Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 06.06.16
Just Outside Washington

All photos courtesy the author and Kathy Cavanaugh

Paris Days

PARIS | There were six of us from the night flight who were greeted in the Charles De Gaul Airport by Viking representatives. The reps shepherded us onto the bus and then to our hotel, a modern affair near the Tour Eiffel. Conventional travel wisdom is that after a night flight, one should adopt local time. So once checked in, we were revived by lunch at le Beaujolais, a nearby brasserie.

Wine in hand, we all chose typical fare for petite déjeuner -- Croque Monsieur, soupe à l'oignon, and Quiche Lorraine -- while seated in the enclosed sidewalk café enjoying the passing scene. The bright yellow Lamborghini playing Grand Prix on the Avenue de Suffren was a hit.

After lunch we strolled around the Tour Eiffel, which was only a ten minute walk away. It was a bright sunny Sunday; and the Champ de Mars had thousands of people -- tourists and locals -- enjoying the day. We were surprised, although we should not have been, to see heavily armed military strolling the walkways in groups of three; no one paid the least attention. You cannot visit the Tour Eiffel without being offered souvenirs; the sellers all seemed to have come from the French African colonies.


After the walk around the Champ de Mars and on the Quai Branly along the Seine, we returned to our hotel to freshen up and prepare for dinner. We agreed to meet in the hotel bar at 6:30; and after one drink we decided it was much too pricy and not sufficiently Parisian so we walked to restaurant, le Trentehuite. We were greeted by a friendly staff whose English was better than our fractured French and who arranged a seating arrangement for the six of us. We ordered a bottle of the house red and a bottle of the house white to help us decide what to have to eat. It was a delightful evening.


Viking included a guided walking tour of le Marias district in our three-night Paris stay, which we embarked after a good night's sleep and breakfast. Le Marias, which means swamp, during the mid-13th century became home to Charles I of Anjou; and in the 17th century, when the Royal Square was built under King Henri IV, became the French nobility's favorite place of residence. (There are so many Charles and Henrys in French and English history, I can never keep them straight.)

Until the 18th century, French nobles constructed urban mansions, hôtels particuliers, which provide the character to the district. In the 18th century le Marias became the Jewish quarter of Paris as the nobility moved to the Faubourg Saint-Germain. The mansions had servant quarters and other supporting structures on the street with an entrance passage into the garden that the mansions faced.


The district also has many less imposing buildings that were turned into relatively small apartments. Also, there are many fashionable shops, which our guide in the boots and red coat surely frequented.


As our guide pointed out, because the apartments are small, Parisians live in the public spaces: parks, playgrounds, and sidewalk cafes. Once again we saw a military patrol, three men in full combat mode.

After the tour, Kathy and I visited Notre Dame with Ruth and Ron. Kathy and I had not been inside on our two previous trips to the cathedral. The line for those without reservations was very long and wound around the square in front of the cathedral. There are many churches in Europe, but Notre Dame is a must see. Afterward spending time in the church, we had lunch at one of the many small bistros near Notre Dame.

In Paris there is much to see and do, and everyone had their own priority list. After lunch the group split; Kathy and I walked around the left bank, through the Latin Quarter, past the Sorbonne and up the hill to the Pantheon. We did not go inside and did not see Foucault's pendulum.



As we walked down the hill on the Rue Soufflot, we could see the Tour Eiffel, which did not look that far away. When we reached the Luxembourg Garden, we decided that it was too far to walk and decided to take a cab to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Ruth and Ron were off on their own; the rest of the group found the Rive Gauche, a restaurant near the hotel. It was a proper restaurant, as opposed to a bistro, run by a Vietnamese family. We were followed into the restaurant by an elderly gentleman wearing a cashmere overcoat and gloves; it was a little cool. He was obviously a regular; he was greeted warmly, seated in what appeared to be 'His' table and served without ordering, including one glass of red wine. We ordered and were served a little more slowly and had an excellent dinner. We also walked back to the hotel a little more slowly.

After breakfast the three couples were on our own. The day was sunny and a little cool. Kathy and I walked along the Quai Branly and Quai d'Orsey to the Musée d'Orsay, which is a little over two miles. This took us along the Seine past the Esplanade des Invilades and the Bourbon Palace. Across the Pont Alexandre III we could see the Grand Palace and Petit Palace on either side of the Avenue Winston Churchill.



Further along across the river was the Place de la Concorde, sporting a giant Ferris wheel, and then the Jardin des Tuileries. It was a fine day. We reached Musée d'Orsay at 10 AM, the opening time and, of course, there was a line. To avoid the lines, reservations can be made, which we did not do. The museum was a former train station. The picture below shows the concourse. The museum has an extensive collection of Expressionist and Art Deco art. When we were in the Louvre last year, I did not see any artist making copies of the paintings as I had seen in my visit years ago. At Musée d'Orsay we spotted an artist copying a Van Gogh.



After spending a couple of hours in the museum, the urge for food arose. We headed for the Cafe Les Deux Magots. The café was a favorite of the literary and intellectual élite of the city. Patrons included Surrealist artists, intellectuals including Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We were seated in the covered sidewalk café with a great view of St-Germain-des-Pres, I think half of the people in Paris must have walked by. Their dress started at grunge and extended to fashion; dogs were clearly in vogue. We had a delightful waiter and a wonderful lunch -- avec vin, naturellment.


After lunch we walked back to the Musée d'Orsay where we caught the Batobus, a hop-on/hop-off boat, which took us up the Seine to the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden) where it turns around to go back down river. We noticed several couples on the quai where the women were wearing long white dresses with trains; it is definitely a popular place for wedding photographs. The boat offered great, different views of all the attractions along the Seine. We stayed on the Batobus until the last stop at the Tour Eiffel. From this stop on the Quai Branly, we had a short walk to our hotel.


Ruth and Ron had dinner reservation at Le 58 Tour Eiffel so there were just the four of us for our last dinner in Paris. At the recommendation of the Concierge, we made reservations at Le Suffren on Avenue de Suffren. The walk was longer than anticipated, but the food and service were excellent. And the wine flowed. TO BE CONTINUED