May 1st is a big deal here in France. It's their Labor Day with workers marching in the street in favor of unions. There are people on every corner selling flowers, especially little bouquets of Lillie of the Valley, the little whilte bells that smell so wonderful. The French call them Muguets. I think they must be a symbol that summer is here. Maurice isn't sure what they stand for.
May 5, 2001
Several French people have asked me what I find different here in Paris. First of all, of course, are the great markets. There is such a difference in smell in the markets. I can smell the earth the vegetables grew in. I also have to wash everything extra well or I end up with crunchy spinach. It is still unusual to see chickens(dead) with their heads still on, and combs if they are roosters. Then, of course, there are the piles and piles of cheeses to choose from. I don't know what most of them are, but they look so interesting in their different shapes and colors. Maurice knows them, being French. I like a lot of them he has introduced me to, such as Reblochon, but some of them have odors that knock me over when I open the refrigerator.
Then there is the wash. The French, at least the ones I have met, don't have large washers. Maurice's son was amazed at the size of my washer in America. When I wash clothes here, I can only do a small load at a time, such as 2 shirts or 2 towels. I add fabric softner.Then, because there is no dryer, I hang them on an indoor clothes line to dry. They still come out stiff. I guess my mother must have had this happen in the days before automatic clothes dryers. I seem to remember shirts being stiff. I even took some towels to a local place where they wash things for you, thinking I would end up with soft towels, but they were the same as when I did them. We could get a dryer, but there is literally no place to put one that wouldn't be visible, such as the living room. I guess I can learn to live without it. Just one more change. Most places are very small in Paris. I've got a very small refrigerator, too.
The language is a toughy. I feel like I'm on a little island and a river of French is flowing by me. Mostly I hear noise, but I am starting to pick up words here and there. The tapes I listened to before I came really did help, but when someone starts chattering to me in French, I can't pick up a thing. Now I know how Maurice felt in America. Of course, he has 7 years practice speaking English not to mention years of it in school. I wanted to be a nurse so I took Latin. How smart was that?
We just found out that Maurice's grandmother died yesterday. She was 106. She said she owed it to chocolate and champagne. Sounds good to me. She wanted to live until she was 110, but this last year she kept getting ill alot and her hearing and vision were getting worse, so she was pretty miserable. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I got married. She told me(through a translator)that she loved American movies, Frank Sinatra, and American women. She liked our toughness. I'm glad I got to meet her when she was still bright and chipper. My last time with her she had on a dubbed American TV Cop show. Before she went to bed at 11pm, she had a piece of chocolate. Her daughter, who was her care-taker, said she had some chocolate several hours before she died. A nice way to go. We go to Nice for her funeral on Monday where she wanted to be buried.
We just returned from the funeral of Maurice's grandmother who was 106. The funeral wasn't that different from the ones I've been to in the states(except for the part of it being in French, of course). All of the flowers sent by family and friends were outside the door of the church, and we all stood outside on the steps until the coffin was carried in, and then we followed it in. The service was very short, only about 20 minutes, and then we drove out to the cemetery which is set on the top of a hill over-looking Nice, with huge umbrella pine trees everywhere. I don't know if Maurice's grandmother has any idea of where she is buried, but if she is, it is a very peaceful and beautiful place. She was buried in a family plot and when we arrived a place had been dug underneath the site. It had a slope going down into it and the coffin was slid down this slope right into the vault, then covered and sealed, covered with dirt which was then topped with gravel, so you couldn't tell it was a new site. The flowers were all put on top of this.
Afterwards, we walked over to Maurice's side of the family tomb, not too far away.His father and grandparents from his father's side are buried here, along with two infants. I'm not sure if M wants to be buried here, too, someday as he doesn't like to talk about these things-too depressing.
We just returned from a bike ride on a great area just a few blocks from our apartment in the Bois de Vincennes. It's a huge park with a floral area, a lake, a horse track, bike paths all over, just a beautiful area. The Vincennes Chateau is also on the rim of the park. It's all so scenic and far from the traffic. Here are a few scenes.
