Monday, June 4, 2007

Our Apartment

I forgot, I'd taken these photos on our way out the door on our last day in Paris... it's already starting to fade into memory, no longer feeling like "I was just there." Which is a little sad, but I'm still just so thrilled that we went. What a gift for us all.


Anyway. Our digs in Paris... small, but it certainly met our needs! It was called Citea la Villette, on the avenue Courentin Cariou, in the 19th arrondissement... which means it was in the northeast corner of the city, toward the end of Line 7 on the Metro.


Seeing as how we were in room 610 (which places us on what Americans would call the 7th floor), we had to use an elevator to get there. And in France, elevators close With Authority, and they don't need no stinkin' sensors to protect your pathetic touristy little arms and legs (and heads) from sudden closings. We learned how to scamper on and off with very little practice.



I'll be off having some nostalgia. Anyone up for a quick trip to France?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Shutter Finger is Tired

One last day of Paris photos... and we took a lot of them.

On Friday, we crammed a LOT in:
A morning revisit to the Louvre... ascent of the bell towers of Notre Dame...

...and then a stroll through the church proper...

...a visit to the Crypte Archeologique under Notre Dame...

...a peek at the Conciergerie, an ancient prison...

...a wander along the Seine...

...and a visit to the Eiffel Tower (where, you'll notice, it rained, thereby rounding out our week such that the only day it didn't rain during our vacation was the day when we were too jet-lagged and incoherent to appreciate it)...

...but we did get a rainbow out of the deal.

And, c'est tout!

What's that? You're disappointed that there will be no more Paris photos? Yeah, me too. A little. Though a week of heavy-duty walking and exploring and seeing and absorbing and wrestling with an increasingly bulky wheelchair has effectively worn me out, and if we had stayed in Paris longer, I think the photos from yesterday would have involved a lot of naps and watching TV. You have to rest and refuel at some point, you know?

But instead of taking a day off in Paris, we came home. The flight was long - eight hours - and the landing was exciting, with potential smoke from the right engine and then getting towed to the actual gate, but we all survived intact so we're just going to pretend it was just mist from the New Jersey rain, okay?


We were all heavily jet-lagged upon our return, enough to miss Route 24 in Jersey and to take the slightly longer way up - but that gave me the opportunity to call the lovely Lisa and warn her that we were in the neighborhood. She is the mother of a toddler and a newborn, so of course I would never be so sadistic as to pop in unannounced - it was bad enough for me to call during that 7:00-ish hour after dinner and before bedtime when chaos abounds, but she'll probably forgive me - but it was nice to be able to call and hear a familiar, non-French voice upon my return.

My mother and I stayed awake for the drive back to New York - which is particularly handy for her, seeing as how she was driving - and now I'm just finishing up with the copying and transferring of photos to her computer before I get on the road to head home for real. I have a few stops to make, so it'll take me a while... but I'll get hugs from my kids tonight.

I'm not quite done with this blog just yet - there will be film-photos, as yet to be developed, from the disposable and 35mm cameras that my mother and sisters brought with them. Once I get copies, I'll scan in a few and post.

In the meantime, I'll be over at my regularly scheduled blog. If you don't know its address, just drop me a quick line - - and I'll happily share it.


At Versailles, there is a bust of Rene Descartes. Which reminds us of one of our favorite jokes:
Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Can I get you a drink?"
Descartes says, "I think not," and promptly disappears.

Thus, we took a moment to think with Descartes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

You'll Just Have to Wait...

...for pictures and stories from today. It's after midnight, we just barely got back from dinner. I'm super-ultra-mega tired. We saw Notre Dame today - do you have any idea how many stairs there are between me and the bell tower?

376. I counted on the way down.

But, good views, and I'm glad we did it. My feet aren't glad yet.

We also visited the Crypte Archelogique under Notre Dame, the Conciergerie prison, and the Eiffel Tower. And three different places for dinner before we ended up at the same place we ate last night - the first place ignored us for half an hour (apparently my ability to repel French waiters is growing), the second place had almost no food left, and by then we were starving so we just returned to last night's place and it was just as good tonight.

So, I'm tired. Will gather my thoughts and post tomorrow from my mother's house, if I'm able - otherwise, Sunday night, I'll be home.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Threw My Sister off a Train

We took plenty of pictures today, at the Louvre and then at Versailles, but I don't feel like posting many... I'm tired and it's almost midnight again, and tomorrow is our last full day in Paris. So, bedtime soon.

But, the Louvre (not a lot of areas where you're allowed to take photos there, and boy are they militant about it):

And Versailles:

And proof that the sun did shine, at least once, while we were in Paris:

Gorgeous, both places. Of course.

