Aw Reservoir, Moan Chair – Thursday 5/10/2007

I’m pretty sure this is how my pronunciation sounded to the French. But it was with sincere regret that we bid Hydra adieu on Thursday morning. He headed back to the States first thing in the morning.

Mom and I walked the neighborhood around Notre Dame. I took shots of the wonderful carvings around the front doors. Like this fellow, who seems to share my sentiments about being Hydra-less for the next two weeks.

The backside of Notre Dame, which I think is actually more interesting from a distance than the front is.

These shots are from the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, a tribute to the 200,000 French citizens who died in Nazi camps from 1941-1945. It’s a very moving place.

There are quotes carved into the walls inside. Someone–you have the feeling it might just be a fellow traveler because they seem to be cut from a printed-out page–taped English translations next to them.

I copied this one down: “And the choice that each one made about his life and about himself was authentic because it was made in the presence of death.” – Jean Paul Sartre.

I think this is from the door into the home that Abelard and Heloise shared in Paris way back in the 12th Century. Or more likely, it’s the spot their home occupied. And of course they didn’t have themselves immortalized like this during their lifetimes. There’s a bust of Abelard on the other half of the door.


Musing the Musee and the Mont – Wednesday 5/9/2007

Breakfast delivered in the wheelhouse of the bateau each morning. Croissants, bread, butter, jam, coffee and tea. View of the Seine. Good conversation about the day before and planning the day ahead.

Yes, somebody lives here. This dwelling is under the street between the dock and the Musee d’Orsay. Our host told us that the man who lives here, whom we saw walk out a few hundred feet and back a few times, has lived there for about 5 years and has stomach cancer. I can’t imagine living there. There must be very little light inside.

We went to the Musee d’Orsay, which I absolutely adore. It was created out of an old train station and it’s new since the last time I was here, in 1983/84. Due to some weird idea that I wanted to be unencumbered, I didn’t take my camera. (No worries, I knew I’d want to go back again, and I did.)

Kids taking a break at Montmartres. I dunno. I figure I could give you the shots I took looking down over the city or up at Sacre Couer, but this is a photograph I’ll bet no one else has.

Mom went off in search of a fabled cybercafe that has English keyboards while Hydra and I headed for this area. Saw the Moulin Rouge and the Place Pigalle with all its sex shops and peep shows on the way up. Also lots of charming winding streets up to the summit, where Sacre Couer awaits.

I lit a candle at this altar to St. Therese and internally expressed my hopes for the health and creative well-being of my writing group. I’m not Catholic. Not religious. But I believed in my little fundamentalist church’s teachings when I was a kid, and I think I’m still a sideways sort of spiritual person. Some churches, monuments, and other sites hold great emotional resonance, and just because I’m not religious doesn’t mean I can’t access the vibrations of all those hopes, griefs and intentions.

Wine on the square peopled by artists selling their wares. A good spot to relax and people watch. A couple bought a painting that we thought had all the charm of a piece you could be taught to do with a palette knife on Public Television in the 70s.

The lady at the next table and I shared an astonshed glance as the couple opted for the larger of the two nearly identical pink and grey canvases and shelled out what looked like about 260 Euros for it.

But quietly. Hey. Live and let live.

Hydra’s yummy assiette charcuterie (butcher’s plate, basically). We loved these. Meats, sometimes cheeses, good bread and wine. I had a salad with a big round of warm soft cheese on top. Not a lot was open… There are a lot of two-day holidays in May in France and the city was quiet.

While we sat outside the restaurant having this late supper, we saw police cars and about 6 police vans go by. No sirens, but blue lights flashing. We asked the server, and he said it had to do with post-election demonstrations. Nothing to worry about.

Window shopping in the neighborhood. Ha! The _…For Dummies_ series in French!

Walked across the bridge to the Place de la Concorde, then strolled slowly down the Right Bank side of the Seine. Hydra wanted to see the Eiffel Tower pop it’s lights again, and wanted Mom to see it. We sat on a chilly bench and waited, and yeah, it was worth it.

Crossed the Pont Solferino back to our place on the water. Hydra and I sat up until around 2 a.m. talking and watching the river from the wheelhouse. The last boats went by, the lights went off outside the Musee d’Orsay, a couple snuggled on the opposite bank, another couple sat on the footbridge above us and even got up and danced for a little bit…their shapes were just a little darker than the night sky and had the effect of one of those iPod commercials.

Hydra’s last night before returning to the States. A pretty good one, I think.

Roaming the Streets – Tuesday 5/8/2007

We moved from the Minerve Hotel to the Bateau Johanna, our B&B/houseboat on the Seine on Wednesday morning. As the cab dropped us off across the street from the Musee’ d’Orsay and above the bateau, a procession of maybe 150 horsement went by. They were on their way to the Arc d’Triumph as part of a celebration of what we in the States call V-E Day (Victory in Europe, WWII). Kind of moving. It’s hard to remember that this city was actually ocuppied by the Germans in the early forties.

We dropped our bags off with the friendly Olivier, and headed out on foot.

Sometimes a book just stops you cold!

I’d read Rick Steves’ Paris before coming, and knew we wanted to see the market at rue Cler, but we just stumbled onto it on our way to the Eiffel Tower. We checked out the outdoor stalls and the shops. Bought three small somewhat expensive smelly cheeses at a fromagerie. Sat at a cafe and enjoyed cups of hot chocolate and watched the passersby…and took the photo above.

Which begs the question: will Hydra and Sundry ever learn to take culture seriously?

Detail along the Pont Alexandre III. Pont = bridge. There are lots of them in Paris. This is the most elaborate. The Art Nouveau details and the gold really are impressive.

The view across the neighbor-barge from one of the windows of the Bateau Johanna. What a joy! It felt like a bit of a risk to rent a houseboat on the Seine. Sounded too good to be true.

But it was wonderful! We had the wheel house up top with views of the river, and then a room with a table and chairs in it below (with windows), enough storage space that we could put everything away including bags, two cabins with full beds and closets, and a bathroom with a shower. More useable space than any of our other rooms, actually. And so lovely to feel the rocking of the water…which increased when the tourist boats passed.

Hydra and I went back to the Eiffel Tower at night via RER (the other subway line). He was very taken with this monument. We took a look at the pretty much non-existant lines, took a deep breath, and bought tickets to the top. The elevators angle up the legs, then you get out and go to a smaller elevator. I swear, you can feel the framework outside the glass elevator getting narrower!

Worth doing, although I think the view and experience are actually better from the second level, where the wind’s blowing in your face. We could see the fire-breathers throwing flames in the Champ de Mars all the way from the top.

It didn’t turn out really well, but do I get points for trying? It was actually a little scary to lean back and look up like this!

We walked out onto the Champ de Mars afterward, and as we turned back toward the tower, all these lights started popping all over it. A cry of astonishmed approval went up from the people on and around the monument. And I think you have to be there to really get the effect. Still photos reveal individual stars of light; motion pictures even seem to isolate the lights in a way that seeing it for yourself does. From about 10:50-11:00 pm. Wow.

Took the RER back around midnight. There was a big group of possibly German or Dutch schoolkids waiting for the same train. What a city.