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

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

Old Jul 8th, 2012, 06:30 PM
  #141  
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Hi Kelsey,

Thanks for following. Chambord is impressive, but not my taste. Chenonceau was fabulous as I described. It's a good contrast and they are not that far from each other.

Personally, I would not suggest Mont Sainte Michele as a day trip from Paris –check the distance – toooo long!

But again, how many days are you in Paris?
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 06:58 PM
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Hi, Thanks for your response (once again - I so appreciate all the information!) I will be in Paris 12 days and a half (half days count if you wake up very early). So far I have one day of Versailles and one half day or so of Giverny. I adore castles of any kind so I thought this might be a good taste of the Loire for future longer trips (wishful thinking). I can imagine that they are over the top!I also thought that a group tour would be nice as a change of pace.
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Old Jul 9th, 2012, 04:17 AM
  #143  
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Hi Kelsey, with 12 days you certainly can accomodate a few trips outside Paris.

You will love Giverny - enjoy.

I hope you are planning a Seine cruise also?
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Old Jul 9th, 2012, 06:52 AM
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latedaytraveler - Absoluntely a Seine cruise! I am planning an evening tour so I can see Paris at night from a bus as well as the boat.

I am working on an Edith Piaf day now - why not?
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Old Jul 9th, 2012, 09:57 AM
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Hi Kelsey, sounds good - I couldn't wait up that long myself


Have you seen LA VIE EN ROSE, a film about Edith Piaf (2007)?
Stars Marion Cotillard who plays Adriana in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.
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Old Jul 9th, 2012, 02:04 PM
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FRIDAY, JUNE 15

CHARTRES and RETURN TO PARIS

The air was chill and damp as we drove through the rich, flat wheat fields on our way to Chartres. Philippe said that the area’s bountiful harvests provided the means for building the CATHEDRALE NOTRE-DAME DE CHARTRES. Having been constructed between 1193 and 1250, a remarkably short time, contributes to the structure’s consistency of design.


According to one account “not only is Chartres Cathedral one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, it is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and details… [its]…extensive cycle of portal sculpture remains fully intact and its glowing stained-glassed windows are original… thus the only cathedral that conveys an almost perfect image of how it looked when it was built.”


The cathedral boasts 176 magnificent stained-glasses windows, one of which, the WEST ROSE, depicts the Last Judgment. All the statuary and iconography in the cathedral tells a story because most of its worshipers were illiterate.


By tradition, pilgrimage destinations in the Middle Ages contained a sacred relic. At Chartres it was the “Sancta Camisia,” the tunic worn by the Blessed Virgin at the time of Christ’s birth. Supposedly it was brought back from the Holy Land by Charlemagne. Philippe said that this garment is displayed once of month for veneration. Although modern scientists have examined the forensics of this tunic, the results of their investigations remain unpublished.


Of interest is the ancient stone floor labyrinth near the rear of the church which the faithful trace in prayer and contemplation. With a circumference of 131 feet, it is about the same size as the West Rose window above so “if the west wall fell inwards, the rose would land directly on the Labyrinth.” Following the path through the labyrinth would take the worshiper a circuit of 964 feet.


The above is just one example of the technological/mathematical acumen of those who designed and built the edifice. Fortunately, the people of Chartres demanded that their beloved cathedral be spared at the time of the French Revolution when extremists were destroying so much church property throughout France. Also in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, all of the stained-glass windows were removed, stored, and re-leaded before being reinstalled for modern day pilgrims like ourselves.


In front of the main altar was a huge screen behind which workmen were cleaning and restoring the walls and statuary. What we could see looked amazingly clean and bright. It may take years to complete this task but it is well worth the effort. Chartres is also a popular day trip destination from Paris, only 1 ½ hours by train from Montparnasse Station.


