France: I Bid You Adieu!

Woke at 2 a.m. though the alarm was set for 3. Unable to check in on line for my flight the hotel clerk told me to get to the airport early for seat confirmation. Besides check in concerns transport to Charles De Gaulle, (CDG), was another problem. I was told several hotel patrons leaving at 4 a.m were facing challenges getting to the airport.

While the bed beckoned I took a final stretch got up, dressed, and AP’d Uber. As I walked into the lobby the Uber driver was notifying me of pick up a quarter mile away.

Though I wanted the ride I had no idea of the location, had 1 bag, 2 carry-ons, and the darkness loomed. I texted back I had no idea of the location and within 3 minutes he was at the hotel. This was a good sign.

Upon checking out I donated the 10 euro subway card to the desk clerk as a token of appreciation for his guidance and walked out to the waiting Uber. The Uber driver assisted with bags and spoke minimal English.

The ride to CDG held no Paris lights and we passed through an intersection where police were beating a felon 10 feet from the car and more were running from a panel van to assist. Grateful the light turned I asked the driver about this and he stated, “unsafe area,” elaborating no further.

When we arrived at CDG the driver placed me at the exact terminal, assisted with my bags, and stayed an extra moment to ensure the old lady got into the terminal. While he was richly tipped, it was a nice touch. It is eight hours till departure. Sufficient time for an airport review. 🙂

Finding a bank of computers I quickly accessed my flight information and checked in. Whew!

Next, find a cart.

Check.

And the visit to the loo.

It is now 7 hours 15 minutes to take off, so I checked for a spot to rest. Several places were already taken.

Looks like an entire family on a camping trip here.

And somewhere under that blanket is a solo traveler.

Then there is this interesting place to doze between calls.

And while in my search I was unable to find the perfect spot to rest my head I did locate the perfect way to end this blog.

The Big Bus: Paris

“Whenever in doubt take the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus,” is my new motto. It was the saving grace for the trip.

With the Paris transportation strike the bus provided the needed way to get around. While waiting for the bus was lengthy due to Paris gridlock associated with the strike I met many fascinating tourists from India, South America, and Africa. Always good to chat with other tourists as you get the “dirt” on what to do, see, and a varied point of interest. I got a belly laugh when the South American gal told me I spoke good English. I politely thanked her, and wondered what nationality she thought I was. 🙂

There are two routes for this bus:

  • Blue Route – travels Montmartre area, Gare Du Nord , and Place Pigalle. This tour gives a feel for the shop area and a few landmarks. Doing the entire route takes a little over an hour, but take the plunge.
  • Red Route – travels the circuit with Eiffel Tower, museums, Arc de Triomphe, and Louvre. Drop offs and pick ups are frequent.

They also have add on trips with Versaille, DisneyLand Paris, river cruises, and night tours, but enough commercial for non-compensation.

All that said, let’s soak in some of the sites:

The Eiffel Tower was built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, (World’s Fair). It towers over the Paris skyline and lights up nightly, even twinkling. She’s a heavy gal at 7500 tons of iron and is the most recognized man-made structure worldwide.

A few other oddities:

  • There is a private apartment at the top.
  • A post office is in the tower.
  • Radio, Telegraph transmitters, and a meterology lab were installed inside. This is why it wasn’t torn down post-exhibition as planned.
  • Hitler ordered it destroyed, however his orders were never carried through as French militants cut the elevator cables.

Rainy Day for Booksellers Along the Seine River
Notre Dame
Notre Dame Under Construction

April 15th, 2019, was a sad day for the French when their beloved Cathedral burned. Caused by a cigarette or electrical malfunction, this treasure trove of French history built from 1160-1260 was gone. As of this writing there is a 50% chance of saving the fragile Church.

Place de la Concorde – this is the largest public square in Paris. During the French Revolution over 1200 were guillotined here.

Champs Elysees, which means Elysian Fields, is one of Paris most glamorous streets with its monuments, landscaping, famous expensive shops, restaurants, and a few museums. Simply walking it makes one feel rich.

And at the end of the Champs…

Arc de Triomphe was built to recognize those who fought and died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. French victories and generals names are inscribed in the Arc. It also holds the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier from World War I.

Free to walk around there is a charge to climb the 280 stairs to the top which holds impeccable views of the City. To get to the monument there are underground passages with entrances on the Champs Elysees.

