Paris, 2007

Cris qualified to ride Paris-Brest-Paris at the end of August, and I was able to meet him at the finish line and join him for a short vacation in France, spanning his recovery period from the ride, and his birthday.

I was delighted by the fact that I could take pictures in most of the famous sites that I visited, so I took lots of snapsnots.

Wednesday August 22, 2007

Woke up at 7:30 with the grand plan of doing some last minute packing of the apartment (for the move when we get back) and also transferring media to my mp3 player. Somehow managed to take 2 hours to get out of the house without packing anything, but at least I had my audio book.

Took the T to work, for once have good travel connections (though I had to run for the bus I beat it handily). I was working on parsing out a file, and kept refreshing the PBP rider tracker to see where Cris was. He was past halfway and I was almost worried that he'd beat me to Paris! But even he had to sleep so I was fine.

Left work at just past 4, and got to the airport via the Silver Line at 5:10, for my 7:05 flight. Which was a good thing as they had a two part line to check in, and it was *crawling*, half an hour and I wasn't even out of the supplementary line. Eventually got over to the main one, but at an hour before my flight, they pulled the London passengers and had us check in at a special kiosk. Luckily the guy with the dog on a leash in the line wasn't going to London, and I managed to avoid getting licked as we had lapped each other. Finally got up to the front and decided to check my suitcase after all, since the AA agent assured me that it would get on my flight. Scurried down the length of the terminal to find a mercifully short security line, and popped into the restroom and the store to grab a bottle of water, but by the time I was at my gate, they were already boarding my section. I was a bit peeved to check my boarding card and see that my row 26 aisle seat had been swapped out for a row 43 middle seat. :( Luckily the two women next to me were nice - one knit and listened to her ipod the whole time, the other stayed on her side of the arm rest and even offered me an apple when I was a bit upset that both dinner carts ran out of chicken the row before they got to me, and I decided not to take the beef. Luckily I'd had a big lunch (burrito from El Pelon), so I ended up being fine with OJ and the croissant that they gave us as we came in over Ireland. I was so stiff and sore, though, it was not a comfy seat. I had my noise cancelling headphones and they kept me sane, and I read on and off between dozing.

We set down at Heathrow at 6:35, and immigration was a breeze, just told her I was taking the train that afternoon. My suitcase showed up promptly and I decided to take the Underground rather than the Heathrow Express, as I could get right to Waterloo. That worked well, only getting crowded as it got close to 9 and I hit Picadilly Circus. Found the Eurostar ticket terminals and printed out my boarding passes, then found a left luggage room, but decided to only check my suitcase as I didn't want to spend another 6 pounds on my backpack. Then, off to find breakfast.

I popped into a shop near Waterloo, but it didn't have a good place to sit, so I ended up meandering over the Waterloo Bridge (windy!) and found a place called Baguettes du Monde which offered good choices and seating. The brie in my turkey, brie and tomato bagel wasn't melted, but it was good. Bonus: I got 30min free internet access with my purchase, so I was able to double check where Cris was - still going strong. Left him a message in the forum saying I'd made it to London, then poked around online to figure out how to pass 2 hours until meeting Bob. Decided to try the V&A, as I'd missed it last time through. Managed to navigate the underground again, grabbing an off peak day pass to save a few quid, and got in and checked my bag - they only request a minimal amount of donation, it's nominally free. The Fashion section was having an exhibit focussed on NYC designers, that was neat to see. The Japan section was minimal (maybe under construction), saw some sculpture and ran upstairs for a bit and lost 20 mins. :) Got my bag and started making my way back to Waterloo at 11:25, and made it to meet Bob at the Waterloo Rd entrance at 12:02 just before he arrived. :)

It had started to rain a bit, for once I was prepared with my rain coat, but Bob was trying to hug buildings for shelter. We went to a nearby Japanese place (the downstairs bathrooms were very cute), and I got a small nigiri assortment and gree tea - every time I sat down I was starting to get tired. Bob went with curried tofu I think. Was good and not to pricey, and we had a nice chat catching up on years of not seeing each other, and then only at big events with lots of ambient noise. Hopefully next time he's in Boston we can work out another visit.

Back to Waterloo, got my luggage out of hock, and I grilled Bob on what to expect on the Eurostar. Check in (just throw ticket through an auto gate) and security and passport control were all fast as promised, but I found that I didn't have enough English money for a large water at a kiosk, and they were all out of smalls. So, up to the train, and my car (#2) was right there. My seat mate was a young English man who immediately offered to put my suitcase up on the rack above (all the luggage racks were full by the door). I'd forgotten how fast trains knock me out, and added to a *long* day of travel, I think I was only awake long enough to enter the Chunnel and slept most of the rest of the way. I woke up at one point and saw a road parallel to the tracks and gave it a scan for bikers, but no luck. :)

Cris's directions from Gare du Nord to the apartment were wrong, but I figured out the correct transfer stop easily enough. I even got the direction to walk once I got out of Invalides correct after only going a block in the wrong direction. :) it was awesome to come out of the metro and see the Eiffel tower. The rain started coming down again as I reached the apartment, and a young girl peeked her head out of the cafe next door to grill me. I had to tell here that I was too tired to understand, as I tried to remember what Cris had told me about getting in. I finally entered the building door code, found the mailbox key, and got the apartment key out of there. I found the calling card Cris had left, and got in touch with him, he was coming up on Villaines. We finally settled on him calling me when he hit 40 miles from the end and I'd make my way out to the suburbs to meet him.

