italian deli or shop. We did stop into a nifty little junk shop where I bought an umbrella.
Back at the corner of Ternes I went into the FNAC while Deb ran the back streets one more time. I drooled over the french books, cd’s, lasers and computers for a while then met Deb at the corner.
We got home before our appointed meeting time, listed to the Odyssey that Achilles took…marveled that he could walk that far (I think he was wearing 7 league boots). We talked for a while and we going to forage for food a little later on since it was only about 6 and no one was really terribly hungry. Risotto, we decided, was not meant to be that day.
Oops.
A 3 1/2 hour nap later we decided to take a chance on the Italian take out next door. So Deb and I run down and I burst into spontaneous French (it seems to have taken hold again) and off we go with marvelous little pizzas and spaghettis back to our room.
total miles walked: approximately 5

PARIS ’97: day 2: Will work for hip replacement

After having slept an indecent amount of time in Deb’s estimation (what everyone doesn’t sleep in excess of 11 hours?) we launched ourselves forth into the wilds of Paris. Walked up to the Arc de Triumphe (get your map out now, we are at Rue de Faubourg St. Honore and rue Balzac in the 8th arrondissment) and the walked down the zoo that is the Champs Elysees on a Saturday. We stopped here and there, most notably PrisUnic which is a dead ringer for Target but has an entire level of the best food you ever saw: breads, cheese, wines and yummies that you can’t get in America for less than $20 a pop. Then we walked down the Champs Elysees up to Ave Franklin D. Roosevelt and were briefly considering going to the Metro, but ended up walking back up to the Fg. St Honore and hoofing it over to the Opera. Deb pillaged the Galeries Lafayette and I made sure Achilles didn’t go stark raving mad while all of these ravenous shoppers pooled and eddied around him in their shopping frenzy. =: ) I found a pair of 20 Franc espadrilles (a GREAT DEAL) and we saw a wonderful vintage Jaguar parked on the streets. Deb did a cheesecake pose in front of it.
From the Opera we took the Metro and got off on Franklin D. Roosevelt station and walked back up the Champs Elysees. We went back to the apt. at that point to dump stuff off and get change clothes…oh yeah, did I neglect to mention it was HOT that day? About 95 degrees F. Yeow. I was about to pass out from the heat.
After an hour or so at the apt cooling our feet and selves, we went out again and went all the way down Rue d’Iena and over the Pont d’Iena to the Eiffel Tower. This was about 7:15 p.m. It stays really light until about 10 pm, so we had several hours to play yet. We walked around under the tower and got one of those hot dogs made from almost an entire baguettes and munched for a while watching about 5 kids terrorizing the pigeons. Then we walked down to the river and got tickets for the bateaux-mouches, those flat bottom boats that go up and down the Seine under all the bridges. There was this little girl, who I’m certain learned to walk about 5 hours before, that was running up and down the walkways with manic glee while her mother patiently followed her around for the entire hour of the boat ride. It was great. I think I got a picture of that, too.
From there we walked down into the 7th arr. and grabbed the Metro at Ecole Militaire and went into the 6th at St. Michel. There are about 500 densely packed restaurants in the old medieval winding streets, where guys point at you and say, “Here’s your table!” We finally ended up in a Greek restaurant and ate ourselves into a coma. At midnight we were in the mood for nothing else but sleep. So we took the metro back and walked home where we promptly passed out.
total miles walked:approximately 15

