There are advantages to getting old and having brain cells abandoning the sinking ship in droves. When you travel to places you've been to in the past, it feels like the first time. We returned from a week in Paris May 3, our 6th time there over 43 years, a celebration of our 40th anniversary. Of course our actual anniversary is June 6 - the invasion of Norman - but we often don't do things in ways that make sense.We wanted to be here for the heavy part of the gardening season, so we went to Paris at a perfect weather time.
We like urban trips and we pretty much stay in one city for a week. We swore before we left that this time we would take some day trips outside the city. But we just couldn't leave Paris, even for a few hours. I can't even say what we did every day, other than make sure to eat three meals. Or more.
Now I am more of a two-a-day meal guy while my wife is committed to three meals, so as usual there was a tug of war going on. I want to walk all day, everywhere - if you use the Paris diagonal streets properly, you can cover large distances and pretty much walk the entire city.
Some highlights: great food at every meal, an awesome Metro system where every station had timers letting you know wait times – we never waited for a train for more than 3 minutes – shame on the NY MTA, almost perfect weather, a city in bloom, a short walk on the Paris version of the High Line (one of the only rainy days), a serendipitous visit to the awesome Petit Palais which was closed for renovation on our last trip in 2001.
I won't bore you with a travelogue but there were some other highlights. And lowlights. On our first day my wife wanted to go to the Musee Marmottan-Monet, not far from the Bois de Bologne, a massive park on the western edge of the city. With our hotel being centrally located on Blvd Raspail just off Blvd St. Germain, I suggested a route - walk to Pl. de la Concorde, then up the Champs Elysee, follow a direct line to the Bois along one of the 12 spokes coming out of the Arc de Triomphe. (Talk about traffic circles.)
Almost three hours later we got to the museum. Someone did more than a bit of bitching - and it wasn't me. After an hour there, I suggested a walk into the Bois where we could find the well-known Garden Bagatelle. Well, the walk became endless - they certainly don't spend much on signs or directions. We stopped for coffee at a roadside stand. A couple of ladies sitting at a nearby table certainly stood out. A truck pulled up with a couple of young working guys. One of them sidled up to me and pointed to the ladies and winked. Oh, I was starting to get it. Let me digress for a second.
We had been driven though the Bois one night on our 1983 trip to Paris by friends who were living there. They pointed out the well-known action as our headlights picked up the under dressed prostitutes on the side of the roads - and the traffic jam of Johns.
It seems the action also takes place during the day. As we walked deeper into the park, we saw more and more ladies of the day, scantily dressed, some with their own vans.
Yes, we finally found the Garden Bagatelle. which while having a spectacular display of roses (interesting how roses were blooming all over Paris, a month earlier than NYC), was so much less of a garden than we have here at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. But the overriding theme of our first day in Paris – my wife branded it: The Whore Tour.
The rest of the trip was more conventional. Out of the way museums - we avoided the lines at the Musee d'Dorsay - maybe the best museum in the world - and the Louvre where you could spend the entire vacation. Besides, since our last trip in 2001 was packed with rainy days, we wanted to be outside. So we hit the famous Paris Pere-Lachaise cemetary where so many famous people are buried - the Ghoul Tour - check below the fold for some pics – you will not see the conventional Eiffel Tower. But don't expect pics of the "Whore Tour" - though we were sorely tempted to get that show documented.
We had free tickets for the Seine tour on the Bateaux Mouches, which I always avoided because it is such a touristy thing to do. But our family motto is "free is better than anything" so we headed over on Sunday morning and ended up waiting an hour. But it was worth it. I had argued for the nighttime cruise but the time frame didn't work. Funny, but when we got home and my wife checked her notes from our 1978 trip, it turned out we had done the evening cruise that year. Oh, those dying brain cells.
We stopped at the famous cafe Les Deux Magots on our last night - you know, one of the thousands of cafes that Hemingway, Picasso, etc. supposedly hung out at. That gives them the right to charge $15 for two cafe au laits. I was afraid to order a cookie. And yes, my wife's notes from our 1978 trip shows that we stopped there on our last night. We really are stuck in our own version of Groundhog Day.
Well, I'm not quite back to normal - if that word can ever be used in reference to me. I fell asleep the other night at 8PM and woke at 4AM.
Oh, and the dollar vs. the Euro really sucks. The trip ended up costing way more than we expected as at the end of the week it hit $1.48.
But as Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman in that famous Casablanca scene - exactly what did he say again?
A small selection out of 300 pictures- mostly grave sites- below the fold
|$15 Cafe Au laits at Les Deux Maggots|
|Self portrait - happy before seeing the check|
|Oscar Wilde gets the prize for best monument - the only one with grafitti|
|Yes, we found something other than prostitutes in the Bois de Belogne|