PARIS, September 28
Some days this traveling thing is a bit of a test. Velcro son Mike (my designated guardian for the week) met us at Charles de Gaulle airport, having arrived an hour earlier Then we headed to the taxi stand for our separate rides into town, Joy’s to the loft and residency for her class, ours to our B&B. Turns out Joy didn’t have enough of an address, something she discovered (she’d suspected it earlier) when asking for assistance from someone before we left the terminal. Neither that somebody nor anyone else recognized the information she had; there was no such address in Paris. Our helper sent over her supervisor. After some time I found the address she’d given me when she first signed up for the class. That satisfied the supervisor, and he sent us to the taxi stand, confident (that is, he was confident) Joy was safely on her way
But while Mike and I were loading luggage into our taxi she ran over to tell us that her driver had no idea where she was going–the address was incomplete. We returned with her to see what we could do (what could we do?). Her driver consulted with our driver and then with another. We didn’t understand a word of their animated conversation. Together, though, after appearing at a loss for some time, they decided they knew enough for her driver to leave with her.
And off they went.
My family thinks I’m a bit of a fretter. That evening I earned the reputation, unable to think of much else. Maybe you can understand. I had just watched a driver who communicates only in French leave with my wife who communicates only in English and has an uncertain address for a destination in Paris she has never been to before and limited means of connecting with me if anything goes wrong. Wasn’t a little concern, shall we say, warranted?
Much later in the evening she Skyped—but I wasn’t in WiFi range, so I missed the call. She left a message. The cab drove her straight to the address I gave her, she was happily settled in, and there was nothing to worry about. OK?
Here’s the maddening part of my story. Joy is a fearless, resourceful, experienced traveler. We’ve had several such incidences like this one over the years–and she always, always comes out on top. So why this worrying?
I think this is what husbands do. At least this one does.
One delightful moment occurred in the boys’ taxi. Mike had been studying the architecture as we drove deeper and deeper into the heart of Paris. After awhile he confessed that he had been thinking, “Wow, this looks a lot like the French Quarter.”
I didn’t laugh. Not for a full nanosecond.
Anything that looks this much like the French Quarter bears a closer look. With Joy safely ensconced in her painting class, Mike and I have been exploring. The highlights on Monday were a look around the Place de la Concorde, with its 75-foot high Egyptian obelisk (the oldest monument in Paris; it stood before the Luxor temple in Egypt over 3000 years ago), Tuileries Gardens (a little late in the season, I’m afraid), and then the walk along the Champs-Elysees Boulevard, Paris’ most famous street. We stopped off at the King George V outdoor restaurant for an exceptional boeuf bourguignon (ranks right up there with a Whopper). Then, sated on superb cuisine, we walked off this indulgence by carrying on along the boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe.
Until now I didn’t realize you could walk around on top of it and get a stunning view of Paris at night. Well, you can. And we did.
Tuesday we were even more devoted tourists. Our major attraction was the Musee d’Orsay, Trip Advisor’s Number One Paris attraction. I’d been there over forty years ago. I shouldn’t have waited so long to return. My favorite period of painting, I have to confess, features the French Impressionists. This museum can boast the world’s finest collection of works by Cezanne, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Sisley, Pissarro and others, as well as the post-impressionists, with an excellent selection of Van Goghs, whose artistic daring is simply breathtaking. (I love all this name-dropping.) The museum deserves a full day; we gave it two or three hours.
Then followed a delightful lunch. What made it so was not the food, which was just OK, but getting acquainted with a woman at the next table from San Francisco who has been traveling on her own, meeting up with her friends in various places in Europe. She looks so much like my oldest friend Rosa (we met in the nursery at church). This lady’s name is Rose. Mike took our picture to send to Rosa. As we were paying our bill she discovered the café wouldn’t accept her American Express card and she didn’t have enough euros to pay her bill. The always gallant Mike took care of it. See why I like traveling with him? He’s been picking up my bills regularly.
Then the real tourists in us came out.
We boarded an on-and-off tourist bus to get a feel for the city as a whole. So we drove around passing by such important places as the Opera, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Montmarte, the Moulin Rouge, the Grand Palace and the Petit Palace, and so on. In the next couple of days we’ll select some for a closer look. If Joy had been with us we’d still be checking them all out. I’m glad she’s painting. I can’t keep up with her these days.
I realize I haven’t told you anything about our Airbnb apartment. Not room here for much, but you might be interested in a couple of things. First, the entrance. What you don’t see is the graffiti-covered street door behind us in this shot. Here is what greeted us as we stepped through the door. No, that’s not quite right. This picture was taken our second day. We were greeted by fine dust and dirt without the piles on the left side of the picture; the old had been dug up and carried off, the new hadn’t been added. The door to our apartment house is the first opening you can barely see on the right.
We almost couldn’t get in. The key pad works only sporadically. One time we punched in the formula about a dozen times before the door lock released. The next time we got it on the first try. A little disconcerting, this unpredictability. Especially since our contact for the apartment doesn’t return my calls.
This is our stairway. Mike shot the picture from the first floor (one floor above ground level). We’re grateful not to be at the top.
Finally, I just have to let you see what I saw while eating breakfast in a nearby coffee shop. This is amazing graffiti on the end of a nearby building. How do you suppose they did this?
Well, this has been too long a preliminary report from Paris. I’ll quit now. I suspect you have other things to do today.