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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Monday, August 19 2002  

Note: Judy Rose's "Where Are They Now?" is taking the week off. Because of our return flight to California on Tuesday, tomorrow's post will probably be very late.—jk

Journal of our vacation journey - 8
En route with sons Mike, 28, and Kevin, 26

Thursday, August 15 - Paris

We learned from the reception desk at our hotel that there was an Internet cafe at Des Halles, a walk of about a half mile away. Its prices were the highest we'd seen yet on the trip, at €6 per hour. But it being August, many of the stores and other businesses, even drug stores, are closed for vacation, so there were no alternative Internet access places nearby. I sent yesterday's Jonal entry and the three of us found a sidewalk cafe with breakfasts of omelettes for about €6.50. Add another €3.50 if you want a cup of coffee with cream (cafe au lait)...and the concept of a bottomless cup or even one complimentary refill is unknown in Europe. Even at McDonald's, you get a six-ounce paper cup of coffee (though I forget what I paid there), and it's only about half full of coffee, nor does it have a sipping hole in the lid like those we're accustomed to at Mickey Dee's in our part of the world.

But for all the complaining, Paris is worth it. Having risen late, it was nearly 4 p.m. before we got serious about touring, and spent €26 for a two-day ticket to L'Open Bus tour and took the longest of the three tours included with that ticket, making our way past Notre Dame Cathedral, the Sorbonne, past the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens, Saint Germain des Pres, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomph back to our neighborhood and the stop where we began, the Louvre. The €26 ticket turned out to be a rip-off, however, as the bus tour company considers the first day as being a full day even if you start as we did at 4 p.m., and they don't run very late...I saw none of them after 7 p.m., for example. (In London the same kinds of tours are good for a 24-hour day, so we thought, and I even asked the driver to confirm, that our ticket would be good until 4 p.m. Saturday, but on checking the tickets later found they were good only through Friday. The driver probably didn't understand my English and would have said "yes" to any question from tourists with wallets in hand. So a word to the wise: try the Red Bus Tour, the competition, if you're coming to Paris; its posted prices are lower and we have no experience with it.)

After leaving the bus, we looked around the outside of the Louvre a bit (it has enclosed but open areas inside its "campus"), then went back via the same kind of bus to a restaurant we had seen earlier on Rue de St. Jacques, the Istanbul. Since Kevin and I had earlier hoped to go to Turkey this year, it seemed a fitting substitution and it had more advertised specials than most Paris cafes. We ate outside again and the meals were good, but the service was poor. Coffee with milk could only be obtained by becoming emotional, after three promises that it was coming, for example.

Then we walked the short distance back to Notre Dame. There were huge crowds flowing into the cathedral and as we arrived an evening service began, the singing and the mass in French being broadcast out to the square via loudspeakers. I much wanted to get in to see the rose window, the most famous (and "most beautiful"?) medieval stained glass window in the world (if I recall correctly). Though it was tight passage through the throng, it was possible, and the boys also got in and Mike got pictures. (One of the nice things about France in particular and Catholic cathedrals compared with Anglican ones in general is that they're not so skittish about such things as photography.)

Even though we didn't stay for the whole service, it was a sublime moment, seeing the thousands of candles, hearing the singing and oratory, and the mass of people participating. We spent a while taking photos outside, then worked our way around the cathedral and found our way to a Metro (Paris subway) station and on to the Eiffel Tower. We had to ask for help at the ticket window and were given a paper with instructions that took us beyond the Tower's signed Metro exit to the one beyond the Seine River at the Trocadero (a large monument with large parks and huge fountains spraying water out of cannons). And from the top of that momument the view of the Tower is surpassing. It was dusk, and there were throngs of people everywhere basking in the very warm evening.

When we arrived in the very long queue waiting to get into the elevator up the Tower, an electronic notice advised that the top level was closed because it was too crowded, but by the time we got close to the ticket window that restriction had been lifted, so we were able to go all the way up (€9.90). It's 1,051 feet high, the views are breath-taking, and it's a bit scary, giving a feeling of some movement while you're up there (a bit like the St. Louis, Mo., Gateway Arch). Even at the second level, about a third of the way up, the views are excellent and probably the picture opportunities even better than at the top. My best recollection is that I made it only to the second level on my first visit in 1965 or thereabouts.

We shopped for souvenirs at the stands around the base of the Tower and started back toward our hotel, the Louvre Richelieu at 51 Rue de Richelieu.

Friday, August 16

It has been hot and mostly clear (so much so that crossing the street to get into the shade has been our practice) ever since we arrived back in London and on to Paris on Wednesday. And in Paris there's little air conditioning and fewer fans (I saw one in our whole time there), so we had to leave the windows open wide at night, and even the drape was an impediment to air, but the street below, though narrow and one-way, was very noisy all night long.

This morning we separated at the start, Kevin doing laundry in a Lavage two doors from our hotel, Mike walking over to the Louvre, and I going to Des Halles to send the day's page to the Nanty Glo email forum. (My journal-keeping had been running over a day behind so I was then sending Wednesday's itinerary to the list). We met at Des Halles for breakfast, there being a lot of places to choose from there. We chose, ironically, a Tex-Mex restaurant and it turned out to be lunch rather than breakfast, a breakfast-style (as reckoned in the USA) steak with salad for me. (There's at least a little salad on every plate served in Paris it seems.)

We had read in a guidebook that Des Halles is the site of a large mostly underground shopping mall, so we wandered through it, noting that it had a large McDonald's. By this time, Mike had decided to try to rent bikes and ride around Paris for a few hours, so we made our way by Metro to Mike's Bikes, an American franchise that offers tours of the city by bike and also rents bikes and is the only place in Paris (apparently) that offers Starbuck's Coffee. Despite my Starbuck's addiction, what they had was in a thermos dispenser and sold for €1.50 for a small plastic cup, only, not a traditional Starbuck's larger cup (which is much of the franchises' attraction), so I passed on buying any. I don't ride bikes on city streets so I then opted to take off alone to visit the Sorbonne (the original University of Paris and the oldest university in the world), which proved to be well worthwhile. I took the Metro, then walked all over the campus district, catching a free open air chamber orchestra performance in Sorbonne Place). There are also several famous very old churches there that include, among other famous personages, the resting places of Mde. Curie and Blaise Pascal, the best French Christian writer ever, a kind of C. S. Lewis of the 17th (18th?) Century.

Both of the boys and I returned to our room earlier than the appointed meet-up time. Their ride had taken them mainly to the Eiffel Tower, up and down the Champs Elysees, and around the Arc de Triomph. We walked back to another side of Les Halles to have dinner at a corner cafe that was mostly deserted but adequate in food and price. Then we went through the mall again where the boys "had to" sample a Royale with Cheeze (the French name of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese—as France is metric, they know nothing from quarter-pounds) and a Kronenberg beer which is sold in McDonald's in France. Both references are from Quentin Tarantino movie, Pulp Fiction, which has been a favorite of all of us from its release in 1994. I made do with the ice cream of a regular McDonald's cone.

On the way back to our room we discovered a large area of streets closed to auto access, reminiscent of Grafton Street in Dublin, and crossed it enjoying the scene of many people sitting at sidewalk cafes into the night lit by a halfmoon and Paris' famous nighttime artificial lights.

Because of our early flight to San Francisco tomorrow, I'll plan to send tomorrow's Jonal much earlier than usual.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Things my mother taught me (series)

My mother taught me about RECEIVING
—"You are going to get it when we get home!"

Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

One must know oneself; if this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life and there is nothing better.

—Blaise Pascal

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