I Wonder If Rodin’s Friends Called Him A-Rod

 

My rock star status didn’t last long. Paris kicked my ass last night, but I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about plans! I have been researching, and searching the web for day trips out of Paris for a while and every time I search, the prices go up. So because I don’t have a printer, I took a trip to the Montparnasse train station last night to buy my tickets. Unfortunately, the automated ticket booths are the kind that don’t take American credit cards because they don’t have a chip in them. (I actually tried to get one of these credit cards before I left home but wasn’t able to) So today I woke up and went back to Montparnasse station. I had my research with me; a list of what calendar days had the most reasonable prices to the three towns I want to see. I had to wait a little extra for a window designated “English” (by a little British flag in the corner of the monitor). I can speak some French, but certainly not enough to explain what I was trying to do, and more importantly, not enough to understand what is being explained to me.

I got a really nice and patient woman who went above and beyond to help me. I felt really bad for all the people on line behind me because this transaction took over 20 minutes. There were 4-5 windows open, but only 2 designated English speaking. I started by telling her what date I wanted to travel to Mont St Michel and when her price came up 102 Euro more than mine, she started researching for me. She explained that while the web has the 15 day price search, her computer doesn’t and talked about how many people show up insisting on the price they saw. In my case, (she researched even though I told her I believed her and it was okay) the price didn’t include the bus from the train station to Mont St Michel (an 1:15 ride, so a considerable part of the journey). Also, the outbound train at the low price was arriving in Mont St Michel at 11:45PM. The morning trains were about 60 Euro more.
So she found me some mid-week trains to Mont St Michel and Dijon at good prices, then I also booked a trip to Reims tomorrow. I could have saved a little by booking ahead but the Reims trip would be either the day before or the day after Mont St Michel and I didn’t want to cluster my day trips one after the other when I have 40 days to work with. Since Reims was the shortest distance from Paris, it was the logical trip to pay full fare on. Even then, she did find me a reduced rate, but asked if I minded connecting in Epernay on the way home. I definitely didn’t as I had planned to go to Reims, then Epernay anyway, so she adjusted the times to give me enough time to enjoy Epernay before making my connection. She also had definite ideas about how long I should spend in each place. For example when I said I’d like a 9Pm train back from Dijon, she told me, no I didn’t, and put me on an earlier train, lol. When I asked if my return time from Mont St Michel was late enough, she said yes, that I won’t want to be there longer than that, lol. So thanks to this very helpful woman, I have trips planned to Reims, Epernay, Dijon, and Mont St Michel. I can’t wait! On the way out of the station I saw these cute, unused, charging stations for your electronics. You have to pedal to power the chargers.
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After that, I hopped back on the Metro and went to the Rodin Museum. I like Rodin, but I feel like I have seen so many of his works in so many other museums, and a quick look at my guidebook told me the three main sculptures I was interested in are in the garden, which costs 1 Euro, as opposed to 9 Euro for the whole museum, So, you can guess that I jumped on the chance to save 8 Euro! The Burghers of Calais
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Most of the garden was closed off for renovations, but the edges were accessible, as was most of the sculpture, which is what I’m here to see anyway. The Thinker was set up so high that it can’t really be studied in any depth, but it would be hard to anyway as there was a steady stream of people posing just like him in front of it.
“No, no…like this!”
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I like the details of it when seen separately, rather than seeing the whole from a distance anyway.
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After leaving Rodin’s I walked back to my neighborhood, picking up some munchies on the way. And taking a few pictures…
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Now I’m off to the laundromat, and a cup of cafe creme and people-watching while I wait for my clothes. 🙂

 

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Today I Am A Rock Star!

Most days as an American in Paris are pretty humiliating, lol, but today I went to Monoprix (very small Parisian version of a Super Target) and returned 2 items and got 22,65 Euro back! From a woman who spoke no English! I feel like I won the lottery.These things have been staring at me, mocking me from their place on the desk for about 2 weeks now. I had read in a couple of different places that returns are not a given in France like they are in the US. I had a corkscrew that I bought just before coming home and finding one in my apartment. Also my daughter bought me an umbrella, then found a street vendor with a prettier one, so she bought that too. I was so relieved to finally get this chore over with.

