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

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

Old Jun 26th, 2012, 08:12 PM
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Hi Willowjane,

Thank you for your continued interest. My trip started by doing a great deal of planning about seeing those things that were important to me. Of course, you never can do it all.

Last year I did a similar trip to London, four days on my own followed by a tour of Cornwall and Devon. You can check it out by clicking on my name. I even got to have a private tour of Parliament because of a former student.

For me the main thing is location. Last year I stayed near Trafalgar Square so I was able to walk to numerous places even though London is enormous. In Paris, to my surprise, these attractions seemed much more spread out so I had to take public transportation. As I mentioned, for me the Metro was not easy.


What a good idea to bring your friends A MOVEABLE FEAST from Shakespeare and Co! When I went in there, I was a bit overwhelmed and did not really see many new books.

Where did you stay the last time and what area are you planning to stay on your next trip?

I am sure that you saw MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

Thanks again…
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Old Jun 27th, 2012, 06:01 AM
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http://www.vacationinparis.com/apts/id_235.htm is where we stayed. We had a great time there! I am planning on staying at The Grend Ecoles next summer. We are only going to be in Paris for 4 days and then off to Provence. I also brought back book bags from Shakespeare and Co for gifts because the were light and easy to pack! I have not seen the movie but I will before we go! Have a great day!
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Old Jun 27th, 2012, 08:47 AM
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Paris plus Provence sounds great! Enjoy...
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 07:34 AM
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SATURDAY, JUNE 9: After a leisurely breakfast at the Dauphine, I wandered out into the sunshine of Sainte Germaine for the last time. My destination was MUSEE DELACROIX (€5 or Museum Pass) on the nearby Rue Furstenberg. Of course, I took the circuitous route but finally found it in a charming old neighborhood. The museum sign was barely visible.

The great French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) lived the last five years of his life in this commodious apartment/studio to be nearer to his work decorating the chapel at nearby Saint-Suplice. An accomplished lithographer in his youth, he illustrated texts of Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, and Shakespeare. Delacroix became simpatico with revolutionary movements of his time, particularly with the Greek struggle for independence.


Delacroix’s most famous painting remains LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE, “an unforgettable image of Parisians, having taken up arms, marching forward under the banner of the tricolour representing liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Acclaimed when first viewed, the work was bought by the French government but not shown publically until the Revolution of 1848. Today it remains a favorite in the Louvre.


Many younger artists admired his work culminating with Fantin Latour’s HOMAGE TO DELACROIX, painted after the latter’s death. The work, now at the Orsay and with an excellent reproduction at this museum, shows a group of admirers including Beaudelaire, Whister, and Manet gathered reverentially before a portrait of Delacroix.


From the house, to the lovely garden below, to his large well-appointed studio, the visitor captures a snapshot of what life was for Delacroix in the mid 19th century Paris. Leaving the museum, I took a shorter route back to the Dauphine through the curving Rue de Buci.


After settling up at the Dauphine and bidding my adieus at noon, I took a cab to the CONCORDE MONTPARNASSE, a huge, charmless business hotel in the 14th in the shadow of the Montparnasse Tower. Built in the early 70s, this 59 story monolith became so distasteful to Parisians that skyscrapers were soon banned from the city center.


By midday the weather had changed to cold and drear, a pattern that would persist off and on for the entire week of my GLOBUS TOUR of NORMANDY, BRITTANY, and CHATEAUX COUNTRY. I am aware that the majority of Fodorites would be disinclined to take such a tour but it works for me. I would have preferred to do this northeast circuit of France with Insight or Tauck, but economic considerations (after my five day stay on the Left Bank) determined otherwise.


