We left Indianapolis for Detroit at 4:00 PM on Sunday, May 4, 2014 on Delta. The flight was 45 minutes of light chop. Rita thought it was very bumpy. At 6:00 PM, we left Detroit for Paris, France. We arrived in Paris at 8:30 AM. The entire flight was bumpy; and Rita got very little sleep on the plane. But, the sun was shining in Paris when we arrived and it was a beautiful 70-degree day. The taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris was bumper-to-bumper traffic, took an hour and cost $115. We noticed two things right away about the commute. First, everyone was very patient. We never heard a horn. Secondly, we noticed that no one changed lanes frequently. It took us a few kilometers to learn why. The motorcyclists use the “space” between the lanes so changing lanes would have been a reckless maneuver.
We are staying at Hotel de Seine on rue de Seine in St. German de Pres on the left bank in the sixth arrondissement for under $300 a night. This is the artists and student section of Paris. It is a very chic area with lots of bars, cafés and restaurants. Our hotel room has two rooms, a bedroom and a bathroom. The rooms are very tiny although typical for Paris. We would guess that the bedroom is 15 x12 and the bathroom is 5 x10. We have no place to put our suitcases or really unpack so we are working out of our suitcases on the floor. Speaking of suitcases, I brought my carry-on suitcase from last year, but Rita won our “discussions” and brought a much larger suitcase this year. So, this year’s rule is: “You brought it. You carry it.” And, she has! (Upon arrival at Indpls airport when they weighed HER luggage, it was overweight at 60 lbs!)
Today is Sunday and we have been very busy since our arrival. Most days we walk; and walk; and walk some more. We are not so much sightseeing, although we have seen the major sights, as absorbing the culture and observing the French people who we find beautiful, friendly and helpful when help is needed. Since we have not been concentrating on seeing the sights of Paris, we have been freed from the obligation to take photographs of every sight for the purpose of recording our trip and/or sharing our trip with family and friends. This freedom has been exhilarating and has allowed us to be better observers of French life. It has also allowed us to enjoy some smaller slices of French life that we might have missed if we were rushing here and there to take the perfect photograph.
We spent one evening with our French friends Alain and Dominique Desmadryl who drove to Paris to host us at an old French restaurant specializing in authentic French food called Chez Denise. It is the first restaurant we have visited that did not have a menu in English or a waiter who spoke some English. The restaurant was packed on a weeknight and sitting immediately behind us in the restaurant was Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of France’s most popular “older” movie stars. Rita ordered beef, which came on a skewer; and I ordered steak tartare. But, Dominique ordered “brains” and Alain ordered “kidneys”. One of us tasted both (guess which one) and found them pleasant tasting, but would probably not make a habit of ordering them again anytime soon! After dinner, we taxied along the Champs Élysées, which was beautifully lit at night, around the Arc de Triumph, which is France ‘s tomb of the unknown soldier, and then to Cafe de Flore, an historical literary haunt of writers such as Hemingway, Satre, Camus, Beavoir and my law partner Tom Farrell, for a nightcap.
Another evening was spent at La Cuisine Paris, where we joined 7 other tourists to try our hand at making a French dinner. The chef instructor was very helpful, as well as patient, while assisting us with preparing a strawberry-rhubarb tarte, asparagus wrapped with French ham, a tomato and red pepper sauce and tapenade stuffed chicken breast. It was a delightful evening to learn about the French through, what else, French food and wine. A very enjoyable evening we would recommend to anyone who visits Paris. One of the tourists in the cooking class was a grandmother who was raised at 70th and Pennsylvania streets in Indianapolis! It is truly a small world.
Saturday we spent the day with Yann, Peggy, Aude, Cheyenne and Tinael Desmadryl. They took us to the top of the Montparnesse Tower to see the view of Paris from their tallest building, 56 floors, but….. you can also go to the 59th floor and view the city from the open air observation deck! Everyone went up to the 59th open-air deck but Rita, she stayed on the 56th floor and took more pictures. Then of course, as we are leaving to hang out with our friends, it starts to rain, so we decided to get a crepe or coffee. Our first stop didn’t have any crepes so we bribed the children with ice cream. We were waiting for the rain to slow or stop, and again, as we left it was nice and started to rain again after about 10 minutes. So we decided to find a place to eat and start out slow to enjoy the evening. We ate at La Rotonde and had a three hour dinner, let me tell you, we cannot believe how well mannered and good the children were for this length of time!! They were content, ate their meals, (Cheyenne, who is 9, ordered raw smoked salmon, which came with blinis and loved it.) Of course, after such a long dinner, and since the kids could not have been better, they got to have dessert for the second time! We’re sure they’ll remember Norm for that!
Rita has spent all of her spare time in the mornings and evenings trying to find us a home to rent in the south of France for June and July. It has proven to be much more difficult than we thought it would be. Many homes are large enough to accommodate a family of four, plus brothers an sisters, nephews and nieces and grandparents because the French tend to vacation as a family unit. Other homes have a pool, but no air-conditioning, or have air-conditioning, but no pool. A heated pool for Norm does not exist. Some homes are too expensive while other homes are unacceptable because of their condition or location. Nevertheless, we have honed in on 3 or 4 leads and hope to select one before we leave Paris on Monday, May 12, 2014.
In conclusion, we will share some bits of French culture we have learned so far on this trip. Dogs are everywhere, including the restaurants; the French people go out of their way to help you with friendly advice; French men are every bit as fashionably dressed as the French women; fresh food, locally sourced is the basis of every meal; lunch is long and a part of the established social fabric of France; the French enjoy their neighborhood bars, cafés, bistros and brasseries where they not only enjoy good food and wine, but share the experience with their friends and neighbors; food is expensive, our breakfast of two orange juices, one coffee, and two omelets with a small side of potatoes and salad was $84.
Rita will post pictures soon.
Love and miss you all! Rita and Norm