PARIS ’97: day 1: the flight from hell

American Airlines can just bite me.
We got on the plane in SF to Chicago and it was your run of the mill flight, they played Jerry Macguire, but cut out my favorite part where Cuba Gooding, Jr. says “Did you shoplift the bootie?” Bummer. So, no big deal.
We get to Chicago and do the layover thing and get on the plane to Paris. I quote the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “Woo Hoo!”
Well, the flight is about 7 hours long. So we are already pooped and uncomfortable from the first 4 hours leg of the flight. But, being a good little camper who wants to go to Paris, I buck up and just wiggle around a lot to keep what passes for circulation in my body.
About 3 1/2 hours into the flight, we were over Newfoundland, I believe, the captain comes over the intercom with his very loud, very nasal voice and says “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have lost one of our in flight navigation systems and will have to go back to Chicago since we can’t go over the water without a redundant system.”
Getting another nav system didn’t wig me out, It was flying ALL the way back to Chicago that really set everyone’s hair on edge. I did particularly hear the smokers who hadn’t had a cig in about 4-5 hours.
After a near mutiny, the captain conceded us going to New York to either repair the plane or get a new one if its available. But that wasn’t all he said, he threw in this little jibe about “All of you who actually understand aviation will know why we should have gone back to Chicago.” Well, those of us who do actually know about aviation got ticked off. But we sat down and took the 2 hours back to New York like good little drones.
We we got to NY, we were told in no uncertain terms that we weren’t going to be able to get off the plane or move around or eat or smoke or….well,Ii think you get the picture. Also this Customer Relations ‘manager’ who was supposed to answer any questions we may have had, basically said “Sit back in your seats or I will call security” and to a woman who was meeting her 7 year old child in Paris who wanted the airline to contact her kid and let her know that she would be late replied “I have more important things to do.”
That’s when the serious predatory instinct kicked in.
To the stewards and stewardesses credit, they were trying to making things comfortable and get us some leeway, but to no avail.
Eventually, the repairmen who were determining the status of the repairs, declared the plane irreparable and we had to change planes. I think they realized that we were a crazed mob who had been stuck in our tiny little seats for 6 hours and still had a 7 hour flight ahead of us as well…..and they hadn’t fed me recently either. Always a bad sign.
So 2 1/2 hours later, after swiftly removing any traces of that heinous CR rep so that we wouldn’t BBQ her on a spit, we got back onto a fresh plane with a new crew and captain who didn’t have such a whiny little voice. They toadied up very nicely and fed me immediately. The cool thing though was that these seats had those little video monitors in the back of the seat with a kind of remote control in the arm rest. The remote was extremely cool, you could switch channels, do the volume etc, and switch over to radio, but, you could also turn it sideways and play Nintendo or flip it over completely and it was a credit card airphone! Also it has a setting where you could look at the status of the flight:position, time remaining, miles/km remaining, and outside airspeed temp etc. Yes, placate me with gadgets every time.
Unfortunately, I was so exhausted that I played with the toy a little and passed out in those uncomfortable chairs. We got to Paris at 3 pm and luckily enough our ride to the apartment knew we were going to be late and came back for us. Customs even stamped my passport..they are notorious for seeing my American passport and waving me on through-you can’t even beg them for a stamp. The last time I went to Europe I don’t have a single incident in my passport that would even look like I was there. Siggghhhh.
We get to the apartment and get settled and immediately go in search of food. We end up wandering around North of the Arc de Triumphe on the Blvd Grand Armees at a brasserie, where I had confit de canard avec frites (candied duck with garlicky fries)…WONDERFUL!!!! We sat outside and talked for quite a while, then went back home where we all went comatose for about 11 hours.
total miles walked:approximately 5

PARIS ’97: day 6:all dressed up and no metro station to change at….

Well, today was the designated Louvre day, still extremely cold. Deb was to meet Ack et moi at the Palais Royale metro station at 11:30 am to go and subject ourselves to the three impossibly large wings of the Louvre and its treasures.
The French decided to make it a little more difficult.
We get to the metro station, Ternes, and are about to go to Charles de Gaulle Etoile metro and change to a direct route to Palais Royale, when I hear a garbled message informing us that Charles de Gaulle Etoile has been closed for all traffic. You can coast through it but you can’t change to other metro lines. Rather inconvenient, but I find a roundabout way to get to the Louvre.
We meet Deb at the entrance of the pyramid and find out that it is Liberation Day, the day the French finally got rid of those pesky Nazi’s in WWII. Ok, so I don’t begrudge them a celebration, I do begrudge them closing off the metro station for the stupid parade.
Deb did tell me a nifty little fact while we were prowling around the Louvre though…apparently the Resistance found out before the salles boches were stomping into town and in one night EMPTIED OUT THE LOUVRE and put them in a safe place until after the war.
Cute trick.
Squeezed past the Mona Lisa and her cult, and Deb nearly had heart failure (as did the guard when she threatened to take hostages when she couldn’t find the Madonna of the Rocks) but we found it around the corner and averted yet another international incident. I may be taken out and shot for this, but quite frankly, I don’t see the attraction of the Mona Lisa on the scale that it is.
Saw the Winged Victory of Samothrace (now there’s a sculpture worthy of it’s fame), had a good laugh about the children’s book, Eloise, where she leaves her parapluie (umbrella) behind winged victory and argues with the guard to get it back. I carried mine around, thank you very much.
I was more interested in the museum itself than a lot of the art there. Sacrilege, I know, but hey, I’m a photographer. I love the play of light on shapes. Major amount of film used on stairs, doorways, patterns in sculpture and I was all over the floor getting very dusty in the Sumerian and Etruscan wings. The guards found it rather amusing.
After about 3 straight hours of wandering and getting trapped in the late renaissance French painters wing (it was horrible, I’ll have deep emotional scars for years now) we ran outside gasping for air and needing coffee. Just down the Rue de Rivoli at the Place Jeanne D’Arc we ducked into a cafe and had cafe creme and Deb had tea for her afternoon snack.
It was frigid, we were pooped, so we went home and had risotto and chicken and passed out.
miles walked: approximately 5 miles