Today is our last full day with Anna. It feels strange knowing that tomorrow she will be jetting her way back to Minnesota and college and we will be staying here in Paris. We have had a marvelous first week with Anna here in Paris. I do think she's had a great time too. I know for a fact she's enjoyed the shopping.
Tomorrow morning, after seeing Anna off at terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle airport, we will shuttle our way over to terminal 1 and wait for Kirstin, Derek, and Cora's arrival on Lufthansa. Hence the "Goodbye, Hello" title for this post. We've been busying ourselves today with "Cora-proofing" the flat. I think we're in pretty good shape for the arrival of an active nearly three-year old.
Yesterday, our major outings were the Paris Catacombes and the D'Orsay Museum. We all found the catacombs to be fascinating...not nearly as creepy as we would have thought. The bones were actually arranged in an orderly fashion, with Christian burials provided to those whose original burials could be determined to have been Christian. The original remains entombed in the catacombs were from the Cemetery of the Innocents, which needed to be razed in the late 1700s due to sanitary concerns. I'll let your imaginations run with that one. Later, as other cemeteries were reclaimed for urban expansion, the remains were moved to the catacombs in groups. Each group has its own sign, signifying where the remains came from and when.
After the catacombs we made our way to Musee D'Orsay, one of our favorite museums in Paris. We first lunched in the fifth floor restaurant (Le Restaurant on the second floor was closed), then we made our way through the museum from top to bottom. We had thought about also taking in Monet's Water Lillies at l'Orangerie, but tiredness overruled. We listened to a great jazz trio, in the style of Sidney Bechet, out in front of d'Orsay for a bit and then caught the metro back to the Marais, our neighborhood.
Dinner last night was at Capitaine, a newish farm-to-table restaurant which is just a few blocks from our flat. We had a marvelous dinner. Today has been spent in our neighborhood, relaxing, shopping, and taking strolls on the Seine, which apparently is what all of Paris does on a beautiful spring Saturday. Tomorrow will be an early start for us all.
It is now day five for us here in Paris. We've had quite a couple days. Two days ago we took in the Van Gogh presentation at Atelier des Lumieres. Basically, this place is a cavernous warehouse space that has projectors projecting moving images onto every space possible, including the people and the floor. The movies are made especially for this space. It is truly a full-360 experience for all sight and sound. We all absolutely loved the show.
Afterward, we got coffee and hot chocolates at what we all agreed is the best coffee shop we've ever visited, The Beans on Fire. They roast their own beans on site, so the aroma draws you in. The baked goods were fantastic, especially Priscilla's scone. Priscilla and Anna agreed that today's hot chocolate beat out the other day's by a substantial amount. My latte was fantastic. The coffee shop is right next to this quaint neighborhood park, and had outdoor seating on a pedestrian only street. We will definitely be back. Dinner that night was at the Thai Spices restaurant, which is right around the block from us. We had a wonderful meal.
Yesterday was Versailles! After a late morning of sleeping in (needed by all) we caught the Metro at Bastille and then switched to the RER C regional train at the Invalides station, which takes you all the way to Versailles. We picked up Navigo passes, which give you unlimited travel on the Metro, RER trains, and busses. The train trip to Versailles turned out to be the perfect way to travel. There's no chance in missing your stop, because Versailles is the absolute last stop on the RER C. After about an hour wait in line, we gained access to the palace. We had downloaded the Versailles app so we had our own "guided tour" of Versailles as we walked through. Anna definitely got her "Royals" fill for this trip. We all had a great time at Versailles. While it's not something I'd feel compelled to do every time in Paris, it's good to have done it this once. Anna, on the other hand, would probably do this every time if she had the chance, she's such a "Royals" nut!
After a relaxing train trip back, we walked over to another local restaurant, Chez Mademoiselle. This restaurant is in the building that my parents rented a flat in when they would stay in Paris, although the restaurant changed hands in 2013. We got to meet the new owner, who is a real character. Our meals were fabulous, and the service was superb. After our dinners and desserts, the owner treated us to aperitifs of Amaretto and Limoncello. He told us they would guarantee a good night's sleep, and he was right. For all of us, last night was the first where we pretty much slept through the night.