I unpacked and took a long awaited bath, then wrote this up so far. Next order: dinner. Oh, money first. :) Bob gave me a carnet that got me to the apartment but I've been wandering around only with US money in my wallet, and that needs to change. I've already spotted the bakery where I'll get my morning bread. :)

Cris had left me Rick Steves' Paris 2007 and it had a map of the neighbourhood with restaurants - there was one close by that promised the owner's help with English translations, so off I went to Chez Pierrot on rue Amelie. I stopped by a bank machine first and finally got it to give me some cash (stupid low daily withdrawal limit, I wasn't quite up to figuring out the conversion from pounds from what I got earlier and subtracting that from the limit and then converting to Euros - will get more tomorrow). Found the right street straight off, but it was under construction and a bit hard to navigate the sidewalk, but I found Chez Pierrot soon enough. There was a table of Americans to my left, a group of frenchwomen across to the left, but across to the right was an Italian-French family with three boys that made me remember why we were moving to a new apartment. The two older ones were mostly quiet until they had to get up to use the facilities, but the 2 year old was a menace, he got his hand lightly slapped three times for wreaking havoc, almost upsetting two tables. Service was slow enough to savour the meal, so I had to nurse an incipient headache through the kid's yelling, but they left as I was finishing up my main course. I had the warm goat cheese salad, then turkey breast pieces sauted in a gorgeous buttery sauce with tagliatelle mushrooms and linguine. It was good enough to make me forget the noise levels. :) I had a small san pelligrino, the bubbles were just right at that point, though I developed a tickle in my throat as the meal ended. Tried to go to the pharmacy, but it was closed when I was done dinner at 10 or so. Back up to the apartment, a bit confused by the timed light in the staircase, and made myself a travel mug of tea to try and calm my chest. Hoping that it's just from not taking an allergy pill in a while, coupled with London smog.

Will try and remember to pack Cris a change of clothes for when I go meet him, he might finish around noon or so, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to go grocery shopping, considering I'd have to find the place first. :) It's close to 11pm now, and I think I managed to work through the worst of the jet lag by keeping moving in London, so I'm hoping to head to bed soon and sleep soundly. *crosses everything*

Friday August 24, 2007

I woke up at 10am, a bit disoriented by the phone ringing (strange sound) and at sleeping so long - I'd put my trenchcoat up over the white paper blinds since Cris had warned me that the apartment got a lot of light and it worked a bit too well. Cris said that he was 40 miles from the end and was going to sleep for an hour, and that I should meet him at the finish at 3pm, for a 3-4 finish window.

Got dressed and went downstairs, crossing the street to the bakery there to get the pastry that Cris had recommended, the Oranerie, as well as a croissant - both very good. I got a chai at a coffee shop a few doors down (though I think it was just chai syrup in steamed milk), and convinced he ATM to give me some more money. Back up to the apartment where I ate and drank, and made myself another cup of tea with more caffeine in it. :)

Decided to try and find an internet cafe to plot out directions from the rail station to the gymnause des droits des hommes and to hit the grocery store for some water and fruit. I realised after double checking the directions from Cris to Avenue Internet that I'd not grabbed his correction, but thought I might get lucky. Nope. Meandered up Rue de Cler and saw the market shops and got sucked in by a place selling all sorts of honey (for my tea), and got one flavoured with grapefruit. Stopped in at the supermarket on Saint Dominique - people are oblivious when shopping the world over. Grabbed some bananas for Cris, peaches and yoghurt for me, and a flat of 1.5L water bottles. Turned out I' d missed the thing to print out weight and price labels for the fruit, and the clerk mumbled enough that I didn't understand her, so she went off and did it for me. Oops. Hauled stuff up to the apartment, then stuffed a change of clothes for Cris plus a banana in my backpack (along with my raincoat as it had warmed up), and headed to the train station at Invalides. Had the hardest time getting my ticket read, I bought the right one, but might have been trying to make the wrong machines read it? Anyway, two info booth stops later (one at each end of a long hallway separating the subway from the suburbs train) and I was on the platform 7 minutes before the train was to leave for St Quentin en Yvelines. Took a seat up on the top floor (non smoking) and was somewhat amused to see everyone else take the first seat from the door that was open as they walked in. A group of tourists got off at Champes du Mars , chattering about mugs with the Mona Lisa on them and spare tickets that they were going to arrange as a memory tableaux. Then a quite trip the rest of the way there. Got there at 2:40 or so, and found the taxi stand and worried that no taxis would come, but the couple in front of me got one after about 10 mins and one for me came by soon. It did end up being an easy walk, only a short cab ride, but I didn't want to risk being late. The round about that I'd watched on the web cam was surrounded by people, I found a spot o the island and kept an eye open for familiar faces.