Today is the anniversary of the first person climbing up the Eiffel Tower in 1898(I think that was the year.) I saw that on the news this morning. I wouldn't have known that fact without translation from Maurice. I am picking up more words now when I watch TV or listen to people talk, but it is a very slow process. I am starting to master the bus and subway system. It's a wonderful way to get around Paris. Today I took the metro(as they say here) to Hotel de Ville, which is not a hotel, but a place where political business gets down. Near by is where I will go to apply for French citizenship when the time comes. I went into a department store across the street called BHV. It has the usual cosmetics and clothing, but downstairs is a great basement of things to use to fix up the house such as plumbing and electrical supplies, pots and pans, garden equipement. It's just fascinating to see what is used in France. There is a lot of similarities, but lots of differences, too.
Afterwards, I went over to the Notre Dame, a block away. I would have climbed the tower for the view and a picture if it had been a sunny day, but it is cloudy today with a few showers here and there. I did go inside and it always inspires me with it's beauty in the soaring ceilings and stained glass.
Inside I noticed a statue of Joan of Arc for the first time. A sign said that Notre Dame was here it was decided to make her a Saint.
As I came out, I went around the back of the cathedral and strolled to Ilse St Louis, the island behind Notre Dame. This is a charming little place with interesting shops and buildings. I especially love many of the colorful doors.
I had a cup of the best hot chocolate in the world, Berthilons, then back home. Just saw a small part of Paris, but it's a start.
Today I took bus 86 to the St Germain de Pres area. This is an area full of expensive shops and resturaunts. I had lunch at one of them called Duex Magots. This does not mean maggots, as in fly larva. In French it's an amount of money. It's a great place to have a drink(an expensive one) and watch people walk by, but the salad I had wasn't that special.
I saw 2 cathedrals in the area. The first was St Germain de Pres Cathedral, one of the oldest in Paris. It wasn't as large and grand as some, but it was interesting. This picture is of a tomb that caught my interest. The man, whose name I didn't get, looks like he is just lounging, waiting for a glass of wine from his butler.
The St Sulpice Cathedral was much grander and larger. It didn't have colored stained glass that makes other cathedrals look so stiking to me, just clear or white glass with images on one square of each window. It did let in a lot more light that way. In the back of the cathedral was a very large carving of Mary and Jesus that looked like it had been carved out of one huge piece of marble. It was beautifully lit.
Out front was a beautiful little park with a huge fountain.
I got back on Bus 86 and took it to Bastille. This square is where many executions took place. There is a high column in the middle of the round about dedicated to those executed in one year
There was a huge antique sale going on along the Seine so I walked though that. It all looked like very high quality things. I saw some plates that I wouldn't have minded hanging on a wall somewhere, but didn't want to try my limited French on asking the price, and then not understanding the answer. I'm sure they were out of my range anyway.
Then back on the bus to ride back home. The bus system is great here. There is never a long wait for one, and they go all over Paris. There are some where you can stand on a little balcony in the back which is fun. Buses let you see a lot more of the city than riding the Metro, they're just not as fast. You can use the same tickets on either, which is handy.
This morning we took a long bus ride(PC1 and2)out to an area called Vanves. I had read that this was a neat flea market, and it was. There wasn't a lot of expensive antiques like are found at some. Lots of paintings, china, crytal, and all sorts of other things. There was even a man there with a "portable" piano who played mostly American tunes for everyone. Maurice and I found some glasswear that we liked. A set of glasses that used to be used at Bistros for wine and a set of hand blown glasses for aperitifs. The prices were very reasonable and we will have a great memory every time we have a drink from them.
