Samedi (Saturday) means crowds

A nice, sunny, warm Samedi (Saturday) brings out the crowds. Yes, I know I picked a tourist place for the apartment.

The top picture is standing at the island downstream edge, right at the bridge to Cité, which is further downstream. If you go down that central street a block, turn right, then go 15 meters or so, you are at 16 rue le Regrattier.

Panning a little left is the bistro on that corner.

Panning right is the bistro on the other corner as well as the other bistro across the street.

Continuing right is the bistro beside those other bistros.

Yes, that many bistros. And that any tourists. And that does not count the bistros (and tea room) off to the left down that street. Or the restaurants down the main street. There is even an Italian restaurant just down the main street.

I went over the bridge (off on the road to the left and then across) to the Parc Rives de Seine discussed previously. No less crowded, but fewer tourists and more locals. Sun bathing on the grass is much in vogue.

For €2 I can get an espresso and snag a small table and chair. Then I can enjoy the sun and read. Small sips make the espresso last a long time. It at least puts me outside and in the sun.

The boat tours go by from time to time. Those are quite full today as full. Everyone is profiting from the nice weekend day.

Palais Royal

Another Paris Walks walking tour this morning. I almost missed it! My memory was that it was a 2:30 PM (14h30) walk. While casually starting to eat breakfast, I verified the location and time. Whoops! It was a 10:30 AM (10h30) walk. I had about 30 minutes to make it to Metro Louvre-Rivoli. That’s line 7 from Pont Marie to Châtelet then change for line 1 to Louvre-Rivoli. Easy to say – hard to do. Châtelet is a huge interchange of Metro lines as well as RER lines. I had to walk 100s of meters underground. It was twisty passages, all different, but all designed to make you lose your sense of direction. I did get there with 5 minutes to spare.

The first thing one does is to try to pick out the other Paris Walks participants. That is, people who look like American or Brit tourists. And are just hanging around. It’s not too hard. Then Brad showed up, took our money, and started the tour.

This was a lèche-vitrine tour. That’s window shopping. Or, more literally translated, licking display cases. It explored the galeries, arcades, and passages that made the Palais Royal area famous in the 1800s. From some 120 at their height, there are a dozen or so now. Back then the streets were not great places to be. Not city-wide septic yet, so the streets were used. And there was traffic, and dirt, smell, and crime. The galeries offered a covered, clean(er), safe(er) place. Glass technology was just starting, but you could build glass roofs. It was just foot traffic – no garbage or horses or similar. Each also had its own guard station to keep the riffraff out.

The galeries have passed out of fashion now. The boulevards (of Napoleon) are wide and relatively clean (there is a city-wide sewer underground) with wide walking lanes as well as wide traffic lanes. Stores on them can now have large glass windows for good display.

One of the oldest shops seen was a maker of calling cards. These were engraved and had not only your name and address, but the name of the company producing the card. The good companies, like the one we saw, would vet anyone asking for cards, so when you received a card you knew the person was who they said they were. And, of course, each engraved plate for the cards were individually produced and the whole process was expensive.

The Palais Royal was owned by a Duke, a cousin of the king. He needed money, so he built out the area he owned into galeries around a beautiful central park. The shop owners paid rent and there were also fancy apartments on the upper floors. All this produced income for the Duke. But, the king joked that he would only see him on Sundays as he was now a part of the working class.

The Palais Royal area had quite a number of cafés and restaurants as well as shops. Since it was owned by royalty, the entire thing was off limits to the city police. The royalty had their own security forces. This meant the area was like “Las Vegas of Paris”, what happened at the Palais Royal area stayed there. Due to this, and that the Duke had some revolutionary leanings himself, it was a main area for the brewing of the French Revolution.

The story goes that a certain well know person was hurt by the king. The revolutionaries demonstrated against. They were charged by royal forces and retreated back to the Palais Royal, which the forces could not enter. There they drank some more and got more worked up. Someone said “we need to be armed.” So crowd of 8,000 or so went out and over to the Louvre and raid it for a large collection of weapons. But, back at the Palais Royal, they said “we don’t have gunpowder!” Then the next day, July 14, the crowd went out to where gunpowder was stored: the Bastille. They stormed, ripped down, and took the Bastille’s gunpowder. As a side effect, a few prisoners were freed. Of course, July 14 is a well known French holiday today.

Before an American theater show, people say “break a leg.” In France it is “Merde.” Huh? On a show’s opening night, everyone who was anyone came in their carriage. And, the horses stomped around as well as having to wait around. The better attended your show, the more carriages, the more horses, the more of what horses produce. So, if there was a lot of merde, your show had a great opening night.

