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Trip Report TR: A book lover, solo in PARIS and beyond...

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WHY: to visit/explore those museums and sites reflecting the art, literature, and history of Paris with emphasis on the La Belle Epoque, the 1920s, and World War II.

WHY NOT: not interested in shopping (except for my grandchildren ), fine dining, or photography.

WHEN: June 3- 16, 2012

GETTING THERE: Air France from Boston direct to Paris. When I checked in at Logan Airport, a former student greeted me, “Hey, I know you – you were my English teacher.” She then re-assigned my seat so I found myself in that second story of the plane (not first class, but economy preferred or something) with much more leg room and champagne. We were next after first class to deplane.

I had arranged to be picked up at CDG by PARIS SHUTTLE - about €30. Two other parties were dropped off in the area. One stopped at the Hotel Britannique in the 1st which, I believe, has been recommended by Annhig on this board. I was satisfied with this service.

HOTEL: five nights at the DAUPHINE SAINT GERMAIN, 36 rue Dauphine in the 6th. Small, thoroughly French hotel suggested to me by a neighbor who had been there last year. Very convenient. Leaving the hotel, a three minute walk takes you to the Seine at Pont Neuf, five minutes away from NOTRE DAME. Going in the opposite direction, you are quickly on the Boulevard St. Germain.

My room was small but comfortable with a commodious bathroom - € 228 for a single without breakfast (€12). The staff was very accommodating. I chose to eat each morning at the hotel and was happy to find when I checked out that I was not charged for breakfast. Who knows? I would definitely recommend the Dauphine for its central location and ambience although I passed by several other three star hotels in the district which appeared similar.

GETTING AROUND: a great deal of walking, with three Metro rides, two bus trips, and three cabs. Hats off to those who buzz around the city on the Metro with no problems. For me it wasn’t pretty – more to follow. True, transportation in Paris was less costly than in London, n’est ce pas?

THE WEATHER: in a word, damp/rainy with several bright spots and a few glorious days over a two week period. I was never hot and even wore socks once.

LINGUA FRANCA: I had studied French decades ago in high school and college but, of course, never gained any speaking fluency. I began last fall by reviewing French with a Berlitz grammar book. Also bought an Oxford-Hatchette French/English dictionary which I installed on my computer.

I started by reading reviews on hotels, museums, and the like “en francais,”accessing definitions of the many words I did not know from my online dictionary, jotting them down, then later typing them out in lists divided into nouns, verbs, and “others.” Periodically I reviewed these lists which now contained hundreds of words so progress was slow.

I then found the daily newspapers LE MONDE and LE FIGARO on line (the latter seemed more accessible given my vocabulary limitations) and plowed through many articles gaining more understanding but not proficiency. My goal was to be able to “read” the written legends/explanations at those museums and sites I expected to visit. On the whole, I was able to do this with about 75% understanding.

Speaking French was another matter although I did throw around a few “tres biens,” “voilas,”and the like in addition to appropriate greetings and “mercis,” and “au revoirs.” To me it would seem pretentious to ask the waiter for the “l’addition” when he had spoken to me in English.

As others have found, any attempt to incorporate French while traveling is met with appreciative response. I hope to continue my study of the language.

PREPARATION: I guess a lifetime of interest in French art, literature, and history. For starters I would reference David McCullough’s THE GREATER JOURNEY: AMERICANS IN PARIS 1830-1900. During that period thousands of Americans flocked to Paris, the early sojourners braving the throws of inhospitable voyages to the latter arrivals who disembarked after luxurious steam boat crossings. The culture/studies/lifestyles that they experienced affected them profoundly. Much of what they learned and observed in medicine, art, and urban planning was transplanted to America.

And let’s not forget the recent film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Woody Allen’s entertaining spoof on Paris’s heyday of the 1920s with spectacular visuals of the modern city.

COMMUNICATIONS: On past trips I have kept up a running correspondence with those at home by email from my hotel or in internet cafes which are no longer plentiful. The available computer at the Dauphine was tiny and slow. Admission- my kids were right: I NEED AN IPHONE!

FIRST NIGHT, MONDAY, JUNE 4: After unpacking and resting a bit, I ventured from the Hotel Dauphine up to Pont Neuf and along the Quai des Grands Augustins on the Left Bank to the Isle de la Cite, one of two remaining islands in the Seine River where NOTRE DAME cathedral is located. A very short walk. Of course, the cathedral was not open, but seeing Notre Dame at any time of day is moving. It felt good to be back in Paris.

Then I crossed the street to SHAKESPEARE & CO, the legendary English bookstore/former lending library of the indomitable Sylvia Beach. One source explains that “Writers and artists of the "Lost Generation," such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, George Antheil and Man Ray spent a great deal of time at Shakespeare and Company, and it was nicknamed "Stratford-on-Odéon" by James Joyce, who used it as his office.” Recall, this was a literary journey so Shakespeare & Co was a must stop – see also MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

I could not believe how long the sun lingered in Paris in the June evening, until around 10:15.

To be continued…

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