Also, there is a very intimidating lady at the bakery where I get my baguettes. She starts off very nice, but the minute you hesitate, or hand her the wrong change, she gets this look. I can’t describe it, but believe me, you’d do anything to avoid it. The other day I saw a huge baguette, double the size of a normal one, and because I saw it at the last minute, I had trouble finding the words to tell her which one I wanted. I asked what it was called and she gave me the most disgusted look and said,”pain” (bread). I thought she was being snarky, because there is an entire wall full of bread behind her, but when I went back the next day and had time to look, the sign beneath it did in fact, just say Pain. Today I went in, gave my order, paid with exact change, and she actually wished me a “bon journee”. Usually it’s a curt “merciaurevoir” said all as one word while she turns to the next in line, not even giving you time to respond. I was so astounded that I said “you too” in English. Now I’m scared to go back. 🙂

And I was Facebook messaging with my son when he sent me this:

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I’m pretty sure this is the most beautiful thing I will see all day today.

I still have hours ahead of me though, so I’m sure Paris will show me who’s boss by the end of the day. 🙂

 

Standing Inside Monet’s Waterlilies

Today I took the train to Vernon from Paris, then a shuttle bus to Giverny. I took the 8:20AM out of Paris-Lazare and was amazed at the amount of people joining me on a random Tuesday morning. There were 3 busses waiting at the train station to go to Monet’s house, and all three were mostly full. If you are familiar with Monet’s Waterlilies (or Nympheas, as he most likely called them), you might be able to imagine how strange it felt to be standing “inside” the setting for these well known and loved paintings. Yes, the green bridge is there, as are the weeping willow trees, and of course, the pond with water lilies. Monet lived for 40 years in this house, and traveled to Paris less and less each year, and I can see why, when I am in the gardens anyway. I found his house to be only mildly interesting, and only ventured in as far as I needed to find the room overlooking the garden, and the famous all-yellow dining room. Pictures are not allowed inside the house (except out the windows to the garden).

There are two sections here; his “walled garden” directly behind the house, and the waterlilies, which are accessed through a tunnel that goes under the road. Here are a few pictures of the walled garden:

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Don’t expect to escape the crowds of Paris. At times, Monet’s garden is more crowded than a Paris street. The paths are about as wide as an American hallway, and there are 3 lanes. 1, one way, 2, the other way, and 3, the picture lane. When people step back to get a better angle, or walk on the left instead of the right, it causes lots of confusion, traffic jams, and “pardon”s, sometime said with a sharp edge. (Ok, maybe that was just me) One nice thing about it was there were plenty of Asian people who offered to take my picture if I would take theirs. 🙂 We were quite comical, I think, speaking French to each other, or, when language failed, gesturing and bowing wildly. Note: When an Asian bows to you, you can’t help but bow back, lol. 

Monet’s studio has become a gift shop, and I can’t help but wonder how he would feel about this. I was kind of put off by it, as if it tainted or polluted the pureness of the art somehow. But he was one of the rare artists who was financially successful in his lifetime (not having to die first to achieve fame like so many) so I wonder if he would be rubbing his hands together in glee at all the money being made for the benefit of his big family. He and his wife had I think 8 children altogether from different families. I heard one man grousing about how big Monet’s house was and how many bedrooms there were, and I thought that Monet may have thought his house was not big enough since two of his non-related children ended up marrying each other!

I walked back to the Vernon station, which was a lovely 4 mile walk, but if anyone attempts it, I would recommend having a map of Vernon handy, as once the bike path ends, the path to the train station is very tiny and looks like a dead end at first, which caused me to walk in circles for quite a while. When I finally asked directions (in French, as this is not Paris, and most people do not speak English at all) she directed me as far as the bank, then said to find someone to ask when I got there, as the path is difficult to find. The first 3.9 miles are easy. It’s finding the little bit that leads to the train station that’s difficult. 