The tour started at six that evening with a dinner at a nearby “lively” restaurant. Food was ok but I am not fussy. Philippe, our tour director, introduced himself and described what lie ahead. The meal was uneventful except that one gal from the Midwest (first trip to Europe) took off her “fanny pack” and left it on the floor during dinner. (Of course, you can see what is coming.) After dinner she stood up to chat with a new acquaintance. As she approached the door, she realized that she had forgotten it – but too late. Obviously, some member of the staff had taken it because our group was alone in that part of the restaurant. A cautionary tale – while she had left her passport in the hotel safe, she lost her credit cards, cell phone, and camera. She and her husband, really nice people, spend much of the trip emailing/calling home trying to straighten things out.


SUNDAY, JUNE 10: The next day we were off early to see the town, Philippe narrating as we went. First stop Notre Dame. Cold and damp, it was not so appealing as earlier in the week, but I did catch part of a lovely mass. Moving on, the tour included a visit to the second level of the EIFFEL TOWER. Although I had been in Paris a few times before, it would never have occurred to me to wait in line for this experience. Millions do it every year. The tower, the subject of controversy at first, was erected for the 1889 World’s Fair commemorating the centennial of the French Revolution.

The structure, as high as an 81 story building, was completed in two years with no deaths or injuries to workers according to Philippe. Obviously, Eiffel was a genius and soon the French loved it! I must admit that the views were spectacular. Those who wished could go to the higher levels, but I passed because of the cold and damp.

When we regrouped, many had chosen an optional tour to Versailles for the afternoon. I declined, however, having been there before. Back at the hotel, I decided to bunk in and watch the myriad of English channels on TV including a provocative Russian channel in English – they weren’t too favorable to the US.


Sunday night another “optional” tour was offered to MONMARTRE, the highest point in Paris in the 18th capped by the white domed BASILICA DE SACRE COEUR. The district has long been an artists’ enclave favored in the past by Dali, Modigliani, Picasso, van Gogh, and others. You can still have your portrait done by street artists visible in abundance. Again, the weather was not conducive to enjoying the panoramic views of Paris from the summit so I wandered into Sacre Coeur and attended another mass in the beautifully lit church. The congregation was multi-culturally diverse and devout.


Monmartre is quite high so we ascended and came down in a little white trolley. The second part of the outing was a cruise on the Seine starting at the Eiffel Tower. By then it was getting dark (because of cloud cover) so I assured my new friends that they were lucky because by the time we got to Notre Dame they should get some great pictures of the cathedral lit up. But it was not to be. Just as we were passing the Musee D’Orsay, the boat turned around and headed back. A car had fallen (been pushed?) into the Seine and all traffic was turned back. One consolation – just as we disembarked at 10 PM, the 5 minute light show on the tower blinked brilliantly over the Seine. It was impressive.

Off to the countryside the next day…
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 04:13 AM
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MONDAY, JUNE 10

NORMANDY, BRITTANY, and CHATEAUX COUNTRY – some stops along the way.

ROUEN: As we set out through the fields of Normandy, Philippe reminded us that the area has more cows than people, hence its rich creamy desserts and cheeses. Apple orchards in abundance produce that favorite French brandy CALVADOS. It fields, however, have frequently been blood-soaked from Viking invasions, the Hundreds Years War (1845-1850), the Wars of Religion, not to forget the Allied Invasion of 1944. After the latter event, much construction was done in haste although many charming old structures remain.


Rouen is most often associated with the ignominious death of JOAN OF ARC who was burned to death in 1431 in the public square having been declared a witch. A modern church built in 1979 commemorating that event now stands on the place of her execution. Moving away from the center, we strolled up streets lined with timber framed houses (similar to those of Shakespearean time).

Not to be missed along the way is LE GROS HORLOGE (the great clock), an elaborate archway spanning a narrow street with a large clock on each side which indicates, in addition to the correct time, the phases of the moon and the divinity associated with each day of the week. This contrivance, paid for by wealthy wool merchants of the area, was a wonder to all when built in the early 1500s.


