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Published: June 12th 2009
Where Have We Been ?
Sorry it's been a few days since I posted to the blog, today was my first opportunity to use the internet. I bet you thought I forgot about you guys already :-) We arrived in Paris Tuesday afternoon after what seemed like an eternity on planes, trains and automobiles. In a nutshell we flew through Charlotte, Atlanta and Dublin to get to Paris (hey, the ticket was cheap !!). When we arrived in Paris, we still had to take several trains during the Parisian rush hour before finally arriving at Cormeilles-En-Parisis, the home of our friends the Glasson family. Let me tell you, carrying suitcases on a crowded train is no more fun than driving a car in rush hour.
There is no better way to visit another country than to see it from the inside with a friend. I met my friend Pierre Glasson during high school when he came to our house in Atlanta for the summer as part of a student exchange program. We quickly became good friends and I am fortunate to have visited him in France many times since then. Today Pierre lives near Grenoble, in the French Alps (where
Erin and Napoleon
Erin looks like she is scared of Napoleon's ghost.
we are going next week) but his parents and sister still live in Paris. It is Pierre's parents, Jeanne and Annick who are very kind to host us in their house this week.
The Program for Paris.
It's been almost 7 years since the entire family visited Paris together. In fact I dont think the kids remember much of the last trip because they were age 6 and 5 at the time. The last time I visited was only 3 years ago with my brother Stefan which was a fun trip because we got to see all the "guy" stuff that no one else wanted to see. So the intent of this part of the trip is really to re-introduce the children to Paris and to visit with our friends. We plan to see some typical touristy stuff like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, as well as some lesser touristy destinations like the catacombs of Paris where the bones of thousands of people are buried beneath the city.
Monday and Tuesday were really spent traveling and resting, so Wednesday was our first full day in Paris. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating well because it
My favorite part of the museum of the army.
was windy and raining. It's ironic that before when I visited Paris it was typically in the off season like November and I expected rain but mostly got sunshine, but now in June when I expected good weather I got rain instead !!
Our mitigation plan was to visit indoor museums near the Eiffel Tower district, which could be considered the epicenter of Paris tourism. Did you know that Paris is the most touristed city in the world ? We started near Les Invalides at the Tomb of Napolean. It's a fantastic place and Napolean's tomb is HUGE. He is buried in 6 different coffins, one inside the other like the little Russian dolls. Next door we visited the Museum of the Liberation, an inside look at the resistance in France during World War 2. Erin just learned about World War 2 in history class so this helped the lessons be more meaningful.
Down the hall was the Museum of the Army, full of shiny armor, swords, and sundry other medieval weapons. My favorite thing to do here is pick out the odd pieces of armor, like the helmets that have the shape of a mustache made into
Look at the Mustache
Erin says, "Look at the moustache !!":
them. Other sections of the museum include exhibits on World War 1 and 2, full of more weapons like machine guns, bazookas and the like. Bring any boys over the age of 3 here, and you can leave them all day. Personally, I was fixated on the tank which was outside in one of the alcoves. I made Tiffany take several photos of me and the tank until they were just right :-)
What is an Ugliono?
A) What Italian parents name their kids they don't like.
B) A sculpture by Rodin
C) A gastronomic speciality of France
If you answered "A" I hope you don't have any kids, if you answered "C" please don't ever take me to lunch but if you answered "B" you are correct. We spent part of the afternoon visiting the museum of Rodin. It was my first time at this museum. I don't really consider myself a patron of the arts, but I do like history and architecture. If you don't know Rodin, maybe you know his most famous sculpture called, "The Thinker" or maybe "The Gates of Hell". I must admit, the inside of the museum was not very inspiring (you
Rooms full of armor at the museum
really have to be into art) but the outside gardens with the most popular sculptures was very cool.
After Rodin, we decided to walk along the Champs De Mars which leads to the Eiffel Tower. Even though the sky was overcast, I was hoping we could climb to the second level of the tower and get a nice view. Sadly the faint drizzle turned into a downpour before we could make our attack at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Instead, we beat a hasty retreat down a side street. Here things took a turn for the worse. We should have gone back the same way we came, but we got turned around and ended up taking the long way back to the Metro. And I mean really long. Imagine being soaked with a fire hose while you walked. That's how I felt when I finally reached the train. When the train finally arrived in Cormeilles, the rain had reached torrential levels with floods of water cascading down the narrow streets. Fortunately, Jean saved us by picking us up in his car at the station. Needless to say, we were all glad when it was time to go to
Erin holds up a cannon.
bed that night.
I thought I would try a section at the end of each blog to capture some random musing that didn't quite fit the storyline. Let me know if this works for you.
It's embarrassing how little French I remember even after 3 years of learning the language in College. Fortunately my friends are kind enough to endure my improper conjugation of verbs and overall poor grammar. Verbs and nouns are remembered quickly when you are forced to have a real conversation. For the moment it seems like the best I can do is describe everything in the present tense even if the event happened 3 years ago. I hated the original English grammar classes, so it's no surprise that my mind has blocked out the French versions as well. The biggest irony is that my wife Tiffany, whose bachelor degree is in French, relies on me to do most of the talking. Then she corrects me after every conversation. I think there is a new application of the phrase "back seat driver" I can use here. It has left me wondering where is the real time version of the Google translator
that I can pipe through my bluetooth headset ?
Everything Just Tastes Better in France
- All the food in France is incredible. Even the simple foods burst with flavor like the tomato salad with basil and mustard and oil dressing we had the first night at dinner. Or the strawberries we had for dessert. Foods I would not normally eat like fish are hard to resist. And where else can you get a giant sized crepe with Nutella and Bananas from a street vendor for 3 euros ? Fortunately we walk alot each day, so we are burning the calories (or so I tell myself).
Je vois le Blackberry en tous le Paris
(I see the Blackberry everywhere in Paris)
- It's funny how you can easily pick out the differences or similarities between cultures if you just try. For example, I have been looking at everyone's phones when we ride the Metro and have found many similarities. So far, the Blackberry outnumbers the iPhone about 4 to 1. I am sure if I went to the Sorbonne the ratio would be different. There is a big 3G network in Paris so it was somewhat surprising that
I didnt see more smart phones overall. My unscientific guess is that the market penetration in Paris is somewhat behind that of USA for smart phones and data network usage but catching up fast. I dont know if the pricing model plays into the equation. In france, the caller pays for the phone call even you if you receive it on your cell phone or "portable". This can also lead to alot of switched off phones so messages roll right to voicemail where they can be retrieved for free.
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