Monday, July 5, 2010

The Williams's visit

Eric arrived on his school exchange trip in mid-June. He was in Lyons and had a great time in spite of some really cold and rainy weather. Tobi and Jon arrived on the 25th and brought the sun with them. In fact, they brought a bit of a heat wave, which, in our non-air-conditioned house, was pushing it a bit far. We all managed well. We even went to the movies to seek air-conditioning. We saw "Babes", which Tobi and I thought was very cute, but that's probably our mother status coming out. Jon and Eric seemed more indifferent to it.
Getting back to their arrival on the 25th. Most of the day got lost in a long nap, but they were up and bright and cheerful for dinner, so I invited the Pachters over. They had met Jon at the wedding last year. I had made some carrot soup according to Gillette's recipe and had enough in the freezer to defrost for the first course. That was good; followed by roast chicken and potatoes and salad; cheese and then a raspberry/rhubarb crumble with berries and rhubarb from our own garden.
Saturday, we spent a relaxing morning in Nogent and after lunch, we went to the Musée des Arts Premier (Quai Branly) and saw the permanent exhibit on African masks and then the temporary exhibit on contemporary Indian art. There was a little live music and it was very pleasant. What was especially pleasant was finding a really convenient parking space behind the museum. Our idea, originally, was to go from the museum across the Seine to the terrace restaurant at the Palais de Tokyo, but there was some urban sports thing going on -- extremely loud music and basketball hoops -- so we walked to the Place d'Alma and back across the Seine to the car and went to Montparnasse for dinner in a Moules-Frites restaurant on rue de la Gaïté -- nothing great. They had the world cup on, of course. After dinner, we headed towards Eric's hotel to pick him up. We got there early and saw the end of the US-Ghana game (I think it was that one). The US lost.
Sunday, we stuck close to home, just going out for a walk along the Marne in the afternoon. Eric needed a little down time after two weeks of intensive tourism. We did have dinner with Anne at the pub in Fontenay, which was alright. The service was slow, certainly due to the World Cup game on.
Monday, we went to Giverny to see Monet's house and gardens. The flowers are magnificent in this season. We had lunch in the same very nice restaurant I went to with the Pickars last year. I think it's the Musardière. As you come out of the Monet museum onto the street, turn right and walk down the road. The restaurant is on the left where the road turns right a bit. They have a big terrace to the side.
We finished lunch in good time and decided we had enough time to go to Chartres! The country roads were relatively empty and we made good time, visited the cathedral for a short visit and got back to Paris in very good time. We walked around the Latin Quarter for a while and then settled in at "Chez Clément" at Place St. Michel to wait for Louis, Gwen, Anne, and Paul for dinner. Chez Clément is good, but not exciting. We were there for a family get-together.
On Tuesday, Tobi and Eric went to Disneyland and Jon went to see an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Bibliothèque Nationale, F. Mitterand. I spent the afternoon at the library.
We headed off to Normandy on Wednesday after Paul picked up Nadine and the kids at the airport on their return from China. He got caught in traffic, so it was later than I had hoped to get out. We got to the American cemetary at Omaha Beach just a little before closing. They've changed the visit there. Now you go through a visitors' center introduction exhibit that leads out to the beach and you see the cemetary at the end. I think I prefer the impact of entering the cemetary first, before going to the beach. Still, it is moving. We were there when they sounded taps when they were taking down the second flag. Not a sound from any of the visitors who all stood still. We found a hotel in Bayeux and had dinner at a place recommended in the Michelin Green Guide -- very decorative and very tasty.
The next morning we started with a visit to the Bayeux tapestry, which is much improved since the last time I visited. The audio guide is good and the tapestry is well-lit and easy to see and examine. Then, on to Arromanches for the visit to the D-Day museum describing how the British brought over their port. Still interesting. And you still see the vestiges out on the horizon and on the beach. Tobi and Eric took a walk on the beach at low tide. By the time they turned around, the water was starting to surround the cement blocks and by the time we finished in the museum it was high tide and you could hardly see the openings in the blocks. After lunch we headed to Le Haras du Pin to arrive just in time for the Thursday show. I took a bunch of pictures, but I think they are the same as the ones I took just a few years ago! We got home and Paul joined us for dinner at the Moroccan restaurant down the block.
Friday and Saturday were lazy days, but on Sunday we went to Provins for the day: visited the Tithe Barn, Caesar's Tower, the Rose Garden and all the walking to and fro. We had a very disappointing meal at La Villa Rosa on the Place du Chatel. First the waiter could not seem to get our order straight, although I was the one giving it and the people at the table next to us assured me that they had understood it (it wasn't because I was loud, it was because I had to keep repeating everything!) Then, when Jon presented his card to pay (and NOT the Amex card), the waiter couldn't figure out how to swipe it and refused to take it. I don't know how they are going to handle other American tourists who might not have the advantage of traveling with someone who has a French card. They were rude; the cooked food was not very good; there were only four tiny bites of lamb on each persons brochette; the potatoes were lukewarm and the service terrible.
Today Tobi, Jon and I went into Paris while Eric stayed home. We took the RER to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs Elysées with a stop at Louis Vuitton, where we went up to the cultural center and I said a quick hello to Claire's friend, Catherine. After lunch we continued down the avenue and crossed over the Seine via the Alexander III bridge to continue our way to the Rodin Museum, which we found out was closed today, but there was a big Christian Dior event going on there and we got caught in the paperazzi. We caught a cab and went straight to Notre Dame and then came home. We're a bit washed out. One more meal -- along the Marne -- tonight and tomorrow, I'll take them to the airport. Then, we'll get ready for our trip to England next week!

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