Monday, June 24

I visit the Arc de Triomphe and take a long walk down the Champs Élysées and back home.

Drinking my morning coffee about to get ready to go over to the right bank and rub shoulders with my betters. Must be recess at the elementary school across the alley because I hear lots of little kids screaming and yelling as they play. Very pleasant. Very chilly here this morning. Brrr.

Discovered a great cure for the chilliness problem. There's a towel warmer in my bathroom. I turned it on and hung my bathrobe on it while I showered. Nice and toasty now!

Yes, officially chilly. My weather app says 14 right now with a high of only 17. That's about 57 and 63 degrees to all you ugly Americans. And of course "averses" in the forecast (rain showers). It's Paris, after all.

The Châtelet métro station is amazing. I transferred there from ligne 7 to ligne 1 on my way to the Arc de Triomphe. It's more like an underground airport terminal than a subway station. Huge, complete with moving sidewalks like at an airport. The ligne 1 trains and stations are much nicer than the other lines. Ligne 1 runs up and down the Champs Élysées with stops at all the big tourist attractions.

I have now graduated to the next level in managing my coins. I keep the 1 euro coins in addition to the 2 euro coins and the bills in my "real money" pocket. I disposed of my small mountain of lesser coins in a métro station today. Gave them to some musicians in the Châtelet station. You see and hear them in every station and on every train, playing for tips from tourists like me who don't understand the coins.

Visited the Arc de Triomphe today, then took a long random walk back home. Best way to see Paris. Don't make a plan. Just start walking and go off in whatever direction looks interesting. But bring a map (app).

Learned a new verb today, "réjour". It means to delight or please. I think I could say "étre à Paris me réjouit", "being in paris delights me". In the reflexive form se réjouir it means to be glad or delighted. For example, "je me réjouis de ton marriage", "I'm delighted that you're getting married". Se réjouir trop vite means to celebrate too early, count your chickens before they're hatched, or cry victory too early. Se rejouir de may also mean to look forward to or anticipate a future event. E.g., "je ne me réjouis pas de retourner à Chicago cet automne", "I don't look forward to returning to Chicago this fall."

You can also use attendre avec impatience to say "look forward to". E.g., "j'attends avec impatience mon cours", "I look forward to my class". Literally "wait for with impatience". But I kind of like "je me réjouis de mon cours" better.

France has serious problems with sexism, racism, and homophobia, in many ways as bad as or worse than in the US. Do we have a race problem? Sure we do. But think about being a young Algerian Frenchman or Frenchwoman living in the Parisian banlieues. That's no better than being a young black person living in the slums of Chicago. And their educational system, although generally excellent especially for very young children, is very bifurcated. At a very young age children are tracked. If you get into one of the elite grandes écoles, you have it made for life, but only the top 1 or 2% make it. If not, you'll never reach the top, and at best you get to spend 4 or more long years at a mediocre second-class university. It's brutal, and it all starts when the kids are so very young. There's huge amounts of pressure. One gentleman I spoke to a few days ago had a son at a prestigious high school near here (actually, just down the street) called Lycée Henri IV, prepping for a precious slot in one of the those grandes écoles. He was so proud of his son. My old French teacher Sara, a parisienne, was at École Normale Superieur, one of the grandes écoles, also very nearby here in Paris in the 5th arrondissement, and we had a conversation one day comparing her experience on the fast track from a young age to my experience as a "high achiever" in the Bloomington Minnesota school system. Lots of similarities. She talked about having to take some of her classes at the "regular" schools, and how the kids there resented her and were mean to her. Very interesting. No, this place is beautiful, and the people are generally wonderful, but it's not perfect. Far far from it.

The French are constantly air-kissing each other on the cheek. It's called "faire la bise". Here in Paris you do it twice, once on each side. In other parts of France it's a different number. Four times in la Touraine and in Normandy, I think. Women do it with each other all the time, men and women frequently, and even men and men sometimes, but not often. I've seen all kinds here. It's cute and foreign to us Americans.

In the States we often hug each other on similar occasions of greeting or saying goodbye, with family and good friends. My teacher Élodie told us that this is considered way too intimate in France, with the bodies touching like that. She got a really disgusted look on her face when she said that, like "ewwww, gross". Interesting, isn't it?

