|Toasting to being together in Paris.|
|Reading in a cafe´near the Sorbonne|
We arrived in Paris Friday afternoon after a tiring trip from Barcelona. It isn't that far, but taking the discount airline, Ryanair, might have been a mistake. The plane landed in Beauvais Airport, about an hour and a half outside the city, much farther than the two major airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle.
I had joked that we would probably arrive in a country field, and that's just about what we did. Then we had to pay to take an hour and a half bus ride to a terminal and then pay for a cab ride to the hotel. Live and learn.
We got here in the late afternoon and quickly grabbed the guidebook, setting out for the Latin Quarter. Katie read the stops on a literary walking loop, and we went from point to point on the map. Best stop: the courtyard flat where James Joyce lived after he arrived in Paris in 1921 and where he finished writing "Ulysses."
As we peered into the lane through a gate, a woman pushing a stroller came up the street on her way home. She opened the gate for us and showed us how to get out by pushing a buzzer. We were able to walk down the narrow street in the twilight and stop in front of the flat. Very exciting.
Further down the street, we stopped in front of the apartment where Ernest Hemingway lived with his first wife, Hadley, in 1922 and 1923. We learned that just below was Bal au Printemps, a dancing club that served as a model for the one where James Blake meets Brett Ashley in "The Sun Also Rises."
We stood on the street and imagined Joyce and Hemingway standing there talking.
We stopped at a cafe´ and were happy to realize that it was not a tourist trap; people at tables spoke French while a group of men at the bar engaged in an animated discussion, also in French.
Later, getting hungry and cold, we stopped at a cozy, lively restaurant recommended by the guidebook, Le Petit Pontoise. We toasted our arrival with a glass of wine each and both ordered the same thing, chicken with mashed potatoes. After more than a week of eating ham and cheese in Spain, I craved vegetables, so I ordered some as a side dish, not asking the cost, which turned out to be a whopping 10 euros, or about $13.
The bill was an eye-popping amount, and we vowed to do economic penance, which is difficult in Paris. Yesterday we stopped for lunch in the St. Germain des Pres neighborhood at Cafe´ de Flore, where Jean-Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir hung out. It was exciting to be there, but the food was so expensive that we decided to share an omelette, which amounted to about four bites each. Outside, we supplemented with chocolate-filled crepes.
Since then, we have squeezed in a lot at such a fast pace that I decided that even though it was an extra metro ride, we needed to come back and take a rest.
We saw the Eiffel Tower light up at night, climbed up to Montmarte for a beautiful view of the city, went to Versailles and made the obligatory visit to the Louvre, where we crammed in like sardines to look at the Mona Lisa. Was it worth it? Despite the fact that the guidebook called the Louvre one of the most actively avoided museums in the world, we were glad that we went.
We also walked through the Tuileries, sitting down next to a fountain and having lunch in the sun, and through the Luxemborg Gardens; both would have been especially beautiful in full bloom but were so beautifully laid out that it was nice to be there.
On New Year's Eve we walked down the lit-up, and very commerical, Champs-Elysees down to the Arc de Triomphe, then had a picnic in our room and watched "The Muppets" movie, which was really delightful. Then, for the New Year, we watched a French TV celebration complete with Can-Can dancers and acrobatic acts.
Today, it's on to Notre Dame cathedral and a walk along the Seine.
It's been more than wonderful. And despite predictions that the weather might be miserable, it's been sunny although cold every day. I lost a glove and invested in an over-priced pair of red mittens that will always remind me of Paris.
Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I forgot to bring the charger while Katie left hers in Sevilla, so we've been using a disposable camera amidst everyone else with their fancy cameras. It will be interesting to find out what the pictures look like. Who knows, they might be terrific.