Back on the road, now here is the hairy part. We arrived in Paris under dreary skies about noon. Our rooms at the Concorde Montparnasse would not be ready until 3 o’clock. We disembarked near the gold Joan of Arc statue on the Rue Rivoli. Some, including “moi” had signed on to a tour of the nearby Louvre while others scattered about on their own.


On my visit a few years back, we had entered through I.M. Pei’s Pyramid in the Louvre Courtyard. This time we went through the newer Carrousel Entrance, basically a gigantic upscale shopping mall with no less than 14 restaurants. Philippe told us to get lunch, then to meet him in the huge space under the “La Pryamide Inversee,” an inverted pyramid, mimicking Pei’s entrance.


Most would agree that the LOUVRE is enormous, containing “more than 380,000 objects and displays, 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square metres (652,000 sq ft) dedicated to the permanent collection.” Basically, the collection contains works done before the Revolution of 1848. Later paintings and sculptures, including those of the Impressionists, were removed to the Musee d’Orsay in 1986 (thank you, God).


What I failed to notice until it was too late were the THREE entrances to the museum within this larger Carrousel Mall – the RICHELIEU, the SULLY, and the DENON. Of course, the place was thronged. Philippe steered his flock to the Denon Entrance (I think) to view the traditional Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo trajectory which I had seen before. I told him I would go to another part, the Richelieu entrance, and meet the group back at 3 o’clock.


As I approached the Richelieu entrance, I realized that I had no ticket. Explaining that I was with a Globus tour group didn’t cut it. I returned to the waiting area and purchased a ticket from a kiosk (so what’s another € 10 at this point?) Approaching the ticket taker, he said that what I gave him was not a ticket, but the receipt. Very frustrated at this point, he called over another attendant who checked my receipt against the number on my credit card and bid me enter. Understandable, I guess since anyone could pick up a receipt from the floor without actually paying.


I drifted through almost empty rooms with enormous classical paintings and passed through elegant spaces strewn with marble statues in various states of repose. The views from the windows of the Pyramid Entrance below, and the architectural features afforded of the Louvre’s façade were breathtaking, I must admit.


Leaving the Richelieu, I tried to enter the Denon entrance to catch up with my group and view the royal jewels which I had seen before. Of course, the same problem – no ticket. While trying to sort this out again, I spied Philippe helping an older fellow from our tour who had fallen and needed a wheelchair. At this point I decided to stay with my new friends. We returned to our meeting place in the enormous lobby under the inverted pyramid where folks were playfully taking photos of each other “holding up” the pyramid with one finger in Atlas-like poses.


Among those on our tour was a couple from Iowa, Clara and Tom, on their first trip out of the US. I had noticed how devoted they were, a “second honeymoon” they explained. Although they had been married for 32 years, they seemed much younger. As we waited, Clara said that Tom was getting tired, and when he tried to sit on the floor against the wall in this area, he was told to stand up. Tom was a rugged fellow, hefty, always in jeans and his sneakers. Clara said that Tom had atrophy in his feet as a result of chemotherapy for colon cancer. She said that his doctor had told them that if they were going to Paris, this would be a “good time.”


Suddenly, my snafu with the Louvre ticket seemed small. To accommodate our tour mate who had fallen, Philippe arranged for our bus to pick us up in the vast garage under the Louvre. We returned to the point on the Rue de Rivoli where the others were waiting under showery skies. I felt bad that these folks, many of whom had never been to Paris before, only saw this great city in stormy weather.


That evening some opted for the pricey Moulin Rouge dinner/show – about €165 each. Been there, done that, and I would not have gone even if offered a free ticket. Once was enough.


I considered dropping in at the Closerie des Lilacs, on the Boulevard du Montparnasse, a favorite brasserie of Hemingway’s. I started in that direction but turned back as the skies opened up again. I retreated to a café across from the hotel, sitting outside well under the awning. I was glad that I was wearing my trusty black/grey paisley shawl against the chill.