And the train thing? One of the highlights of my life to date. We had to take a commuter train to Versailles, which are a bit different from the Metro trains - more expensive, smoother ride, two levels on each car. On the ride back, we sat on the lower level, and given Mary's tendency to sway in a stiff breeze, we need to keep her seated until the train comes to a complete stop. We're not big fans of prying her out from underneath the seat in front, you know?

So, we're not standing right there at the door the moment the train stops, but that hasn't been a problem. Except, this time, we had to maneuver some stairs - never an easy proposition for Mary, and then add to it the fact that a crazy lady (this is my professional opinion) was sitting next to the stairs and flatly refused to move her big bulky shoulder bag off the stairs, and it became quite the obstacle course, first for my mother carrying the wheelchair, then for Mary and me.

So we were rushing the best we could, and my mother and Sarah made it off the train without incident - and then the doors SLAMMED shut just as Mary was about to step off. We're in a country in which the elevators have neither visual nor pressure sensors to prevent foot-pinching and hand-crushing, so there's no reason to expect the doors of the train to be any gentler. At first, we were prepared to just go on to the next stop and then figure out a way to get back - these commuter trains run every half-hour, so just waiting for the next train wouldn't work - but then some random hero came along and pried the doors apart with his bare hands. This allowed me to pick up Mary under her arms and physically lift her out and onto the platform, then squeeze myself out the doors right behind.

We all started walking toward the exit, and I hadn't had lunch - that's another story - and was travel-weary with sore feet, so it took several minutes before I suddenly realized... "Mary," I said, "Did I just throw you off a train?"

She agreed that, yes, I did. And remarked that this was not normally the kind of situation around which there is any ambiguity.

So, that was fun. Especially since we all survived it without injury.

As for the no-lunch thing... first the waiter corrected my French when I inaccurately requested water, and then he didn't bring me my sandwich, marking the third time this week that only my meal was incorrect or flat-out missing. Clearly, being the largest one in the group leads them to believe I could stand to skip a few meals. Perhaps if I carried around a sign advertising my weight loss? Anyway, so, I had about four bites of Mary's sandwich then, and by 9:00 at night, when we finally were seated at a restaurant, I was ravenous.

But we ate, and ate well, and now I am calm and happy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Saw Dead People

We got off to a late start this morning... I can't decide if I'm sleeping late because of ongoing jet lag, increased physical activity every day, or a certain glee in knowing my children are waking someone else up at ungodly hours every morning. I miss my kids deeply, and I miss my husband like crazy, and 90% of my time I wish they were here with me. But from about 7:00-9:00 in the morning, I'm kind of enjoying my lack of parental responsibilities.

Once we were finally up and about, we planned to go to Versailles - but we didn't have the right Metro tickets and I was cranky and harassed and didn't want to wait the half hour for the next train to arrive, so we postponed that. Tomorrow, I think.

Instead, we went to the Catacombs, which involved a certain amount of arguing and near-tantrum-throwing between myself and a concerned, well-intentioned, misguided Frenchman who did not believe Mary was capable of getting herself through. And my comment that we would be happy to drag her by the hair if we needed to seemed largely unappreciated. But eventually we won our argument - Mary does a really, really good big-eyed pathetic woe-is-me look, I need to have her in the car if I'm ever pulled over for speeding - and headed down. 180-some steps down, over 500 meters on uneven surfaces underground, and 100-odd steps back up - Mary made it the whole way, and was a real trouper throughout. I'm pretty proud of her.

The Catacombs, you ask? Yes, they are just as creepy and macabre as one might expect. My mother is not sad to have missed that bit. But they're also impressive, and of course in my psychologist sort of way I can't help but wonder, what does it take for someone to conceive of such a project in the first place, and then why on earth could they not have stopped in a less excessive manner? There are literally millions of human remains organized into hallways and artwork; when I saw the word "millions" on the brochure at the entrance, I was skeptical, given the slight propensity for French enthusiasm. But, yes, really, millions. I didn't count - couldn't have if I'd wanted to - but it was endless, and the public isn't allowed into all of the areas. Crazy, really. Worth the time, just to see that the human mind really does have an endless capacity for obsessions when it wants to.

From there, we were off to Sacre Coeur, where there are les funiculaires, sort of an elevator/ski-lift contraption to take you to the top of the very steep Montmartre. Except it was out of order, so instead we got to ride on shuttle buses driven by individuals whose regard for human life is considerably less heightened than my own. Their need for speed was constant, and in fact was fulfilled - on busy, crowded city streets they were reaching 90 kph. I know because my eyes would get bigger with each passing mark on the spedometer. And then they would brake VERY ABRUPTLY at any given stop light. I know because I have two big, dark bruises on my thigh (no, I will not take a picture, and you are welcome) that precisely match two of the corners on the ticket-collection device. The very sharp, metal, rectangular, angry ticket-collection device.