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I stopped for lunch at a place known as the “Roses” for the owners’ names on the awning. It is very reasonable and very tasty. Even if you are not hungry, I would grab a sandwich or a quiche to go here.

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I will try to keep the pictures to a minimum. 🙂

Nearly impossible to get a shot without people in it.ImageBlocks of color

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The bridge

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Sometimes The Best Plan Is No Plan

I woke up out of sorts today. I had no plans made so my ambition was nowhere to be found, and I kept rolling over and going back to sleep. Finally I walked to the market before I became too embarrassed for the bread man to see me at such a late hour.

I had been planning to get out of the city, but in looking at train fares last night, everything seemed very expensive! It’s cheaper to fly to Edinburgh than it is to take a train to Giverny? I will have to do more research. Anyway, I decided to give the Luxembourg Garden another try since I have been reading a lot about it, but the two times I walked through it, I wasn’t impressed. I went to the market down the street for cheese, fruit, and a baguette. I wrapped my wine glass in a kitchen towel (because I’m classy like that) and headed out to the garden. The first two times I was here it was raining. Today the park was glorious! Really.

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Pony rides, sunshine, fights over chairs…tons of people on the grass. I spread my picnic on a bench and read for a little over an hour while picking at my food. I had this surreal feeling while there. I was sitting on this bench eating my favorite meal,  I’m looking at a palace, there are kids riding by on ponies, lovers snuggling on the bench at my back, old French men in scarves. I have nowhere to be and nothing to do except sit here and enjoy it all.

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Can you see the Eiffel Tower in the background?

Soon I became restless so I took a walk and happened upon a free concert of Chopin! The best part was that I had stumbled onto this concert. I had no idea it was here. I didn’t plan to be here, or show up early for a good seat, or anticipate it. It just was. And I just was. And I was so grateful to be here and living in the moment and feeling that I was right where I was supposed to be. It was a wonderful experience, the music was beautiful, the day was perfect, and I loved every minute of it. It ended after about an hour and a half. There’s another one next week too!

DSCN1694I went back to the apartment for a while then took a long walk until I couldn’t walk anymore, then turned around and came home. 🙂

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Rick Steves’ Marais Walk

I will admit I have an irrational fear of the right bank because most of my negative experiences of Paris have taken place there, but I have heard so much about the Marais, and from what little I saw of it a few days ago, I decided to break out the Rick Steves again and take his Marais self guided walk. I started by walking down what has become one of my favorite streets in Paris, the rue St Andre des Arts to Blvd St Michel. There are always tons of people at the sandwich stand on this corner.

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Even Superman vacations in Paris.

From there I walked along the Seine and crossed Pont de Sully and continued along Bd Henry IV.

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My old town of Ledyard, CT could learn something looking at the Seine. Oh how I hated having only 3 crossing points over the Thames. If only there were as many bridges there as there are here. Anyway, I was reminded of my old home again a few minutes later when I passed an electric store, because I always thought the store on Main St in Norwich was cool, but it doesn’t hold a candle (or a bulb) to this one on Blvd Henri IV.

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I arrived at Place de la Bastille to find more gendarmes and caution tape. What have I walked into now? I think it was an outpost of the 1st Festival of Gay Cultures Paris, however it looks like Justice for Central Africa has climbed on the bandwagon and set up across the square from them. Place de la Bastille is where the walk begins, so I began.

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The bastille itself is gone, but I took a picture of an outline of the turrets that is on the road where rue St Antoine hits the square.

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and the Opera Bastille

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A teeny gas station (first one I have noticed actually)

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#17 rue Beautrellis, where Jim Morrison died

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The entrance to Hotel de Sully was closed so I walked around the block and entered the Place des Voges from the back. What a lovely park this is. I like it much better than the Jardin du Luxembourg. Love was in the air, and there were plenty of shaded benches to sit on. I wasn’t too hungry yet but I had a tiny glass of wine I had brought with me. It’s funny, the other day my shoulder was killing me from lugging around my umbrella and a couple of books. Yet for the past 2 days I have headed out carrying a full bottle of wine as well and didn’t feel burdened at all. 🙂

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I listened to a tour guide who had stopped at the bench next to mine, and was happy to hear him telling the family he was guiding many of the same things I had in my book. I hope that means that my book is correct, rather than the tour guide just took his information from the book! One thing I did learn from eavesdropping on that tour guide is that this square is the only square in Paris that is actually square-shaped.

