Paris, je t’aime

Standard

Paris skies were gray and lowering when we arrived on Day One… but speeding toward the city proper, patches of blue opened and our driver informed us that we had brought the sun. “It rained terrible last week,” he added as a car from a right side road cut us off. “But they have the right of way,” he explained to our astonished inquiries. “The cars from the right always do.” After lunch we took a very long and tedious metro ride to the great Eiffel tower.

This edifice, constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair 1889, is one of the most-visited paid monument in the world and stands 1,050 ft tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. From this grand height we could look out over all of Paris and beyond, a glorious view. The Eiffel has now become an icon, but in its day it was not always popular. In fact, Guy de Maupassant and Dumas hated the idea and opposed the building of the tower and opposed it with vehemence. After it was built, de Maupassant spent most of his time IN the tower, eating, writing, meeting friends. This, he was wont to say, was the only place where he didn’t have to see the tower!

It is no longer possible to climb to the top of the tower, but the second level is accessible. When we saw that there was a long queue waiting for elevators down to ground level, we decided to hoof it… and found what a long way we had to go. Afterward, (with trembling legs) we returned by way of train to our hotel, stopping to refresh ourselves at a tiny place with a giant hole in the wall for the kitchen. Here the owner-cum-cook- and- bottle- washer presented us with delicious crepes a la Paris. Voila!

On our second full day in Paris we took the train to Versailles. Half asleep in our seats, we were jolted awake by an accordion playing a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marchind In.” The musician played several more numbers, passed the hat, then disappeared to play in another part of the train.

Now wide awake we stood in a long line to enter the fabled grounds of the Sun King. Lavish is not the word to describe these grounds. Guarded by machine-gun toting soldiers, Versailles is opulence crossed with extravagance and laced with excess. But it is beautiful… room after room of art, of gold and gilt, of pomp and panoply. I was taken by the enormous fireplace framed with gold grapes and vines and by the Hall of Mirrors. Not hard at all to imagine this long room filled with courtiers in wigs and jewels, each vying with the other to be more fashionable, more beautiful under the hundreds of flickering candles and framed by mirrors and gold!

Proud aristocrats

Danced through life never heeding

What came tomorrow.

The grounds of Versailles stretch miles upon miles, but we didn’t get much farther than gardens filled with the most glorious flowers. I identified cosmos, delphinium, poppies, dahlias and roses… all in perfect bloom. Beyond the formal gardens were fountains and—more important—food. French bread cradling ham and cheese and most excellent French (definitely) fries!

By the time we left Versailles, storm clouds were gathering, but we wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe, and so we embarked on another train ride. Unfortunately, we miscalculated our timing and though we hurried when we reached our stop, only half of our party made it through the door! While we were waiting for these laggards to catch up to us, the heavens opened and it poured. But did we give in? Never! Before us rose the Arc under which each conquering army rode or drove since the time of Napoleon (Some of these armies had to ride out again in defeat, too). We climbed the stairs to the top of the edifice which, like the spirals of a chambered Nautilus, wove round and round narrow stairs that left me gasping for breath. Coming down the Eiffel was easy compared to this climb!

Some of us elected to stay on, but we old folk had had it. We found our metro by dint of asking several people for directions—policemen, people on the street, students—all of them unfailingly helpful. The myth of unfriendly Parisiens was dispelled once and for all by a kind lady on the Metro who told us where we needed to change lines and actually guided us to the spot. In fact, the only sour apple we came across was the guardian of the womens’ bathroom in the Eiffel—and since she was nasty to everyone without exception, I think we can delete her as an example of French hospitality.

Tomorrow… the Louvre!

Advertisements

About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

12 responses »

    • Hi, Linda! Glad you liked my Paris adventures. More to come! I tried replying to posts in Barcelona, but my netbook seemed not to want to do much for me. So much for technology… it’s still magic to me. Ah, well… c’est la vie, eh?

  1. Paris, a most wonderful city – and I was always looking for those wonderful friendly inhabitants too. I am glad you found them!!
    Enjoy the Louvre tomorrow!
    Hanny

  2. IWe are glad you are getting to see so many grand sights.
    your photo books will be a wonderful treasure to share and keep for years .along with your wonderful blogs. Good for you to get up to the top of the arc. i hope some one took pictures of you all up there!
    Paris is a delight . we are looking for you to go to the follies… and dance there.
    i can see it all now~! take care.. from donna

  3. What a wonderful trip you are on, Maureen! I loved your descriptions, especially your great one liner about Versailles and the opulence! Put me in your suitcase next time, and take me too! : )

  4. Great post, Maureen. Glad you had so many positive experiences. You got to see a lot in just a few days. Well done! (Oh, and if you have time, be sure to go back to the Eiffel Tower and catch a nighttime Bateaux Mouche cruise from the quay near the base. It’s the best value in Paris, and seeing the city lights from the river is a not-to-be-missed experience, even though it doesn’t get dark in Paris at this time of year until well after 10 p.m.)

    Paris IS a wonderful, beautiful, amazing, maddening city. I was just there two weeks ago. Because I work for a French company I get to visit about once a year, and Paris delights me every time.

    No doubt about it: Parisians have become much friendlier to Americans. With the slow economy and fewer travelers, I think they have come to realize how much they depend on our tourist dollars. But the French are right. Americans can be boorish. Most of the ones I see in Paris just walk up to locals and start jabbering away in English. It’s simply rude to force the locals to speak to you in your language in this way. How would you feel if someone walked up to you in your hometown and started speaking French, German, Japanese or Swahili? Personally, I’d feel confused, embarrassed and, eventually, hostile. Especially if it happened hundreds of times a day. The French are no different.

    This doesn’t mean you have to be fluent in French to visit Paris. Far from it. But American travelers can do a lot to help ensure that the Parisians they meet are friendly, simply by having the courtesy to first ask in French if they can speak English.

    Surely every American can learn this one simple phrase before descending on Paris: “Bonjour; parlez-vous Anglais, s’il vous plait?” It means: “Hello; do you speak English, please?” Learn it, use it, and you’ll find that 90-95% of Parisians will happily switch to English. All they want is the courtesy of being asked in their own language if they are willing and able to do so. (And if they can’t speak English, this one phrase will generally send them scurrying off to find a colleague who can.) Exercise this one simple courtesy and you too will fall in love with Paris (and you’ll make a lot of wonderful new French friends).

  5. Thank you so much for your thoughts and comments! Our adventures in Paris continues in my next post. You are right; we can’t possibly absorb Paris in a few days, especially Ancients like us who don’t move too fast. But truly, I think we helped to dispel the ‘boorish” idea of Americans as almost everyone we spoke with became our friends. My hand was even kissed! I even managed to speak in French a few times! I think Americans need to remember that we are guests in any country we visit.

  6. I’m enjoying your trip to Paris, you almost make me want to fight the crowds and the stuffy Metro to go back. the hole in the wall restaurant sounded like fun. What was on your crepe?

    • I had an apple crepe, a rasberry crepe, and a crepe suzette which was duly doused and set on fire at the table! I loved that little hole-in-the-wall creperie! Thanks for coming on the journey with me, Joy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s