Saw one really old guy being basically pushed by his riding mate. Two guys came in with cervical collars on. A lot of riders were listing to one side or another. Lots of cheering and clapping from the crowd, and shouts of bravo. An English guy beside me was giving his mates crap as they came in. A couple of guys with huge mountain man beards came in, and one woman started yelling in victory as she swooped around the last corner. Lots of people put on speed for the last stretch, I was very impressed that they had it in them after 1199km! Some riders were high fiving ranks of people, and everyone would step out into the road to greet the incoming riders. It was great. :) The sky was overcast, but the temp was perfect. Then around 3:30 I saw a familiar figure enter the round about, and Cris raised his hand in victory. I shouted his name and the crowd around me took it up and yelled with me. I ran across the island and ducked into the gym side, and finally figured out where they had to go to swipe in. There was a path around to the right the incoming riders would take, and people were pushing their bikes up the path from the left, but spectators were going straight in across a metal bridge, and I followed them. I came out onto a platform overlooking the gym floor, and was confronted with a sea of spandex. I finally spotted Cris, he was still in line to swipe in, so I ran down to say hi, and then waited by the exit. He found the group of people he'd been riding with, trying to sort out where his drop bag was, but it turned out to be at a hotel a ways away, so we arranged to meet them for dinner in Paris the next day and get the stuff. Julie (?) had a bottle of champagne and the riders toasted the finish. Bruce was having troubles with his neck (he was one of the cervical collar wearers I'd seen) and his knee, everyone was favouring something, and I saw a few bandaged knees as well. We went out to Cris's bike, he picked up the pump that he'd borrowed from Jake and I sent him off to have his shower, sitting on the bleachers around the track reading (after braving the port a pottie). Two guys were talking near me, one had given up alley cat racing to do this instead, he had a surfer's cadence. Cris finally came back, a blot of black against the colourful sea of bike clothes. He spotted someone else he'd ridden with, Ed from CT I think, and we talked with him a bit - Cris had give him a compression bandage when his knee started to go - luckily Cris's knee was fine. Or as fine as making it move him 1200km could be. *wry smile* Everyone was limping, even after they'd changed clothes you could tell who the bikers were. There were people passed out sleeping *everywhere*,and conversations tended to run on sentences and non sequitur. We walked slowly back toward the train station, and Cris asked if we could drop by a hotel a little past it to return Jake's bike pump. We ran into Emily on the way there, and she invited us to drop Cris's stuff at the hotel and join them for dinner at 7pm or so. Cris and I found a cafe and shared a tiramisu and Cris had coffee to try and stay awake. Yet another familiar face came by, a fast NE rider who'd finished last night. He gave Cris the scoop that the NE rider who was defending her fastest female ride of PBP was unseated, an Italian woman finished faster (apparently with the support of a team of fellow riders, while our candidate got lost and did a lot of it herself). Cris told me some of the stories from the road, stopping for crepes in exchange for sending a postcard, a guy buying him coffee only after Cris promised that he was going to finish PBP.

We headed back to the hotel at 7 and settled in the lobby, away from the fragrant drop bags stacked near the desk. The luggage room was open and we could see bike boxes stacked to the ceiling in there, as well as ranks of bikes. Emily came down and said that Jake was dead to the world, so we went with just the couple who met us in the lobby. We walked (slowly) down stairs to the fountain level and around the corner to El Rancho. The food was quite good, I had a chicken burrito that was mostly chicken, though slightly charred on one end. As soon as Emily finished eating, her head started to droop, and she was soon deeply asleep in the middle of the loud restaurant. We checked to make sure that she wasn't going to tip off the bench and finished up our plates and only woke her when it came time to split the bill. Then back up to get the bike and we walked slowly over to the train station, but straight there, as I vetoed going by another hotel to see if someone was there, as we had 15 mins until the next train and I kind of wanted to get back into the city. The train was in already when we got up to the platform (Cris has to take his bike through a special gate that sealed him in and then let him out again), and we wedged the bike into the mid level seating area. Cris showed me some pictures he'd taken and I got a better sense of how the start played out.

Made it to Invalides and the Eiffel tower was all lit up again, but then it started sparkling, so I made Cris stop so I could take a short movie of it. :) I helped him get the bike up to the fourth floor apartment, we each had a fruit and I gave Cris a short foot rub. I'd made him stretch before dinner, but his fingers were still a bit numb from the vibrations of the gravely pave he'd been riding over, so I tried rubbing them a bit and just hope they'll be fine in the morning. Sent him to sleep with his feet propped up at least to try and offset that swelling. I sat up and had some yoghurt and finished my book and then wrote this.

Plan for tomorrow is to try and hit the Louvre soon after it opens at 9am, then walk along the Champes Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. I wore my knee brace today, it seemed to help, but will definitely wear it tomorrow. 12:39am.

