Paris in the Springtime, 2001
by Rick Swallow
Week Number 1
If you are contemplating or trying to plan a trip to Paris, you should click here right now, before you go on. You will find my list of FAQs
(Frequently Asked Questions) which will be very helpful to you in the planning stage of your trip. Honest.
ForwardThis site does not present as well as it should on AOL. Bless them and their lousy browser.
What follows is a rough journal of my life in Paris from March 15 to May 15, 2001. I rented a flat via the Internet for the purposes of my
stay. The flat is on what would be called the 6th floor in the U.S. but is called the 5th floor in Europe, which is to say that one must climb
5 flights of stairs to get to the door of the apartment.
The apartment is located at 10, rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, about a block and a third north of the eastern end of the Louvre. It is a
narrow street running diagonally SW to NE in indirection and is so small that it does not show on many maps but I did find a great UK
Internet map site called MultiMap with European maps especially--but world maps as well, though less detailed-- that showed the
location of the street quite adequately.
I have written, as a reminder to me, a little about the weather conditions, and use the word Cruised to indicate that I walked, studied,
learned, and admired the city randomly with no particular itinerary. I would reckon that I enjoyed most of my stay in Paris doing just that,
much as I do while at Sequoia or Yosemite National Parks in the U.S. and elsewhere. I just sort of bathein and soak upthe ambiance.
For this trip's journal I've posted nearly 250 pictures, some of which can only be viewed by clicking on the blue, underlined text. Please
surf to my winter 1998 trip to Paris where in some cases I presented more detailed information on various sites/pictures.
The disk drive/picture uploading problem mentioned early on was later solved.
Wednesday 14 March 2001 [sweater day]
Departed San Diego at 1:00 p.m. bound for Dulles (DC) Arrived Dulles at 8:40 p.m. and departed at 9:40 for Charles De Gaulle Airport
in Paris aboard a Boeing 777. The neat little thing about the 777 is that each passenger has their own tv built into the seatback in front
of them and is able to tune into 4 channels (or more) of movies being presented plus a channel showing a map of the progress of the
flight with the plane superimposed, air speed, altitude, windspeed, etc., which is updated every few seconds by onboard and satellite
technology systems. The flight was uneventful.
Thursday 15 March [jacket day]
Arrived CDG in Paris at 11:05 a.m. and after clearing customs, a mere formality with a cursory glance at passport, I claimed my baggage
and was greeted as I left the claims area by Alfred Chatelain, the "manager" of the apartment I rented.
Alfred is actually an arts and antiquities dealer who manages a group of apartments while he is in Paris, which is about 4 months of the year. He comes here to buy art at auctions and then ships it back to the States and he sells it at his place of business in Saratoga Springs , NY. Born in France 65 years ago, spent most of his childhood in California, near LA, so he is fluent in both French and English. He is divorced and has 3 grown children, all of whom live in France. He considers himself an American and has dual citizenship. It was through his website http://www.albany.net/~nracnyfr that I found and made arrangements for renting this apartment.
Upon arrival at the apartment I found a very
lovely, young Parisian lady by the name of
Florence,a good friend of Alfred's, who had
come to help prepare the apartment for my
arrival. Florence is in the tourism trade and,
like Alfred, speaks English flawlessly.
After the necessary cordialities they left me
to my own devices. I did some unpacking
and settling in then wandered about the
neighborhood to orient myself. Much to
my pleasure, I found the Louvre at the
end of the 2nd block. I'd actually be able to
see it from my window if early French city
planners had laid out their streets in just a
bit more of a grid fashion.
Later in the evening I hooked up my trusty laptop and made connection with the outside world. I've stayed up until 11:30 to help force my
body to adapt to the jet lag.
Friday 16 March [jacket day]
Got up at 6 a.m. feeling rested after a sound sleep. There's a 9 hour time difference between Paris and San Diego so my body still felt
it was 9 p.m. Thursday and just didn't want to stay in bed. I answered a mountain of Email over the next couple of hours and then headed out into the city. Paris does not really get started until
about 10 in the morning, but the boulangeries and pâtisseries are open quite early to give people access to their fresh breads and
Unlike other countries I have traveled in and through, Paris does not hide it's restrooms. This
little round mini-tower is but one of an untold number of kiosk-style restrooms! You deposit
2 francs and step inside. The whole deal is automatic and very clean. When you step out
again, the automated system sprays down the inside in preparation for the next "customer."
Now, Parisians have a lot of dogs,
and as you may well imagine they
deposit a lot of doggy-doo. And
they are not a bit shy about where
they make their deposits. Don't
get me wrong, the dogs are not
running madly about. In fact, I
have yet to see one not on a
leash, but I've sure seen a whole
lot on leashes. Now how, you
might ask, do you avoid getting
run over when you have to walk
with your head down, eyes glued
to the sidewalk in order to miss
the myriad pooch poop piles? Now
that's a good question. But the
situation isn't as entirely out of
hand, as one might think. These
industrious French wash down the sidewalks almost nightly and also have workers on little
green motor scooter pooper-scoopers whose sole purpose of existence is to go about the city vacuuming up doggy-doo. Voila!