Today has been a day of shopping for Priscilla and Anna, and exploring for me. I've found what looks to be a fabulous open-air market at Place d'Aligre that I'm going to walk to in search of tonight's dinner of roti chicken and roasted potatoes. I'll let you know how it goes. If I strike out there I know just the place on rue de Rivoli, just down the street a bit from us, that has excellent chicken roti to go.
I had a few missions today. The first was to get French SIM cards for our iPhones. Apple Maps took me on a wild goose chase, then Google Maps took me on even more of a wild goose chase. Finally, the app Maps.me, which allows you to download maps to your phone, took me to the right place, the Orange Telecom store. Consider this a definite plug for the Maps.me application.
The second order of business, and the primary one Priscilla sent me out on, was to buy some groceries and household items at Monoprix. I managed to find everything on our list. Google Translate is really handy for trying to figure out what things are in the grocery store. It sure takes a lot longer to buy groceries that way though. I also stopped in at the photography store on rue Saint-Antoine to see if they developed film and scanned the negatives, which I found out they do. By the time I finished all my errands, I'd walked over seven miles and had been gone untold hours, according to the female contingent of this group.
I thought I'd tell you a bit more about the flat we're renting. It is a two-bedroom flat that is fairly decent sized for a Parisian flat. By U.S. standards, it is on the small side. For us, it is perfect for a two-month stay. My sister Karen, and family, stayed in this flat in 2011, and we thought it would be just right for our stay in Paris.
We are on the second floor, facing rue Saint-Paul, which is a quiet side street off of rue Saint-Antoine, a major retail oriented street. The stairway to our flat is off a courtyard that you access through a hallway that you enter through this cool old door on rue Saint-Paul.
The stairway is made of ancient wood that is worn down with wear. I have no idea how old our building is, but I suspect it's at least 18th century. For being an ancient building, our flat has all the modern conveniences, including a washer and dryer that with a bit of fiddling, we were actually able to make work. We have these beautiful, big French door windows that open out to rue Saint-Paul. The weather is warm enough over here to leave the windows open, at least part of the day.
I have no idea what I will write about next, but I suspect I won't run out of material. Living in the middle of a big city is adventure enough. Living in the middle of a big city in a foreign country is adventure on steroids.
After a slight snafu with the verification of Anna's new passport, we got on our way Saturday and had a great day of travel. Our flight left on time and arrived almost an hour early, at around 6:25 a.m. We took an Uber in to our neighborhood from Charles De Gaulle airport. At first the ride in was quiet, with nobody talking, then Priscilla broke the ice by asking the Uber driver if he spoke English. His answer was not much. He then proceeded to use Google Translate to carry on a lively conversation with us all the way to our flat. I was also using Google Translate. He was going from French to English, and I was going from English to French. It definitely was a brave new world moment for us all. Anna did get to use some of her French, but when he wanted to make long statements he would use Google Translate. We talked about the Yellow Vest protests and, of course, Trump. My short summation of our thoughts about the orange-haired ignoramus was, "Trump idiot!" Our driver said that he's noticed that people are staying away from Paris because of the protests. He said we were smart for coming to Paris now since the crowds are down. They really do want visitors. As for the protests, we've seen no sign of them.
Our first stop in the Marais was Miss Manon's patisserie. This is my Mom's favorite in the Marais, and I can see why. Priscilla and Anna had a pain chocolat and I had another apricot pastry, the name of which I forget. They were all delicious. We also got coffees. Before leaving I picked up a baguette and a few small quiches for later. We were able to drop off our bags early at our flat. That's when we met Lucy, our representative here. She and her sister were cleaning the flat. They are originally from the Philippines. We bummed around for awhile in the Marais, picking up some groceries that we needed at the flat. We stopped back at the flat around 11:45 to drop those off. Lucy said we could stay at that time. They had finished their cleaning. That was welcome news to us. We were all ready to get off our feet.