Saturday August 25, 2007

Woke up a bit later than I wanted to - had slept on the couch for a while since Cris was snoring, and moved back into the bed at 5am, and slept until 9:30 or so. Had toast, yoghurt for breakfast, and made tea, then left Cris reading and headed out to the Orsay museum. Walked there along the Seine for a bit, stood in the snaky line to get my Paris museum pass and then in. The guard at the xray scanner double took at my hair and said "Speciale" as I came around to get my stuff. It was overcast and a bit cool but I decided to just wear a t-shirt and jeans so I didn't have to worry about a jacket and coat check. The Orsay is like a train station inside, soaring and lots of light. I stayed downstairs mostly and on the first floor, saw some lovely paintings by artists I wasn't familiar with. Went up to the 5th floor and saw the art nouveau room and fell in love with all the furniture there. Then up again in a tower (I think) to find the impressionist works, and the crowds. Ran through there fairly quickly, saw some of Degas's work, the bronze dancer with the fabric skirt was beautiful. Made my way back down to the gallery and looped around the other side to see the other statues - Herakles as Archer was powerful, and the polar bear was very friendly (and might have been the model for the Coke bear).

Came out of the building and the sun had come out and it was a lot hotter. I looped around a few streets on that side of the river to find a convenience store and got a big bottle of mineral water (avoid that in future), and drank it as walked across to the Louvre. They weren't kidding when they said it was huge! Walked between the wings of the buildings and finally made it to the pyramid area and settled on the edge of a fountain in the shade to drink and wait for Cris. He came soon, at 2pm, and we sat for a while together then he took off to rest again and I went in via the Richeleau passageway, breezing through security again with the pass (and got another comment on my hair from the security guard there). Down into the area under the triangle and grabbed a map to try and orient myself.

Decided to just follow the signs and get the Mona Lisa over with first. :) Everywhere I turned there was another masterpiece, the entrance to the Mona Lisa's gallery is off the long Grande Gallerie and it's stuffed with beautiful paintings. The painting was smaller than I expected, but I was able to able to get close enough to get a good view. Then I wandered around looking at Italian paintings (found a Tintoretto and a Titian side by side). Found the small "primitive" art section, with a few things from British Columbia tribes and Inuit grouped with the Alaskan artifacts. Backed out from that dead end and went back and found the cafe, and sat at a table on an outdoor gallery overlooking the pyramid courtyard. The waiter found me a last pain au chocolate and I finally got to taste what Cris was talking about - mine was a bit stale, but it was good (a croissant with chocolate filling). Then began the quest to find the Venus de Milo, took a couple of wrong turns (found Northern European sculpture, another small exhibit, with strong Roman influences), found Cupid and Psyche (I have a small repro of it), and the Gladiator, and a lovely Athena, and got to the Venus just ahead of a tour group, but they jumped in front of me. Spent some time just looking at her.

Did a quick run through Ancient Egypt and the Levant, and saw some of the old Louvre foundations,, before giving up and heading out, tired and thirsty. I think I lasted 2 hours. Was going to walk along the Tuileries gardens but the sun was beating down too much, but as I was heading toward the bridge to try and walk in the shadows of buildings on the other side of the river, I spotted a tree lined walkway to the side of the main gardens. Walked along there, spotted the Orangerie, and kept going along the river to the bridge at Invalides, scraping the plan to go to the Arc de Triomphe as my feet hurt too much. Back across the river and back to the apartment. Cris wasn't there so I put my feet up, had a peach and some water, and read for a bit.

He came back from a shopping run on Rue Cler and we relaxed before dinner. I took a bath to freshen up and then changed for dinner and we headed out. Cris was walking a bit slowly still, so we ended up running late (two trains to get there, and got a tiny bit turned around by 2 5 point intersections), but we finally found Rue Choron and le Rose Blue. Most everyone was there already and they were going in to be seated, so we shuffled in and sat with Mike and Linda. I went with the 16 euro menu (scallop salad, turkey in sauce, and cheese plate) and wasn't too impressed with the food, but the half bottle of cotes du rhone that Cris and I split and the conversation with the whole group made it a good night. We got there just past 7:30 and left at around 11:30. Bruce read out a top 10 list of things learned at PBP and there were a lot of stories told about the ride and the riders, but I got to talk a bit about commuting and knee injuries. Most left as the night wound down, and we left after the conversation veered into TMI territory.

Cris had a bag full of stuff from his drop bag (the fender stuck out a bit) from Julie, and we made our way back via the Metro (I'd finally managed to buy a 10 pack of tickets). The moon was high above promenade des invalides and the tower started sparkling again as we walked down our street.

Hope to do Versailles tomorrow, but it seems like Cris won't quite be recovered for it, but we'll do the Pompidou center together later on.