Sign at the entrance to the elementary school across my alley. I paused and read it as I left to go to over to the right bank. You see these signs outside of nearly all the schools in Paris, but this is already "my school" and "my kids", and it made me cry.

Translation:

In memory of the children, 
students at this school, 
deported from 1942 to 1944 
because they were born Jewish, 
innocent victims 
of the Nazi barbarism 
with the active complicity 
of the Vichy government.

There were exterminated 
in the death camps.

We will never forget them.

The Arc de Triomphe.

Statuary at the Arc de Triomphe.

The Champs Élysées, from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I'll be here at least 2 more times, for the Bastille day parade and for the finish of the Tour de France bicycle race.

Had a very nice chat with a young man from Mexico City while taking this picture. He studied theology. Very interesting fellow. Perhaps one of the best parts of visiting these tourist attractions is chatting up random other tourists from different parts of the world and comparing notes.

Nice to know that I'm indeed not lost. This must be the Champs Élysées on the right bank. The Michigan Avenue of Paris, only taken to ridiculous extremes.

The Grand Palais, built for the 1900 world's fair. The largest iron and glasswork structure in the world. The building is used as an exhibition hall and also has a science museum and a contemporary art gallery.

At this point I left the Champs Élysées and crossed over the river to the left bank on Pont Alexander III. This is one of the famous statues. There's four of them, one at each corner of the bridge.

The Hôtel National des Invalides, now a military museum, le Musée de l'Armée.

Jules Hardouin Mansart's famous chapel dome.

Esplanade de Souvenir Français in the 7th arrondissement. It was a very pleasant walk down the entire length of this esplanade, under the trees you see on the right. At this point I was getting far away from the tourist spots and into the regular neighborhoods of Paris.

The high rent district. I wonder how much these apartments cost? Way out of my league, I'm sure.

This was in the southern part of the 7th, just to the west of the intersection of rue de Sévres and Boul du Montparnesse. I believe the street in the picture is Av. de Breteuil, just about at the Esplanade Jacques Chaban-Deimas.

After a long walk down rue de Sèvres, Boulevard du Montparnesse, and rue de Vaugirard, I arrived at one my favorite places in the world, le Jardin du Luxembourg. This is a statue of the poet Paul Verlaine, who used to live just down the street from my apartment.

At this point I was in familiar surroundings and on my way home. I believe that the route I took must be pretty much the same as the one Hemingway often took on his way home after visiting Gertrude Stein, as described in "A Moveable Feast".

Little kids playing in Jardin du Luxembourg. I think watching these wonderful little kids enjoying themselves is when I stopped crying. Life goes on.

People playing boules in the Jardin du Luxumbourg.

The central garden of the Jardin du Luxumbourg and the Palais du Luxembourg, where the French senate meets.

The Panthéon. I'm now officially back in my neighborhood. Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and many other luminaries are entombed in crypts here. Well worth a visit. I paid homage on my last trip to Paris in 2006. They were doing some major renovation work all summer, but it was still open for people to visit.

After stopping at shops to restock my larder with the essentials (coffee, milk, wine, charcuterie, bread, and stinky cheese), I finally arrived back home. Chez moi enfin! That's the door of my apartment building, and the window of my apartment.

You have to tap a code on that keypad to unlock the big blue door and get in the building. Then I have a key for my apartment door, just to the left of the entrance.

It's almost 9 pm, and I just realized that I haven't eaten all day. Not good. I'm doing that too much. Time for a few sandwiches, some stinky Roquefort, and a glass of Bordeaux. Rats, should have gotten some mustard.

The view out my window. That's my alley, rue Rollin, and the building across the alley is where Descartes lived. The elementary school is just down the alley to the right.

I call it an alley like we would at home. In French, it's a "rue piétonne', a pedestrian street, or perhaps "une ruelle".

It's a very lively street with people passing by all the time, especially when the school lets out in the afternoon and all the parents come to pick up their little ones.

I leave my window open when I'm home. Usually just a little bit for fresh air, but not enough so people can look in. It's closed and locked when I'm away. There's no screen. I don't think they exist in Paris. At least, I never saw one anywhere.