Paris in the Springtime, 2001
by Rick Swallow
The Eighth Week
Blue, underlined text may be clicked on to see a larger version of the picture being discussed.
Wednesday May 2 [Shirtsleeve]
I got up early and saw Steve and Cathy off at the Roissy Bus stop behind the Opera at about 7:45. Yesterday, when I didn't have my camera
with me, we had stumbled upon the tunnel in which Diana crashed so I walked back to take a photo or two.
At the Pont d'Alma, at the end of Avenue George V, the entrance to the underground auto tunnel is just under the Monument--an exact replica--
of the flame of the Statue of Lliberty (Flame de la Liberté) in New York Harbor, given to us by the French in 1886." The monument was given
to the people of France in 1987 by many American companies (including Apple...) as a symbol of Franco-American friendship--years before
Diana's tragic death. From the looks of it, it has been adopted, perhaps unknowingly by those who do not read French, as the symbol of her
death. It is located virtually on top of the spot she died in the tunnel. Flowers are laid at the base of the monument, posters stuck to it with
her picture, and scrawlings in many languages are found on the wall, monument, and sidewalk mourning her
passing. It seems she had a lot of followers because of her fight to do away with land mines....
From there I walked back up George V to #23 and took the picture on the left of another church,
"The American Cathedral" which was dedicated at the same time as the Statue of Liberty was
in New York in November 1886. Trees and road width prevent a good shot of this clean but
rather run-of-the-mill cathedral the type of which can be found in many American cities--not so
the American Church as previously mentioned which is known the world over for its stained
glass windows by Tiffany.
This narrow little house, #13 Quai Voltaire--just across the
Seine from the Louvre is the smallest structure on the river in
Paris. As you can see, it is no wider than its front door, and
only 3 stories tall.
I came home for a couple of hours, took a quick nap,
answered my email and then headed out to spend the day
walking the Island of St. Louis. You can walk all its streets
and "alleyways" in a couple of hours, window shopping and
eating the renowned Bertheillon Glace (Ice Cream).
The day had started out rather overcast but ended up with
temperatures in the low 70s and quite sunny. This was but
the second truly "Spring" day so far here in Paris this year.
The river has risen higher yet, the Berge is quite flooded and traffic
is snarly during the rush hour, but what the heck, I'm not driving!
Thursday May 3 [Jacket & Rain Gear]
Heavy rain (with the first thunder I've heard) until noon. Worked on my site all day until 4:30. I ate supper at Pizza Pino on the Champs and
then attended a Chant Grégorian at Notre-Dame at 8:30 which lasted until almost 10. Very nice, if you like Gregorian Chant, and I do. The
Nave of the cathedral is ideal for amplifying the voices of the singers.
One can often find groups of musicians playing about the city--not just in the metro tunnels. Here's one such group of Jazz musicians
playing just under Henry IV's nose at the tip of the Île de la Cité where I went to check the river level (it's still up). They were very good, in my
opinion. I saw fit to spend about 45 minutes listening to and enjoying their music---and I am nota lover of jazz. From their accents, I
deduced they were American, as were most of their songs.
Turning around from that spot I could see two sailing vessels which have been in limbo here, trapped between two bridges, for at least two
months because, obviously, they could never pass under the bridges under these flood conditions. I am assured that they do, in fact fit
under the bridges. One guide I spoke with says that the level of the Seine under normal conditions isn't much more than a meter, so that
explains it--to me, at least, as I've seen the river (my last trip here) at a far lower level.
The dome shown to the left is probably the first guilded dome you will notice
when you walk about Paris near the Louvre. It is directly across the walking
bridge Pont Des Artes, at the eastern end of the Louvre. It is the dome of the
Institute of France, built in 1661 by a legacy of 4 million livres left Cardinal
Mazarin for the purpose of building an academic institution. On a sunny day
the golden dome is an impressive site. Other than being a dome, however, it
only remotely resembles that of the "other" golden dome of Napoleon's tomb
at the Hôtel des Invalides.
The courtyard of the Institute is currently being repaved and is therefore
unaccessible to the general public. Here's a shot to illustrate the typical size
of paving stones ("cobblestones").
Friday May 4 [Jacket] Off to London
I got to the Gare du Nord about an hour early for my 11:19 non-stop Paris-to-London High-speed Eurostar train which requires that you
show your passport and pass your luggage through the "xray" unit just as at any airport. The trip takes exactly 3 hours but because you
change time zones, you set your watch back an hour as you move into England. The trip includes 20 minutes in the "Chunnel" under the
Text-only discussion of London below. I will likely launch another site "A Trip to Britain" after making a
future trip there..
Click the link at the bottom of the page to continue with my Paris exploits, which will be Week 9.
I arrived at Waterloo InternationalStation, took the Underground (metro) Northern Line to Goodge Street, 3 stops away, and walked the 5
minutes required to reach the Ridgemount Hotel, #65 Gower Street. I could not have picked a better, more centralized location in all of
London. I had used a book on London called Let's Go City Guides for the selection, looking for something "cheap," which is not easy to do
as London can be a very expensive place to casually visit.
Rooms in Europe are available with and without a private shower, with and without a private toilet. I opted for a room with private shower
and toilet at £45 per night, and since the current exchange rate is about 1.6 Dollars to the pound, that makes my little room every bit as
expensive a room in Las Vegas. But, there is a very nice English breakfast included of cereal, coffee/tea, juice, toast and jam/jelly, eggs
and bacon with either tomato(?) or beans depending on the day. Because of my cholesterol level I don't eat egg breakfasts but the cereal
et al. was nice and made it unnecessary to go out and search for a breakfast spot.
