Chapter Three: A Hot Time In The Old Town Today (and Tonight)
DAY THREE – Going To The Chapel, No Robitusson, The Not Quite What We Imagined Apartment, Get Me Out Of Here, Introducing Dennis, A Good Egg, No Way Jay, Marie’s Farewell Letter, A Merri Time, The Museum Sauna, What The Hell Is That, A Metro Or A Submarine, Lady Liberty, The Pendulum Without A Pit, Where’s The Air Conditioner, The Hardest Working Man In Paris, Introducing Mickey and Dinner With The Cincinnati Kids
It was Wednesday…the day we were originally set to arrive had finally arrived. Tracy and I had time to kill before we moved to our final destination, an apartment in the Marais, which we would occupy for the next ten nights (well, almost ten nights as it turned out).
We walked across the Seine (and you thought you could only do stuff like that in the Bible) and arrived at Sainte Chapelle at about 9:15…15 minutes before it opened. Amazingly there were other people even more anal than myself who had arrived early to beat the crowd; fortunately there were only a few of them.
Saint Chapelle is our favorite church in Paris. It was constructed in the 13th century for Saint Louis who, although not a Cardinal, is the only canonized king (Louis IX) of France. The gorgeous blue ceiling always blows us away when we enter the lower chapel.
We paid our respects to the King, and up the steps we went to the Upper Chapel and all those beautiful stained glass windows.
Much of the upper chapel’s windows have been restored since we visited last, and the project continues.
It’s just not a trip to Paris without visiting Sainte Chapelle.
With a couple of hours to go before our apartment date, we walked by the Palais de Justice over to the Conciergerie, a prison where numerous revolutionaries spent their final hours before heading off to lose their heads at the guillotine.
When we visited in the 1990s, Tracy listened intently to the guide’s story about Robespierre being interred here for a bit before eventually escaping, only to face the guillotine a short while later. Afterward she said, “That was some story about Robitussin.” I believe I answered, “Yes, even poor old Robitussin couldn’t stop the coffin.”
Next trip I’d like to come back and perhaps just walk all over Paris and take storefront photos one day.
Before our last venture back to Mélia #1 to collect our stuff for the short taxi ride across the river…
Our taxi driver stopped to chat with his buddy who worked at a nearby restaurant, and then made a left two streets later. His next words were less than comforting, “Are you sure you want me to drop you off here?” We looked, and this was definitely the place, a rather nondescript building in the heart of the Marais.
We had booked our lodging online with ParisBestLodge, and Thierry stayed in touch with us through emails and had given us instructions and the code to enter the building. He was supposed to meet us at the apartment upon our arrival. After climbing a couple of flights of stairs (no elevator, which we knew about when we booked), we reached the apartment and had to wait about ten minutes for the cleaning guy to finish up. Soon we were inside the Bourg-Tibourg apartment.
My first thought was, “Maybe I should have spent some extra money for another apartment.” It did look similar to the photos online (a little more worn) maybe), although the comments from guests who said they would enjoy the balcony for coffee or drinks did not ring true. The apartment overlooked an inner walkway that was certainly not pleasing to the eye and not a place you’d really want to hang out and sip wine.
That said, it was really no big deal to us because as we always say, “We don’t spend very much time in our rooms anyway. ” Of course, I had no inclination that the following week we’d see way more of the inside of this apartment than the rest of Paris. One more plus…it had a GREAT shower. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed, but we could live with this apartment, plus it was inexpensive and located in a central area.
Thierry called and said he would meet us later, so we got ready to go out and explore the neighboghood. As I changed into something a little cooler (the day was rapidly becoming very hot), Tracy said she’d go and get some water at the little grocery store across the street.
In about five minutes I followed…walking down the stairs, through a courtyard into a darkened hallway past an old lady sitting on the stairs. I arrived at the large door and pushed. And then pulled. And then…Nothing.
As my friends will tell you, mechanical reasoning is not high on my skill level (I’m sure my Iowa tests as a kid set record lows). As I searched the wall for something that might help me open the door, I heard her for the first time. A “maniacal, high pitched laugh” best describes the sound the old lady made as she witnessed my pathetic plight attempting to get the door open.
Inside the store, I saw Tracy and before I could start to tell my woeful tale of ineptness, she said, “Doesn’t the old woman in the hallway remind you of Dennis?” Of course, I thought, the woman in the hallway reminded me exactly of Dennis, the old woman (“man”) from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. The rest of the trip she would be known as Dennis.