Sunday August 26, 2007

I woke up at 7 and 8 and finally got up at nine. Had a quick breakfast, and this time dressed in a light t-shirt and skirt, ready for the heat, and even remembered to put on sun block and a cap. Walked over to the RER at Invalides and managed this time to forget my sun glasses when I bought my return tickets for Versailles Rive Gauche. Took a chance and went back through the turn stiles, grabbed the glasses and tried the same ticket in the reader again, and I was through. I'd have paid the 2.8 penalty to get them back though, they're my last one with replaceable lenses. Up onto the platform to wait for the train, and got a bit worried as people kept streaming upstairs to wait along with me. The train finally pulled in and it turned out to be a short one, and I was waiting where no cars were. Along with a group of people, I scurried down to the place where the train stopped and a couple of cars further to grab a seat at the top level next to two Spanish gentlemen. They had a discussion the length of the trip to V. about something "en Espagna" but I couldn't tell what. A pair of guys got on and played the sax and accordion for us, then came through asking for change, but I was a bit pissed that they were so loud I was getting a headache, even though it was period music. :/ Last night, a woman was playing a samisen (?) in the subway, and quite well too. The train finally pulled into the station and it was a cattle stampede to get us all through the gates. Luckily my abused rail ticket got me through the turnstiles, and reading ahead had me heading out confidently toward the palace (right out of the station, L on the first blvd, can't miss it). It's big, with a wide expanse of parking lot before it, and guys selling trinkets and wind up birds and postcards forming a loose gauntlet. I went toward the "already have a ticket" line and couldn't resist snapping a pic of the "without a ticket" line - a guy at the station was saying it was 2 hours long. Got inside and onto the tour numbers easily enough. Reminded me a lot of the summer palace in Vienna, which to be honest I preferred, though it was in all likely hood modelled on Versailles. Went around the squares, seeing various function rooms, finally made it to the hall of mirrors, long and bright. I could see the fountains playing in the garden from the french doors. Saw some of the chandeliers down for restoration. Into the bedchambers, ostrich feathers floating a the canopy corners, richly embroidered fabrics covering high beds. Saw lots and lots of portraits of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, and saw the Queen's Guard Room where she was dragged away from. Finally came to a section dedicated to Napoleon I, he's also very iconic. Finally out again, and decided against the gardens (extra charge) since it was so hot and the bathroom line was long. Back to the train station and lucked out that one was there already, so verified that it was going to Invalides and settled on a seat in the shade.

Back in Paris, walked back toward the apartment, a bit early at 1pm or so, and ran into Cris walking to lunch, so I joined him. :) We just went to the corner bistro, Centennaire, and I dashed into the washroom before ordering. Had an open faced veggie sandwich with good fries but skipped the mayo dressed salad. The lemonade was fizzy.

Dropped back into the apartment and then we walked around Hotel des Invalides to the Rodin Museum. It was awesome, tons of his stuff, process examples, multiple castings, and explanations of how he'd reuse figures in new assemblies (like one was the martyr lying down, next to it was the same figure with wings but falling downwards). Saw lots of pieces from the Gates of Hell and finally went around to the garden and saw the post death casting in bronze of the huge gates. Rodin is a genius at representing the human form, his sculptures are so expressive and powerful. Saw the Thinker of course, one of many casts, but this one was moved from somewhere in Paris to here. The burghers of Calais was another power piece, it was neat to see his nude "sketches" and then the draped final figures. The audio tour was well worth it.

We were in sight of Napoleon's tomb, so Cris grabbed a ticket to that as well and we wandered around in the domed tower and crypt (saw Napoleon's frock coat and hat, that brought him more to life than the huge block of the coffin/sarcophagus), and then went into Invalides proper to see the WWI and II exhibits as well as the arms and armour one. Wow. Both were huge, we only got through WWI, and zoomed through most of A&A only stopping to read info on things that caught our eyes - a lot did, I'm still kicking myself for missing the gift shop as this was the best A&A exhibit that I've ever seen and I wanted to get the exhibit catalogue. At one point we passed the overstock room, ranks and ranks of halberds against the wall, rows of gloves, helmets, armour on shelves,and whole suits of armour on display. The details on a lot of the guns were amazing. All that and there was one whole wing that was closed for renovations so we didn't get to see the Napoleonic exhibits. Definitely worth the price of admission if you're a military buff at all. I'm not a huge WW buff, but the exhibits there held my attention - lots of uniforms and helmets from various regiments, and good displays and summaries of the actions.

It was close to 6 by this point, and after having called a few places for reservations and found them still closed for August or Sunday, we decided to check Pierrot again. It was opening, I had time to go up to the apartment and wash the sun block from my face and get my spare cash. I was tempted to get the same ting as las time, but went with the Chicken Lyonnaise (was a bit dry, but the condiment was exquisite - thyme filled - and the same noodles were great). We split (er, well, I had a glass) a bottle of rose (no half bottles), and I had a mouth watering apple tartine for dessert, while Cris went with a green apple sorbet swimming in Calvados - in fact, I finished getting drunk when I tried some of it. :)

Back to the apartment to put our feet up (ie doze) and read for a bit, and I woke Cris up at 9:45 or so, and we agreed to go get a drink and take in the city at night. We walked down to Champs du Mars and found an ice cream stand that also sold hot chocolate (though they didn't believe that's what I wanted at first, but it was a tiny bit chilly with the sun down), and then sat on the grass directly line with the lit up Eiffel Tower (and the moon was waxing to full behind us). I saw someone fire spinning way off behind the tower, and we could see the flashes as people took pictures from the observation decks of the tower.Meandered back to the apartment and taking some time now to type up the day, and then will clean up and head to bed.