I went to see Victor Hugo’s house which is located on the square, and determined that his decorating style and mine definitely do not mix, although I did like the location of his apartment.

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Man, that is some wallpaper! I made a full circuit around the square, looking at all the art galleries, then continued on to rue de Francs Bourgeois, which to me is just a big mall with lots of familiar stores; L’Occitane, Bobbi Brown, Guerlain, Jo Malone… I made a detour down a side street to buy some grapes to add to my picnic late lunch/early dinner.

I spent a lot of time in the Carnavelet Museum, a museum of the history of paris, which has its own separate chapter in my book. I think I spent close to 2 hours here, although I skipped the pre-history and mostly everything after Napoleon. It just got to be too much for me, and all the explanatory markers are in French, which I can read, although it becomes very tiring. I will say, I like being alone in museums. I can take my time, spending as much time as I want here or there, without worrying about anyone else being bored. A blurry picture of the faces from the Pont Neuf, but I liked the composition.

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This kid couldn’t help but grow up to have a huge ego

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If my French is correct, this replica of the Bastille was made with an actual block of the Bastille itself! Pretty cool.

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There were many rooms of art that chronicled life in Paris. I did see one work of art that I am familiar with and wasn’t expecting to see in a history museum. Absinthe.

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This garden was not in my guidebook, but it was very cute, and I imagine would look lovely at night, as those whitish things all over the grass are lamps. It’s the Jardin de l”hotel Lamoignon on rue Pavee.

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I visited the Mona Lisait bookstore. It is listed in my book as “funky” and “has more inside than meets the eye”. I agree but I will let you enjoy uncovering the more for yourself. Not knowing what to expect was half the fun. 🙂

Next was the rue des Rosiers, the actual Jewish Quarter. Many places were closed today so I walked through to rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie, listed as Paris’ openly gay main drag. Because of the festival starting (past my bedtime) tonight, the streets were alive with much more….shall we say “camp” and decor than the last time I was here. Before you ask, yes that IS a man dressed as a giant penis. He was so funny, a family with small children walked by and when he saw the (goodnatured) shocked faces of the parents, the penis-man covered his eyes, rather than the parents shielding their childrens’ eyes. 🙂

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By now I was getting pretty hungry. I am visiting the Pompidou Center another day, so I skipped that and thought I might eat at the Hotel de Ville (which is really city hall). However, there were way too many people here for me to feel comfortable breaking out my mini picnic, and the touristy feel of the place made me wary of pickpockets and other negative experiences, so I continued across the bridge towards Notre Dame and went down to eat alongside the Seine while watching the bateaux mouches glide by. My camera died here. 😦

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What started out as a questionable day turned out to be lovely and sunny.

I was going to hop the bus for a ride around Paris but traffic is really bad today, at a standstill. I walked home, thinking I would go online to find out if there was a closer store than the one in rue Cler where I bought my delicious chocolate chip brioche the other day, but on the way home I was seduced by a banana nutella crepe, enjoyed in my apartment with a cup of coffee instead.

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Rick Steves’ Historic Paris Walk (or part of it anyway)

Today I decided on a self guided walk from my Rick Steves Paris 2013 guidebook. I had done some things around the apartment in the morning, so it was after 3PM when I ventured out. I stopped at a grocery store nearby for wine and cheeses, then a boulangerie for a baguette. As I walked towards Notre Dame for the starting point of my walk, I spotted a place where I wanted to eat my late lunch-early dinner and made a detour.

 

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It’s the tip of the Ile de la Cite. It’s a gray and cold day today, and it started raining as I crossed Pont Neuf to my destination.

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I ate for a few minutes under an arch at the end of the steps, but soon it cleared so I walked to the park and finished my dinner on a bench, noting that great minds think alike.

