Friday, July 31, 2015. Sometimes one should listen to the hotel desk clerk. Last night after marking the location of the Paris Pass office on the street map he had given to us, the desk clerk said that it would probably be better to take the Metro because the route was so convoluted. Being the stubborn Irishman that I am, I set off to walk there this morning with Anne Mei. Bad idea, particularly since the map was printed such on a scale that names of Metro stations, monuments, etc. obscured the location and direction of some major roads. As a result we ended up walking in a wide circle, with more than one false lead on the map causing us to circle again and again. Time and again the street names on the ground did not correspond to the map. Finally, after walking more than 45 minutes, we reached the corner where the map indicated we should find Rue Poissonnière. It was not there. I went into a store and asked where this mystery street was. The man who lives and works in the neighborhood had a hard time telling me where it was. Finally he stopped trying to figure out the map and gave me directions that worked.
After picking up our Paris Passes, we took the Metro back to the Les Pyramides stop and walked to our hotel to gather cameras, etc. Back up to Avenue de l’Opera to catch the hop-on-hop-off bus. At the stop for Notre-Dame, we got off. Even though the line to enter the cathedral was very long, it moved quickly. We were able to spend some time wandering around and taking pictures. I was looking for the side chapel to St. Joseph that I’d liked 30 years ago, but they seem to have converted some of these side chapels for uses that are not clear. They’re blocked off with clear plastic panels and one can see furniture and equipment inside. Even though the scene was much quieter and more peaceful back then, the church is still awe inspiring, as it was meant to be. Anne Mei wanted to climb the steps in the tower, but that line was even longer and not moving at all so she skipped it.
We found our way up the hill to the Sorbonne. Anne Mei was determined to find a university store that sold a Sorbonne sweatshirt. The university buildings were closed up like a fortress. I told Anne Mei it was probably because it was vacation time. Not only did we never find a university store, when I asked at the Librairie Eyrolles on Boulevard Saint-Germain, we were informed rather firmly that French universities do not do sweatshirts with their logos on them. I did buy a real street map for Paris there. Sushi lunch at the bottom of the hill and then back on the bus, getting off at the Eiffel Tower. Walked down to the banks of the Seine to catch Bateaux Parisiennes cruise down past Île Saint-Louis and back. Saw many of the same buildings and monuments that we’d seen from the bus, but from a different angle. Back on the bus to go around Champs de Mars, l’Opera and Place Vendôme.
Walked back to Boulevard Saint-Germain to find a place for supper. Italian tonight, on a side street. Noted that little dogs were allowed to sit on owners’ laps in restaurants. Meant to mention that last night’s buckwheat crepes tasted delicious. A Breton specialty. After supper we walked over to the carnival in Jardins de Tuileries. A good old-fashioned strip of flashing lights, food, sweets, rides, and games of chance. Full of families and couples out for a Friday evening of fun. A much more working class* milieu than the crowd we saw in some of the high-price bistros on Saint-Germain that we passed by. Anne Mei and I debated what we would do if one of us won the motorbike as a prize at a shooting gallery. I could only think of the headaches involved. She was delighted at the prospect. Youth!
*Sorry, but I think the current use of “middle class” is just another way to confuse the American working class about who they really are.
If you have time, check out the “Musee de l’homme.” At the end of the history of prehistoric man through artifacts, you will find a room dedicated to Asterix (lots of fun if you are a fan). When I was there, there was also a mock-up of the caves with their paintings at Lascaux. As one walks “underground” (as a spirit), one looks up at what is going on “above ground” as bisons stampede and deer leap – fleeing something you know not what. I discovered that the cave paintings are meant to be viewed from those “underground,” the walking dead/spirits, and not to be viewed as if in a museum as if they were pictures on a wall.