Finally arriving at the ROUEN CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME, I was surprised that its façade seemed in need of such repair. But then this structure has withstood fire, lightning strikes, collapses, and damage through the centuries including extensive bombing at the time of the Allied Invasion of 1944. Perhaps I expected that the cathedral would look like one of those thirty paintings by CLAUDE MONET which the artist completed in the early 1890s. This work was not done from religious devotion, but was an attempt by the artist to study the effects of light and weather on the edifice over a two year period. Unfortunately, being Monday, the cathedral was closed.


In THE GREATER JOURNEY: AMERICANS IN PARIS 1830-1900, David McCullough describes the joy and wonder of early travelers, after storm-tossed sea voyages, when they finally landed and arrived in Rouen on their way to Paris. Never had they seen such imposing beauty as that of the Rouen Cathedral – they knew they were really in Europe at last.


CAEN’S MUSEUM FOR PEACE (The Caen Memorial: History to Understand the World)

A stop to the Caen Museum for Peace is a “must” for those visiting the landing beaches who wish to put D DAY into historical context. Opened in 1988 on the 44th anniversary of the event, the museum is considered the finest WWII memorial in France. A 1941 Hawker Typhoon used by the RAF hangs above the lobby.

Then we began “with a downward spiral stroll, tracing (almost psychoanalyzing) the path Europe followed from the end of World War I to the rise of fascism to World War II.” This pathway contains artifacts, memorabilia, documents, and audio clips from that sad history. All exhibits are in French with smaller translations in English and German below. (Glad I had reviewed my French here.) Something about the place reminded me of the Churchill War Rooms in London – both very well done.


Two films are also part of the Caen Memorial experience: “Jour D” about the invasion and “Esperance” (Hope) described as a “thrilling sweep through the pains and triumphs of the 20th century.” The museum continues to expand. In 2002 a new wing opened featuring the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and other events including artifacts from 9/11.


Leaving the museum, we saw its lovely grounds and the sun playing on the Atlantic beyond. We did a circuit of Caen’s center where Romanesque Saint Etienne Abbey remains. Our hotel was on the harbor filled with colorful yachts. I strolled down its stone wharf before dinner – a beautiful summer evening. Tomorrow, the beaches…
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 05:59 AM
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Perhaps I expected that the cathedral would look like one of those thirty paintings by CLAUDE MONET which the artist completed in the early 1890s. This work was not done from religious devotion, but was an attempt by the artist to study the effects of light and weather on the edifice over a two year period. >>


ldt - they had a number of them [six?] in the Monet exhibition in the grand palais last year. it was very interesting seeing the differences. they also had loads of his pictures of hayricks where he did the same thing.

still enjoying your TR very much.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 07:56 AM
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Just found this. Bookmarking for a nice long read.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 09:10 AM
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Hi Annhig,

I am sure that Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral were lovely at the Grand Palais. No doubt, Monet was a prolific artist. For one thing with his large family and estate at Giverny, he needed the money!

I presume that since you are just across the Channel that you have been to Normandy.

Thank you for your interest.

Taconic traveler, nice to have you along…
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 09:19 AM
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ldt - we haven't seen much of normandy, as it happens. Brittany yes [because from cornwall you have to drive through it to get anywhere else], one night in Rouen, nights in Caen and Dieppe en route to elsewhere, and the odd drive, but not much else.

we don't have a great interest in the Normandy beaches [i think that that is a US thing for obvious reasons] and MSM has always put me off due to the crowds. [plus we have our own here!] clearly we're missing a lot and I must odd it to my list!
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 11:52 AM
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“we don't have a great interest in the Normandy beaches [i think that that is a US thing for obvious reasons] and MSM has always put me off due to the crowds.”


Annhig, agreed it is a “US thing” regarded as our “finest hour” to which some may add that we haven’t had that many since  (should be a smiley face). The Canadians, Aussies, and Kiwis among us were also very interested in the landing beaches where so many of their men were lost.

MSM was not that busy in early June. For one thing the site has made parking for busses and private vehicles more challenging. More to follow.


I did see St. Michael’s Mount off the coast of Cornwall – lovely.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 12:45 PM
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Really enjoying your report!
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 01:09 PM
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ldt - thanks for the tip about the MSM.

