Yet another live Paris report

Oct 12th, 2013, 09:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 36
This is really fun reading...waiting for the next installment.
turaj1 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2013, 09:33 AM
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I love, love, love your system with maps and guides on the sheets of poster board. What a clever, but simple solution. I've tried taking screen shots of maps and guide pages on my iPad but I'm stuck with carrying my "heavy" and expensive device with the difficulties of reading it in the sun.

I love your writing and traveling style and look forward to more entries. Did the army take you to Garmisch? We've always wanted to stay at Edelweiss. (hubby is a retired Marine) What a beautiful area that is.
GAJayhawks is offline  
Oct 12th, 2013, 10:13 AM
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Great report so far and am sure it will continue to be.


I like the Ile
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Oct 12th, 2013, 01:12 PM
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^^"I end up juggling my sunglasses and my reading glasses while trying to find a spot of shade to read in."

Me too, until I invested in bifocal sunglasses. Great for reading outdoor menus too.
I'm enjoying reading your live report so thank you.
VonVan is offline  
Oct 12th, 2013, 01:19 PM
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Love your writing style and your map/guide idea. Looking forward to hearing more.
KL467 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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Most of those people talking to themselves are actually talking on the their mobile phone.>>

yes, but in the urinal? how does that work? does there not come a point when both hands are required?

yes, more please!
annhig is online now  
Oct 12th, 2013, 02:40 PM
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"kit mains libres"
kerouac is online now  
Oct 12th, 2013, 10:32 PM
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thank you for increasing my french vocabulary, kerouac.

so that's why men [and it nearly always IS men, IME] walk round with those ear pieces - it's so they can talk and pee simultaneously.
annhig is online now  
Oct 12th, 2013, 10:43 PM
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It is called multitasking
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Oct 12th, 2013, 11:13 PM
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i thought that was something men couldn't do, Pv. At least that's what DH is always trying to persuade me, when i ask him to do one thing, followed by something else!
annhig is online now  
Oct 13th, 2013, 06:27 AM
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S, my friend! I am so glad to read this. It sounds like you are doing wonderfully. I'm enjoying!!!!
Grassshopper is offline  
Oct 13th, 2013, 06:38 AM
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I've been following along and enjoying your report immensely. We have stayed on Ile St Louis with windows from a top floor overlooking the Seine and over several trips to Paris it was my favourite spot.

I hate to throw cold water on your cunning map/walk info plan but it has been done commercially already. "City Walks Paris 50 Adventures on Foot" is a boxed set of cards 3 3/4" by 5 1/2" with a map on one side and text on the other. The publisher's site is One can take along the walks of interest and leave the others at home.

That said, I still like your homegrown approach as I too really like the Micheline Green Guide walks. In fact, since I have 3 Green Guides for Paris I think I'll try your method and cut a couple up. I like the Paris Walks cards but your method allows more customization. ;^)
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Oct 13th, 2013, 09:59 AM
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Thanks, ParisAmsterdam! I just looked up the boxed set and bookmarked it. I too like the homegrown custom approach. Maybe a mix of both?

I brought a book called Paris Walks that had been highly recommended, and ended up not using it while there. Just too inconvenient to carry around (and pull out). The map I used most often (that I found invaluable) was Streetwise Paris. All streets are listed and the whole thing is laminated, folded, and waterproof. It was easy to see the area in which I was standing (by partially unfolding) without unfolding the entire map.
susan001 is offline  
Oct 13th, 2013, 10:12 AM
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I am glad that I am able to walk around Paris mapless, but then again I have all the time in the world to do it.
kerouac is online now  
Oct 13th, 2013, 10:38 AM
Join Date: Dec 2012
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I'm right with you in Paris...thanks for taking me along.

remember-all who wander are not lost-
sometimes you just gotta ditch the maps
FabulousFrance is offline  
Oct 13th, 2013, 04:46 PM
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Never stayed on ISL but love to roam around there and we will be close on this visit coming up. Stay where you want and no need to's your trip!
denisea is offline  
Oct 14th, 2013, 05:35 AM
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I agree about the joy of walking around a city without a map, but it requires a degree of familiarity, and time, to be able to do so.
annhig is online now  
Oct 14th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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What a great start - looking forward to more, swandav!
YankyGal is offline  
Oct 14th, 2013, 09:37 AM
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Bookmarking. Next trip. Sounds grand.
Cjar is offline  
Oct 14th, 2013, 10:47 AM
Original Poster
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Hi G’hopper!! Yes, I’m having fun!

Thanks for the tip, ParisAmsterdam, but I already bought that little kit. (And actually that’s what gave me the idea and the template to make my own!) I found the text to be inadequate, though. There is almost no historical data (maybe some “Hemingway ate here” notes that don’t interest me much) and too much focus on where to shop and where to eat.