After a spot of lunch and some much needed rest, we set out to explore more of the Marais mid afternoon. We found a lovely Madeleine shop that also serves hot chocolate (chocolat chaud). That was our afternoon treat. We continued walking up and down rue Saint-Antoine, the main drag in our neighborhood. Priscilla and Anna would duck into stores and I would meander looking for photographs. Anna found a lovely dress for her birthday gift. We eventually made our way over to the lovely park, Place des Vosges. Children were playing and lovers were, well you guessed it, loving. The late afternoon light was beautiful in the park.
Yes, we're at that stage of our planning for our Paris trip...making a list and checking it twice. No trip worth its salt would be complete without one of Priscilla's patented lists. While we are crossing things off the list, I have this feeling that it'll still come down to a mad dash at the end. When we finally make our way to our seats on the plane, I suspect we will all collapse into them. One thing's for certain, when they come by offering the free wine, my hand will be among the first to be raised high.
It's amazing all the details you have to think about when you're taking off for a couple months. Our trips to Glacier are child's play next to this. One thing we have done for peace of mind is to hire someone we trust to check on the house while we're gone. Her name is Laura Myers. She is the oldest daughter of our good friends, Peter and Karla Myers. Laura lives practically just down the block in Golden Valley, so it is convenient for her to stop over here a few times a week. Opal the cat will be staying with my Mom at her condo. Opal and Giovanni, Mom's cat, got to know each other well while Mom and Karen were down in Florida.
Our direct flight to Paris leaves at 4:50 p.m. this coming Saturday, arriving in Paris at 7:10 in the morning. We plan to Uber it to our flat at 24 rue Saint-Paul. Most of our time in Paris we expect to be using the Métro, but on our first day in Paris, with all that luggage, we're going to splurge on Uber. Anna will be joining us for our first week during her spring break, and then on the day she heads back, Kirstin, Derek, and Cora show up for their spring break. We'll make sure nobody gets hit on the hind side by the revolving door.
I expect we'll be posting updates every few days, so stay posted.
In a couple weeks, Priscilla, Anna and I will be taking off for Paris. Anna is joining us for her Spring Break. Kirstin, Derek, and Cora will join us the week after Anna for their Spring Break. Priscilla and I, on the other hand, will be staying in Paris for a couple months total. This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, so now that we are officially empty nesters, we figured this was the year to go for it. A big part of living in Paris for me will be the photography. I’ve recently been getting back into some film work, so that has played into my decision of what camera gear to bring to Paris.
I’ve decided to bring three cameras, two of them film, and one my digital Nikon D850. The two film bodies are the Olympus OM-2s and the Nikon F3. I’ve had the Nikon F3 film camera for a few years now, while I just picked up the Olympus a couple weeks ago off eBay. I will bring 35mm prime lenses for all three cameras along with Nikon’s 24-120mm, f/4.0 zoom lens for the D850. A 35mm prime lens is my perfect walk-around travel lens. In fact, that’s the only lens I brought when I walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in 2015.
What I plan to do with the film bodies is load one with Kodak Tri-X 400 Black & white film and the other with Kodak Portra 400 color film. I have yet to decide which of the film bodies will get which film. For no particular reason, what I’m leaning toward is shooting color in the Olympus and black and white in the Nikon, but we will see.
I expect I’ll be shooting film on my random walk-abouts in Paris and shooting digital when we’re going someplace planned. I know that Paris has shops that will develop film. What I don’t know is what scanning capabilities they offer. I’d love to be able to show some film work on my blog while we’re still in Paris.
It’s a fair question to ask why I’m bringing two film cameras. Perhaps it’s the way shooting film forces you to slow down. I do love the feel of these beautiful old mostly mechanical SLRs. Without an LCD in the back of the camera, you’re forced to give up chimping cold turkey. Not that I was an habitual chimper, but I think getting back to basics is a good thing for me. I don’t view film as superior to digital by any stretch. But there is something more tactile and basic about shooting a thirty-some year old SLR that just feels good. Perhaps it’s the same feeling someone might have getting behind the wheel of a beautiful old Porsche Roadster.
We will see how my shooting evolves in Paris. Stay tuned.