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

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

Old Jun 18th, 2012, 11:19 AM
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TR: A book lover, solo in PARIS and beyond...

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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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 12:13 PM
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A promising start. I'm looking forward to more.

This is the time of year to appreciate those long long days, and Paris is far north of Boston.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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I can't wait to read more!
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 12:20 PM
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Hi Kelsey – thanks, I am working on Day 2

Coquelicot, the length of the day really surprised me. So at what time does darkness fall in Paris in late December? Must be early.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 12:42 PM
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Looking forward to the remainder of your trip report especially as we leave on Saturday. I think it is very brave of you to admit to your children that you need additional technology.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 01:55 PM
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AGM_Cape_Cod

"I think it is very brave of you to admit to your children that you need additional technology."

Agreed, one of my daughters has gone back to school for a year and I will be doing a great deal of babysitting so communications about arrangements is essential. And young folks only text. I’ll just have to join the crowd. My fear is that I will become addicted to the IPHONE as so many others I see.

In any case, have a great time in Paris and hopefully you will have better weather.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 02:07 PM
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<<So at what time does darkness fall in Paris in late December?>>

The sun still sets later here in winter than it does in Boston (I'm from Boston) but the sunrise is later here. Around the solstice sunrise is at about about 8:40AM and sunset at about 4:55PM. Very nice report, btw.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 02:42 PM
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Loving this so far!

You had good karma regarding your former student

I have stayed at the Britannique so can vouch for it as well...great hotel and great location.

Last summer our DD was on a study abroad term in France and I was able to go see her at the end. I speak very little French so it was really nice to have her help me out. BTW, we both use our IPhones all the time and yes, texting is so convenient! The kids text with their grandparents too, so it can be a great way to stay close.

When you mentioned Americans flocking to Paris, it made me thing of my grandmother. In the 1920's when she was a late teen, she moved to Paris for 2 years to learn how to cook.

I look forward to hearing more about your trip
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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I am so looking forward to this! Your last year's London TR was fabulous....
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 03:48 PM
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FrenchMystiqueTours, thank you for the explanation about sunrise/sunset in Paris vs. Boston. We learn something new every day…interesting.

Mms, I know that I will get “into” texting too. I am sure that your grandmother told you great stories about Paris. You would love McCullough’s book.

Weekender, I am happy that you remembered the trip report I wrote last summer about my four days in London and my brief trip to Cornwall and Devon. This junket was similar – five days in Paris with an add-on tour to Normandy and Brittany “doing” the sights of northeastern France.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 03:55 PM
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Great report so far! As a teacher I can only hope a former student would think as highly of me as yours did you! Can't wait to hear more.
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Old Jun 18th, 2012, 03:58 PM
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Here is last year's London TR:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...parliament.cfm
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 06:09 AM
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not only do i tend to agree with my offspring that i need to update my technology, but I'm waiting for her to come back from her travels so that she can help me chose it and then set it up.

no way I'm getting a new phone without her being around to help me!

lateday - nice start to your report.
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 09:18 AM
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Nice beginning to your trip.

Actually we were in Paris over Christmas a few years ago. I think the day at that time of year is almost an hour shorter in Paris. Though it may be lighter a bit later than in Boston, the sunrise is close to 9:00 a.m. But the late light in June in Paris is amazing.
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 09:22 AM
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waiting to read more more.

Thanks weekender for giving us the link.
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 09:28 AM
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Pretentious? Nah. Persistent? Oh yes. I understand what you're saying, but I always use as much French as feasible, even if they start speaking to me in English. I think they get that I'm just trying to practice my French, just like they're practicing English.

I applaud you for all the brushing up you did. I always say I'm going to do that, and I do, but not nearly that much.

Great start! Looking forward to more.
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 10:36 AM
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latedaytraveler--I am headed to the library later for that book. Can't wait to read it, thanks!!!

Annhig--My DH and kids gave me my IPhone and are the ones who have shown me how to use it. I would be lost without them

I am off to read the London TR, but am anxiously waiting to read more about this trip too!
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 03:33 PM
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Willowjane, thank you for your interest. I taught for decades in an urban vocational school. My cousin whom I am out and about with often says, “Helen, I swear these kids come out of the woodwork.” I meet them everywhere!

Weekender, how nice of you to re-post my trip of last year. Let’s put it this way, I have many more trips behind me than ahead!

Annhig, I hear you – good luck with your new phone. I know that you are very familiar with Paris.

YankeeGal, they say that speaking the language comes last - who knows?

CW, and Cigalechanta (enjoy your posts) appreciate your interest.

Thanks to all – I was very frustrated today because I could not sign in. Has that ever happened to you? Finally straightened it out and ready to post Part II.
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 03:48 PM
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TUESDAY, JUNE 5: Slept rather late then proceeded on foot to the Musee Rodin in glorious weather. Realization – not every street in Paris is on the map! I finally found the rue Varenne where the American writer EDITH WHARTON lived her luxurious ex-pat lifestyle in the early 1900s. I would recommend Hermoine Lee’s bio of Wharton for those interested in her life and circle which included HENRY JAMES and BERNARD BERENSON.