Mary was brave (stupid? Nahh... brave) enough to relax on the return shuttle. She seriously did work hard today; she is not normally a napper. Especially under life-threatening circumstances.

But the church, and the view, are gorgeous. Again, worth the visit. Especially because the hill and the turns are so steep that you barely glimpse the view until, BANG, it's all there, laid out before you.

We had dinner at L'Hippo, a local chain-type establishment... nicer than Applebee's, think more along the lines of Legal Seafoods or Vinnie Testa's, those of you in the New England area. My sisters were enthralled by L'Hippo himself, so we went, even though they advertised "American style food." Well, it was not American-style, it was much better than that, and we overate terribly.

And now we're back at the apartment. Sarah had some serious, studious research to do on the computer tonight - she had to find a pattern for her new yarn - and so I didn't get on the computer until late. I swore I was going to bed early... and then my mom came back from Marseilles and asked me to upload her photos so she could empty her camera (with a shout-out to Calvin for the loan!), and how could I only look at one set of photos from the day?? This traveling with a digital camera is dangerous, sleepwise...

So, here's a few from my mother's trip southward... she did, indeed, rejoin us, instead of running away to the Mediterranean forever. I'm not actually sure why, now that I think of it.

Knitting in Paris

Yes, indeed, Sarah and I have spent much of our time in the Metro knitting. And, yes, Gretchen... mine is socks. Sarah's... I'm not really sure. Maybe legwarmers? Or very enthusiastic '80s-style slouch socks, which would have their own charm.

Anyway, I find it very interesting that apparently knitting is something done only behind closed doors in Paris. People on the subway - especially men - watch us warily, as though any minute we're going to stand up and stab our neighbor in four different orifices at once. Women are a little more relaxed about it, but still openly fascinated. And I think Sarah scarred a poor girl for life yesterday, by knitting a 10cmx10cm swatch of her new yarn (for which the onlooker smiled and watched intently) and then pulling it out to use in her intended project (for which the French girl was just appalled, as though Sarah had just sliced the head off a baby squirrel).

So, we're spreading a little culture to the town at the same time that the town gets its culture all over us. We're starting to think about bringing a hat (maybe a knitted one?) to pass around for donations after each knitting display, in the manner that people ride the subways and sing or play instruments and then ask for money.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

a yarn of wax and books

So today we checked out the musee grenvin : the wax museum, in the morning. There I had a chance to slap Jackie Chan around....

catch up with Sean and Julia...

and watch Sarah nearly get her head lopped off...

It was pretty neat. Some of the figures were very obviously wax, while others were so real-looking as to be creepy.

After that we looked around the book markets on the Seine and we each got paintings at this place:
(if you look at the left, you can see the artist.) Then we stopped at a book store before heading to le bon marche, which apparently roughly translates into the Sanctuary of Yarns.

Personally I don't knit, so there was a limit on how enthralled I could be, but the same wasn't true for Kate and Sarah. It was kind of fun to watch them get so excited and a little overwhelmed with all the options and potential projects. They ended up with a good stash....

which they seem pretty satisfied with. Tomorrow the plan right now is to check out Versailles in the morning and Sacre Coeur in the afternoon. We might see Mom again tomorrow if she decides to "leave this heavenly place" (Marseilles) but it sounds to me as if Thursday will be more likely, assuming she decides to come back at all.


Editorial note: Our Mommy Dearest decided that Paris wasn't quite exciting enough for one week, plus she has a chronic and intense need for the sea, in any form. She needed some alone-time, too, I think... in any case, she's in Marseilles for the night, and possibly the rest of her life. Which is good, because she's happy, and we got to go book and yarn shopping in Paris. Which she would not have enjoyed nearly as much as drinking wine while overlooking the Mediterranean. --KBW

Il Pleut

Yesterday we relied heavily on vehicles other than our feet to get us around Paris. Things like a boat, and a bus, and the Metro. We needed a bit of a break from the cobblestones, plus there were the intermittent downpours that none of us was particularly interested in experiencing face-first.

So, we took a boat tour of the Seine...

...rode on top of a double-decker bus until it looked rainy again...

...and then had a traditional French dinner.

And now we're off for some wax museums, shopping and further bus tours, while my mother has departed for Somewhere in the South of France, and we hope to see her again before we depart on Saturday.