Yes, I realize that maps are not always the best traveler’s best choice. Believe me, I’ve spent a portion of my adult life lost in Paris. But remember that these maps were to guide me on specific learning walks; these were not supposed to help me navigate while exploring the city.

kerouak, no he had no phone. He crossed in front of me to wash his hands, and though he was wearing clean clothes (puffy orange coat, dark pants, and clean white sneakers!), he had that energized, confused face of the manic and the dirty and tousled hair of the homeless. I wasn’t watching his every move, but I didn’t see a phone in his hands or him putting a phone into his trousers pocket. He had no earpiece. He was civil enough to wash his hands, however, and to nod agreeably to me as he walked to the sink.

The story --

My cousin arrives this evening, and she’ll stay with me in this small (advertised as “large”) studio. When I originally reserved the studio, I didn’t realize that we would be sharing. We had coordinated our dates for a mutual visit; when I sent her a link to show her “my” apartment, she asked how much her share was. Well. Uh.

I live alone. I’ve lived alone for most of my life, and it pretty much defines me. I’m like a cat; sharing territory doesn’t even enter my consciousness. But my cousin is an incredibly wonderful woman, a great smiling face with a large family and boisterous life, and I know any effort will be well worthwhile. As will her share of the rent.

Since I live alone, I also travel alone. I’ve never really understood those threads asking the whys and hows of single travel. Well, I do understand them, I mean I understand that travelling alone is new and unknown to a lot of people, but it’s impossible for me to get into those heads. I cannot imagine having to share my travel day, my planned adventures, my long hours of observing and musing, with another soul with its own agenda (yeah, how self-centered am I? I admit it). It took a few days for me to adjust my thinking and to mentally put away about half of the laminated cards I had made up, and I’m eager to share the adventures and Parisian air with my delightful cousin. But, basically, this is my last free day.

Today is probably not interesting to any one of you. Today I relive my 1974 self. I lived in the 16th and attended classes in the 7th, and I daily walked between the two, even though I always had the Carte Orange. It was just interesting and fun; some of the things I saw and little vignettes are still with me as little postcards of my definitive “Paris.” Anyway, today I’m doing that walk again. However, I used to vary my route quite a bit, so I’ll probably spend the day meandering down one street, then meandering back on another street, then meandering forward again another way. I’ll be looking for ghosts and memories. Oh, and yes, I have my laminated card with map.

My walk into the past begins at Mo. St. Francois Xavier, and my handy dandy RATP app had told me yesterday that bus #87 goes directly there; I prefer busses to metro, so I was a happy camper. Until I was standing at the bus stop for #87 and saw that the schedule for bus #87 for Sunday had no times listed but instead red words to the effect that, no, there is no bus today. Hmm. I walked onward to the next stop in the dim hope that the bus just skipped minor stops on Sunday, but no, the next stop had the same irritating red-worded Sunday schedule. Zut alors. My stomach was acting up, which was no surprise; in fact, I was surprised it had given me two beautiful days in Paris with no problems. My stomach is my own personal spoiled child who resists any kind of change – climate, geography, or routine – and acts out. I was just a few blocks from the apartment, so I went back for a few minutes, then headed for a pleasant walk to Mo. St. Paul.

Well, so, time had not stood still in Paris. I wandered around Ave. Dusquene, les Invalides, Pl. Vauban, and Ave. de Segur. Only Ave. de Segur looked vaguely familiar, but the address where I thought I had attended classes was now a modern apartment building. No one would tear down a stately architectural beauty to put up a modern building, would they? Hmmmm, next time, don’t trust the 40-year-old memories. I lingered up and down the avenue but didn’t get any old vibes from any of the facades. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the wide avenues lined by rows of glorious, leafy trees and the splendid Haussmann mansions behind. This was where I spent my year in Paris, and this was quintessential Paris to me. When I was a starving student in Paris, I used to walk the streets and wonder what kind of lives were going on inside that splendor, what kind of glimpses I might catch from the windows. I still do. I enjoyed seeing a regular young woman with dark hair barge out a door with a tiny dog, carry him to a strip of grass, and wait impatiently hugging herself in the cold while he decided where to do his business. I imagined her apartment in the building behind us, three rooms, maybe, with the little dog scampering across the worn wooded floor. How small is her kitchen? Or has she remodeled it and made it large and “American”? (You see that occasionally on German real-estate shows – “And here we have an open ‘American’ kitchen . . .”). I saw a young, fit man leave another door dressed in an outlandish running costume, all fiery red with short shorts on this cold day, holding a water bottle. He trotted off towards the river.

And then I realized that there was another running man. And another. Ok, there is some kind of organized running event. I followed the flow to the river where there was a torrent of runners all wearing the garish red top and numbered vests. What a fun an unexpected treat! I watched them and soaked up all that runnerly energy, then meandered away and walked down Ave de la Bournonnais, the area where I may be renting apartments in the future. Since I was so close and since it was noon already, I headed for Café Constant to check it out.

I opted to eat upstairs, in a small room that could easily fit about 12 tables and where there were 18. Yes, I counted them. That geeky. The tables are about 1 ½ feet square and seat two people crowdedly. There were only three single diners in the room, so the room was very . . . neighborly.

