#1, France, Feb. 14, 1997

Dear Everybody,

My friend, Jan, and I arrived in Paris on the Left Bank a few days ago. We stayed at the Mount Blanc Hotel where I had stayed years earlier. It’s on an ‘eat’ street with an especially appealing Greek restaurant.

Jan and I started our site-seeing with the Musee d’Orsay, which, of course, is the converted old train station. What a wonderful conversion! The French Impressionists are amazingly well represented which made us ah and oooh! We also visited La Chapelle, which I well remember from a previous trip. That time a young man with bouncy, curly hair played a Bach partita, which I have loved ever since. We moved on to Les Halles and the Pampidou Center. Dinner was bouillabaisse with good French wine in slightly rainy Parisian weather.

The next day we tackled the Louvre. We entered through the new pyramid by I. M. Pei. Of course we saw the wonderful Mona Lisa and focused on another, “La Grande Odalisque” by Ingres, which Jan (art major) had used in college to make a series of sketches culminating in a painting, showing roots from the Old Master. This was her first look at the real thing!

Since we walked to the Louvre, we wore comfortable clothes, meaning (nice) sweats and sneakers. Our plan was to have lunch at THE Tour d’Argent afterwards, and we had a reservation for 2:00, the latest that they would take for lunch. We would walk to the restaurant from the Louvre, stopping off at our hotel to change into something a little dressier for this elegant restaurant. Unfortunately, we spent more time than we could spare at the Louvre and in order to make our reservation on time, we couldn’t take time to change clothes. Well, our coats were respectable looking so we took comfort in that. Alas, as soon as we entered the premises, it was mandatory to remove and check our coats. So we entered the dining room in our sweats, noticing that the other patrons were very spiffily dressed, and slunk to our table.

The Tour d’Argent was established in 1582 and has been serving numbered ducks forever—how could one order anything else? We had a lovely lunch with nary a glance from the staff that would indicate anything negative about the way we were dressed—how lovely! Then when we were finishing, we finally noticed that we were the only patrons left, but again, none of the staff made us feel like we were dawdling. Ah yes, the canette rotie al’orange (mine was number 857396) was superb.

Jan and I had received a flyer advertising a concert at the Notre Dame Cathedral for that evening. We attended with a small audience and we were seated up on the high alter in the 18th century choir stalls that were commissioned by Louis XIV!! The beautiful music was Spanish Renaissance, sung a cappela by six singers.

The next morning after breakfast in the ‘cellar room’ at our hotel we took a taxi to Budget-Rent-A-Car, and, after encountering a bit of trouble getting out of Paris, we drove six hours to Nimes, beginning our time in Provence. A bracing walk in the evening led us past the Roman Temple and the Arena. Those Romans were everywhere!

Nimes has many treasures that we explored today, whch was Jan’s birthday! We visited the wonderful Archeological Museum, the Roman Arena (best-preserved in all of Europe), the Roman Temple, the Cathedral and the Porte Augusto, a gate to the city from Roman times.

 

Of course we had to have coffee in a sidewalk café to savor both the coffee and the wonderful things we had seen. Jan pronounced her birthday celebration ‘terrific!’

We shall move on tomorrow to see what other treasures await us!

Carol

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