Lastly I will explain the picture. The staircase in most buildings, including mine, is small and very twisty. Furniture has gotten bigger over time. Not only TVs, but large beds, large sofas, tables, etc. This means the staircase is not suitable for moving. The alternative is your window. That means you need an exterior life up to your window. When you rent a mover, you let them know how high your apartment is and they bring the right expanding hoist.

St Germain-des-Prés

I found and downloaded the brochure for Paris Walks. Jan and I have used its sister company, London Walks, quite a number of times. There was a walk today covering the St Germain-des-Prés area.

The walks are about two hours, moderately paced, and done in English. You meet your guide at the start, pay the fee of €15, and off you all go. There about ten of us, mostly Americans.

Saw the church of St Sulpice, one of the city’s oldest churches. One area off of the main aisle has three paintings by E. Delacroix: each side and a ceiling. It was pointed out how different Delacroix’s painting is compared to older artists. Less line-and-form. More color-and movement. Side by side I can see the difference, but I am no art scholar. Other features, but I will not give a feature-by-feature description. The cauldron with the spigot pictured above is worth noting – it is filled with “holy water”, all set of the taking. I took a picture, but no water.

Lots of walking through the small streets of this famous area. It originally was scholars, artists, etc. People who had much talent, but not much money. Now the fancy boutiques have moved in, displacing book stores, cafés, etc. All of this fashion stuff used to be exclusively right bank where the aristocracy, power, money, was. The saying was “Rive gauche pense. Rive droite dépense.” That is “Left bank thinks. Right bank spends.”

The main old piece is the abbey of St Germain-des-Prés. It had three towers. Only one is left and it is claimed to be the oldest tower in Paris. It used to be huge and sprawling with lots of land, from which came the church’s wealth. There is not much left. Some has burned down over the ages (it was there back in the 900s). There is only a fragment of the cloister. The abbot’s “palace” is newer and used brick as well as store making it quite colorful.

Just north of the abbot’s lodging is Place de Furstemberg, claimed to be the most romantic square in Paris. We were told it is featured in many films, both French and other. E. Delacroix’s loading is just off the square and is now a museum, not so much of his works (that’s the Lourve), but showing how he lived.

We walked up to the National School for Fine Arts, which was founded when Napoleon kicked it out of the Louvre, which he wanted to become a museum. This whole area is filled with art galleries and, now, fancy boutiques.

Saw were Oscar Wilde lived out his life. The house of Gertrude Stein. The house where Picasso painted some huge-sized and famous paintings. The others I now forget. Also, the cafés they frequented.

The Paris Walks guide did a good job. No script; it was all from memory. She did have a notebook of pictures to emphasize points from time to time.

amazon.fr

I wondered how one got packages delivered by, say, Amazon when living in an apartment with a common entrance, a code for the outside door, a different code for the inside door, and a key for your actual door. The post gets in the outside door; the mailboxes are between the outside and inside doors. But, the mailboxes are quite small and not really at all secure. (Indeed, I was informed that nobody had the key for this apartment’s mailbox. The mailbox had not been locked for over 6 years.)

I learned today about Amazon’s “locker delivery.” It is available in the US and here in Paris. Instead of having a delivery address that is your personal address, you designate one of the lockers. I did a search and a block down and then over is a “La Poste – La Banque Postale.” It is sort of a post office and the post runs a banking service. I visited and looked around. There are various post-prepaid envelopes, boxes, etc. The bank counter was unmanned, but there was a nice women at the other counter. We used some French and some English. She was very helpful. And, yes, she confirmed that Amazon packages come in and are held there. You need to prove you are you to pick one up, but there’s no charge for doing so. This solves most, if not all, of the security, delivery, pickup issues.

I have ordered two items from amazon.fr and, since the total was over €25, there is no shipping charge within Paris to the locker. The delivery is said to be Saturday the 8th, but I think they are closed. No bother, one has three days to pick things up.

What did I get? A package of three Britta filters for the pitcher in the apartment. That will take me through June and leave one, which is how it was when I arrived. And a set of cuillères à pamplemousse (grapefruit spoons). There are none here and trying to eat grapefruit without one is quite messy.

This and that

I’ve had comments about my eating and getting more pictures.

My normal day before coming to Paris was to have only two meals. I like breakfast, so I almost always have a morning to mid-morning meal. Then I might have a later lunch or a dinner. I am keeping roughly the same here.

Paris is not the right place for breakfast! Some cafés or restaurants have a petit-déjeuner on their menu, but the French heart is not into it. It is there for tourists and I have not seen one that looked like it was worth getting. I am always eating breakfast in the apartment. I have simple things. Sometimes eggs. Sometimes a slice or so of dry sausage. Almost always toast and fresh fruit (oranges, grapefruit). And a glass of milk. I have always liked milk and I am glad I can get good tasting milk at my local store.

