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25 June 2009

This morning there is an optional tour of Chartres Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe and famous for its majestic stained glass. [This option was changed; we did not have the option to go to Chartres] Otherwise, use your exploration time to explore the delightful neighborhoods of Paris. [Yeah --right -- leisure time to explore the neighborhood?  Be serious! ] This afternoon your ACIS Walking Tour will take you through the Louvre, the largest and most famous museum in the world. View famous artistic masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo, and perhaps discover a less-famous piece that becomes your favorite. Lunch and dinner vouchers

The best decision I have made thus far was to skip The Louvre. I know some would think that a mistake, but trust me, I am a much happier camper (and I suspect the others are too, not having to wait for me).

Last night the younger set went off to Monmartre while us old fogeys went to a lovely fish restaurant, Mollard, just a block from here. The decorations, representative of La Belle Epoque, are lovely. (Do check the link.) There was nothing for Pat, a vegetarian, to eat, so she ordered a fruit cocktail off the dessert menu. Char and I had French onion soup and our two companions, sisters Shirley and Jenny, had a salad. We shared a bottle of wine. We realized when we first got seated that we were grossly UNDER-dressed for the place and we had the feeling that the waiters were rolling their eyes at us, but they finally decided to have fun with us, and made the dining a fun experience, even tho we were ordering the cheapest things on the menu.

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The people at the table next to us ordered this HUMONGOUS plate of sea food, all surrounded with oysters, and topped with a huge lobster. It arrived on a large round platter which was placed in the center of the table on a pedestal. I wanted to sneak a picture, but didn't.

Jeri got home around 12:30 a.m. with fun tales of what they had done in Monmartre (which included eating escargot, which she loved). When Walt and I were in Monmartre was when I caused the international incident in McDonald's. Jeri's experience was much more positive! They climbed up to Sacre Coeur, went to the Eiffel Tower and were at the top when strobe lights started flashing, they rode the subway with musicians playing accordion and clarinet and it sounds as if they had a great time. I'm so glad!!

I woke up this morning at 5 and lay in bed listening to the end of my audiobook, then went downstairs around 5:30 and sat there reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" (I recommend it) until Char and Pat came down and then went to breakfast with them.

cyber.jpg (60790 bytes)After the group went to the Louvre, I went upstairs and lay down on the bed and, to my amazement, woke up THREE HOURS later! Obviously not going to the museum was exactly what I needed to do--or not do, as the case may be.  I spent the rest of the morning at the Cybercafe.

After I convinced the guy who ran the place that there really was a way to convert a French keyboard to a qwerty keyboard (and after he tried on my machine and told me he couldn't do it), he did research and found out that if you hit Shift-Alt it will change the machine so that it reads the strokes as if it were a qwerty keyboard.   Obviously this isn't important to a hunt-and-peck typist, but to a touch typist, it's pure gold.  I was one happy camper after making that discovery and was able to help others in the group on other machines as we traveled around France.

sale.jpg (59920 bytes)Some observations about Paris: Yesterday was "sale day." Apparently this is a scheduled day, two times a year, throughout the country (though the actual date might change depending on where you live). It's the day when all the stores have big sales, so around here, a shopping area, the streets were clogged and the stores were filled with people.

Nearby one store was apparently having some sort of problem because there were pickets out in front and masses of people around them (we saw this from the bus). At night, when we were walking to the restaurant, there were shoe boxes opened and empty around the store on the corner and women still packed tightly in side looking to buy more shoes.

Jeri wants to go bike riding, but I don't think she will have time to do it. But at each end of our block (and at several other spots we've seen around the city) there is a line of some dozen or so bikes which you can rent. There is a machine where you buy a card or something (I haven't examined it closely). Then you take one of the bikes, ride it to your destination, where you leave it at a similar station, pay the necessary fee and voila! You have ridden a bike. Quite an ingenious system...I can see it being a great idea for Davis!

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When Walt and I were in Paris for a day before, there were people all around the tourist areas trying to sell postcards. I don't remember them being black, but now there are black (can't call them "African-Americans," can I??) men everywhere with dozens of small golden and silver Eiffel Towers on a long metal ring around their wrists, holding scarves in one hand and post-cards in another. I have yet to see a tourist buying anything from them, but they must make a living because they are everywhere.

The smoking bans have been in effect in the US for so long that I have forgotten what it's like to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke on the streets, but you find that a lot around here. The places where we have been inside, though, aren't as smoky as I remember from our one day here years ago.

Though this is a town built on a river and a town which has lots and lots of fountains, it's very difficult to stay hydrated. I haven't seen a single drinking fountain and I have been thirsty the whole time I've been here.  As a result, I am willing to pay almost anything for water when I can find it.  The most I paid was 3.5 euros for a small bottle of water (that's nearly $5).  Ice, of course, is not a French concept, so even the gin and tonic we had after dinner last night came with only a couple of token, anemic ice cubes. Water served at meals comes slightly chilled, but barely. I suspect I am going to get home and sit down with a tall glass of ice water, with ice cubes, and not get up for days.

We saw King Kong yesterday. They are setting up for Bastille Day and at Place de la Concorde there are cranes and huge trucks and one long flatbed truck with the body of King Kong lying flat and his head propped up at one end. I was unable to get a photo.

Ashley, who turns 16 on Sunday, is just adorable. She has brought a little monkey, Bongo, with her to photograph all over Paris. We are all enjoying her enthusiasm and I notice that everyone has taken a photo of Ashley photographing Bongo at least once. Her mother said it was Bongo who got Ashley outside on top of the Eiffel, overcomig her fear of hights to take a picture of him

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Ashley and Bongo at Des Invalides

Tomorrow we head out of the hotel at 5:45 a.m. to catch the bullet train down to the south of France, so this is our last day in Paris. I have to admit I am not sorry. Though I grew up in San Francisco and always considered myself a "city girl," I admit that in my old age, all the traffic and people and hustle and bustle is not to my liking. I will be glad to be somewhere just slightly more calm. I hope! But I am so thrilled to have seen what I have seen and to have (so far) survived.


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The Louvre


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