As I was cruising and trying to find some good locations to take
pictures depicting the flood, down the sidewalk came the sidewalk
sweeper. I had to dodge to get out of its way. Cleanliness is next to
Godliness--that must be a French expression. One can truly admire,
all jesting aside, the cleanliness of the city. Hey, after living here for
over 2000 years, someone has to do the cleanup!
As I have absolutely no agenda for this stay in Paris other than to live in
Europe I spent the day walking about the city. I first loitered about the quite
extensive lobby areas of the Louvre, re-acquainting myself with the layout:
--eating areas, money exchange, the many shops (it's a rather large
underground mall, actually) information bureau, train/metro counter, etc.
Paris, "The City of Lights," is really lit up at night and so evening strolls are very popular. After eating supper in tonight I took a long walk
along the Seine. It is currently "en crue," overflowing its banks so a lot of the tourist-type river trade has come to a screeching halt as
there is no way for the public to access the river craft. The Seine, you see, flows through the heart of the city about 30 feet below what
seems to the casual tourist to be "street level." It flows through and is contained by a vertical stone-walled channel several hundred
feet wide, complete with walkways, roadways, parks, boat and barge mooring areas, etc. right along-side the river. Well, a recent
10 foot-plus rise of water has inundated much of that. I'd sure like to kayak the Seine through the city as the water is really rolling and
roiling through the channel and it would be great fun!
The Passerelle Debilly and Pont de Solférino (new foot bridges) were both
completed in the last 3 years. They are of similar construction except the
Pont de Solférino, the Eastern-most of the two (pictured at left during the
"Crue"--flood) has steps leading down to the river's edge...well, when there
isa river's edge, of course!
The steps you see leading down from the bridge (normally) lead down to a
riverside roadway ("berge") and wide walkway of about 50 feet in width. The
berges are used to relieve traffic congestion on the main street above.
Not this week, however.
The top 2 pictures below illustrate flood levels. In the third picture (left side)one can see a traffic tunnel now occupied by the Seine, and
beyond can be seen the Pont des Artes, a foot bridge built by Napolean--well, at least at his direction. It was the first of the three
foot bridges built across the Seine in Paris, though there are some 30 other bridges shown crossing it on the Michelin Map that I use.
The Pont des Artes footbridge crosses just at the Eastern end of the Louvre.
I walked to the middle and shot eastwardly at the end of the Île de la Cité,
the largest of the two islands on the Seine in Paris and the very center of the
city (and France as measures go). Notre-Dame is located on this island.
Anyway, the trees shown at the point of the island are actually in a very nice
park, which is currently under 3 feet of water as can be seen in the left photo.
The edge of the park is usually high and dry some 4-5 feet above the river!
That Paddle-looking object (near center of the photo) is actually a history of
Paris plaque the type of which appear throughout the city. Judging from the
height of other plaques, which tends to be invariable, I would be about chest
deep in water if standing at the plaque's location.
Saturday 17 March [sweater day]
Again I set out on an orientation walk after attending my e-mail, but this time
travelling eastward. Much to my pleasure I discovered the Forum Des Halles
some 4 minutes away! This area is a large park and larger below-ground mall,
the mostly-glass architecture itself is something to behold. It is the largest underground shopping area in Europe with has 4 levels below
ground right in the heart of the city . The area was, for 800 years, Paris's main market and it caused quite a furor when the land was sold
in 1969. Over 30 million square meters of dirt were removed to make room for this thoroughly modern center which, it can be said fairly,
contains most anything you'd need. Inside the 40,000 square meters of glass and aluminum are 10 theaters, food malls, clothing of every
make and description, furniture, banks, etc. etc., and an underground station linked to 4 lines of the Metro and two of the RER (railway).
Oh, yeah, bubba, there's a MacDonalds there for ya.
Remember when I said that the Seine appears to be about 30 feet below street level? Well, the truth is that most of surface area of
"modern" Paris, (modern being within the last 300 years) only appears be above the river level. In fact, much of the city is "underground":
living quarters, shops, malls, warehouses, tunnels, roadways, metro and train stations and systems, huge sewage and drainage tubes,
aquaducts--you name it-- are all under the "street" level.
Immediately to the east of Des Halles is a square with restaurants-- including another Macdonalds, a Pizza Hut, and a Pino Pizza, one of
my favorite French "Italian" restaurants whose name could have been designed to attract American tourists. I have located them in 3
locations about the city and the fare and ambiance is quite nice and quite French.
Just beyond that is the George Pompidou Center which houses the National Museum of Modern
Art as well as changing exhibitions. Now there's a building that captures the imagination!
Somehow the structure seems to me as having been built of giant spaghetti and macaroni
pieces and then painted with bright colors. I've never been inside as lines are always too long.
A lovely church, Eglise Saint Eustache is located at the northern edge of the park area. It is
currently undergoing extensive external renovation but is open. I t's quite a beautiful church with
stunning stained glass windows.