I should like to see it but wouldn't make a special trip.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 01:30 PM
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When we were in Rouen a few years back, one of the highlights was a light show on the facade of the cathedral which made it resemble Monet's renditions, as well many other effects. It was a nightly event.

Very much enjoying your report.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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Hi Annhig and Willowjane, thanks for following along.

Fra_Diavolo, wow, a light show on the Rouen Cathedral – must have been spectacular. I was really sorry that we could not see the interior because it was Monday.

Let’s hear it again for the Brits who, for the most part, only close on Christmas.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 02:39 PM
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I visited MSM but must say I liked it better on the approach instead of being inside. There's a story about that clock
in Rouen but I keep trying to rememer , something about the hands.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 02:45 PM
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gros horloge

It is one-handed, with just the hour hand, because there really was no need to burden oneself with minutes in the Middle-Ages, when it took five days to get from Rouen to Paris. A half-black, half-silver ball shows the moon phases, often ignored today but so important in the agricultural France of the time. At the bottom of the dial, you can make out divine representations of Antiquity, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Apollo, God of the Sun. It’s a week-to-a-page diary, very useful to pinpoint the days of the week back when a vast majority of the population didn’t know how to read. The Big Clock divides Rouen’s most famous street in two. It is a pleasure to stroll down this quaint street with so much old-world charm.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 05:02 PM
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“I visited MSM but must say I liked it better on the approach instead of being inside.”

Hi Cigalechanta, I hear you. I am getting to that part – the approach is magnificent.

Thank you for describing the GROS HORLOGE in detail. Really beautiful and so technologically advanced for those years. In fact the weather that day was not great, so I was more or less hurrying along and didn’t notice every aspect of the clock.
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Old Jun 30th, 2012, 07:14 PM
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Wow, am I glad I found this trip report!! I love Paris and you just brought it to life!! I want to read David McCullough's book now and Edith Wharton's biography. I guess I will be busy!! Looking forward to more. I am a WWII buff also and really enjoyed the history of the Normandy area when I was there 5 years ago.
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Old Jul 1st, 2012, 02:37 AM
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latedaytraveller, I just read your wonderful trip report in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I'm definitely going to read Moveable Feast which I brought along on our recent trip to France but didn't get a chance to open. We watched the first half of Midnight in Paris last night before giving in to jet lag. I have also read The Paris Wife and Suite Francais with my book club and Sarah's Key is our next selection.

We didnt realize that Edith Wharton once had a residence on Rue Varenne when we walked it's length after visiting the Rodin Museum. We saw Midsummer Night's Dream performed outdoors at The Mount in the Berkshires way back in the 80s after which I read her biography and several of her books, including Ethan Frome, my favourite We did see many gendarmes stationed along the street and an official car leaving one residence was given their full attention.

The Victor Hugo museum is still free but you can buy a ticket to see a special exhibit which is what you must have done. It's confusing but I had just read about the option and that it's seldom worthwhile so we knew not to pay.
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Old Jul 1st, 2012, 03:17 AM
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Linda, thank you for your kind words. I loved McCullough’s book which is also beautifully illustrated. In fact, I just noticed the cover yesterday – a Renoir painting of the Pont Neuf looking toward the Left Bank and the street where my hotel was located, rue Dauphine.

Also the spine of the book has a picture by Caillebotte’s, “Young Man at the Window.” Never noticed these things before.

Since you are a WWII buff, you might consider reading FRANCE: THE DARK YEARS 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson. A rather weighty tome, it tells the sad story from the fall of France in 1940, through the ensuing occupation, to the Liberation in August 1944. You can also watch old film clips of these events on youtube.


Moonlyn, than you for following along. I must read PARIS WIFE which others have also suggested. I thought that SUITE FRANCAIS was brilliant – to think that Irene Nemirorsky could never finish her original design for the work since she died in the Holocaust in 1942.
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