Some of the offerings at Vanves
This is where we bought our glasses
Next we we took another bus out to a stadium to watch a rugby game. This was my first one, other that seeing a little on TV. We bought our tickets from a group of people with cockney accents from England. They were very nice and friendly, and a little drunk. They called me Texas. We sat next to them at the game, we were, in fact, in the England part of the stadium. They were playing France for the world cup, I believe. Rugby is a lot like American football with soccer thrown in. I didn't know what was going on most of the time, but it was fun watching.The English won in the last minute and there was pandimonium in our section. When I left, my ears felt like I had been to a rock concert. The man next to us hugged his wife and when he turned to us he had tears in his eyes. Everyone was so emotional-but no riots, thank God. We were sqaushed together like sardines on the bus back We took a different bus, #62, to get home. It went down Rue du Convention which is the longest road in Paris. It took an hour to get home.
We took our bikes and rode over to Bois de Vincennes to see the Parc Floral. It turned out to be a wonderful time to be there as the Azaleas and Rodadendriums were in bloom. I was wondering what they will have blooming in the summer. The bushes were taller than we were and covered in many different colored blooms. It is Sunday so the place was packed with families and their little children. There is a huge playground and picnic area, so I can see why so many families are here.
Here is Maurice by some of those huge bushes
Afterwards, we rode our bikes to a market and bought a wonderfully smelling chicken turning on a rotesserie, and some vegetables for a simple lunch. I think the chicken tastes better here in France. Maybe they are all free range. The fruits and vegetables sure taste better-like they are right off the farm.
Back home to watch the tennis tourniment in Rome, women's finals. Next will be Roland Garros.
May 22, 2201
Today I took a long subway ride to the American Hospital to see an English speaking doctor for prescriptions I needed. He was very nice and very thorough. I thought it was interesting that everything I said, in answers to his questions about my health, was entered right there into a computer, no paper. There were somethings put into a file, such as copies of the prescriptions, but not his personal notes, at least not that I saw. I didn't see much difference in what I was asked or in the examination he gave from any American doctor that I've been to. The only difference was that there was no nurse in the room(I guess there have been no lawsuits about that) and that he did everything himself, such as blood pressure, which nurses in America do in doctor's offices. Never saw a nurse, come to think of it. I was charged $100 which will be reimbursed by the French government. I like this part of socialism.
When I went to the pharmacist I found some differences, too. His computer seemed really antiquated and it took a long time to fill out a form I needed for reimbursement. The medicine doesn't come in the little plastic containers with lables of directions, names, etc. It comes in boxes with a month's supply inside in those little foiled wrapped pill packages where you punch out one at a time. In fact, all medication(in pill form) comes like this, including aspirin and Advil. No plastic bottles of 500 tablets of Ibuprophen here. This is to keep people from over-dosing, but I miss my convenient bottles. Another thing I've noticed is that there are pharmacies everywhere, at least one on every block. They all charge the same prices. I don't think they are allowed to have sales or lower prices. I have 4 pharmacies all within walking distance of my apartment.
May 23, 2001
I made a quick trip to the Tulleries garden area to get a fix for my reading addiction. There is an English bookstore right across the street and I went and bought 3 books, all about France in some way. I walked a little through the gardens, even though it seemed really hot to me today, although it was probably only in the low 70's. The flowers were really beautiful, iris and some orange flowers which looked great together.
I walked along Rue Rivolie a little, looking in the shops, mostly selling tourist things. I saw in the distance the tower in the middle of Place Vendome, so I walked down. The tower was surrounded by modern sculptures and then on the square were shops I never enter such as Cartier's. It's a beautiful square, though. They were shooting some sort of movie there.
One of the modern sculptures. I think it is a lady thinking, what should I buy next?
I also saw the Eiffel Tower today, and passed by the memorial for Princess Diana near where she died.
May 24, 2001
Someone asked me if Paris is clean. I think it is a clean city, especially compared to some place like NYC. There is grafitti, especially on the concrete on the sides of highways and in the subway tunnels, but basically it's very clean. There are men dressed in bright green with brooms resembling those ridden by witches at Halloween brushing debry into the gutters. Then water is turned on and the garbage is washed into the sewer system, which is supposed to be incredible. The first time I saw this I thought(having lived in Arizona)that it was an incredible waste of water. Maurice says it is recycled. He said we waste an incredible amount of electricity and gas in America, why was I so concerned about water. I guess because it is so necessary for life. You won't die without gas.