Tomorrow most things are closed, so we'll hit the Pompidou for modern art and Notre Dame for religious art. :)

Monday August 27, 2007

Woke up at around 9am, the trenchcoat over the window is working too well, almost. Breakfast, and some relaxing, and then headed out around 10:30. Walked a bit to get to the Centre de Pompidou, Cris got his ticket and I watched the Messenger installation in the ground floor lobby. Up the tubular escalators on the outside to the 4th floor and entered the exhibit proper. There was a special exhibit on Julio Gonzales there, lots of forged iron sculptures and sketches. Wandered the first floor, found some Matisse that I liked. Did the second floor much more quickly, as we were getting low on calories. Stopped at a patisserie to get pastries to eat on the way toward Notre Dame, but that wasn't quite enough, so we decided to get lunch first on the Left Bank, at Chez Clement. Had a pile of lettuce with tomatoes and mozzarella on top, and a small sprig of basil. Good though. We ate outside, for a while a pigeon was perched on a tree over me, but it soon left.

We were closer to Saint Chapelle at that point, so we went over the river to that church first. Bit of a line for security, there was supposed to be two but no one was in the second one. Then Cris queued for tickets, and then we got in. The first floor was crowded, so we went up the stone spiral staircase to the second, higher chapel first. Wow, lots of stained glass, the only problem was that the building was so narrow, it was hard to see the opposite glass. The sun was streaming through one side, the other was dimmer. They were also doing restoration on the end, so lots were hidden, but we could still see 8 huge windows. The columns were painted as well, decorations everywhere. Back down to the ground floor and the tour group was gone so we could see those windows more clearly.

Walked over to Notre Dame, bit of a line shuffling into the church, lots of people inside (and ignoring the "Silence" signs and the guard hushing them). We went around clockwise against the flow mostly, saw lots of dust on the paintings in the side chapels.

Joan of Arc was lovely. The church is huge, it just keeps going up, and we had sun to show off the stained glass as well, though it wasn't direct into the rose windows. I wanted to climb the tower, but couldn't see the end of the line, so bailed.

We'd walked past Allard to see when they reopened (the day we're leaving at noon, unfortunately) and checking out the sister restaurant that they suggested, we ran across the Mariage Freres tea shop, museum and cafe. Tiny museum, a small room on the basement floor, and I resisted getting tea. But after Notre Dame, we went back for dessert and tea. We stopped first at Shakespeare and Company for Cris to get a book (there's a shallow well in the middle of the store), and I found a book on the Arctic that I grabbed as backup if I finish my current book.

The decor in the tea room was lovely, warm orange walls, white cotton curtains held back with self ties, and Paris colonial expo posters on the walls. We were at a table next to the iron fireplace insert, and our white clad waiter brought us Blue Buddha tea (me), afternoon tea (Cris), and I had the Black Satin (?) dessert - the pyramid of chocolate covered chocolate mousse with almond slivers and a berry center was delicious, as was the scoop of tea flavoured sorbet. We had a relaxing tea, commenting on the long twilight, as we left there at around 6 to head back to the apartment.

We got there around 7, after a brief stop at the net cafe for Cris to check his messages, and Cris called to get a reservation at Le Mansouria for 9. We read until it was time to get ready, then headed out at 8. Got to Montparnasse around 8:45 and walked around the block, taking in the pink streaked sky at sunset, and passing a small enclosed garden.

The decor in La Mansouria is wonderful, and has the best bathroom yet: down a spiral staircase, past an alcove strewn with rose petals, a wooden door leads you into the women's area and steps up lead to the door to the toilet, which sits in a curved alcove painted red with gold wash and details. The sink is brass and set in a cabinet with arches cut out of it. Even the paper towel holder was a nail studded trunk. The only jarring note was the soap dispenser, it was garish red and green plastic. The main room was lit by pierced metal lamp shades, and the walls were all painted green or yellow with washes of gold, and wooden details, lots of intricate wooden screens as well adorning the walls and windows. The food was good too. :) I had a chicken tajine that came on a plate surrounded by a wonderful thick spicy sauce. We shared a goat cheese pastry appetizer, and Cris finished with a plate of Moroccan pastries. He'd bought the owner's cookbook in Montreal, so I have hopes that I can replicate my chicken dish at least.

Back to the subway, this time transferring to Mont Parnasse to try and get a coffee at Coupole. The only problem was that they wouldn't serve us just dessert and a hot drink at the dining room tables, and they didn't have hot drinks or desserts at the bar, so we left after some confusion on the part of the waiters. We crossed the street to the Lotus Cafe, and sat on the enclosed porch (well, just the roof was closed at that point) and unfortunately smoke wafted from the cigs of the couples behind us. I got an expensive broken leaf earl grey and the waiter mistook Cris and gave us two 2 boule orders of ice cream, but it was artisanal ice cream and the mango and chocolate were divine. I was fading at this point, so we settled up and headed back. Took a couple of pictures of metro advertising posters for friends, and scurried back to the apartment, as it was chilly and I'd not brought my sweater. The moon was full over Invalides, there's supposed to be an eclipse tomorrow morning at 9am or so. Kissed Cris happy birthday after midnight. He threw in a load of laundry to de-PBP-ify his bike clothes (finding some other person's stuff in the sack from Julie), and I threw in my jeans so I could wear them home.

