Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Paris: Part Two

I am so mad about the layout! I've put extra spaces between the paragraphs and blogger is not showing them. It's all squashed together. Grrrr... Sorry!
The long awaited Part Deux... I made use of the journal!
I slept well. The bed was comfortable and the pillow not too hard. It was lovely and dark in the room when I woke up to find Ginger peeking out the windows. Apparently, she hadn't slept much because there was no clock in the room. I turned my phone on and when we saw that it was a few minutes after 8:00 we got up. I could tell Ginger was pretty tired.
We took turns showering in our gorgeous, enormous shower. It was so cool. It had a shower-head the size of a dinner plate and a glass enclosure. The only weird part was that the "door" to the shower wouldn't close all the way. But the water pressure was hard and I really enjoyed that because Trace and Ginger's shower in England really just spits at you. Anywho, we got ready, said good-bye to our pretty room and checked out.
Outside it was gray and the sky looked like rain. It wasn't drizzling, but every once and a while we could feel the mist. We took a moment to pray about the weather and then we were off.
Our next question was "Now what?" I had studied the maps and had a pretty good idea where things were. We wanted to see the Arc de Triomph and the Louvre. But first... breakfast. The idea of it was intimidating. We didn't speak the language. We walked past a few cafes and tried to read the signs. Finally I looked at Ginger and said, "We're just going to have to do it. We're just going to walk in one of these and try." Ginger looked as intimidated as I felt, but we chose one and walked over to it. The chalk sign held words that we recognized: le jus d'orange, omelette, croissant. Bingo. I led the way and was greeted by a waiter: White shirt, black trousers, black bowtie and apron. And he looked like Robert Deniro.
He said something in French really fast.
Me: "Pardonnez-moi. I'm so sorry. I do not speak French." I looked pitiful, I'm sure.
He threw his hands in the air. " Well zen, what are we going to do?" And then laughed.
I was so relieved! He pointed us to a small table next to the window. I ordered a ham and cheese omelette with orange juice and Ginger got the croissants with jam and coffee. While we ate we watched this old Frenchman (long white hair and beard, beret and kerchief tied around his neck) drink his espresso, smoke his pipe and read the paper. I tried to get his picture but missed. He was awesome.
We paid and walked down to Invalides and then took a left, towards the Seine, and walked through a chestnut grove. Ginger got pictures but I didn't. There were lots of people on bicycles. Just like in the movies. The buildings around us were magnificent. Enormous, stone, gilded. And that was just the Air France headquarters...
We crossed Pont Alexandre III (Pont means bridge, fyi). There are statues there that will blow your mind. They've got to be thirty feet tall, at least and golden. We just stood there for several minutes and basked. I found a pic on google. That's the dome we saw out our hotel room window. We were to the right of it.
We were almost over the bridge when about five police vans passed, going the same direction we were, lights and sirens blaring. We watched them pass and wondered.
On the other side of the bridge, we passed the Grande Palace and on the other side of the street, the Petite Palace, both now museums. They were huge! And who should be parked in front of the Petite Palace but the police vans. The odd thing was that no one was in a hurry. All the police were leisurely standing around, smoking and putting on their bullet proof vests. It was so odd. We never did figure out what they were doing.
The avenue just passed the Palaces was the famous Champs Elysees. (pronounced: shomps ee less-ay) To the right we could see the Place de la Concorde and to the left, way down the road, was the Arc de Triomph. Ginger and I just looked at each other and grinned like idiots.
We walked down the Champs Elysees. Let's just take a moment to let that sink in.... I walked on the Champs Elysees. ...
Every store had at least one guard outside and two doormen. There was a queue outside one place, which we realized was the Abercrombie and Fitch store. You had to go through a wrought iron gate, down an ivy lined path, and around a corner. They only let people in a few at a time. We didn't waste our time standing in line.
There was a movie theater, a Nike store, a Toyota showroom, Louis Vuitton, and lots and lots more. Some of the shops were literally the size of my bedroom. There was lots of traffic. And there was a Haagen Daz. I got a Bonafe Ice Cream. It had bananas and caramel. So good! We sat under the canopy to the right and people-watched. :o)
We walked the rest of the way to the Arc de Triomphe. The structure itself was magnificent. Huge! And surrounding the Arc is a roundabout, or traffic circle, that has 12 roads feeding into it. It looked like complete chaos to me. But it was amazing. We sat on a bench and rested while looking at it. Ginger made the observation that Paris is as beautiful as the pictures make it out to be, but the pictures cannot do it justice. The pictures don't give you the scale of everything. And the scale is magnificent.
As we walked back down the Avenue, contemplating what we wanted to do, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It would have been enough for Chris and I to come back to Culcheth. It would have been enough for Maggie to come with us. It would have been enough to bring the rest of the kids. It would have been enough to spend all of our time in Culcheth. It would have been enough. But to find myself, with one of my dearest friends, walking through Paris... it was beyond words. And it was only a few minutes after noon...