4-10 November 1999

| Paris: Nov 4-10 | Burgundy: Nov 11-15 |

Lundi, 15 November

Hard to leave La Vielle Auberge, Epernay-sous-Gevrey. The quiet, starry nights following the low trajectory of the sun during bright days are missed at the first thought of leaving. Pleasant, good-bye conversation with Jane and a photo of the car in front.

You see, the bells chimed the hour twice (?) and once on the half. The skylights let in the light of the Cote D'Or - one week before the region's great wine celebrations. The slopes are beautiful as we join the A6 and begin the trip to Paris, the fast way.

Perfect sun and clouds and blue over the countryside, many signs describing ancient sights just off the highway. "Hotel California" is playing the first time we turn on the radio, crossing a range of fall-colored and green hills as far as one can see. No billboards to speak of, very fast drivers (80-100mph) and good "interstate" quality roads.

Then Paris, right on time - except for the wreck - dead stopped for a solid hour on the way to Charles de Gaulle - Gauling!

Down to the Lion D'Or - change rooms, just fine. Monoprix shopping for sandwiches and conversation in the room. One spin around the Place de Vendome, home of the Ritz and every shopkeeper in the international market whose name ends in a vowel.

The room - TV - sleep.

Mardi, 16 November

Morning - cafe noir around the corner and out to the Tuilleries. Gorgeous, cool morning - long easy walk past Concorde all the way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

Place de la Concorde
Tuilleries Gardens

We pass a load of mostly bad modern art installations in progress, all for the anticipated Millenere celebration. The risk of public art purchase always rests with the buyer.

Down to the Metro for the ride up the hills of Paris to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur (the funicular is great!). Breathtaking views of Paris from this steep hill.

The famous church itself is glorious today. The photos won't get it all. Lovely inside - Mass was beginning.

Slow walk around past artists begging to draw us - on to a bad lunch. We looked outside as we ate to see a man with a violin and a large, healthy Frenchman in a hat. He was singing "La Vie en Rose" quite nicely.

Down the steep hill and over to Place Pigalle - families and children among all manner of aggressive adult businesses.

After a rest, the meal of the trip at Palais Royale - fresh, beautifully presented and oh so full of taste. A walk back and easy rest.

(A Metro Moment - Standing at the junction of three halls, a 60-ish, 4-tooth, 3-day bearded man in worn, ill-fitting clothes. He seems blind, has a cane over the wrist of the hand he holds out for money. He sings in French, "Michael Row the Boat Ashore.")

Mercredi, 17 November

Early rise and a long walk down through the 6th to the Luxembourg palace and gardens. Another example of a wonderful public space just where relief is needed.

Strolling through the rain becomes a bit more urgent. Near the Sorbonne there are many student-age folks close by. The Pizza De l'Art was a welcome seat with simple cuisine and plenty of time to sit. Two demi-carafes of wine makes the trek back less fearsome in the anticipation, but debilitating in the completion. Sleeeep in the afternoon.

(There is a sense in all dealings with Parisian service folk that they not only don't mind English-speaking clients, they really want to try their English. None of the rude cliches seem to be in effect.)

In the evening we are welcomed by the warmth of Pizza Sicilia. Clearly at ease, we receive some special attention from the waiter, who seems to recognize us and believes Wade's French is better than it is and speaks in quick paragraphs. Wade gets the gist and answers appropriately, avec bon accent!

Jeudi, 18 November

Musee Du Louvre - the name is synonymous with the best.

In fact, the Louvre is one pisser of a museum. For all the depth and breadth of the collection, there is an annoyingly arbitrary pattern of passage through the building. We can thus criticize because our time in other museums - D'Orsay, Metropolitan in New York, National in DC - are quite recent. One repeatedly encounters dead ends and confusing intersections. Of course, the Louvre is a museum as an afterthought. Imagine that building turned over to artistic bureaucrats in Paris!

On this day, without explanation or apology, the coat check rooms were shut down due to no workers - in November.

We saw many an overwrought woman in coat, hat, and scarf gesticulating to an unmoved, but kind, attendant.

The old stuff from Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia - Etruscans and Romans - very impressive, very old, and unmistakably looted by very bad Frenchmen of discredited regimes gone by.

Mona Lisa is now behind glass - not free like the first time each of us saw her.

We are drawn to the Ecole du Nord - the Dutch and Flemish painters - Van Dyke, Hals, Vermeer, Rembrandt - and the collection is decidedly limited. But, that's okay. This really is the Louvre and it is amazing.