Suddenly, Clara and Tom strolled by with their latest purchase – more pastry. They were excited because they were leaving for London the next day to visit their oldest daughter who was doing graduate work there. They joined me and we chatted about the trip and travel in general. They were not sure that they would be returning to Europe.


As they were leaving, Tom said, “Helen, you know, you always dress so nice.”


I thanked him and replied, “Thank you, Tom, that’s because I have so many shawls and scarves. They cover a multitude of sins.” They went off down the street, chuckling and holding hands.



SATURDAY, JUNE 16 – the departure, still overcast and bleak. At CDG, I used up some remaining euros buying sundries including fresh brie. Whatever was I thinking? It didn’t travel well across the Atlantic.


The Air France flight to Boston was totally full. My seatmate offered me his “window view,” but I gracefully declined and kept the aisle seat.


Home – the heat, the kids, the grandkids, the dog and so many memories of Paris and beyond.


A few reflections to follow, if you are still with me…
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Old Jul 9th, 2012, 02:23 PM
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latedaytraveler,

What a wonderful, heartwarming story about Clara and Tom! I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing those thoughts. I look forward to your reflections...

I saw LA VIE EN ROSE a couple of years ago. I came across this article about Edith Piaf. I am posting the link...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/201...f-museum-paris

Thanks.
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Old Jul 9th, 2012, 05:14 PM
  #148  
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Hi Kelsey, glad you liked the story of Clara & Tom. Almost didn’t put it in because it might be thought a bit smaltzy.

Now the Edith Piaf Museum is really small. Very interesting. When I went to the Hugo and Delacroix museums, the signs were not very visible – really had to look.

Sound like good planning…
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 04:40 AM
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lateday, yes, the Dordogne is more scenic. As well as having 1,001 chateaux and great places to eat, it also has prehistoric cave art and wonderful markets.

I've enjoyed your report very much! It brings back lovey memories of that trip with my daughter. We also went to Giverny, Chartes, Mont St. Michel and Brugge after Paris.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 09:16 AM
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no, not smaltzy - very touching. its that sort of human interaction that makes trips special [and trip reports!]

I'm sure that they will remember you with affection too!
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 09:52 AM
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Again, a lovely report and I'm interested in your reflections. I'm glad that the Iowa couple got to take this trip. Hub and I started when we were in our 30s and I'm so thankful as he lost his battle with cancer when he was 62. Had we waited until retirement, there would have been no trips together at all.

Anyhow, I do wish they'd just put Mona, Venus and Winged in one room. Then folks could enjoy the rest of their Louvre visit. LOL.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 11:40 AM
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Thanks, Moolyn, aiming for Bruges someday myself...
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 01:07 PM
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LDT - I've really enjoyed your report. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. You must have been a memorable English teacher!
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 05:03 PM
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Hi TDudette, glad this report brought back so many good memories of your travels with your husband.

As I said at the end of my London TP last year, a friend used to say about travel, “Helen, all you need is the time, the health, and the money.” We only have all three for a short time.


Hi Annhig, I am sure that you folks have also had such brief, but touching encounters. I often am reminded of conversations/interactions/jokes that I had with strangers or fellow tour mates on these odysseys. They are recalled with fondness.


Maine GG, Thank you for your kind words. I did love teaching English.

Often people would ask, “How could you do it so long?”

My reply: “Because I never got tired of Shakespeare, Poe, London, Arthur Miller, Hawthorne – yada, yada. I still substitute in the middle and high school in the town where I live. I often ask the kids, “What are you reading?" – then I go into another tangent. LOL
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 05:29 PM
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Latedaytraveler - If this is your idea of "another tangent", I am delighted I have had the opportunity to partake. I have enjoyed your posts so much. From one English teacher to another, sincere thanks for your posts and help in planning my upcoming trip. I will remember my Fodorite friends as part of this particular journey.
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 09:31 AM
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Hi Kelsey, such kind words - merci. Are you still teaching English?
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 02:38 PM
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Thanks for allowing us to tag along and enjoy the trip too.
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 05:20 PM
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Hi ParisAmsterdam, putting a few reflections together. Never meant this to be so long! Thanks...
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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Yes, I still teach. I am teaching ESL right now. Twenty two years of it! I would love to teach literature again.
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 06:33 PM
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REFLECTIONS…

