DEC
2018
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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 10.11.18
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL & Kathy Cavanaugh
All photos courtesy the authors

FRANCE ~ PARIS: DAY ONE

It was early Sunday morning when Julie, Jonathan, Kathy and I disembarked at Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle and made our way to find a taxi. The airport seems to be continually under construction, based on our recent trips. As we neared the exit, wondering what to do, we spotted a Viking Tours booth. Given that we were going to take a Viking cruise later in this trip, I figured that they could help us. They did; the lead staff walked us to the taxi area and found a taxi large enough for the four of us plus four large suitcases. We loaded and were off to Paris.

Paris is a great city and I enjoy more each time I visit. When we visit, we all focus on the older central city inside the Boulevard Peripherique, which has a population of 2.2 million, almost one third of the Métropole du Grand Paris total population of over 7 million. This area inside the Boulevard Peripherique is divided into 20 areas called Arrondissment.

Paris has been a dynamic city since the 2nd century when the Romans expanded south of the Seine River, building the Cluny Baths and an amphitheater in what is now called the Latin Quarter. The present bath ruins constitute about one-third of the original bath complex and is incorporated into the Musée de Cluny. In addition to the Cluny, there are over 120 museums in Paris, the most famous of which are National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pompido, Musée d'Orsay for Impressionist and Expressionist, and The Louvre for everything else.

We had booked rooms at the Hotel du Parc in Montparnasse, 14th Arrondissment. As our taxi entered the central city, he found the streets blocked by a police barricade.

hotel

After some discussion, we were allowed to enter because we were deemed local traffic.

Paris has adopted a policy of Sunday car-free days, banning most vehicles from the central part of the city and allowing people to stroll, cycle or skate from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Bastille and it was a great day for it; late summer, sunny and warm.

After several attempts thwarted by blocked streets, our cab arrived at our hotel. We deposited our bags but could not check in until after 2 p.m., so an early lunch seemed appropriate. There were a number of promising bistros in the neighborhood and after surveying several we decided to sit at the sidewalk café of Le Tournesol café. Three of us had omelets and Kathy ordered a dish consisting of French fries, cheese and more, similar to Quebec's poutine; it was huge.

cafe

Fortified by lunch and a glass of wine, we set off to explore. We walked toward the city center on Rue du Montparnasse and after wandering through some small streets found the Luxembourg Garden, which is in the heart of the Latin Quarter. It seemed like the entire population of Paris had decided to take advantage of the great weather and had gone out to one of the 450 parks in Paris.

Jardin du Luxembourg contains the Luxembourg Palace, built in 1625 for Queen Marie of Médicis, the Palais du Luxembourg was a residence for the Royal Family before it was turned into a prison during the French Revolution.

park

In 1800, Napoléon Bonaparte had the palace transformed to house the Senate and the first senators took office during the First Empire in 1804. It went through modifications each time the government changed -- the Restoration, the July Monarchy, the Second Republic, the Second Empire & the Third Republic - and is again the home of the French Senate. In front of the palace, the garden has a large pond, which was being well used.

The Orangerie is now a museum exhibiting and selling contemporary art; we did not buy anything. The garden covers about 50 acres and is known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds and the Medici Fountain, in the center of the pond.

park

The garden contains over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, scattered throughout the grounds. Surrounding the central green space are twenty figures of French queens and illustrious women standing on pedestals, one of which is a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

We walked and walked along with the Parisians. Some had brought their children to the playground where there were a vintage carousel, swings, slides and many other attractions.

park

We found the Sunday market, in which it seemed that one could by anything from jeans to jewelry. The playgrounds were not just for children but where adults, mostly men, played boules. Boules is the name for a number of games similar to bocce in which the objective is to throw or roll heavy balls as close as possible to a small target ball.

game

We walked back to the Hotel du Parc to check in and freshen up. We agreed to meet in front of the hotel and we would find a place for dinner. We walked back down rue de la Gaite to Boulevard Edgar Quinet (historian and intellectual who joined the revolution of 1848 against King Louis-Philippe) to Le Plomb du Cantal for dinner, very nice. Even though we sat inside where there was no smoking, the wind was such that smoke from the sidewalk tables drifted by us occasionally.

cafe

As we left Le Plomb, we noticed all the people entering the gelato shop on the opposite corner. We had to have a gelato for the walk back. At this point, we were really ready for bed and some sleep.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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