As an aside, one of the things that I miss in France is the way Germanic diners always acknowledge each other in a dining room when sitting down and when leaving. Nothing fancy, just a quiet nod or “Grüss Gott” to the folks at the table next to your own. I’ve seen and done this everywhere, from Garmisch to München to Zug, and I think it brings a camaraderie to the dining experience. Anyway.

I had foie gras, naturally, don’t know why I waited so long to get it, and pork cutlets. They were good, but not fantastic. Then I had a chocolate tart that wasn’t just a chocolate tart. It was a spoon-some-vanilla-ice-cream-then-some-chocolate-tarte-then-swirl-the-spoon-in-the-caramel-sauce tart. It was heavenly. As were the wait staff. They weren’t dashingly handsome or anything, but they treat you as if you are their favorite Aunt Molly, even if you are butchering their language. Just a relaxing and fun place to be.

My stomach truly rebelled at the food I ladled into it heavily. I wasn’t ready to give in yet, so I continued on my walk of nostalgia to the Eifel Tower and was astonished. The crowds. There were elevendy-hundred tour busses lining both sides of all the streets adjacent to the Tower. In October!!! Geeez what must this place be like in August??? In addition, there were new waist-high green-wire fences to keep the herds off the grass, with little maze-like aisles where we were allowed to walk. I remember walking with wild abandon through the grasses and under the Tower every day of my Parisian youth, so this shocked me. Then there were the tall grey wire fences that kept folks from crossing the street except at one single spot. With the fences herding people and with the crowding, it felt more like a theme park than it did like the Paris of my memory. It was depressing. I decided that enough was enough, gave in to my stomach, and went back to the apartment to rest and work until time to pick up Cousin S at the airport.

To go to CDG, I used the RER from the St Michel/Notre Dame station, which was empty of attendant. I walked over to the ticket machine but it was out of order. There were a handful of folks jumping the gates; I wasn’t ready to do that, so I used a regular metro ticket to get in, then rode uneventfully to CDG. I expected at any moment to see the metro police and to be challenged, but one never appeared. Leaving the station at the airport, I saw we had to use the ticket to exit. Uh oh. I flagged down a policeman (actually I flagged down one, and three came over) and explained that I hadn’t been able to buy a ticket at St Michel/Notre Dame, and that I now couldn’t exit the station because my ticket wasn’t good. They asked if I wanted to leave the station, and I replied that, yes, I wanted to pay the correct fare and leave the station. One of the guys waved his wrist over the gate, it opened, and we all walked through. I assumed they would march me stiffly to the office, but they just wandered away, with me muttering behind them, “But . . . but . . . where do I pay?”

It’s a funny thing. Army officers have the power to send people to jail for minor infractions, and when you have the power to send people to jail for minor infractions, you get a bit concerned about, well, not infracting, yourself. Well, at least I gave three nice police folks a decent story for their night’s work.

The next day --

Today is my first full day with Cousin S. Her daughter is getting married, and her primary objective here in Paris is to get the Mother-of-the-Bride dress. So, we headed off to Rue d’Alesia in the 14th to check out the discount stores and hoping to find a bargain. I found it unnatural to move through the city like this. Like two people. I am used to moving through a crowd on my own, picking out a trail through the gaps in the crowd and sliding around quickly, sorta like picking a line down a slope when skiing. That doesn’t work so well with two people. The gaps were too small for two people to pass abreast , and our two paces were rarely in sync. In addition, Cousin S has this bizarre habit of wanting to chat while walking, which, to me, totally interferes with the job at hand, which is to get to our objective. Oh, sigh.

When we did get to the right block of Rue d’Alesia, we spent a few hours walking down one side of the street and up the other side, popping into some stores and looking for a dress with the right look and the right feel. Naturally, we didn’t find it so quickly and easily. Also, about half of the stores are closed on Monday. Rats.

For lunch, I used the Trip Advisor app to find a restaurant. It showed a variety of restaurants near us, with the star rating for each one popping up when I touched the dot. The app will then point you to your chosen restaurant. It was a good little app that led us to a very comfortable little Brasserie that specialized in fish. I don’t much care for fish, so I ordered a steak with Béarnaise sauce, which I’d been craving, but the steak was tough and the Béarnaise tasted like fish.

Cousin S and I then took the metro to St Michel to walk through a corner of the Latin Quarter, by the side of Notre Dame, and to the Deportation Museum. Cousin S is Jewish, but not practicing, as far as I know. The museum was closed (Monday . . .), but it brought up some stories of how and why her grandparents had left Germany in 1933.

My old Friend C was due to arrive today from D.C. Friend C has just retired from the US Army and is currently between careers, so naturally, Paris seemed the right place for a career hiatus. I gave her the address of the apartment where she could find me and Cousin S. It felt like a scene from a movie: me looking down from the apartment window to the sidewalk and the Seine and seeing Friend C, whom I haven’t seen in about 15 years, and yelling greetings at each other while tourists wondered what rich Americans had an apartment on the Ile. HA! We chatted in the apartment for a few minutes, then walked to a creperie on the other side of the island and had crepes. BTW, Friend C walks just the same way I do through crowded sidewalks. Not sure why . . .
swandav2000 is offline  

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