Some practicalities:

INSURANCE: Cost about $470 (ouch!) for two weeks at my age. Two years ago I tripped (on a clear sidewalk in the morning), broke my wrist, and had to fly from Edinburgh, to Heathrow, to Boston. It wasn’t pretty. After a hassle of paperwork weeks later, I was compensated for the six days of the tour that I missed.


What really concerns me though is the possibility of a more serious accident/health issue that would require being med-flighted home. Of course, insurance is a choice, but having this protection made me feel better.


IDENTIFICATION: My adult children have some unspoken concerns about “Nan” on these solo junkets to Europe. So this year I went to FREETRANSLATIONS.COM and composed a clear statement “en francais” identifying myself, stating the that I was solo for five days in Paris with name and phone number of Hotel Dauphine, also the hotels/phone numbers and dates for the next seven nights on the Globus Tour.


Added contact name/number at home and stapled a copy of my passport to this missive. I carried a copy in my purse and one in my luggage. Fortunately, these documents weren’t needed.


GOING SOLO – it’s an acquired taste but it didn’t start out that way. For various reasons my traveling companions of yore are no longer available for such jaunts. Plus they prefer breakfast in bed, a leisurely late lunch with wine, serious shopping, and “cabbing” it everywhere. All good things in themselves, but not for me on this trip. “Entre nous,” none of my friends can/could/would walk as far as I did in Paris.


GLOBUS TOUR of NORMANDY, BRITTANY, and CHATEAUX COUNTRY: For me this tour was the best way to see those places that I wanted at a reasonable price. Not interested in driving in Europe and would not consider the train, with bus connections, as an option on my own. Plus, I enjoyed the company.

LITERATURE

Following the muse of EDITH WHARTON on the rue Varenne on my way to the Musee Rodin was exciting. In most of her novels the heroine lives or passes through Paris which Wharton knew so well. Sorry that I did not stroll down the Boulevard Malesherbes in the 17th so often referred to in HENRY JAMES’s THE AMBASSADORS. Chad, the wayward American son, lives in an elegant Haussman-styled apartment with a balcony overlooking the street – quite symbolic in the novel. Right out of Caillebotte’s painting “Man at the Window” which graces the spine of McCullough’s book THE GREATER JOURNEY: AMERICANS IN PARIS 1830-1900.


HEMINGWAY’S PARIS WALKS, scheduled each Friday morning at 10:30 from Cardinal Lemoine Metro, was excellent. This Mouffetard section in the 5th is charming. In addition, we paid homage to JAMES JOYCE and GEORGE ORWELL along the way. Also enjoyed visiting the DEUX MAGOT CAFÉ on Boulevard Saint Germain, frequented by Hem, and later by SATRE, CAMUS, and PICASSO.


The MUSEE VICTOR HUGO in the PLACE DES VOSGES memorializes one of France’s greatest writers, in addition to giving us a peek into the elegant lifestyle of that period. Note: I must start reading Hugo – in English, of course. On our way out of Paris going to Normandy, I noticed the birthplace of MARCEL PROUST in toney Auteuil in the 16th – now there is another writer I really should catch up on, probably on CD.

ART

PARIS MUSEUM PASS – definitely worth it for me. Using the pass, in four days I “did” the Musee Rodin, the Musee Nissim de Camondo, the Conciergerie, Archeology Crypt beneath Notre Dame Cathedral, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Orangerie, and Saint Chapelle.


I paid to visit the Musee Marottan- Monet and Musee Delacroix. The latter is covered by the Museum Pass but I went there on my fifth day in Paris after the pass had expired. And let us not forget that abortive visit to the Louvre at the end of my tour.


