Thursday, December 16, 2010

Innocents Abroad!

Last month, Ed and I headed to France in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. It had been a very long time since we were last there and both of us had forgotten how much we love certain things about France (most having to do with food and wine!). 

Most every day I would find Ed scribbling on a scrap of paper. When asked, he admitted that he was just making some notes for our blog. We got back to Louisville three days before Thanksgiving; now it is three weeks after and we are just now getting around to publishing his notes. As a service to our readers I've mercifully broken his entries up into four posts. I'll put one up every couple of days so that you will have something to read on multiple occasions. So, here are the first of his "bons mots".

Paris: City of Light and Rain

In keeping with our goal of reducing our possessions, we decided to take a trip to France and thereby lighten our load by several pounds of US dollars, a currency that would have to strengthen up to be a laughingstock.

We took the train into Paris from the airport, the first and last smart decision we made for a while.  It was raining. I told Debbie that before we left the Gare du Nord train station we would put on our coats and hats and check the map. Cunningly the French had installed an escalator that went directly outside. No chance to consult a map or put on our coats or hats. 

Outside in the driving rain we tried to orient ourselves. We found ourselves directly in front of a large church which I couldn’t place. Turns out it was Notre Dame Cathedral which was hard to recognize without scaffolding in front of it. I understand that they taken the scaffolding for repairs and should have it back up in a few months for the spring tourist season.

Notre Dame, without the telltale scaffolding

The info lady at the airport had said that we would be only two minutes walk from the station to our hotel. Since there were no cabs in the rain, we walked and were immediately lost, which became clear when Debbie pointed out that we passed the same café several times. I tried for directions in a book store. The clerk said that there was no Rue de l’Universite anywhere in the city.  Either that or "Beat it" –  my French was still a little rusty.

Eventually, like most bad experiences, it came to an end (except for the one’s that don’t). We reached our hotel looking like drowned rats – which interestingly is the same word in French, only without pronouncing the “t”, so drowned ra’s.   

God bless whoever invented rollers on suit cases.  On the plus side, our room was ready.  Of course it was so small that they could get it ready in a Paris minute. You could clean it by getting in one corner and blowing toward the door.

Our hotel was near the church St. Germaine des Pres.  Like many others, I suppose, I was surprised to learn that St. Germaine was not Presbyterian.  Maybe they should think about changing the name to St. Germaine des Catholic to avoid confusion. 

Stupid with jet lag (at least I’d like that think that’s the explanation) – we managed a meal and a walk.  We ended up sitting for a bit at Notre Dame praying that the jet lag wasn’t terminal and that we could stay up til 8:30.  Both prayers were answered.  Anyway, if we died of jet lag, we would be in a state of grace.

Ed. standing in the rain, looking very Parisian
The next morning we dejeunered at the Café du Flore where I managed to pay $40 for two coffees and croissants.  Wait, wait – I forgot that I also ordered jam and butter.  Of course, no refills on the coffee. Well, I guess you could get a refill if you wanted to part with another $7.  Anyway, Café du Flore was a favorite of Hemmingway’s.  Papa might still recognize the place, but the prices would drive him to suicide.

In general the prices in Paris were on the far side of breathtaking.  Dinner for two cost about what my parents paid for their first house. Good thing we weren’t in the pricy part of town.

to be continued...

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