Then there is the dog poo. Most people have heard about the love affair Parisians have with dogs. You see them everywhere being walked and often see them in resturaunts either sleeping at their owner's feet or sitting there hoping for some food to come their way. I saw one dog with his head resting on the table, his eyes on his owner's face, sending thought waves out for a bite of food. This is all rather charming until you step into something left behind by the dog. The owners let them go where ever and it is left there. There are area of dirt that the dogs can go in, and they do get used. Some guys in the green again, ride these little vehicles, green, too, about the size of a riding lawn mower and go around with this giant vacuum cleaner and suck up the dog poo. How would you like that job? I hope they get paid really well. I saw a morning news show just yesterday talking about the problem, with the solution being pick up after your dog or be fined. I'm sure there would be a major uprising and rioting in the streets by dog owners if this happened. People are always taking to the streets here about things and the government usually backs down.
Basically, Paris seems very efficient in keeping things clean. I'll try and get a picture of the guys in green to post. I find it all interesting.
Here is a street cleaner hard at work
This morning we went to Roland Garros to watch tennis players who are trying to make it into the French Open. We were there from 1200 until after 6pm. We saw some great games, and maybe some future champions. None of the games were on the main courts, but side ones. Here's a picture with that red clay you see on TV.
May 24, 2001
Not a very interesting day, but long. I went back to the American Hospital to see a Doctor about my foot. The doctor was a very attractive woman, blond, thin and elegant. She sent me to a kinesthologist, a type of masseur. He did some massaging and pressing of my foot for 30 minutes which helped. I will see him for a total of 12 times. On Monday I go see a specialist for some sort of insert into my shoes. Hopefully, all of this will help so I can enjoy Paris even more than I do now.
Nearby the hospital is a church called Saint Pierre. In front was a statue of Joan of Arc. Since she is so revered here, not to mentioned made a saint, I see her statue at churches a lot. Sometimes she is in armour, but in this statue, which was in front of the church, she is dressed as a simple peasant girl, such as she must have looked when she had her first vision from God leading her to the King, and eventually to her leading France to victory against the English. Even after she was burned at the stack for being a witch, she inspired the French so much, the 100 year war was ended with their final defeat of the English.
St Pierre Church
Joan of Arc
Maurice was with me today, and after lunch we went and looked at cars, Audi this time. I think this is the one he wants the most. We looked at the Renault and they are basically the same cost. Once we order the car, which we probably can't get until August or September, we have to rent a parking space. As in any big city, parking is at a premium, and tickets are given out liberally, so to save ourselves the frustration of trying to find a parking place, we will rent one in a nearby building. When I say nearby, I don't mean down the street. It's about a 10 to 15 minute walk, which used to seem like a great distance to me, but I do it without even thinking about it now.
May 26, 2001
Maurice jogged while I rode a bike through the Bois de Vincennes for an hour. We went on some new trails. It's a huge park, so we will never run out of places to try.Afterwards we went to the street market in Nation square which is the nearest one to us.
There are all sorts of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, fish, meat. It's so different than going to the local HEB in Austin. Cheaper, too. Food is so beautiful to photograph, so here are several:
Brown eggs that have such yellow yolks
Any kind of French cheese can be found here
Seafood-I had the shrimp for lunch
The ingredients for ratatouille
It is cherry season at last! These are from Provence.
It's another beautiful day so we get our bikes and strike out for one area, but end up in another. There is a road that runs along the Seine that is clogged with traffic on week days, but on Sundays it is closed to cars and only bikes, skaters, joggers, and any other pedestrians are allowed. It is the road on which Princess Diane died, although we don't go that far. Before reaching this road, we ride down Rue Daumnesnil. Along this road are shops that have been converted from old wine storage units that go for blocks. On top of this row of shops is what used to be an old railroad track that has been made into a beautiful walk with flowers and greenery, Plantee. It goes for miles. Something like it may be done near our apartment on yet another unused track.
All of the shops are filled with antiques, or art.
The road along the Seine gives a different view that the one usually seen from the sidewalks.
