When we vacation and mean it, we’ve typically had our kids keep travel journals. Kristen and Courtney have travel journals from their trip to Paris in 1994. They say that they have enjoyed reading them later, although Kristen said hers reads mostly like a food journal, perhaps foreshadowing her future foodie nature. Laura kept a journal from our 2004 trip to England and France, and before this trip we all enjoyed looking at it (especially the pictures she drew). In that vein, as we were studying Ancient Egypt this year, one of my friends read to us from her travel journal that she kept from a trip to Egypt when she was in high school. A well-done travel journal is great not just for recalling possibly otherwise forgotten details of a trip, but in the case of my friend’s Egypt journal, it made for an accessible learning experience about a region Laura was already studying.
Because we asked Laura to keep a journal of this trip, I did too, here. I dusted off this blog to document, savor, and share some of the things that we did during our trip. We fly home tomorrow, so from there I will get around to writing about our visits to Versailles, Disneyland Paris, over and under Notre Dame, dining at Le Train Bleu, discovering and falling in love with Ile Flottante, and such like. Today’s post (although it won’t be the last about Paris, it will be the final post from Paris) will be about what we didn’t do while here. Maybe because we were here during the holiday season, or maybe because it is Paris and the culture here is a little less, shall we say, customer-service oriented, we would arrive at various venues at days and hours promised by websites or tourist books to be open, only to find our visiting pleasures denied.
On many days, we went around the corner from our apartment to what is obviously Diagon Alley (although the street sign claims it is rue des Rosiers, which happens to be a main drag in the Jewish Quarter of Le Marais) to get a crepe just as delicious as and at a price much below those sold by the vendors on larger streets. Often at the times we’d happen by, the rue des Rosiers crêperie was ferme (shut)!
Although most days we found it closed, as you can see, on this happy occasion it was open for purchasing sweet and circular goodness, warm and folded in paper.
On the day that we headed over to the Centre Georges Pompidou, just a short walk from our apartment, to ride the escalators to the top of the odd building, take in some modern art, and maybe do some people watching while sipping a warm beverage in a café, it was ferme! The escalators were running, but the doors were locked and there was nary a soul in sight inside. I failed to take a photo of the funky building with exposed and color-coded pipes from the outside, and the official website is in French with no apparent photos on the homepage, so here’s the Wikipedia link, which has a photo of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Outside of the Pompidou, are colorful fountains and street performers, so it is possible to stop and take in some modern culture outside.
We ventured over, by Metro and foot, to La Grande Arche de la Défense, which is located in a modern business district in Paris. The Grande Arche was built in the 1980s to be a modern version of the Arc de Triomphe, but a humanitarian rather than military monument. We had previously hoofed it up all 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, from which the other two (larger and smaller) arches could be seen. Laura wished to ride the elevator to the top of the Grande Arche, to see the two smaller ones from there. Guess what? Ferme! Many people were arriving to do just as we had planned, but the ticket office was closed with no explanation as the sign posted with the hours of operation indicated that it should have been open.
So, to amuse ourselves before taking the Metro back, we spent a little time under (over?) the thumb of this modern statue (Le Pouce) in the business district.
Having strolled by Victor Hugo’s house (Maison de Victor Hugo) in Places des Vosges, we decided to later go see his (and other important folks such as Voltaire, Marie Curie, Louis Braille) final resting place, not to mention the large Foucault pendulum and whatnot, in the Panthéon in Paris’ Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne.
Guess what? Ferme!
Tom and I dined at Tour d’Argent in 1994, and we still have our postcards with the number of the duck we ate. We thought perhaps that we would take Laura, although she, being a vegetarian, would not eat duck. The restaurant was founded in 1582, overlooks the Seine and Notre Dame, and once boasted Henry IV as a regular. Tour d’Argent raises (and numbers) its own ducks for its signature dish of pressed duck. But dining there this visit was not to be as reservations were booked solid throughout our trip. We were told to check back the day of for cancellations, but we really couldn’t be bothered with all of the other great places to eat (including Le Train Bleu, recommended to us by Aunt Snow, more on this place in another post) and the Michelin Guide having reduced the grade from three stars to two in 1996, and in 2006 to one. We thought that on our way to the zoo we might stop in and show Laura the lobby and the little museum shop (from which her grandparents brought us back some kitchen items one year). Guess what? Ferme!
Speaking of the zoo, which I never before knew existed in Paris, guess what we found when we arrived? Ferme? Well, yes, for us it was. But we had only by minutes missed the last entry time. So we went into the Jardin des Plantes, where we expected to find various museums in addition the gardens. Guess what? Ferme!
The gardens were still open and we we able to walk through the labyrinth, which was of great interest to Laura because she likes mazes. As we were leaving the labyrinth, guards began blowing whistles and shouting, as you may have guessed, “Ferme! Ferme!” And we were kicked out along with everyone else.
Most of our days here were capped off with delicious meals, which were then capped off with delicious desserts. But on a few occasions we opted to stay in, rest our feet, and eat simply. It is our intention that our home and our hearts, wherever they may be, always be open.
Bonne Année 2012!