Too many museums? No doubt for some, but I had spent a great deal of time on line choosing those that I wanted to see and just kept on going. Basically, in Paris I set out around 9 in the morning and returned about 5-6, freshened up, then strolled to a local café, returning through the Saint Germain neighborhoods before sunset on those long June evenings.


Reactions? I must say that I was blown away by the Impressionist paintings at the Marottan-Monet and the Walter-Guillaume collection on the lower level of the Orangerie. For those going to Paris for the first time and wanting to get their toes wet among the myriad of museums, I would suggest starting with the Rodin (such lovely gardens too) and the Musee d’Orsay.


HISTORY


It’s everywhere! On the first day of our tour, our guide Philippe explained, “There are two important dates to remember in the history of Paris – 1789, the FRENCH REVOLUTION, and 1900, the EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE, the world’s fair which attracted some 50 million visitors.


Visiting the LOUVRE itself (formerly the seat of French kings) and VERSAILLES outside of Paris, along with a swing through CHATEAU COUNTRY, bears witness to the opulence and grandiosity of the French aristocracy whose preeminence was so rudely interrupted by the events of July 14, 1789. A REIGN OF TERROR followed with the guillotine in full use in the Place de Concorde lopping off the heads of royalty and clergy with abandon. Then Napoleon appeared leading the French to glory before defeat at Waterloo – this quintessential “man on horseback” is still glorified by the French (see his gigantic tomb at LES INVALIDES).


But the French had mixed feelings about royalty and restored the Bourbon kings after Napoleon’s departure. The 19th century did not go smoothly what with the social/political revolutions (subject of Hugo’s LES MISERABLES), the SEIGE OF PARIS by the Prussians (when Parisians even were driven to eat the animals in the zoo), followed by the bloody COMMUNE.


Yet things brightened with the completion of BARON HAUSSMAN’S extensive urban redesign of Paris, the Eiffel Tower completed in 1889 to mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and the buildup to 1900 EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE. If I may refer again to McCullough’s THE GREATER JOURNEY, this book gave me a deeper understanding of the history of the city during this period than others that I have read.


The historian Henry Adams was both fascinated and disturbed by the technology (electricity, automobiles, turbines, and the like) displayed at the 1900 exposition. He referred to these innovations as “the dynamo” which would totally change life in the 20th century (he got that right). He compared that force to the medieval cult of the Virgin in whose honor the great cathedrals had been built, including among others Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. Henry then retreated to his studies, learning medieval French to amuse himself in old age. I just love Henry Adams.


Enduring monuments to the 1900 BELLE EPOQUE continue to grace Paris: the GARE D’ORSAY Art Nouveau railway station built to accommodate the crowds, now the MUSEE D'ORSAY; the PONT ALEXANDRE III, considered the most elaborate and ornamental bridge over the Seine; and the GRAND PALAIS, the “largest existing glass structure in the world,” built as the centerpiece of the fair grounds.


On to the 20th century: the needless slaughter of WWI in the trenches; the humiliating defeat and consequent occupation by the Nazis during WWII; and the liberation and final reckoning about the prickly subject of collaboration.

Seeing the beaches of Normandy, the war museums, and the immense cemeteries of friend and foe bears silent tribute to the dead. One regret – we did not visit Pointe du Hoc the rocky cliff mounted by Army Rangers, trained by British forces, during the D-Day invasion. Subject of a best seller THE BOYS OF POINTE DU HOC: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army Rangers by Douglas Brinkley. The Old Gipper gave a moving speech there on the 40th anniversary of the event in 1884, surrounded by proud veterans of the event, most no longer with us.


Wow! I never thought this report would be so lengthy. Everyone “does” Paris in his or her own way and I have so enjoyed the Paris posts on this board for many years. My circumstances and demographic suggest that my return to Paris is uncertain. I wish to thank all of you who have been kind enough to follow my journey.


As Bogey said, “We’ll always have Paris.”


Amen….
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