In the coming days, we would see and hear from her a lot. But Dennis would have to wait…it was time to scope out the ‘hood.
In our vibrant neighborhood were a ton of crowded restaurants, and we were rejuvenated for our afternoon adventures. As we walked down rue des Francis Bourgeous, we almost passed the courtyard of the Maison de l’Europe, Tracy yelled, “Stop. Let’s take a look at that egg.”
I told her we could go to the grocery store across the street when we got back, but she said this was no ordinary egg…and she was right. Croatian artists were responsible for it creation, and I don’t have a clue why they sent it here, but it made for a nice photo op. It was so hot now that seeing the word “Croatia” had me thinking about the Buza Bar in Dubrovnik (photo below of the “Eighth Wonder Of The Modern Drinking World” is from our 2008 trip report), but we had places to visit.
I was excited about our first stop. It had been a high priority item on my list. The Musée Cognac Jay contains the private collection of Ernest Cognac-Jay, who was the founder of La Samaritaine department store.
Sadly, I can only imagine that collection (thanks visitparisregion.com for the above photo). Cognac-Jay must have run off with Robitussin, because it, too, would be closed during our entire stay. For some reason I felt like sipping some Rémy-Martin, but Tracy dragged me away.
Undeterred by this rash of closings (ok, it was only two at this point), we made our way to the nearby Hôtel de Soubise/Musée de l’Histoire de France, France’s official home to its historical archives.
We paid a discounted fee of €5, mainly because by this point I just wanted to see something in Paris that was actually open. The building dates back to the 14th century, and in the 1800s Napoleon designated that this be the repository where his archives were to be stored. The stairway to the next floor had a beautifully painted ceiling.
There are documents from such notables as Joan of Arc, Napoleon, our friend, Robitussin, the last will and testament of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s farewell letter (above).
Inside, there was someone practicing on an organ that was once played by Camille Saint-Saëns.
Unlike many of its participants, the bell tower of this large church survived the French Revolution. We walked around for about 15 minutes.
Since we had purchased the museum card, Tracy and I decided to give the Centre Pompidou a try. I am the first to admit that I don’t understand modern art and its allure, and after visiting here…I still don’t.
Once we reached Legoland (I mean the Pompidou), we found the escalator to the top. Who needs Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers when you have the famous Pompidou Sauna ride? On a hot September afternoon, as we enjoyed the views from the escalator, we were also shedding pounds. By the time we reached our appointed floor, the first thing I did was tighten my belt by one notch.
In the post-Impressionist department (I assumed that was after the Rich Little era), there were works by Matisse and Chagall (above), but it was Tarsila who captured our imagination with a 1924 painting, A Cuca.
Tarsila, we found out was a pioneer of modernism in Brazil. A Cuca (meaning the bogeywoman) is a painting of that woman hanging out with a frog, bird and what looks like a flying caterpillar. I’ll have whatever Tarsila was drinking. I liked it!
On that positive note, we were going to go up on the roof to take a look at the view, but we felt we’d lost enough weight, so it was on to our last destination before meeting Thierry back at the apartment.
We hopped on the metro to a station I had been interested in seeing, the Arts et Métier station. Stepping off the train I told Tracy we were 20,000 Leagues Under Paris, because this Jules Verne-inspired metro station seemed like we were on a submarine. My photos do not do justice (nothing new there) to how neat I thought this station looked.
Tracy was feeling a little seasick, so the two of us ascended to the surface. There was another purpose to stop here, and that was to visit the museum that the metro station is named for, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. It’s a museum that’s actually located within the confines of a church (Saint-Martin-des-Champs), and fortunately they did not call it The Church of Science-Tology. If you have a science nerd in your family, he or she will love this place.
Outside the museum, we thought we were back in New York (except that everyone was speaking French and it’s quite a bit smaller), and found ourselves standing at The Statue Of Liberty. After all the walking and knowing how much it cost for the flight over here, “Give me your tired, your poor…” certainly rang true.
On Square Genéral Morin is a six-foot replica of Lady Liberty that was made by Frédérick Bartholdi in 1870. I guess he wanted to make sure he got it right before he did the big one a decade later.
Inside the museum are inventions by Galileo, Edison’s phonographs and the laboratory of a guy who screwed up a lot of my friend’s GPAs…Antoine Lavoisier, the “Father Of Modern Chemistry.” Physician Jean-Paul Marat, who must have flunked chemistry, accused Lavoisier of selling adulterated tobacco, so Lavoisier was eventually guillotined, but not before Marat was assassinated by Charlotte Corday while he took a bath. Damn, it must have been fun to read about French history as a kid over there.
