I am sitting in the eating area of the Hôtel Ste. Marie, which is located in the second arrondissement in Paris. This little hotel has a free Internet station. I planned to log on in order to check in on-line before my flight home tomorrow. Even though I know Air Canada restricts you doing this only 24 hours before departure, I thought I’d make a go of it and try to check in 26 hours before departure. Couldn’t do it. Since I’m on-line anyway, I will tell you a bit about Paris then go out and see more of this city.
I got the bus from Roscoff to Morlaix yesterday morning at 08.30, then caught the TGV to Paris. I reserved a window seat when I bought the train ticket three days ago, and was glad to see the countryside (and all the Breton cows). Four hours and fifteen minutes later I arrived in Paris at the Gare Montparnasse. The train was late because there was a problem at the station:
How come whenever I am at Gare Montparnasse I’m always running as though my life depended on it? There were firefighters all over the place, yet I could not smell smoke until I got outside. Then I could see it, as well as all the fire trucks. Gee–what a welcome this is. Streets were blocked off and I didn’t know where I was going. I had three maps of Paris that I had brought from home and had my route all planned once I left the station. Now I would have to take a long and winding route, retracing some steps, just to get where I was going. It was also extremely crowded outside the station, and I had to proceed s-l-o-w-l-y for fear I would do more damage to people’s toes. When we pulled into Gare Montparnasse I half feared seeing posters of myself, with photos taken by security cameras, asking “Have you seen this man? He owes my podiatrist big money. Any witnesses please call…”.
The store I wanted to go to, Coop Breizh, was located very close to the station. The street it was on was blocked by police and I thought to myself Oh great–the only chance I get to visit this Breton publisher and there’s a fire and all the stores are evacuated. I wormed my way around little streets and allées and came to a police
barricade at the other end of the street where Coop Breizh was located. From this end I could see Coop Breizh and who perhaps was the owner of the store standing in the doorway having a smoke. So the store was not closed, yet a police barricade was in place. I spoke to the officer and asked if I could go just two or three stores past and visit the store where that man is standing. Thank goodness he permitted me to proceed past the barrier.
I asked the store owner if I could go in yet he told me that the store had no electricity. It was still bright enough to look around and I didn’t mind the darkness in some hideaway corners of the store. I ended up staying for an hour and a half. The owner could only accept cash payments and he added up my purchases on a pocket calculator since the electricity was still out. It was a successful book run at Coop Breizh!
I decided to take a cab to the hotel, and despite all the negative things the Paris guidebook I brought said about Parisian taxis, I had a polite driver and he didn’t charge me an arm and a leg either. My fare was 13.50 euros and I did have all the money but as I was fishing around for the fifty euro cents he said not to worry. So I got a small discount on the ride.
Then I dumped my bags, got some stuff together and went out exploring. Paris! This is the most beautiful city I have ever been to. It is rare for me to turn a corner and smile in awe at some monument, statue or painting. But that is what I did all day yesterday. The Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe. Pictures indeed were taken. I only saw the upper two-thirds of the Eiffel Tower since it is the furthest away but even then: wow! There it is. You’d think I discovered the thing. The first Europeans who saw the Grand Canyon probably had the same reaction.
The hoteliers in Roscoff told me that at this time of the year, all the Parisians are away and the city is teeming with tourists. They were right! I have never been to a city before where everyone it seems is carrying around a guidebook or a map. I was one of them, and I had three maps of Paris with me because they all showed different things. I often had to stop at street corners just to see where I was going since the street names would often change once you crossed the street.
Okay…now to explore the city. I will see Paris by night and day, and I hope to get in by midnight. Thanks for your suggestions of what to see in Paris. I will certainly try and see all the places you have recommended. One place I did go to was Shakespeare and Co., an English bookstore. It was *crammed* with books (mostly second-hand) and staffed by English writer types. There was even an author reading while I was there. And I didn’t buy anything!