Sometimes the other meal is lunch, like at Café Richelieu at the Louvre, and sometimes dinner, like Les Fous de L’Île on the island. Most of the time the other meal is back at the apartment again. In the apartment it is always simple. Most recently it was some of the roasted chicken with potatoes. It has been tuna salad. I can get fresh produce just up the block, so I have fresh lettuce and tomato. Just up the block is a small “super market” that has miscellaneous items like toothpaste, toilet paper, etc., as well as canned foods, frozen foods, refrigerated foods, fresh foods. Not a big selection, but pretty good coverage. Right across the street is a boulangerie and a fromagerie. I can get a baguette for €1,20. The cheese is more expensive, but that is expected.

My brother said I had to add pictures to the blog. So I am trying to do so. I am the least likely to take-a-picture person you will probably ever come across. Fortunately, my smartphone is a decent camera and it is always with me. But, even that does not get me to take pictures when I could or should. I am trying to remember, but it is not natural for me.

So please enjoy the few pictures you are getting. I will try to add more pictures and more variety of pictures, but nobody should be holding their breath.

Tour Eiffel

Yesterday I went to the Tour Eiffel go get a feeling for the area.

First is my surprise that no Metro station is really close to it. The two closest are both on the RER C, which runs along the southern (gauche [left]) side of the Seine. Pont de l’Alma is a fair walk heading downstream and Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel, regardless of its name, requires a fair walk going upstream. Neither is an unpleasant walk. It is just surprising there is nothing right at this well know location.

Again, there is heightened security. There is fencing just outside of the foot of each of the four pillars. The security check to get in is not complex, but, of course, having it at all means snaking queues. There is one set of gates between the north and west pillars (paralleling the Seine) and another on the opposite side (bordering the Champ de Mars).

Three of the pillars had queues for the elevator to the 1st stage; the east pillar was closed. Each queue had its queue to the ticket booth and then the queue beyond that to the elevator entrance. The west pillar has a special entrance for e-tickets and restaurant reservations. There is a cheaper ticket if you want to climb the 744 stairs to the 2nd stage and not use the elevator.

I did not wait in line, but a ticket, and go up. I was just scouting. So, I cannot say if the elevator to the 2nd stage had a big queue as well, nor anything about the final elevator to the 3rd stage, which is the top.

I had intended to read some in the Champ de Mars (I had brought my Kindle), but I made a last minute decision to do some grocery shopping instead. I took the Metro across town to Rue Muffetard, a well known market street. I walked up and down to get an overview then ended up buying at two shops.

At a boucherie, I got a small, but whole, roasted chicken, some potatoes that had been roasted with the chicken, and a slice of pâté de champagne, country-style pate.

Next was Picard. Picard sells only frozen items, but they are known for having quality items. I got four kinds of frozen vegetables and some frozen mixed berries.

Finally to the apartment via the Metro and up the stairs.

Louvre

The Louvre is easy to get to. It has two Metro stops. It is well signposted. What is not easy – or at least not quick – is getting into the Louvre.

The Louvre opens at 9:00. I arrived about 9:10. There were two massive lines. One for those with tickets and one for those without. There were two security check entrances right next to each other. About half the time, the with-tickets people got to use both entrances. Then the no-ticket people got to use the right hand side while the with-tickets people continued to use the left. How massive were the lines? I got to the security check at 10:30. Note that there is a third line for those with “skip the line” passes. If you had one of those, you pretty much got to queue up right in front of the security entrances. Also note that none of this gets you a ticket. It is only entrance to the under-the-pyramid area where ticket booths are to be found. See the pictures below.

The people on the escalator coming down are from the security check entrance. It was a steady stream. All. Day. Long.

Since I want to visit the Louvre multiple times, I became an Adhérent (member) of the Société des Amis du Louvre (Friends of the Louvre). The cost is €80, but each single entrance ticket is €15, so I will be ahead on my 6th visit. I think I can find enough to see in the Louvre to visit 6 times. It also means I will not attempt to exhaust myself to get my full single-ticket’s worth all at once. But, the real benefit? There is a different entrance in the Passage Richelieu for people with this pass. And, the Passage Richelieu is right on the path from the Metro station into the Louvre.

This first visit I did some general wandering. I did see Winged Victory. I did see the Mona Lisa. I did see the picture of Napoleon crowning Josephine (in front of the overshadowed Pope). I saw lots of things, but was not doing a systematic tour.

The picture up top is from my lunch in the Café Richelieu. It has views out over the central courtyard. You can see the pyramid, but not the lines as they are to the right out of the picture. I had a salad that comes with a slab of foie gras terrine, and, of course, a glass of red wine. The café specializes in fancy pastries and many stop there for a sweet snack.