Paris Opera House – is probably the most famous opera house in the world. Holding 1979 patrons the structure was built in the 1860’s and commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III. Tours are given and it is a must see.

The Ritz Hotel decorated for Christmas. This was the final hotel of Princess Diana.

The Flame of Liberty has become the unofficial tribute to the Princess of Wales after her untimely death in 1997 in the tunnel beneath the torch. It represents an enlightening of the world. Appropriate tribute to one who touched so many.

Tuileries Gardens at Christmas.

And let us end our Paris tour with Locks of Love on a fencing at Sacre Coeur..

Au Revoir Gay Paris!

Sacre Couer and Moulin Rouge: What a Combo!

Upon returning from the Louvre the Montmartre neighborhood beckoned. Staying on 5 rue Tholoze, at the Hotel des arts, was a relaxing experience. The hotel is newly renovated and lovely. No compensation received..

Christmas lights in the area

Beyond the hotel were many stores, outside cafes, Christmas markets with hot mulled wine, and award winning pastry shops. This area was a sanctuary for artists with Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso having studios here.

Typical cafe in the Montmartre area

The Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, looms above. She is the glory of the mount. Montmartre translated is mountain of the martyr and it was on this spot St. Denis was decapitated in 250 A.D. He was the first Bishop of France and patron saint.

The Main Altar of the Church

The basement of the Church has an interesting exhibit area.

Adjacent to Sacre Coeur is Eglise St. Pierre de Montmartre. This Church dates from 1147 and is serene. It houses a relic of St. Therese of Liseux, a Doctor of the Church, and patron saint of AIDS sufferers, florists, and missionaries. If you seek an intimate and spiritual visit stop here.

On to Moulin Rouge..

Street View

Moulin Rouge, or Red Mill, was opened in 1889 through the efforts of 2 businessmen looking for a venue for the rich to have fun. Starting with champagne filled parties the tradition continues. The 600,000 annual visitors experience 80 dancers in one of two nightly shows performed 365 days a year as they sip their champagne.

It was here that Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec displayed their paintings. Toulouse, a regular visitor, made posters of the dance. Posters are displayed prominently throughout the building and seen later in the blog.

Main Seating. No pictures are allowed of the performance.

The show was beyond expectations. Dancers danced to themes from Russia, to circus themes with clowns, to Indian, Chinese, Thailand, Spanish, and American dance. Dancers flew from the ceiling in circular balls, and there was an underwater performance with a swimming pool on the stage. Clothing was stripped off quickly with bare breasts exposed in abundance, so be prepared for folly!

And between the dancing snake charmers, jugglers, and acrobats performed.

The show lasted 2 hours and while in the 100 euro range it is a must see. You will never forget it .

There are also dinner options.

And while songs accompanying dance are mainly in French they are familiar and understandable.

To The Louvre and The Visit

Side View of the Louvre from a window inside

With 1 pm Louvre reservations I scrambled to locate a taxi as it took 4 hours from plane to hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel the manager offered an upgrade and I grabbed it. In the hotel lobby fellow tourists briefed me on the strike and the need for Uber as a back up.

After 45 minutes of Uber AP installation challenges it was installed. Wondering if a 17 euro visit to the Louvre was worth a 35 euro cab ride I went. At this point I knew this would be my last visit to France.

On my visit 10 plus years ago students were boycotting and my bus was caught in the cross fires. The students lay in the roundabout and valuable Mount St. Michel was lost waiting for the police to pull them out. Do I attract these things or what? Well, on to the Louvre.

The Uber driver came promptly, was courteous, and thankfully spoke good English. A friendly Frenchie, what a joy.

The area surrounding the Louvre was a delight as was the famous triangle. While I never like the I Pei triangle appreciation for the structure was achieved when viewing its impact on the lobby as it provides depth and light.

Once inside the museum I found the Information Desk unmanned and some exhibit halls limited due to the strike. The guard at the escalator gave me directions on the most expedient way to tour.

The Louvre dates back to the 1200’s and was a royal residence. Once the Palace of Versailles was completed in 1634 the royals moved to that Palace as their residence. That said, the architecture of each room along with its walls, windows, and floorings are as beautiful as the works of art displayed.

There are 3 wings with each wing having 3 levels, 0, 1, 2. These are named after prominent figures from French history: Richelieu, Sully, and Denon.