I must describe my room. Ideally located up a short flight of 5 steps from ground floor level, my room was a square 7 feet on a side. The
single (comfortable) bed and single (large, draped) window was directly ahead upon entering. The bed literally stretched from end to end
(left to right) in the room. To the right, just inside the door, is a small wardrobe ideal for overnighters. Behind it, a color TV on a small shelf
and stretching across the right wall to the foot of the bed was a perfect little built-in desk and chair with mirror above.
Entering the room and turning to the left one sees the bathroom door. The size of the bathroom is about two and a half feet deep by 7 feet
front to back; small shower to left, miniature sink dead ahead, and toilet to right backing on the outside wall. Short of my RV, it's the most
economical use of space one can imagine. Having lived in my RV for 3 years, I felt quite comfortable and satisfied. While it is true that this
entire "suite" was smaller than any bathroom of the many Las Vegas hotels I have ever stayed at, or even smaller than my own bathroom,
for that matter, it is ideal for the purpose intended. More area would be a waste of prescious London space indeed.
I threw down my backpack, grabbed my keys, and prepared to begin my orientation tour of London. The manager, Mr. Reese, gave me some
tips as to direction--and where to go to change my francs and dollars to pounds, and I was off on foot to explore the city. Keep in mind that it
doesn't get dark here until nearly 10 this time of year.
Much to my pleasure I found that I needed to only walk 3 minutes to the end of Gower/Bloomsbury and turn left on Russel Street to get to
the British Museum another minute up the block. This museum is free, as are many of the National Museums (just as the Smithsonian in
Washington, D.C. is) so I wandered in and began to explore the first wing I came to on the left. It happens to contain an absolutely huge
collection of Egyptian artifacts, including the Rosetta Stone! I took a few pictures, wandered down another hallway or two and determined
that I could spend a couple of full days here and so I exited to save this wonderful museum for a future time.
I cruised, literally, for the 5 days I was there. I went on a Thames River boat tour as far as the Great Barrier which protects the city from
extremely high tides (It has a normal 21 foot tide as is!), got off at Greenwich to tour the Royal Obsrvatory and National Maritime Museum;
took a full day bus tour on 3 different routes offered by The Big Bus Company a "Ghosts by Gaslight" walk and the "Royal London" walk
offered free by them with the one ticket which is good for 24 hours. True, it costs £15 (about $24) but it's worth every penny.
I didn't want to wait in line either of the 2 times I was at British Airlines' "London Eye", a 450 foot tall monstrous "Ferris Wheel" device across
the Thames from Westminster Abbey, but I did get some good shots of it. It has some 32 "glass cabins" which hold 25 people each and
each cabin is constantly full. The wheel is in constant rotation and takes a half hour to make a full cycle. It was erected for the millennium
celebration and is licensed for only 4 more years and even though it is an extremely popular tourist attraction, rumor has it that it will be torn
down when its license expires. What a shame. It could become the "Eiffel tower" of London.
When I decided to go to London, it was just to see how I would get along in England as a preparation for a future trip to travel through the
country in general. Never did I imagine how much rich history there is remaining in London. Somehow I imagined it as having been
destroyed by the blitz of WWII but not at all true. Like Paris, one could spend a month and not completely cover all the museums, sites dating
from Roman times, the London Tower, Greenwich, Westminster and all the various Cathedrals hundreds and hundreds of years old, etc. etc.
I could go on and on, but that will be after my next visit to London, for a much longer period! What a city!
Londoners are theater people. Theaters, cinematic and legitimate, are as common as gas stations in the US. Londoners are polite people.
They treat each other with a quaint politeness unseen in the States. The city is clean --no dogs. OK, I saw 2, yes 2 dogs while I was there,
and not one sign of a mess. There is even a "Gum Remover" service which goes about removing gum from sidewalks. Honest. I have a
picture! And I chatted a bit with the chap that was performing the task.
One thing I did see in London that I saw little of in the heart of Paris is street people, however, and they all seem to be in the late teens and
early 20's, by and large. Curious. They don't bother you any more than the gypsies do in Paris, but their presence is a bit more obvious.
Something else I did not see: rollerbladers or skateboarders on sidewalks. I did see one little girl on a scooter, whereas in Paris they are
sold everywhere, bought by and used by kids and adults alike, businessmen and sightseers. Maybe the British are a little...behind. Or
perhaps they have laws which prohibit their use on sidewalks?
Like Paris, London is a small city and can be easily covered by foot. Many places of interest such as Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square,
Westminster Abbey, "Big Ben," The London Tower, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, 221b Baker Street, #10 Downing St., Waterloo
International Train Station, etc., etc. are all within walking distance of each other. And there's always the bus and Metro system if you want to
ride rather than walk. And freePublic restrooms all over the place, clean and neat. Andthey don't close up at 10 at night as they do in Paris!
Here's an interesting little factoid: #221b Baker Street, the (fictitious) address of the (fictitious) character of Sherlock Holmes is one of the
most widely known addresses in all of London. There is a Sherlock Holmes shop and museum which sports that address on Baker Street,
but the address, too, is a phoney. The location's real address is #239.
It is obvious to me that a return trip is in order during which time I will stay in London and do the town up right!
Click the link at the bottom of the page to continue with my Paris exploits, which will be Week 9.
Saturday May 5 [Short sleeves and Vest] London
Sunday May 6 [Short Sleeves and Vest] London
Monday May 7 [Sort sleeves and Vest] London
Tuesday May 8 [Short Sleeves] London
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