Last full day tomorrow, Cris wants to tear down and pack the bike, and I'm going to try to figure out what I don't want to miss. Arc de Triomphe for sure, maybe the currency museum and Sacre Coeur if I can make it there as well. Then a nice birthday dinner and packing/cleaning.

Tuesday August 28, 2007

Hard a hard time sleeping last night, just as I'd be about to doze off, Cris would turn and I'd wake up again. The washer was also still going intermittently. I went back to the couch and resorted to the noise cancelling headphones and finally drifted off until 6, then back to bed. Slept until about 9:30, had my by now regular breakfast of toast, yoghurt, tea and grapefruit juice while I contemplated my options for the day. Decided to plot a line to Sacre Coeur and got ready to head out, kissing Cris goodbye and leaving him to break down his bike.

Walked over to Pont Alma first, little bit sunny but a bit cooler today. Started to follow a sign to a post office, but it was too far away., so doubled back and found the entrance to the sewer tour. It was mostly display signs, as we wandered through a working section of the sewer - only one place was really stinky, I was able to rush past it. Saw dredging machines and the boules that they use to clear the silt out of the sewers.

Then back up and out of the underground to cross the bridge and walk along George V toward Champes Elysees. Lots of high end shops along there, but more affordable ones as I Turned toward the Arc de Triomphe. It's impressive, I took the tunnel under the round about to get to it, and then waved my pass at the attendant and started the climb. I stopped to rest for a moment every 50 stairs, there were over 200 to get to the top, with a bit of a break at the gift shop level. Saw a display saying that the first proposal for the monument was a huge elephant shaped fountain with a concert hall inside it. The Arc is much more refined. :) From the top I had a great 360 view of Paris, with the Eiffel tower close by and Place de la Concord and the Louvre visible down the Champes. Also saw the modern arch and Sacre Coeur. It was windy and sunny up there, refreshing after the climb up the spiral stair surrounded by stone.

Wound back down the 200 odd steps back to street level, and followed signs to the Metro to head to Anvers.

Got out there and found a post office to mail the post card to Gineane. Then picked up some takeaway veggie biryani from an Indian place, and carted it up toward Sacre Coeur. Sat and ate in the little park at the base of the steps, watching the venetian themed two storey merry go round, and kids playing. Then hiked up, not counting steps this time. :) Reminds me a lot of the approach to the big shrine to St. Joseph in Ontario. The climb was worth it, though, the view was great, and the church was hushed and gorgeous. he mosaics in the side chapels glowed with gold, and the stained glass shone in the sunlight streaming through. My pass got me a look around in the crypt, the highlight being the pieta chapel (no piles of bones anywhere). The climb to the dome was extra, and I was all climbed out at that point, so I headed back to Invalides.

On the way to the apartment, I dropped into a shop and picked up a new top for dinner tonight, a grey Grecian inspired silk thing that was on deep sale. Read until Cris got back, and generally relaxed until I realised that I had to start packing and sort out stuff. Le Cloche D'Or is still closed, so we're trying a nearby place instead, Florimond. Time for more cleaning of the apartment and myself, and then we're off for our last night in Paris.

Took a quick bath and got changed into my new blouse and my faithful grey skirt (best $12 spent on clothing in a while).It was a fiarly short walk to the restaurant, and our table was waiting for us. The waiter was very nice and explained the fish of they day to me in English when I couldn't figure out what ligne jaune or something meant - turned out to be a white cod like fish, so I went with it. I started with lobter ravioli in a creamy sauce with tiny cubes of squash (I think - the menu's seasonal, should check online when get home). The fish came with nice thick slices of smoked salmon on top, and anohter good cream sauce, with black sesame seed topped mashed potatoes. The ravioli filling was good but the pasta was a tiny bit overdone. The fish was good, t hough, and we had a half bottle of saucern I think. I finally ordered fromage blanc with a berry coulis,and it turned out to be yoghurt with raspberry sauce - very good yoghurt though. The decor was mostly typical French bistro, but the waiter had on a tie with a cartoon character, and htere were plastic groupings on the ceiling: a school of fish, a toy cook set, garlic, veggies, and one more in the corner by the door.

The wind was picking up again as we walked back to the apartment, and I curled up and finished my book instfead of cleaning since Cris told me that we just had to leave some money to cover the cleaning service instead of having to do it ourselves. Packed up the last of my clothes that I won't be wearing tomorrow and took some of Cris's heavy and bulky stuff (shoes, jeans, books, water bottles) since I had some space, and he'll take the honey as I can't transfer through England with it, I don't think, though maybe with the EEC it's fine, but would rather not risk it. :) We have a pile of recycling, didn't get a chance to find a bin. listenign to my mp3 player and my travel speaker, Loop Guru is soothing us to bed. :)

Tomorrow morning we haul the bike box downstairs and I help carry stuff to the RER station at Invalides before getting onto my train to the Gare de Nord and my longer way home - Cris should land two hours before me, we may or may not hook up to share a taxi at Logan, I'm to call when I land.