Obviously, this street is a high rent district with palatial residences hidden behind massive oaken doorways. Across from where Wharton lived is the residence of the current French President of the Council, similar in the States to our Secretary of State. Chatted briefly with the gendarmes outside who were quite friendly and relaxed. Then on to the Rodin at the “79, rue de Varenne.”

I waited in line about 10-12 minutes to purchase my MUSEUM PASS for €54. If using a credit card, the price would have been €62 (not including bank fees). No question, the Rodin is one of the most beautiful and accessible museums in Paris. The collection is gracefully arranged in the Hotel Biron (the sculptor’s elegant home/workshop to which he bequeathed his oeuvre) and its lovely gardens which also contain many of his works including THE THINKER. Oh, the roses and flowers in abundance!

Rodin’s work must have a ring of familiarity even to those who are not art enthusiasts. “The Kiss” and “Cathedral Hands” have become part of our cultural iconography.The sculptor was friendly with many of his contemporary artists whose works he bought freely including those of Renior and Monet. Peeking out from one frame was the kindly face of Van Gogh’s “Le Pere Tanguy.” Although I was tempted to stroll through the extensive back garden that I saw from the second story window, it was time to move on.

My next destination would be the MUSEE MAROTTAN-MONET across the Seine. I had forgotten the paper on which I had typed the names and addresses of those museums I wanted to visit in case I needed directions. When I asked a young attendant at the Rodin, he whipped out his phone and wrote down the address, 2 rue Louis Boilly in the 16th. I NEED AN IPHONE!

From the Rodin I strolled past the majestic LES INVALIDES and made my way circuitously to the Tour Eiffel through up-scale neighborhoods. Wading through thousands waiting to “ascend,” I caught a cab to the MAROTTAN-MONET (€10). Fortunately I had written down the address for the driver.

First the bad news: you have to wait outside to purchase a ticket (€10) because entrance to the museum is staggered. This was not a problem on such a perfect afternoon. Museum Pass not honored there.

Now the good news: the MAROTTAN-MONET is a fabulous smaller museum for those following the muse of Monet & Company. It “features a collection of over three hundred Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Claude Monet (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.”

Built as a “hunting lodge” on the edge of the Bois de Boulogue, it was owned by the Duke of Valmy, a serious art collector who bequeathed his works to the Academie des Beaux Arts. The original collection was First Empire, but then the family acquired more late 19th century paintings so their focus changed. In 1966 Monet’s second son Michael left the MAROTTAN his collection of his father’s works, “thus creating the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings.”

The lower level of the museum was “inspired by the hall designed for Monet's Water Lilies murals in the Musée de l'Orangerie, the large, open room allows visitors to see a progression of Monet's work, as well as to view his canvases both up close and from afar.” Many of the Monet’s works contain vibrant red/orangish colors unlike his usual blue/greens. Several paintings of his own children blend in well with the works of Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot which are featured in abundance.

The property has a lovely garden which is not accessible to museum goers but borders several toney 16th residences. Leaving the MAROTTAN, I ventured through a small park to the Le Muette Metro. Had some help buying a ticket (oh, where are those real ticket sellers of yesteryear?) and took the REF (I think) line back to St-Michel station which was a 7-8 minuet stroll to the Dauphine Hotel. The sun was shining on the Seine as the book sellers of the Left Bank were beginning to pack it in for the day.

After dinner I wandered back to the river to take an hour ride on Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf (€13), one of several cruising options on the Seine. In my view, it is best to take this outing after dark but I wasn’t about to wait that long in the long summer evening. Centuries of history drifted by as we navigated under a myriad of bridges.

No doubt, the Pont Alexandre III bridge “with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs, and winged horses” built between 1896 and 1900 is considered the most magnificent. Tour directors refer to the bridge as a “gift of the Russian government to the people of Paris as a sign of friendship.” If so, the Czar wasn’t minding the store dispensing such munificence as the seeds of the Russian Revolution were being sown back home. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS fans will recognize Pont Alexandre III from the final scene in the film.

Speaking of the Seine bridges, I was reminded of the book (later made into a film) IS PARIS BURING? by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre. Written in the 60s, it contains hundreds of eyewitness accounts of the end of the Occupation of Paris. Hitler, demented until the end, continued to order his generals to destroy Paris, its monuments and bridges. Luckily German General Dietrich von Choltitz had the courage to defy Hitler’s orders.

In August, 1944, Von Choltitz, dressed in civilian clothes mingled with the multitude watching German troops march down the Champs Elyses in their daily display of arrogance and power. At that point, sensing the resistance of the crowds, he knew it was over and arranged surrender through the Swedish ambassador. Many consider von Choltitz “the savior of Paris.”

But enough historical reflection. Dampness and light rain settled over the city as I made my way back. A harbinger of weather conditions to come…
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 05:05 PM
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I am waiting for your third post now! What a beautiful description! Thank you.
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