A special treat, my friend, Stella, recently visited Paris. I’ve asked her to share with us her adventure. Here’s her post about days six through ten.
Wednesday, Jan 7th – We noticed a briskness about the Parisians as people went back to work in earnest. The Metros were a tad more crowded. We started our day at the Cluny .
We had a special treat with a special exhibit on travel in the middle ages. It was amazing to see the maps and guide books produced during this time. This museum houses the famous Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries. Less well known, but just as fascinating were the tapestries telling the story of St. Stephen. We, once again, rented the audio guide with info on the whole museum. I enjoyed hearing St. Stephen’s story, one I knew nothing about beforehand, as we viewed each of the twenty-three scenes. We then went to the
Monuments and Architecture Museum at the Tracadero. Here are housed reproduction of many famous French Monuments and the facades of notable buildings, and parts of the interiors of others. It’s quiet fascinating to see how they reproduced some of these large treasures of France. It is also a good way to see places that, because of limited time, are beyond your travel plans.
As the work day ended we headed to Rue Cler, a pedestrian shopping area. I noticed on the Metro the people were even more subdued than normal. There were no musicians playing and hardly any murmured conversations. Everyone seemed a little on edge. I chalked it up to the holidays being over and the grind of work weighing on everyone. We poked around in a few stores and enjoyed dinner at the busy, but tasty, Cafe du Marche.
We returned to the apartment and logged on to the WiFi. My phone exploded with messages. One was a news link. I opened it and called to Devlin as I turned on the TV. We watched the news: Paris, the focus of every news channel around the world. Just three-fourth of a mile from our apartment was the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices.
As I write this, weeks later, it still brings tears to my eyes – to see the reactions of the Parisians, their solemnity and their respect for those who lost their lives and their respect for the victim’s families and coworkers. And the way the people and the government came together. No calls for revenge. Just a sense that even if we don’t agree with what is being said everyone should have the right to free speech. A few days later we had a conversation with some mid-20s young men. They find America’s whole “political correctness” to be a joke and that the American people are being muzzled by social policies designed to stifle freedom of expression. It was interesting to see this view, albeit just by two men, of modern American society.
Thursday Jan 8th – the Louvre – all day from the time it opened until it closed. We again
did a guided tour with a lively guide. We learned some interesting facts. At noon I found myself under the pyramid. I hadn’t realized the time until the announcement for the call for the national minute of silence came over the speakers. As soon as the minute started a hush fell over the museum. Not a shuffle, not a sniffle. Everyone stood respectful and still. At the end of the minute the crowd drew a breath, but quiet for a moment. Then, starting soft and slow, and rising to a rippling crescendo came applause. As if on cue the applause cut off, just the echo ringing down the halls and people started to move about again.
I would love to have a few more days in the Paris so I could spend more time at the Louvre.
We ate dinner tonight at home – fresh bread with melted farmers market cheese and a little soup. Perfect.
Friday January 9th – a quiet morning. We went to the Jaquemart-Andre House . This
is unique among all the museums we visited unlike Fontainebleau or the Louvre, which were also homes; this is a house you can actually imagine people living in. Wife and husband, Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André, were art lovers and they filled their home with wonderful pieces brought back from their travels, mostly to Italy. They even brought back a carved wooden ceiling for the smoking room. As a couple they made plans to turn the home over to the City of Paris as a permanent museum an act that Nelie followed through on several years after Edouard’s death. It is worth a few hours to visit their home. The professional audio tour provided enough information to be interesting and not so much as to overwhelm you.
As we walked the streets today we noticed many shops had put simple black placards in their windows with the words Je Suis Charlie printed in white. This is phrase being used all over the city, in the news, and on social media feeds. “I Am Charlie” with what I took to mean two ideas: a show of unity and sympathy for the victims and a warning that if we are not careful any one of us could end up with our freedom of speech being stifled.
For dinner tonight we had a special treat and went to Chez Janou at 2 Rue Roger Verlomme. Ah, delicious. A taste of Province. Each dish was so perfectly prepared. The servings were large, but the flavors so good we ate it all.
Saturday January 10th – Another lazy morning. We left the house around noon and made our way to Saint-Sulpiece. Saint-Sulpiece is a beautiful, peaceful cathedral and I could see it as a place the faithful would come to worship each week. From there we made our way to Montmarte area. Sophia’s mom has some friends in southern France whose son, Nans (the ‘a’ is pronounced like in gnaw), had recently started working in Paris. And as you know friends of friends are like family so of course we met up with Nans and his friend Beniot. We started with drinks at a little café and visited for bit. Then we invited the young men to join us as we trekked up to Sacra-Cour. Of course, because of our late start, it was
getting dark by now and the day that had been predicted to be sunny and warm had turned cold and drizzly. Still, Sacra-Cour dazzled, shining white on the hill the rain making sparkles in the light. After a slow tour of the very crowed, but fairly hushed, cathedral we ordered a driver and went to the Champs-Élysées near the Arc de Triomphe. We made our way out of the drizzle and stopped for refreshments and talked about the day’s news, the shootings in the Jewish market and the further man hunt for the terrorists. A large black banner hung over the Arc de Triomphe proclaiming Je Suis Charlie.
Sunday Jan 11 – Our last full day in Paris. All our plans went screwy, but it turned out to
be a pretty neat day. Once again we didn’t leave our apartment until late. This morning Devlin drawled around. We finally left the apartment walking down to the Bastille and the large outdoor market arriving there just before noon. We’d been told the market stayed open until one and figured we must have gotten the timing wrong. A sunny day – finally – so
we headed to the Eiffel Tower getting their just before one, and it was closed! Also, the Metro’s were free. Something was up and I overheard a Parisian explain to another tourist that all monuments and museums would be closed for the afternoon because of the demonstration. I’d heard about Paris demonstrations and knew they could get a bit rowdy. Not wanting to face chaos Devlin and I headed back to the apartment. It took us two tries to get on the
Metro because they were so crowded with thousands of people pouring into the city. The Metro looked like the type you see in Japan where the people are packed in with no room to turn around or breath. Above ground, at our Metro stop, Saint James, the streets were getting full with people walking not just on the sidewalks,
but clear across the street. The cars went slow weaving between the crowds. We turned on the news (maybe we should have been checking it more often) and found out about the peaceful, Silent March of Unity. Back out into the city we went winding our way through the streets of Marais and enjoying the feeling of being part of the place. As requested it was a silent march with people walking along in small groups, voices subdued and everywhere you turned pins or placards saying “Je Suis Charlie”.
Quite a way to end our stay in Paris.
(Next post – tips, tricks, and links to artisan chocolate)