Saturday, August 2 - More of Paris, and Off to Vernon

I am soooo far behind in writing this entry for Saturday – it is Sunday afternoon and I am just now getting to putting some words together to describe our second day in Paris.   First, a word about why there are so few photos to accompany the text of our journey: The Wi-Fi that we are able to access here in France is, to put it mildly, excruciatingly slow!  (That is my best effort at being politically correct in this regard.)  So we have resigned ourselves to the reality of having to post the majority of our pictures after we arrive back in the States.  I know this is disappointing to our readers, but we will keep trying on the off-chance that we can get a strong-enough signal to upload at least of few of the many shots that we have both taken…

Even after a lovely, extremely non-stressful day on Friday, it was still amazing how fatigued we were and how welcome it was to hit the bed in our stateroom.  However, we were both very well-rested and ready to hit the streets of Paris again when our entourage took off on three large buses to see some of the sights a bit more distant from our dock.

The famous Paris Metro entry sign surrounded by amazing Parisian architecture.

Typical fire station in Paris.

Eifel Tower photo taken from the upper deck of the Neptune at dusk.

Today, our guide was Sandrine and our incredibly capable driver was Vincent, who navigated even the most narrow and winding of the Paris thoroughfares with consummate skill.  Together they took us past the Arche de Triomphe, along Embassy row in the most upscale neighborhood, and ultimately to the Hotel de Ville, or Town Hall, where we alit from the bus to trek down a charming street toward the first destination we would actually enter, the soaring gothic cathedral of Notre Dame.

Inside this imposing edifice we were able to take in the benefits derived from the 11
th century architecture that allows for the inclusion of much taller windows than its Romanesque predecessor.  One’s eye is drawn upward to the vaulted ceiling high above, where Sandrine explained the science behind that expanse of stone seemingly suspended weightlessly, without the aid of modern cranes or construction elevators.  We were given a few moments to explore the periphery of the basilica, which consists of one chapel after another commissioned by Parisian families, both royal and bourgeois, over the centuries since the church’s origination.

An amazing man and his tricycle taxi service near the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Back outside Notre Dame, we had some free time to wend our way back to the meeting place at the Hotel de Ville.  Fortunately (or perhaps not!) the street was lined with shops filled with all the types of items that tourists are always on the prowl for – T-shirts, ball caps, miniatures of the Eiffel Tower and the like.  We took a few minutes to play our part in supporting the French economy, and then continued back to re-join our group.

From the Hotel de Ville we were taken to the enormous expanse of lawn and garden that stretches between the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides, the hospital dedicated to caring for French military casualties that also houses the imposing sarcophagus of the first Emperor Napoleon.  Here we again able to leave the bus to get “up close and personal” with the Tower for photographs.  It seemed as though the entire population of the city had chosen to be at the site with us, and we could see people crowding both levels of the Tower to take advantage of the view of the city.  Sandrine told us that those levels are really the best for viewing the panorama of the metropolis, as the vista from the highest deck tends to flatten the perspective. 

Paris is a city unlike most in my experience, as there is only one district that contains what we would deem to be skyscrapers.  The rest of the city appears to consist of building of 6-7 stories or less, as they were built before the advent of the elevator.  When there was greater class distinction in the Parisian society, the “haves” resided on the second floor (referred to as the “first” floor in Europe) above the shops which occupied the ground level space, while there servants lived on the higher floors.  Thus, as one traverses the streets of the city, the balconies where one could see and be seen line up outside all the second-floor dwellings.

This is a replica the United States sent to France that rests on an island not far from Neptune.

The architecture of the older parts of the city is exquisite, and I really have to compliment the French for their efforts in preserving this part of their heritage.   There is a regular schedule for keeping the outsides of the buildings cleaned; it is remarkable (and sad) to observe the difference that just a few years in our modern pollution can produce in the look of a stone building’s façade.

After a brief sojourn at the Tower we were returned to the Neptune for lunch and re-grouping.  Quite a few of our company opted to brave the throngs at the Louvre, while Gary and I chose to stay aboard and work on our napping badges, and, of course, on this narrative.

Just after one of the buses returned from the Louvre, the heavens opened with a cleansing shower for about 30 minutes.  From our perch in the small gathering space above the Reception Desk, we became aware of a slight disturbance as it was disclosed that one of the ladies on the second bus had failed to join the rest of her group at the appointed time, and there was quite of bit of concern about her welfare.  As it turned out, upon realizing the time, she thought that she had missed the bus and proceeded to obtain the services of a taxi.  At the outset of her journey back to the ship the driver told her it would be about 20 minutes to get her back, but then protest demonstrations by Palestinian supporters intervened, doubling the time (and the fare) necessary to deliver her to her (by then) frantic husband, who had chosen not to accompany her to the museum.

The other busload of weary travelers finally made its way back home, and the crew prepared to get us underway up the Seine toward the small town of Vernon, from which we will take the short hop to the tiny village of Giverny, where the quintessential Impressionist Claude Monet spent the second half of his life.  Once cast off, we passed by a succession of beautiful riverside homes and houseboats and through a series of six locks, continuing to steam along through the darkest hours of the night while all the ship’s guests (including yours truly) were dreaming of water lilies and Japanese bridges painted in heavenly pastel hues.

Until tomorrow, then!

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