Monday, August 24, 2009

What a walk!

No word from Claire, yet, so yesterday I was free to meet a high-school classmate.

Sylvia Stein -- one of the names I really do remember from high school, but beyond that I can't really remember any classes we were in together or anything else. Like so many of the wonderful women I've met this past year on our class facebook group and email group, I'm so glad we've finally met. (The picture was in front of Notre Dame in the glaring light -- I look horrible!)

This is our route: (It should show up below, but if it doesn't then click the link.)

We met at the Madelaine church, which unfortunately is a neo-Greek temple and got Sylvia a bit confused at first, but we did meet up. I was no longer waiting in front as promised because that was the sunny side and at around 2:00 it was baking hot. I was in the shade on the other side of the street, but I managed to find Sylvia as she finished coming around the building and we headed down the Rue Royale towards the Place de la Concorde and then on to the Tuileries Gardens, where we stopped for lunch.

Maybe we were in gym class together. We both have such horrible memories of not being very good in P.E. That being said, we turned out to be good walkers. After lunch, we continued through the Tuileries Gardens towards the Louvre. We had a good view of the Carrousel Arc de Triumph in front of us, with the Pei pyramid entrance to the Louvre behind it, and looking back, we could see the Arc de Triumph at the end of the Champs Elysées and the buildings of La Défense behind it. There were thousands of people milling around the entrance to the Louvre, so we couldn't even think of trying to go in, so we ducked out of the sun by taking the stairs to the Carrousel shopping center and saw the Charles V wall (14th century) that included the Louvre in the city. (The previous wall, Philippe Auguste, 12th century, made the land the Louvre was built on outside the city.) We came out of the shopping center on to the rue de Rivoli, where I pointed out the Musée des Arts Décoratifs as nice place to visit with far fewer tourists than the Louvre.

We crossed the street in front of the Comédie Française, which was closed, so we couldn't take a peek. Behind the Comédie Française is the Palais Royal gardens. The Buren columns are under renovation, so we couldn't see them, but we strolled under the arcade. All of the shops were closed for vacation. After the arcade, we strolled in the shade of the trees -- have no idea what kind of trees they are, but they are already losing their leaves and looked pretty sickly -- and came out on the Rue des Petits Champs. Again, we ducked out of the sun by going into the Galérie Vivenne for a very short look. Paris is full of these galéries, early 19th century precursors to our shopping centers. I remember one of my first walks with Paul in Paris almost 40 years ago. It was in winter and we just kept going from one galerie into the next and crossed most of Paris, it seemed, from Opéra to Chatelet.

We progressed to the Place des Victoires, a Louis XIVth period circular place with a statue not of the king but of some general in the center and buildings designed by Mansart all around and then continued down Etienne Marcel to the Halles area. Les Halles used to be the central market that was replaced by an enormous transportation hub (RER and métro) and shopping center. The area all around has become pedestrian streets, chic shops and very touristy. On the rue Etienne Marcel, however, there are still some vestiges of the wholesale past -- lots of restaurant supply shops.

We must have been lost in conversation because when we cut from Etienne Marcel to rue Rambuteau we should have seen the Beaubourg museum (modern, contemporary art) out of the corner of our eyes, but we didn't and just continued on towards the marais. The Museum of Jewish Art and History (Paul was the head engineer for the city in the restoration of this building) the Picasso Museum and the Carnavalet Museum (history of the city) all branch off this route as Rue Rambuteau becomes the Rue des Franc Bourgeois (lots of very chic and expensive couture and jewelry shops -- not an inkling of the not-so-long-ago Jewish past) and leads to the Place des Vosges. Parched, we stopped for a citron pressée (fresh-squeezed lemonade) before walking unter the arcade of the Place des Vosges. We did a 3/4 tour and came out in the Hôtel de Sully Gardens which allowed us to cut straight through to the rue Saint Antoine. We continued down rue St. Paul with a stop at Thanksgiving so I could show Sylvia that there was a place I could spend a fortune at if I ever got desperately nostalgic for some American food products (a box of Cheerios, €12.00).

Oof, we reached the Seine and crossed over to Ile St. Louis. No one was walking along the quai; everyone was lined up at the many, many places selling Bertillon ice cream on the rue St. Louis-en-l'ile. Along the quai, we admired the many 17th century mansions. Then, we crossed over to Ile de la Cité and again walked into the older part of the island before coming up to Notre Dame. We had thought we'd go into the church, but the "in" line stretched all the way to the other end of the Parvis (the place in front of the cathedral). And at the end of the line was the entrance to the Crypte Archéologique, which I find very interesting -- the old roman Lutece which was discovered when they were building the parking lot under the Parvis. Unfortunately, it was getting late and they were not letting anyone in, so we continued on to the Sainte Chapelle, but it was too late, there, too.

Time for another citron presée, this time at the Place St. Michel. Theoretically this is in the Latin Quarter, but there nothing left of the Latin Quarter; it's all tourists. We walked along the rue St. Severin and on to Shakespeare & Co, but we didn't stop. I showed Sylvia the galérie Urubamba on rue de la Bûcherie (founded in 1976 - I was there; Paul was in charge of the building, then. I wonder if Roberta is still around.) We came up to Place Maubert and started climbing uphill along the rue de la Montagne Ste. Genviève to the Panthéon, which we just peeked at. We then took the rue Clovis down and stopped to look at the remains of the Philippe Auguste (12th century) city wall on our way to the Arènes de Lutece. By this time, we were pooped and sat for a while watching some guys kick around a soccer ball and then went off to find a restaurant for some dinner.

All in all, we walked and talked for more than 6 miles (10 km.)

1 comment:

Susan D. said...

When Sylvia called me from Paris on my Birthday (21st) she wasn't sure what she was going to do when she found herself on her own... I can not tell you how delighted I was to find that she found you Ellen and that you were so generous with your time and obviously made Syl's trip an extraordinary one!