Wednesday August 29, 2007

Ended up spending time on the couch again, couldn't fall asleep after the bathroom light woke me up. Woke up for good when Cris got back from the bakery with bread and pastries and sandwiches. Had breakfast, then helped Cris haul the bike box down the stairs, fingers almost slipping on the plastic case, and since I forgot to put on my knee brace, I was limping back up. :/ I cleaned up and put on the brace for support until I could leave my suitcase at check in at Heathrow, swept the place for things forgotten and then slung Cris's courier bag over my front, my backpack on my back, and my rolly suitcase in hand. We made our slow way over to the RER station at Invalides, stopping often to switch hands and adjust bags on our shoulders, but finally made it to the ramp and Cris got his train ticket to Charles de Gaulle. I doubled back to the Metro stop and made my one connection trip to Gare de Nord.

I was a bit tired and out of it, it took me a while to figure out I had to go upstairs for the Eurostar departures, I went downstairs first to use the pay toilets (totally losing all language skills while trying to explain to the two women in front of me that I'd get change for my 10 and buy their 5 (that the machine wasn't accepting) off of them, but finally we worked it out. Took the elevator upstairs and breezed through the checks into the departure lounge, with about 40mins before boarding. I tried to change my euros to pounds (for the train ride across London) but the min they'd take was 30. Got a hot cheese sandwich and lined up to make sure that I'd get a flat spot to put my suit case on the train. Of course when the time came, my coach was the one without the led numbers lit, I had to work back from #17, but I was able to grab a decent spot for my suitcase. I lucked out, no seat companion, so I settled in and put the arm rest up as we pulled out of Paris. Not a great view leaving, lots of graffitti on the back walls of buildings, only a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance as we left Paris. I decided ti was time to justify the ripping and converting time on the audiobook files I had on my mp3 player, and queued that up. Which turned out to be a mistake, as I stayed awake all the way to London, missing my best chance at a restorative nap.

At Waterloo, I had some problems getting the ticket machines to read my credit card, and ended up getting out 10 pounds and paying cash. Luckily I had 4 hours to get to my flight, so no panic. Not too crowded, was able to get an end spot out of the way, next to a guy with his bike, actually. Long haul to Heathrow on the Picadilly line, but I had the time and it was cheap. Wasn't 100% sure I should get off at the 1,2,3 terminal stop instead of terminal 4, but it was correct, and I found signs directing me to the AA check in counter. Good thing I'd lightned the backpack, though, as it was a bit of a hike. No line at check in (shock! horror!) and a nice British lady gave me my boarding card and assured me I had a window seat this time - hooray for checking in three hours early, I guess. Breezed through security with just a short line. Only problem was that my gate wasn't open yet, so I sat around in the posh shops section of the waiting area for an hour, eating my sandwich and listening to my audiobook.

Once the gate opened, it turned out to be in the cluster only 10 mins away, and it was literally a barrier around the gate, no toilets or anything but chairs and the boarding gate past another ticket check and passport control - much less claustrophobic than at Frankfurt at least! I did a last minute bathroom run - I'd arrived parched and downed a bottle of blackcurrant ribena and a water with my sandwich - and snagged a chair facing the floor to ceiling window by the nose of our plane. I'd come *this* close to greeting the passport checker in French, I was a bit tired at this point. My seat turned out to be one of a pair just at the end of the wing, right in front of the bathroom. Luckily the venting worked well, only the flushing noise was disturbing, but it was perfect for quickly ducking in there at need (all of once, really, but nice to know I didn't have to worry about getting blocked by the beverage carts). My seat mate was mercifully skinny and quiet, I had a non annoying flight experience, finishing up the audio book and reading a bit of "Arctic Dreams", but unable to sleep. Got a text from Cris as I turned on my phone at landing, he'd waited for me! But that made it a bit more frustrating to have a delay at immigration - they were supposed to take my I94 away but didn't, so I had to fill out a new one, but the guy let me jump the queue - the non US citizens queue was much shorter at least, but lots of confusion as each person reached the front - it's not just me who's confused by the conflicting messages about what we're supposed to do. Didn't help that the flight attendant on the plane totally skipped me when handing out the forms. :/ At least customs was easy, and I spotted Cris hanging out after I got my suitcase (took a while, seem to have lost the knack for getting my stuff out of the baggage claim quickly). We had to have a van taxi called for us, and it felt like the driver wanted to give us a run around, asking if that's where we lived. Then the Sumner tunnel was closed, and there was an extra baggage charge (I guess, the extras were $11.75 instead of something like $6 with the airport fee + tunnel fee), and we were at $30 before hitting Storrow Dr. But we got there, around 9:30pm, and got stuff into the house (still full of boxes *sigh*, and the ripped out duct work was still sitting where my bike usually goes, so Cris had to work around it getting his bike box down into the basement). Did some tiny bit of unpacking, mostly so I could grab things for work in the morning, totally failed to do any more house packing, and took the best shower ever. :) The bed was very welcome to fall into as well. But, still slept lightly and had a moment at 3am when I was panicking that I couldn't fall asleep again. Got up at 7:20am or so, scrounged some breakfast and off to work. Getting to ride my own bike after a week of watching others ride theirs was bliss. :)

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