Paris Journal 2012 – Barbara Joy Cooley Home: barbarajoycooley.com
We splurged on a taxi from the Charles de Gaulle airport yesterday morning, not because we were more tired than usual after the long flight from Miami, but just because we wanted to treat ourselves and we were not in a hurry.
In fact, the flight was almost comfortable and restful, if you can imagine such a thing in coach/economy these days. And face it, Air France is just better than Delta, in almost every way.
I hoped that by presenting the address of our destination in the right way, with the appropriate descriptive phrases, I could subtly persuade our driver to enter Paris on the north side, and to then drive through neighborhoods of the right bank, down to the Seine, and over into our neighborhood.
I was so successful in doing this that the driver even drove through Étoile, the master roundabout of all roundabouts around the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs Élysées!
We were thrilled, but tried to keep our excitement to ourselves. The driver handled the chaos of Étoile with perfect calm, even while talking to his boss on his cell phone (hands free, with an earphone in his right ear only).
So we were enchanted by the streets of the 17th arrondissement, and the avenue de Wagram leading to Etoile. We crossed the Seine on the Pont de l’Alma, catching a look at the golden flame sculpture that was a duplicate of the one on the Statue of Liberty but now is a makeshift memorial to Princess Diana, who died in a crash in the tunnel beneath that area.
We rode down the elegant avenue Rapp, almost to the Champ de Mars, but veered off on the avenue de la Bourdonnais and then skirted in front of the École Militaire at the end of the Champ (hello Eiffel Tower!) before taking the rue de Laos to the Place Cambronne, just as I had subtly suggested by saying that our address was near the Place Cambronne.
After a short stretch on the very ordinary rue de la Croix Nivert, we were then turning on our street, and pulling up to the apartment where we’ve stayed every summer, starting in 1998.
“Home” at last, away from the noisy frogs, mosquitos, and unrelenting summertime humidity of our real home in the swamp on Sanibel. The noise of the frogs has been replaced by the noise of French drivers occasionally honking their horns. Ah, life in the city, the REAL city.
Of course, the taxi ride started with the long, slow approach to the city, and that did take a lot of time. It was three hours from the time our plane landed until we were unlocking the apartment door.
The train would be faster, but to get to our neighborhood, we’d have to switch to the metro, or take a taxi from the train station. And then we wouldn’t have had that lovely sightseeing ride in the city.
I caught up on my sleep more easily than Tom did, so I’ve managed to get the computers going, both cell phones going with new French sim cards, shopping done at the Wednesday morning market under the train tracks on the boulevard de Grenelle, and this journal started.
Plus, last night at 9PM Tom and I bought some groceries at the Monop urban grocery. So convenient to have a grocery that we can walk to that is open until 10PM at night . . . .
The shopping at the market, the visit to the Orange (France Telecom) shop, and the first encounter with Maria (the apartment building’s guardienne) for this summer all involved speaking plenty of French. I did just fine, even though I did nothing to prepare or freshen up my French before our departure from Florida this year.
I’ve been telling people that the young people working in the shops in Paris generally speak English, so not speaking French much isn’t a problem anymore in Paris. That was not so true this morning; the young guy who helped me in the Orange boutique spoke not one word of English. But it was okay, even figuring out the complications of getting a smartphone going (not just a regular cell phone), I succeeded in French. I’m glad I can; it does making being here much easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful.
A couple of travel notes: the Hertz counter at the Miami airport no longer has insufferably long lines. That problem has been solved. Also, the people-mover train from the car rental center to the airport terminal has evidently been fixed. It did not derail or injure anyone, at least while we were there.
Air France is now using new or completely refurbished aircraft for the Miami-Paris direct flights (695 to Paris; 690 to Miami). The onboard entertainment system is fantastic. The movie selection was great, and you could start and pause movies whenever you wanted. The sound was much improved. The music included a few different jazz stations, including our favorite: TSF Jazz.
The food was edible, and the wine was free. Air France stunned us by offering cognac after dinner! We said yes, and were each given a little bottle of the stuff, which I saved in my bag rather than consuming on the plane.
We arrived at the brand new part of the newer terminal at Charles de Gaulle. We loved all the glass and the new, classy lounge and shopping area. Everything about the new area seemed to be well designed, except for the escalators, which are grossly undersized for the big arriving flights. Fine the architect/engineer!
And it sure was a long way to Immigration, which is still lodged in a place that still looks like someone’s basement in a perpetual state of remodeling.
The line at Immigration was horrendous; then, suddenly at 9AM, when workers arrived for duty, more windows opened and vroooom! The line started moving right along. What we thought might be a 90-minute wait turned out to be only 15 minutes.
And now it is time to watch today’s stage of the Tour de France. Au revoir!
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
People often ask me to recommend museums in Paris. I love the Musée Carnavalet, and one reason is that I adore their collection of old signs, including this tavern sign. I took this photo in 2006, but decided that this cat really deserved to lead the show this year. Onward with the Paris Journal 2012!
Brasserie called La Tour Eiffel, at the corner of the rue du Commerce and the rue des Entrepreneurs: a popular place for lunch in the neighborhood. Later, in the evening, we had a simple dinner there.
Across the street at the same intersection is the Maison Gosselin, a colorful place to buy fruit.
On yet another corner of that intersection is a nice news shop, marked by the standard yellow “Presse” sign.