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You can’t really see the details, but they are also having wine and snacks. Here’s Henry IV’s horse’s ass. 🙂

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I took a last look around….

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then  packed up the leftovers and headed to Notre Dame. Plenty of wine left.

 

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I didn’t do the climb today because of the weather, I will save that for a sunny day, but there were plenty of photo ops inside. I found Point Zero, the center of Paris, which I had overlooked last time I was here, and motioned a photo exchange with another woman.

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I spotted St Denis carrying his head, and the gargoyle propped on his elbows, watching all us tourists.

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Because there was a service going on, I couldn’t see all of the inside, but I saw as far as the nave. I found it unconventional that the confessionals here are made of glass! I couldn’t get close to the transept to see The altar, the Pieta, Joan of Arc, the rose window….Here’s what I did see:

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After leaving Notre Dame, I walked across the street behind it to the Deportation Memorial. This place is so stark and desolate. By the time I left here I had a huge knot in my chest. I don’t want to get too heavy, but sometimes it hits you that not too long ago, people suffered untold horrors that seem so far away. Then you go somewhere like this and realize how recent these events were, and as horrific as it seems, what you experience seeing it is nothing even close to what they experienced. No matter how much we complain about our day to day lives, we have no idea of what real suffering, real fear, real hopelessness is. As you descend, the city disappears and all you can see is bars, thick walls, and a tiny bit of the Seine.

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The passage into the main part of the memorial is only wide enough for one person at a time. There is a plaque in the floor that reads, “They went to the end of the earth, and did not return”

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The hallway is lined with 200,000 crystals. One for each French citizen who died. At the end of the hallway is an eternal flame. There is a tomb of the unknown at the beginning of the hallway. It’s amazing to read (at the top before entering) what constituted reason for identification, persecution, deportation. I knew it wasn’t only Jews, but the list seems exhaustive, and at times so undefined as to allow anyone at any time to be stamped with a triangle and imprisoned or worse.

Up out of the darkness and across the bridge to the Ile St Louis, where I did not go to Berthillon for ice cream. Last week our driver on the D-Day Tour, a lifelong Frenchman, said he had never heard of Berthillon. When he was asked what kind of ice cream he ate, he replied that he buys ice cream from Italy! Because of this, and because I knew he had lived in Paris for a time, I didn’t bother.

I did, however see the Tour d”Argent, the restaurant that was the inspiration for the movie Ratatouille.

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At 200 euro a person I didn’t eat there, but if I had, I most likely would have seen the same sight as from the bridge below.

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I walked through the Square Viviani to see the oldest tree in Paris, an acacia tree planted in 1602. Here’s Square Viviani and Notre Dame beyond taken from the base of the acacia.

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I saw some kids excitedly jumping around pointing at the ground. Looks like Remy the rat has finally met his end.

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Next was Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.

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No pictures are allowed inside, although I did see quite a few people taking illegal pictures, but it was open mic night, and I spent much time here listening to songs, poetry, and short stories before the heat and discourteous literary geeks who were practically climbing over me as if I wasn’t trying to see the same exact thing they were trying to see, drove me away. If not for the heat and the impertinence I could have stayed there all night. 🙂

I walked past St Severin church and into the Latin Quarter, noting the skinniest house in Paris, at #22 rue St Severin.

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Here in the Latin Quarter the owners/waiters stand outside and try to lure you in to eat, sometimes by telling you you’re beautiful and sometimes even by offering you food! This street is the worst offender (or best, depending on your point of view).

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I was still full from my Seine-side dinner so I was able to resist the enticement of all those men, and one woman who appealed to my tummy rather than my vanity.

I went home instead of continuing the walk as I have seen all the rest of the sights listed already. I went by way of St Andre-des-Arts, stopping at a market for a simple bar of chocolate as the patisseries were all closed by now.

Jardin Flottant

On the left bank of the Seine, just past Pont deL’Alma on the Quai D’Orsay, is a playground called Jardin Flottant, or floating garden. My daughter and I stumbled upon this last week. Today I walked past again and took more pictures.