Monday, June 18, 2018
We were greeted by a drizzly light rain and so decided on breakfast at the restaurant next door. For our morning activity we chose to visit the Arc de Triomphe and surrounding area. The metro was again our mode of transportation and it even got a bit easier to find our way around in the underground world of stairs, trains, crowds of people and many levels! It was dry by the time we got to the Arc de Triomphe: we admired the structure and decided against going up in it. We were amazed at how the traffic flows and finds its way around the Arc on a huge roundabout.
We walked along the Champs Elysees and Brian ended up doing some shopping at very reasonable prices to our surprise. It got closer to lunch time and we found the entrance to a metro station after asking someone for directions. The search for the right train to take us to Luxembourg station began again. This station is the closest to the Pantheon where we were to meet our local guide for our urban adventure. Across from the metro station was a nice clothing shop where Eke found a neat outfit – also very reasonably priced. We treated ourselves this morning.
Lunch was Quiche Lorraine with a salad at one of the many pubs and restaurants along the street. Then it was time to meet our guide and yes, he was there! We were supposed to be joined by two more people – they did not show up. Maybe they had the wrong day too! We introduced ourselves to Artur and he told us about the Saint Germain area which we were about to explore. He was very easygoing and friendly. We started out looking at the University of Paris faculty of law and then walked by the Sorbonne University – both very impressive old buildings. We were quite impressed by the fact that these buildings were not damaged during the Second World War. Artur told us that France did not fight well in that war – but made a good surrender. They collaborated with the German occupiers a lot at the expense of a large number of people.
Saint Germain Street is lined with bookshops and libraries. Artur told us that this was the area where the intellectuals lived, studied and discussed issues and ideas. The apartments on this street are very expensive. An apartment of 25 square meters cost 375,000 Euros. He led us into a small private courtyard where the walls were covered with climbing vines and the atmosphere was very peaceful. Some of the streets behind Saint Germain were still the old cobble stones. We sat on a little bench in one of the narrow streets across from the oldest café in Paris where Robespierre and Richelieu conspired during the French revolution. Again – realizing the significance of that historic event and sitting where they spoke made us feel like being a small part of history.
Artur brought us to a patisserie where he treated us to a very sticky, sweet Beignet – made of flour, butter and sugar, a local delicacy. Different tastes were added to the simple recipe: Brian had a raspberry and Eke a pistachio. Of course we ended up buying some nice French macrons and nut brittle. As a gift for Eke’s sisters we bought each a small jar of caramel sauce with sea salt.
We ended the tour at Place Dauphine which is the oldest square in Paris. We had a drink (wine of course!) with some cheese, baguette and prociutto ham. After the nice break we were introduced to the game petanque – jeu de boulle. Each person gets three heavy metal balls the size of tennis balls. One person gets a very small ball. Next a small circle is made in the sand which is the place to stand as the small ball is thrown at least 4 meters away. Then we took turns throwing our balls with the goal to get our balls as close as possible to the small one. The person who gets the closest is the winner of the game. There is a certain way of throwing the balls – holding it in the downward facing palm of your hand.
A neighbourhood older man with real character encouraged the three of us and coached us how far the small ball had to be thrown. He even placed it for us when we didn’t do it right! He really got into the game with us and we made him part of it. Part of the tradition is to drink a glass of pastis (a licorice-flavoured liqueur) as we play. Eke did not like the taste but our “coach” was happy to drink it.
As we were playing a younger French man suggested the three of us (Artur, Brian, Eke) play against him. He taught us the rules and was very strict on us – we had to stand at least two meters behind him when he was throwing his balls. He was very good at hitting our balls away from the small one when we were too close for him! We had a lot of fun and laughed a lot even though we were badly humiliated with a score of 11-0! This guy was a pro. He told us that he was forty-three years old and had been playing for more than thirty years. We told him that we were in our seventies and that we had been playing for thirty minutes.
People watched us as they sat on the benches in the square. Two women tourists from The United States were sitting on a bench and watching our bags for us. We had a neat interaction with them. It felt like we were part of a neighbourhood game. Artur had to go (he was to play in a tennis tournament) and that was the end of a very enjoyable afternoon!
We treated ourselves to an ice cream and walked across the bridge to find a metro station. We found the train we needed and because it was close to 6pm the train was crowded! We got safely to our hotel and were glad to stretch out and rest our feet. Eke went out for some fruit, water and croissants. The croissants were our dinner. Then it was time to pack for the following day as we were leaving Paris for the Netherlands.
A good time was had in Paris! Au revoir!
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Paris to Franeker.
In the morning we took a taxi to the train station – Gare de Nord - which took quite a while because of rush hour traffic.
At the station we found a place for breakfast. The door to the restaurant was opened for us by a big burly man in a well-tailored black suit. We were led to a table by a similarly dressed maitre d’. Service was by young men and women in traditional Parisian waiter garb. The table was laid out with a white table cloth and white linen napkins. This was all a sign for what was to be our most expensive breakfast ever. A croissant, jam, orange juice and coffee/tea cost over thirty euros, just under fifty dollars Canadian.
The high-speed train left on time 10:25 am and it was a very comfortable way to travel! The train reached a speed of 302km/hour and we felt at times like we were literally flying! We stopped in Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam and arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol in three hours. At Schiphol we bought tickets for the Sprinter train to Hoorn with three minutes to spare for the next one leaving – and made it! Pietsje and Fokke were waiting in Hoorn and drove us the last hour to their house in Franeker!
Here endeth the journal and beginneth the family visit for a week.