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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Tuesday, August 20 2002 

Journal of our vacation journey - 9
En route with sons Mike, 28, and Kevin, 26

Saturday, August 17

We had been sleeping relatively late in Paris, having a rare few days without specific self-assignments and appointments to get to. And despite the noise on the street and the heat, we slept fairly well.

This morning we got an earlier start, around 9:30, and the boys decided to go into the Louvre to see its treasures, something I passed on, having seen the Mona Lisa and other treasures in my visit in '65 (and not remembering much of any of it). I instead went on to the Internet Cafe to download David Caldwell's post for the day. After receiving it and the collection of photos accompanying it and moving them into our Yahoo photo gallery so the whole forum could see them, deleting my 150 or so spam emails of the day, and answering my most pressing email (saving the rest for dealing with after returning home). I paid the €6.80 for that part of the day's Internet obligation and went on to the McDonald's underground to have breakfast and coffee while formatting David's post into a web page on my laptop. (French computers, though made by Hewlett-Packard in this case, have keyboards that are very different than the ones we know, making it almost impossible for anyone familiar with our layout to accomplish much in reasonable time.) I then returned to the Internet cafe to send the day's forum post, which took only a few minutes and cost only an additional €.20. I decided to make sure this would be my last use of a Paris Internet cafe on this visit.

The boys and I had agreed to have breakfast separately and meet up at about noon. Though it wasn't quite 11 a.m., when they advertized the end of breakfast service, McDonald's had no McMuffins left, so I had to settle with just a tiny cup of coffee. So I made my way to the Cafe de Comedie, where the boys and I had had our first meal in Paris and which was likely to be on their path from the Louvre back to the hotel. Sure enough, even before I got to order I spotted them passing by.

Mike's camera battery required recharging, so while that was going on we all went to Paris's Musee d' Orsay, where the largest collection of impressionist art is displayed (Monets, Van Goughs, Sisleys, Renoirs, Degases, Mattisses, Manets, etc.). That is our mutual favorite art style and I felt it was worth the €7, though walking up and down stairways and through gallery after gallery with never a place to sit (all the seats provided always full already) for an hour is about enough. We spent two.

Mike's camera was still not ready when we returned to the room, so we rested a while before setting out via Metro to the major attraction of this final day, Sacre Coeur, the century-old cathedral on Montmartre, the city's highest elevation. After the metro ride one walks up flight after flight after flight of circular stairways to the surface, then faces another formidable ascent to the cathedral site. There is a funicular for that last portion of the ascent, which I was looking forward to, though it is not as memorable as a ride as Los Angeles' Angel's Flight funicular, or the funicular up to the Horseshoe Curve, much less the Johnstown Incline Plane (and it cost the full price of a normal Metro ride, €1.30). But once at the top, the views are spectacular and worth the effort. Kevin and I pitched in to provide the €5 to send Mike to the tower of the cathedral to get pictures from that point. There were again multitudes of people in and around the cathedral (which was open with no admission cost, unlike London's major cathedrals), including a mime costumed like Charlie Chaplin performing on a soapbox.

The neighborhoods on the way down Montmartre are among the city's most picturesque, so we walked down to our hotel and stopped not far of the way down to have dinner at yet another sidewalk cafe. It had a "formula" of appetizer (which is called the entree here in France, seemingly more sensible than calling the main plate the entree as in the United States, entree meaning "beginning"), main plate including choice of lamb, sirloin steak, poultry, salmon, and others, and dessert for €12. We ordered mineral water for our beverage, however, in response to which they brought us each a small bottle, which brought the price to €15 each (others dining around us obviously received free pitchers of tap water, which is not noticeably diffent than the bottled water, so this was a foolish mistake). At this sidewalk cafe we were hit up by several beggars and at least two accordion-playing musicians. One was mediocre, the other laughably bad (when someone at an adjoining table requested "Chanson D'amore," he improvised worse than Johnny Carson's Doc Severinson orchestra playing "stump the band"), and both were pestering for tips. A bouncer finally had to escort the worst of the two away, and the other seemed to be cursing us in French for failing to repay our gratitude (which we never expressed) in coins as he departed. (We did encountered many "freelance" musicians many times in our travels especially in Paris, as well as street beggars, and did contribution on occasion, but felt these were a bit too intrusive in our dining time.)

On the way down, the boys discovered what seemed an appropriate souvenir for a couple of their friends, and while they were making the purchase I found in a free Paris tour paper in English that the Moulin Rouge, the famed old vaudeville theater often depicted in postcards of Paris, was nearby. Walking on that detour to see and photograph it, we discovered that the section is the "Times Square" of Paris, complete with dozens of porno shops and lapdance-type venues. As we made our way up the wide boulevard with a park down its center to the Moulin Rouge (which translates as the Red Mill [or windmill], by the way), Kevin and I kidded that the climactic scene of "It's A Wonderful Life," where George Bailey runs down the streets of Bedford Falls realizing his town has been turned into a gambling and sin pit because George Bailey was never born could be remade here to great effect. And incidentally, this is the only part of Paris we saw where most of the "shops" have their names in English. What does that tell you? I'm not sure...but I suspect something interesting about French estimations of Americans...and/or British.

Further down the walk we stopped at a McDonald's on Rue de Hausseman where I reprised my ice cream cone routine and Mike his Kronenberg.

Sunday, August 18

This long Jonal entry has been composed while making our way back from Paris to London on Eurostar. We got up before 9 a.m. this morning and made our way to Gare du Nord for that connection, having breakfast at the cafe in the station before checking in and going through security, which is similar to that for air flights. Our train was delayed by track work and arrived in London about 20 minutes later than scheduled. The rest of Sunday's recap and Monday's will be saved for sending in Wednesday's Jonal, Lord willing.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Things my mother taught me (series)

My mother taught me about MEDICAL SCIENCE
—"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way!"

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

— Ovid

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