Back to the hotel for a late nap. Night time brings the advent of the Beaujolais Nouveau. Having read that it is a tacky, superficial commercial event - like Cinco de Mayo in Buckhead - we instead opt for an Irish pub and a pint of Murphy's Red.

Vendredi, 19 November

Rainy, wet Monday - let's get an umbrella. Thirty raindrops later, it stops raining - a worthy purchase.

Sun peeks out during an easy walk to the area of Les Halles, where until 1970 there was an open air market. (In 1979 an underground mall was opened. Any North American would recognize the setting.)

Into a store, a fabulous fantasyland of cooking utensils, all of a high quality, from tiny peelers to pots that could feed Napoleon's army. Five or six employees in blue coats are eager to answer questions in several languages - the mood is jovial. On two narrow floors, with a total of perhaps four aisles, a swell commercial kitchen could be outfitted. We are tempted (we love this stuff), but we demur.

As much humor as New York's Pooper Scooper Law generated in the late 1960's, we're not laughing now. Parisians live in an obstacle course of canine excrement.

Still interested in things domestic, we make our way down tot he Hotel de Ville area to Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville, an impressive department store. Having been there before, Marisa takes me to the door-pull, coat-rack, closet organizing floor. Some really well thought out, good quality, just plain fun designs. The whole store is hopping.

On the way out, we witness an apparent shoplifting apprehension by a gaggle of cherub-faced security types. They have cornered one very unhappy woman and we only see that she disputes the charges, colorfully and for all to see.

The sun is out nicely now as we ease back to our neighborhood. Lunch in a blue frame glass place with a pleasant middle-aged waitress who sings part of her response to us. Very easy.

In the evening, we head up to Rue St. Honore, looking for something Asian, just need a fix and we have seen at least 8-10 Japanese or Chinese restaurants in the area. Settling on the "Table of Ming", which claims both Thai and Chinese expertise, we know what to expect but go in anyway. It's fine, but our Thais are better than their Thais.

Back to Murphy's for a very interesting evening. We are warmly greeted in pretty good English by a woman who turns out to be the owner's girlfriend. Her name is Farida; she is Berber (from Algeria), both in France, 100% french, but never accepted as such, by her account. And her account goes on for a while. Racial and ethnic injustice is the theme. Hence her connection to the Irish-sympathizing, non-Irish owner of this pub. We have one pint each too many, but a worthwhile evening of international intercourse.

Samedi, 20 November

Late arising (9:00am!) - wet start again - glad we have an umbrella.

Reading about the 16th arrondissement, we decide to ride to Porte Dauphine. Very noticeable to pass the station Franklin D. Roosevelt on the way. (There are numerous Americans appreciated here - Wilson, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ben Franklin, and others. Only LaFayette gets that treatment across the U.S.)

Still gloomy walk along Rue Foch - a lovely boulevard in a well-designed, upscale apartment community. Very appealing. We walk to the Arc de Triomphe and take the Metro back to Ile de la Cite.

(Another Metro Moment - a full band of South Americans, perhaps one or two ringers from elsewhere - fills the halls at Chatelet with music on five floors with no amplification save the tile station walls.)

In the shadow of Notre Dame is a memorial to those deported to concentration camps by Nazis in World War Two. We make our way, dodging crowds, cars, and pigeons, down to the tip of the island. We open the gate to the memorial park, heading to the gate of the monument itself, which is below ground level.

Closed from 12:00 to 14:00. Two hours? at a monument? on a Saturday?.....

Lunch on the Seine, waiters singing wordless "Jingle-Bells" as snow briefly joins the cold rain. Back to the Cite station, crowds and crowds on one train after another. (Imagine the summer crowds.)

A trip to Monoprix for cheese, bread, butter cookies, and apples. Read and rest.

Dimanche, 21 November
Lundi, 22 November

Sunday requires nothing of us - we've made serious grooves in the sidewalks of Paris with our aggressive wanderings. All we want is to do a little laundry and have one more long, lazy Sunday meal. The sun has come back out.

At the restaurant Les Fontaines Saint Honore we have a farewell meal that is worthy - excellent fish, beautiful escargot, and a decent filet together with an exquisite Santenay red.

The philosophies of travel are a continuing topic of conversation.

Pre-flight sleeplessness is the norm for Wade. Out at 6:00am, pretty much on schedule and on the mass-boarding of the plane at CDG.

P.S. Staying long enough to learn more than you want to makes home all the better.

Can't stay home; have to get on the plane.

| Paris: Nov 4-10 | Burgundy: Nov 11-15 |