All of these are views along the way.
We passed many possible places to see, but decided to drive our bikes into the courtyard of the Louvre.
We had just received cards that we ordered though IBM that gives us free entry here for 2 years. There is a line out front of the glass pyramid that stretches for blocks. Because of our new cards, we get to go to another entry and walk right in. Because it is Sunday, it is packed with people, but we just wanted to have a quick look. We went up to the 2nd floor to look at 2 Vermeer paintings, a dutch painter, that I had just read about. He had 15 children and died in debt. But his paintings glow.
This isn't very clear. Called The Lace Maker
That's all we decided to see. The Louvre is beautifully set up and arranged. There is a huge area devoted to Greek and Roman statues that give the feeling of being in Greece.
Looks like a Greek courtyard to me.
We rode our bikes to nearby Les Halles, a pedestrian area and had a light, good lunch, then rode home. The ride home seemed much longer to me. Maurice said we did between 10 to 15 miles. When he retires, he sees us doing 50 to 100 miles a day out in the country. I'm not sure. I need what Maurice calls a Dutch bike, and I call an old ladies bike so I don't bend over the handles, but sit upright.
May 29, 2001
Had a rather domestic day today, but after an appointment, I went to Pere Lachaise ,a really beautiful cemetery in Paris, and probably the most popular one to visit.
Most people, for some reason, head for the Jim Morrison grave site, even if they were born years after he died. The grave site has been vandalized and there is nothing left but a grave stone saying his name. Security guards are there the whole time to prevent further distruction and to keep people from sitting on other graves.
I always go to Chopin's grave. I like the graceful figure on top.
Right below this site is my favorite carving. I like the folds of the gown and the way the hands cover her face.
It was another very hot day and it good to walk around the cemetery in the shade of the trees. This cemetery was once a retreat for the Jesuits, and a Father Lachaise retired here, thus the name. During the revolution it was taken from the church, but Napolean set it up as a cemetery again in 1804. It's really a peaceful place to walk around, a little city, really.
May 31, 2001
I left the apartment early today to beat the heat, and found it cooler, at last. For a while there, I was thinking of buying an air conditioner. They are very different here being on wheels and movable from room to room with a big hose on it the is either stuck out a window, or through a hole made to fit it in a window or wall. I haven't seen any of those window units that were so common in the US, not to mention the huge compressors outside of buildings or on the roofs. Here in France, they say it only gets hot one week out of the year so air conditioning isn't needed. Most of the buildings are old and have thick walls so they do stay cooler when it is hot outside.
I decided to have a look around Le Madeleine, an area around St Madeleine, a cathedral. It looks like a Greek building from the outside. During the revolution, construction had just gotten underway and was stopped as the revolutionaries were very much against the church, probably because the priests acted like royalty with lavash living quarters and a lot of power. It was used for various things until Napolean had the work finished on it and it was once more a cathedral. It has four circular windows in the ceiling to let in light, and no side windows or stained glass. It seemed really dark to me.
Here is the front of the church-I lightened up the photo
The Madeleine area is another area of Paris filled with designer shops and luxery stores such as Fauchons, and resturaunts such as Maxims. I walked to Place de Concorde from here. This is the area where over 1000 people were beheaded, including Marie Antoinette, while thousands stood and watached and cheered. Hard to comprehend. There is now a plaque here commerating those beheaded. The square is full of different things. One thing is a large "needle" sent to France from Egypt with great difficulty-specially built boats both in Egypt and Paris.
Here it is-see the Eiffel Tower in the background.
There were 4 of these huge statues, representing cities, I think
Close-up of an oppulent lamp post
The whole area is crammed with riches. The Tuilleries Gardens are right there and the Seine River.
I had read about a used bookstore called Tea and Tattered Pages and decided to have a look. I took a metro to an area I was unfamilar with, Metro Duroc, and found it down a charming little street lined with antique stores. Sure enough, it was loaded with used paper backs. Being addicted to books, I bought 6, and started reading one of them on the ride back to Nation.