Saturday, August 08, 2009

Day 1 in Paris!!

Updated this post to add some pics....

Evidence that I really AM in Paris!
Corn on the cob anyone?
I'd explain what this guy is, or is doing, but I really have no idea....
Notre Dame from the left bank:
Notre Dame again from the left bank, I stood between the little sidewalk kiosk guys to take these:
This guy was selling some truly ancient stuff. Pinned up at the right are the old sheets of music, larger than 11x17 office paper:
Little cafe where I had my lunch (and the scene of a little surprise which I wrote about the following day - scroll up to the next entry):
These guys look like they stole the luggage carts from the airport... but they are probably from a train station... regardless, they are giving the strong young backpacker image a bit of a dent....
My artist lady organizing her work (more about her below):
My artist lady helping people out with directions:
Here's how the mail pickup goes... I used one of these mailboxes in Aix and I couldn't understand the difference between the 2 slots... here's evidence that the 2 sections are picked up separately, though I am sure I saw something flutter from one side to the other, so I trust they do another sort for strays...
I'll have the Croque Monsieur!
My artist lady sitting painting....
My artist lady's paints when I first came across the scene....
Notre Dame from the back... few tourists see this view....
The paradox between rich and poor... ended up journalling a lot on that them this day....
Directions on the Siene!
This lady was measuring the circumfrance of the tree. Really.
One pic from outside the memorial site described below:
An exterior shot of the memorial site:
Some edict about parks in Paris.... seemed more about how much they are required to keep them open so all have access than police rules....
Canadian girl gets artsy with her camera:
Notre Dame from the side, lots miss this too...
Ah, Notre Dame!!
People, people and more people.... this line stretched for blocks....
These signs mean I am in Paris!
Band doing a sound check... Check out the statue on the right, it looks like she is joining in...
Hanging out waiting for the concert to start....
Well, my first day in Paris was all I could want, and more. I can't believe I have so many more days to go....

Mini-expedition at the start of the day yesterday was a walk up to a cafe for cafe au lait and a crossaint (I wasn't going to have the croissant, as I'd already had cereal in my flat, but the very French waitress looked so crushed for me that I broke down and had one... it wasn't hard), and then a trip to Monoprix for water and a few more groceries. Then home to put those things away and organize for my day. It was a much cooler day, which was a relief.

I decided to explore Rue de Temple right down to the Seine, and it only took me 25 minutes to reach Hotel de Ville. There are probably 40 jewellry stores on Rue de Temple - I presume following the custom of collecting similar shops in a single area to draw clients. Several are wholesale only, none top end, lots of inexpensive costume jewellry, and a few mid-range places with some designer stuff. My niece (who is a jewellry student) will love it! I am sure I'll pick up a bangle or bobble or two, but not to be distracted by this yet....

There is some big music festival set up in the square in front of Hotel de Ville, but no bands on when I went by. Will have to look up the info and perhaps swing back there when there is something to swing to. And, besides, there was Notre Dame rising just ahead...!

I crossed the Seine at Pont d'Arcole, pausing to look down on Paris Plages, where they turn the banks of the Seine into a beach for much of the summer, which I plan to experience.... Once over the bridge, wham, suddenly, there I was in a crowded street of tourists. Which I can't really complain about, considering I am one.... 2 short blocks and I was at Notre Dame. The loooong lines of people lined up to get in rather amazed me, I don't remember waiting that long when I visited... and I expect I will go back at some point (um, as much as I'd like to see the gargoyles up close, I do not envision myself climbing up to them!).

Crossing the island, immediately to the left of Notre Dame is a little park called Square Jean XXIII, which is an immediate relief from the crowds, river side walk, green grass and trees, benches and a mix of both locals and a few tourists wise to the diversion. There are nice views of Notre Dame from here as well. The little benched areas looked nice, but had little playgrounds, so I carried on a bit... At the end of this stretch, where Pont de L'archeveche begins, I came across another little park, Square de L'le France, full of trees and benches, at the point of the island and containing one of the sights I wanted to see at some point (though I thought it was elsewhere): Memorial de Martyrs et de la Deportation. I sat in the shade and waited for about half an hour for the memorial to reopen (only 1 guy working, so I guess he gets the French version of a siesta... ).