In the photo, the surface garden, fountain, etc., that is seen is actually a roof for the Forum Des
Halles indoor shopping mall.
In the afternoon I set out on a quest--still to the east--to find the "Surcouf" store located in what
turns out to be the computer district, in the12th arrondissement in the neighborhood of the
Gare de Lyon. This megagiant computer (and related materials) center has areas sponsored
by manufacturers from all over the world. I've found that the one thing I forgot to pack for this trip
is my laptop's floppy disk drive, and without one I cannot download my pictures to my computer
for uploading to the Internet as I had planned. I was fully prepared to purchase another one, or perhaps an external drive, but none is to be
had for my now antiquated (2 years old) ADB port computer. I am, to say the least, more than just a little "put out" about this, as I had
planned on mounting, and adding daily to, this website includingpictures chronicalling my current 60 day adventure here on the Eastern
side of the Atlantic.
Now today was a long walk. Oh, yeah, and I bought a Carte Orange --a pass for the metro for the week which starts only on Monday
through Sunday. 85 francs at roughly 7 francs to the dollar.
Sunday 18 March [sweater+Jacket day]
It rained much of the night last night and is raining again right now (early evening). Spent the day cruising. Located 3 cyber cafes near the Pompidou. Perhaps I can find one that will let me E-mail my pictures to myself.
Monday 19 March [sweater+Jacket day]
Pretty cool today, almost nippy (40oF most of the day). The sun shone on and off. This was a great day for the 2 hour Gray Line Cityrama
bus tour. The main ticket office is in the little Joan of Arc square just at the north western end of the Louvre and the tour starts there. It
may seem a bit pricey at 150 French francs (ff) but for an indoor ride in a plush double-decker bus with headsets and translation in
15 languages, it's a good way to spend a morning, especially when there's bad weather. It presents you with a wonderful overview of
central Paris, the sections you have easy access to when on foot. One thing that absolutely astounds me is how the dense Paris traffic
moves so smoothly throughout the city, and how everyone, including buses, travel at such speeds within, literally, inches of each other,
and without incident and hardly a horn blowing.
Pietons beware! There are almost as many 2-wheeled vehicles here as 4
and they have no compunction against driving right up onto the sidewalk to
get around traffic. And yet still without mowing down the citizenry! Here are a
couple parked on the sidewalk, as most do. Apparently it isn't against the law,
as virtually every parked 2-wheeled vehicle is on the sidewalk.
Oh, and that green tanky looking object is a wine bottle recycle bin--present
throughout the city. They're usually full.
Roller blading, skate boarding and scooters are very popular with kids and
young adults alike and they too, appear everywhere.
I made first use of my Carte Orange to go to la Défense to hang out. I was
discouraged to find that both the iMax theater and the Automobile
Museum--which was nothing short of GREAT--have been closed indefinately.
Tuesday 20 March [sweater+Jacket/raincoat day]
It has rained all day and I love the sound of it on the tin roof. Also quite nippy in the low 40's. I've stayed in for the most part. Alfred came
up to hang some pictures...and to tell me that he's been "evicted" from his first floor flat because a couple has rented it for the week.
(He'll live in his country home for the duration.) The couple, it turns out, are from, at least originally, Milford, Massachusetts, just a few
minutes from where I was raised. Lesley and Robin Kenny now reside in New Hampshire and work in Boston. They are here to visit
their daughter Elizabeth who attends the Sorbonne. Lesley speaks a little French and has been to Paris, she says, about 40 years ago.
Robin, a psychologist, has never been here before. Their apartment was, due to an oversight, not ready for them to occupy when they arrived so I walked with them to the Louvre where we
ate and cruised just a little. They needed rest badly, of course, so we returned to the apartment and finding it still not quite ready, Robin
and I headed for the nearest Super Marché for some grocery shopping while Lesley stayed behind. Shortly before 5:00 I headed out for a walk to the BHV (rue de Temple/Rivoli), the super department store in the Hôtel de Ville. Now that
store has about everything Wallmart has plus 10 brands, varieties, colors and sizes, shapes, etc. in addition. I only wanted some good
sticky Scotch tape to put up a map and had to look through, I swear, over 50 varieties of tape on the display. Hey, if you want it, they've got
it, including, in the 1st level below street level a tool, etc. department that carries every size of everything in tools that you could possibly
need. I could go broke going there every day! Alfred called about 6 and indicated that he was
going to be in the area for supper and invited
me to join him. We went to Chez Denise at
5 rue des Prouvaires, just a few minutes walk
from here right next to the park at Des Halles.
We were seated right next to a couple named
Bernstein who were here for their nephew's bar
mitzvah. Turns out they are from Sherborn,
Massachusetts, a small town adjoining the
town where I was raised. Now how's that for
coincidence: meeting two couples in Paris on
the same day both from my home state and
within minutes of my home town! Needless to say, we gabbed together all through a very delicious meal of salmon, potato and mustard
sauce. Now, I'm not big on the culinary arts, but I know enough to know that was a fine repast!
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