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Paris--Tuesday through Thursday

London to Paris--Par le vous English?

rain 52 °F

Paris--Tuesday through Thursday

Hallo, Paris! Bonjour! Vive la France!

Tuesday
I was up early, had my last Full English Breakfast, then took a cab to S. Pancras International, where I caught the Eurostar (bullet train) under the English Channel to Parish. I had a full window seat, as recommended by the website: the Man in Seat 61. It was incredibly smooth and fast (speeds up to 300KPH); none of the clickety-clack or rocking back and forth.

I was in Paris in about 2 hours, 15 minutes, took a cab to my Hotel, in the 1st District, most centrally located, and a two block walk to the Louvre.

It was cold and rainy. I walked about to get myself oriented, walked along the Right Bank of the Seine River, and couldn’t believe I was in Paris. I don’t even SPEAK French; what am I doing here?

Finally, on the Eurostar, I had broken out the iPad and plugged in my earbuds to listen to some French phrases, only to discover that what I was listening to were French carols! I quickly consulted iBook’s Lonely Planet guide, which gave me some good phrases laid out phonetically (basically, forget trying to figure out how things should sound by looking at the phrase; just memorise how they are supposed to sound!). That and sister Debbie’s advice on French manners was going to have to do for this American in Paris.

This was my first time in Paris, and definitely outside my comfort zone. It’s far more comfortable to be travelling in a group (which we all do and have done), and someone else speaks the language, makes the arrangements, etc. I was deep into the solo part of sabbatical journey. I began with one of my sisters, Robin, and will end it with the company of Navy chum Kevin, sister Debbie and dear friends Fr Michael & Elizabeth Pumphrey. So, this is all balanced by companions and solo time.

But this part is the solo part. Stephen the Hermit; solo in the middle of Paris.

This makes me ponder what God has in store for me in Paris; not merely being the proverbial American in Paris (which I would listen to later in the evening). It’s not merely new experiences; as beneficial as these are for any attentive traveller.

But what will God say to me here? I’m aware that some of these questions may not reveal answers in the midst of my journeys; but only subsequently, days or weeks later. I’m finding it helpful to have a few days’ lag on the blog; not only because sometimes the day is filled with activities and shooting and then transferring photos, but because my heart and mind don’t necessarily process everything on the same day.

Though I didn’t plan it this way (remember my quote: if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans?), train travel is meditative, and allows me the opportunity to think out-loud on the keyboard.

Wednesday in Paris
The day broke cool but sunny. I took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower (yes, braved the subway; out of my comfort zone again).

I hadn’t planned well enough in advance, and the Fast Pass tickets were not available. But I was determined to go all the way to the top, regardless.

Some of you will recognise my internal schedule at work here; once I have it in my mind to do something, once it is scheduled, I’m going to do it; even if it turns out to be not so good an idea after all, and I’m fully aware of it as my carefully scripted plan is unfolding. This was one of these times.

The line was daunting, but I persevered. After 1 hour and 45 minutes, I was at the first level; 30 minutes later, at the top. Of course, it was windy and cold, and I was starving for lunch along with everyone else. Still the views were spectacular. Another item on my Bucket List checked. Like Ellis Island in NYC, I’m glad I went; but I won’t go up again, no matter how many times I wonder past or raise my camera to get yet another shot of it.

I found a good way to get MY picture taken: spot a couple taking pictures of one another (always spot the guy with a big Nikon or Canon), and ask if they’d like me to shoot them together. Then I ask the guy or gal with the big camera to shoot me, which they are happy to do. It simply doesn’t work to point the camera at yourself, like you see folk doing with their iPhones.

After about half an hour, I was done.

Like I say, I’m glad I went up, but this was very touristy, and it shot a big hole in the day. I walked the entire way back to the 1st District along the Seine, coming upon the American Cathedral.

In perhaps a metaphor for the American Church in general, it was closed for prayer and meditation, but in the gymnasium below, there was a martial arts class in progress.

Along the Seine, I came upon the cleanest free public toilet in Paris. After every use, the door closes, it self flushes and disinfects itself, and the floor is washed. Naturally, I had to try this out, if only for the experience.

After a refresher break at my hotel, and with tired feet and joints that were crying out for Motrin, I went to dinner at a sidewalk cafe on the Plaza of Joan of Arc. I found a single table (they all face out to the street so you can people watch and make comments), and had a glass of wine and a quiche.

It was so calming and quintessentially Parisian that I found myself staying longer than I had planned. Finally, I looked at my watch, realised it was past 9.30PM (though still very light), and reluctantly paid my bill and returned to the room to download more photos.

Thursday:
Today I took a walking guided tour. Tyler, our young 20s something guide from Philadelphia, had his BA in French literature and culture, so was the perfect guide. We walked all over central Paris, and he gave us history, monument information, etc.

It was marred only by an Ugly American; basically loud, rude and arrogant (oh, and wealthy; he made sure we all knew about that). Still, even he couldn’t mar the entire tour.

I had a late lunch, my major meal of the day. It had increasingly turned cold and rainy, so I ate indoors. Of course, I had to have escargot and fillet of duck, both of which were excellent. Then it was home to pack and get an early bed; I had plans for my last morning in Paris!

Posted by stbrides 10:17 Archived in France

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