Memorial de Martyrs et de la Deportation is a stunning and moving monument. The information panel at the entrance was enough to bring on reflection (the memorial is to honour the over 200,000 French deportees and vicitims of the holocaust). "It was designed by French modernist architect, writer, teacher, and town planner Georges-Henri Pingusson and opened in 1962. Pingusson intended that its long and narrow subterranean space convey a feeling of claustrophobia." (Wikipedia). The designer certainly achieved his objective, and it was a very sombering experience, but one important to feel and not to be rushed. Afterwards, I sat in the shade and I wrote about the experience rather extensively in my journal. Then quietly moved on.

I needed lunch. As I crossed the river, I came across an unattended artist's stand, paintings ready for sale, and a current work, paints and brush just sitting there. Had to snap a shot, as it was so, well, French! As I stood looking at the art, the woman emerged from the cafe across the street. And I bought one of her water colours of the same cafe (30E - not expensive for some, but a real splurge for me!) then, of course, had to go to the very same cafe for lunch: beer and a Croque Monsieur (heaven!!!). I was inspired to write a lot more about the little details of this interaction, so they are tucked away in what I now realize will be quite a stack of journals when I get home....

Afterwards, I strolled along, browsing at all the little typical Paris river side vendors. Amongst all the tourist stuff, there were some rather interesting old French books, huge sheets of music (from an old symphony?), old maps and such. A couple boxes of old postcards caught my eye, and they were quite fun to browse through. Imagine, holding a postcard sent to someone more than a 100 years ago, the original message just sitting there - and often very vague (Monsieur Croissant, Ile de la Cite, Paris, France). With much restraint, I limited myself to 5 cards (at 2E each), and plan to mail one of the still blank ones to my mom.

Oh, weariness! Time to begin my way back... back past Notre Dame and through the same crowds and over to the Hotel de Ville, now many people sitting waiting for a concert that hasn't begun... shall I wait? Uh, no, I know when I am tuckered out and ducked into the Metro, and, poof, I was "home" to my neighborhood in a flash. All I had to do was find a store called Darty, buy an fan, and put my feet up with a beer. Found Darty pretty easily (a kind of a French Future Shop), who had a nice selection of fans, picked out the cheapest half decent one (30E), tucked it under my arm and headed homewards.

So, ok, if you are new to a city, and you are cockily sure that you know where you are, and you see a shortcut, and you are tired and you are carrying a large object, resist the temptation. I repeat: resist the temptation. I was sooooo close to my street off Place de la Republicque, that I was sure I knew where I would emerge... Uh, no. And following my nose didn't help, in fact I managed to get turned around and was heading away from home, as I discovered about 1/2 an hour later when I sat for a moment on a bench and studied my map. Oh dear. I then tried to recover, using partly the map, and party that nose of mine which had failed me miserably. When I sat on a bench to study my map again, I looked up and saw, there's another store advertising tampons (they sell keys and hardware stuff).... hmm.... could that be the same store? oh, good lord. This time wisened to my reality and used the map only to get home, eventually made it, oh what joy to see my street! Of course, I also needed to pee, and not wanting to stretch out the walk home any longer I had not stopped at any cafes along the way... by this time I'd been wandering with the fan for a good hour and a half... Ok, home, stairs, keys, door, pee!, windows open, fan plugged in, beer cracked, sitting, feet up, pure bliss!!

Truth be told, it was pretty funny. I never really felt truly lost or alarmed, just a little disoriented, and amused with myself. Hard to get lost here, as you will always come across a Metro station with the name clearly marked and a map. The challenge is figuring out NSEW, especially when the streets go every which way...

A quiet evening enjoying the fan, the cooler Paris air, my book (the landlords at the last place gave me the Eric Newby book to finish), and thinking about my day today. Oh, and my landlord here offered to pay for the fan, sweet!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MIDI-GEM says Great photos with this blog.... re: the guy who looks like he's on a Safari-Pilgrimage.. you can google the name on his scooter and find out more about him!!