…there were a bunch of flying machines including the first plane to make it across the English Channel…
…and also some old-time automobiles.
After getting some supplies at the market across the street (we discovered Dennis hangs out there a lot during the day), we got back to the apartment, which was now about as hot as the Pompidou escalator.
We attempted to locate the air conditioning unit, but none was found. In about ten minutes we got a call…Thierry was on his way up.
How to describe Thierry? I consider myself to be a very, very hyper individual. I’m not in his hyper league…plus he is organized. Carrying his motorcycle helmet, Thierry entered the apartment sort of like a mini tornado. You could tell he does not waste a lot of time or energy. He showed us how the dishwasher, washing machine and television worked. Then we asked him where the air conditioning unit was located.
It obviously was not located in the apartment, because Thierry left immediately and returned a short while later with a contraption I had never seen before. This portable air conditioner would be our indoor/outdoor air conditioning unit for the next week and a half.
He turned the machine on, connected the hose to the back of it and explained for the unit to work properly we needed to leave our door open. Fortunately, there was a second door to the balcony, so we were still locked, but I’ll admit it was not what I expected. Oh well, another quirk.
Thierry then told us that his apartment guests were going to meet the next afternoon for wine and cheese, and we were invited. We told him we were pretty busy, but hopefully could make it in time for at least one glass of wine (or two).
Thierry departed, and as Tracy and I sat at the end of the bed, we saw that we had a new roommate. We looked up just in time to see a little mouse run under our couch near the kitchen. Suddenly I had a spouse…and a mouse. We were now starring in our version of Ratatouille II. Tracy said, “I told you we should have brought the cats with us!”
We called Thierry, and he must have beamed himself back, because it seemed just as I hung up the phone he was at the door. Our newest guest (dubbed Mickey by Thierry) was not coming out. Thierry explained there are a million mice and rats in Paris, so always cognizant of the homeless population’s plight, Tracy and I had to come to the quick realization we might have a roommate. Thierry put out a couple of traps, and he was on his way.
We couldn’t dally, because we had dinner reservations with a couple from the Fodor’s Travel Board. Le Trimilou (photo from their website) had been the choice I had made for dinner and, mouse or not, we weren’t going to be late to meet up with Tom and Margie (aka tomarkot).
We quickly showered, drank a little vin rouge (we left some for Mickey if he got lonely while we were gone), and we took the short walk to our restaurant.
Upon arriving, we saw a couple out in front, and they got up and said, “MaiTaiTom?” I don’t know if they were relieved or wanted to catch the next flight to Cincinnati when I said, “Yes.”
The restaurant was nearly empty when we were seated. Our maître d’ Alain was personable from the time we sat down until later in the evening when he took our photos outside the restaurant. Tom and Margie even brought us a bottle of wine to celebrate our 20th anniversary.
The food at Le Trumilou was fine, but nothing spectacular. On the flip side, the same could not be said about our evening. You know you’re having a good time when you sit down at a nearly empty restaurant, shoot the breeze for a few hours, and don’t even notice that the once empty restaurant is now packed and noisy.
We chatted for nearly four hours until Tom and Margie realized it might be a good idea to get at least a few hours sleep before their trip home the following morning. The four of us even talked about getting together for the 2016 Rose Parade. I told them we had nice accommodations should they visit and, even better, there were no mice.
Sort of safely ensconced in our apartment, we slept with the door open because it was sweltering in there without our handy dandy, indoor/outdoor air conditioning unit running. We could have used this on the Pompidou escalator.
About 3 a.m., we were awakened by what sounded like screaming or wailing. By the time we turned the AC off, we were greeted with the sound of silence.
On subsequent nights, we became quite familiar not only with the indoor/outdoor AC, but also with an eerie wailing noise that would emanate from one unit of the apartment complex. For now, however, the three of us…
Next: Day Four – Hip To Be Square, Our House Is A Very Very Very Nice House, Tragic Story, Never Too Soon For a Macaron, A Visit To Little Poland, Louis And Marie Were Here, Visiting “That Street” For Another Smoky Lunch, Too Much Data, Too Hot To Visit Our Girlfriend, Decorative Stop, Wine Time With Thierry’s Crew, Sweatin’ To The Oldies and Our Second Best Parisian Dinner Of The Trip