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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 5
Europe 2003
Paris, London, Provence


David and Carol 2003 
(Carol's Birthday)
Day 5
We slept fairly well, having gotten to bed at such a late/early hour. Dressed and went downstairs for petite dejuener in the small hotel dining room.
The Hotel St. Jacques is a quaint, old, 2-star hotel on Rue des Ecoles. The location is ideal, midway between Place Contrascarpe and St. Germaine des Pres. Notre Dame is a five minute walk, and there are several inviting restaurants, cafes and brasseries in the vicinity. Our room on the second floor was small but sufficient. The two large French windows opened onto Rue des Ecoles and provided plenty of air but also quite a bit of street noise. All in all, it was a lovely home for a few days in a terrific location within a spectacular city.
It is Carol's 50th birthday today so I promised her I would follow her lead all day (as if this is different from any other day?) We walked the small shop-lined alleys in the vicinity of Boulevard St. Germaine des Pres. I heard a small bell ringing and looked up the street to see an older gentleman pushing a knife-sharpening cart. He stopped at a few local cafes that were just beginning to open and as I watched he pedaled his abrasive wheel and rejuvenated several knives.
Carol in her element
Carol finds her store
We sat at a corner café, taking in the sights, sounds, flavors and scents as we fortified ourselves with strong cups of espresso. As we sat there, several nannies came by pushing their charges in strollers. I mentioned to Carol that perhaps I could find work here as a "mannie."
Small cars - "smart" cars - developed by Swatch and Mercedes Benz were omnipresent.
Swatch cars
People scurried about their way in all directions carrying long loaves of baguettes under their arms. Paris is a post-card come to life...
We sat enjoying our espresso at a corner where five small streets meet together in a confusion of traffic that was astounding. We saw several near-accidents that no one else seemed to pay any attention to - it must be quite normal. Across the street from us is the silver market where two years ago I bought a nice silver Indian bracelet.
Silver market
A fellow on a motorcycle, dressed totally in black leather, flies in and out of the massive traffic jam, all the while talking on his cell phone in one hand, steering with the other. I don't believe there are any drivers more aggressive than in Paris (except perhaps Rome.) If you happen to be caught in a crosswalk when the traffic light changes, you are certain to have tire tracks across your back in a very short order.
We window-shopped in the area for a while, then decided to try to make it to the tour of the Opera Garnier. We crossed the ancient Pont Neuf, which means "new bridge" although it is the oldest bridge across the Seine in Paris. Halfway across we realized we were at the very western-most point of Isle de la Cite, so we walked down the stairs and shared a hug at the tip of the island. Continuing on our journey to the Opera, we stopped for a bit of lunch at a brasserie where we shared crepes and an "English" plate of assorted meats with salad.
Pont Neuf
 The western-most point of Isle de la Cite
Interesting heads under the Pont Neuf
nteresting heads under the Pont Neuf
The only way to describe the weather is phenomenal. We are blessed with warm sun, cool breezes and clear blue skies. "Normal" Paris weather for this time of year (so we've been told) is damp, cold and gloomy.
Observation: Very few (hardly any) Americans; lots of Germans, Australians and Japanese.
Observation: If you say the magic words "Ou est la toilette?" in any café or brasserie, you will almost invariably find yourself wandering down a very narrow spiral staircase, entering a very tiny room where you plant your two feet on two small foot-shaped pedestals and do your thing into a hole in the floor. An experience not soon forgotten.
We walked what felt like ten miles (it was probably 3) from the café, through the maze of Parisian boulevards and alleys (stopping at a fascinating luthier's shop) until, hot and exhausted, we arrived at the Grand Opera Garnier only to discover that it was closed to tours today. After laughing our tushies off, we found a table in the shade at a nearby café and sat for an hour, refreshed with two Oranginas and a Cohiba. Viva La France!
Opera Garnier
Enjoying each other and the day
When we stood up, we realized our half-century-old feet weren't going to be very cooperative in ambulating us back towards the river and our hotel, so we bought metro tickets and rode three stops to Pont Neuf, and spent a little time shopping at Samaratine Dept. Store. On the way to catch the metro we tried to assist two lovely British ladies who were attempting to travel in the opposite direction. I feel fairly positive that if they did in actuality follow our guidance, they probably eventually found themselves in Spain.
After Samaratine (too many of the same American brands we see in the states) we walked back across the Seine to the Rive Gauche to Boul Mich and sat in a café and rested and watched the eternal river of humanity flowing by our table. We very restfully sipped biere petites in the shade. We are very thankful for this weather and for the opportunity to once again be part of the life and energy that is Paris. It is 5 pm and we are enjoying the bustle of the crowds coming home from work and going out for the evening.
Metro sign
Writing in the journal at Boul Mich
We took our time strolling through the Latin Quarter, across Boul St. Germaine de Pres, up the hill to Rue des Ecoles and to the Hotel St. Jacques for a shower and rest before venturing back out into the evening in search of a restaurant worthy of a special birthday dinner. At the hotel we turned on the TV for the first time to see what drech the French watch. Not surprisingly there were several French stations and surprisingly there were several German stations. Shockingly it was the exact same drech that we Americans are subject to, except for the languages and the naked people in the commercials.
We then ventured out again and decided to walk up the hill farther towards the Pantheon to find a suitable restaurant. La Capannina caught our eye and we enjoyed antipasta (peppers, onions, garlic,) spaghetti al fruito de mer (me,) veal marsala with pasta (the birthday girl,) and two half-carafes of very nice red Italian wine. We spent almost two hours there, had a great dinner and conversation, and it cost less than fifty euros. Dinner a stone's throw from the Pantheon where so many great Frenchmen are laid to rest - a delicious honor.
The Pantheon
After dinner we walked down the hill to the hotel to rest for a moment, then aimed ourselves once more at the intersection of Boul Mich and St. Germaine des Pres. Carol has yet again managed to locate us in a wonderful, lively, bustling section of the city that really comes alive at night. I bought a couple of large and tasty Cohiba Coronas, then we parked ourselves at an ideal people-watching spot at Brasserie le St. Andre. It is Thursday, 10;00 pm and the city is hopping.
Paris comes alive at night...
What a night. The air is cool and the city is electric. As we walked back to the hotel by way of the Latin Quarter, we were amazed at the buzz, excitement and activity. The restaurants seem to fully come alive around 10 pm. Everyone seems to be totally enjoying themselves. Se magnifique...
Observation: We saw an attractive young woman, stylishly dressed, while we were crossing Pont Neuf this morning. Later at lunch we saw the same woman, and then late this evening at the final café of the day, we saw the same woman pass by. This in a city of 2.15 million people. Interesting…
We barely make it up the hill, into the hotel, and into bed. Our feet are killing us - we probably walked 15 miles today, and every step was truly memorable.
Happy Birthday, Carol!!

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