The Richelieu Wing – in this wing European sculptures, Near Eastern Antiquities, French and Northern European Paintings, and European Decorative arts are displayed.

These two pictures are an interesting combination. The first is a self portrait of the painter and the second is the artists portrayal of The Consecration of Napoleon and Josephine which combine politics and royalty. It is a massive painting with much depth, color, and emotion.

The Sully Wing – Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Antiquities, French paintings, and European Decorative Arts, prints and drawings are displayed here.

The Venus de Milo

The Denon Wing displays Eastern, Egyptian, and Islamic art as well as Greek and Roman Antiquities, and European sculptures.

The Mona Lisa is a guarded painting with a line to view. This is partially due to its inability to be insured as it is priceless. Smaller than one would imagine it remains the prime interest to those visiting the museum.

The painting is of Madam Lisa Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant. Leonardo da Vinci, the painter, never completed the painting as it lacks a lower landscape. Multiple layers of oil were used to produce the shadow effect. This created her smile.

Retail Madness

Upon completion of your visit take time to visit the retail area.

At this shop you can create your personal fragrance.

Other Attractions

Outside the Louvre is the Carousel and Tuileries Gardens. In the spring and summer these gardens are an extraordinary place to visit. There also is an open air sculpture museum in this area and the Christmas markets are held here. The Gardens are free.

12th century meets 21st

Across the Seine is the Musee Eugene-Delacroix where one can visit the painters apartment, studio and garden. Admission is included with Louvre ticket.

Other Louvre treasures…

And a find, American Thomas Cole, from the Hudson River School of Painters.

Stay tuned.. Moulin Rouge is next.

Is Paris Burning?

Train Station

No, only their transportation services are burning. During my December 4th to 9th visit the strike began and is now in its 4th week. The strike concerns retirement changes. Frenchie’s have over 40 retirement plans and are able to retire at 55 with many of them. The government wants to change and streamline these plans which is causing quite a stir. Personally, I hate being retired so I don’t get it. That said let’s chat about the trip and the strike’s impact on it.

Arrived in Paris at Charles DeGaulle Airport on the first day of the strike, December 5th. My first notification was when a fellow passenger mentioned it upon deplaning. She was going to Marseille, a short jaunt, however, she had a six hour wait for her flight. While American me was appalled she smiled stating she was pleased to get any flight home. I should have taken heed.

Once in the terminal I sought directions and was greeted by the usual French response. While I love the Frenchie’s their disdain for US, meaning the United States, is evident. And it didn’t help matters that our President insulted theirs the day before. While not all Frenchies like Macron they are loyal.

After speaking with 4 different red coat “helpers” in the airport I located my way out of the terminal. Already missing JFK I ponder scrapping the trip.

Next was obtaining a ticket from a machine for the fare on the one train which was running. After several attempts on getting a ticket from the machine an American tapped me on the shoulder and told me to go to the ticket agent. Guess he heard my profanity and I followed the direction he pointed me in..

My success rate with human ticket folks has been 50/50 yet hoping to be lucky I found the window and a millenial with a smug look glaring at me. Sensing her disgust on Day 1 of the strike I attempted my, “un peu Francais,” and things got worse. Here was a real bit-h, pardon me, and as we proceeded in ticket purchase she proved to be a double b-tch.

She snickered when I asked how to use the ticket and where to go. Knowing she was probably telling me where to go in French under her breath I realized assistance needed to be obtained elsewhere. Why bother getting upset as there is karma in the world.

Looking around I noted even the Asians appeared bewildered. I felt a kinship and located a 50ish woman red coat “helper” who actually helped. Reading my mind she smiled as I approached took my ticket posting it to a circular disk on the turn style said, “#22 to Gare,” and pointed to the stairs beyond the turn style. Success!

Posters at one of the Train Stops

At the Gare Station I found a pleasant, young man in a blue jacket to help. Also, the bathrooms were free at this station. A gift to us weary travelers with a savings of .70 euros, akin to .85 USD. Nice touch as I was near ready to water a tree.

Gare Station decorated for the holidays. Nice mall inside the Station.

Since there was no further train access a cab to the hotel was the only way. I am up to 35 euros for transport now and by days end it came to 80. However, when there is no other option who is counting?

At least the cab drivers kids will have a nice Christmas.

Tomorrow: The Louvre

Another view of the Gare Train Station Mall at the holidays.