Thursday, November 14, 2002

Paris: Day 1 [Arrival and a Basque dinner]

When we checked in, since we were flying international, we had to check in inside the airport at the regular counter. When we arrived, I checked our larger bag that had whatever metal objects like my SwissTool etc. But then the clerk asked to weigh our roll on bag. Because of weight (over 50 pounds) of our kit bag and other stuff (our diaries, extra eyeglasses, originals of all the burned CD’s of all my digital images of the trip*, etc.) it had to be checked through as regular luggage. We forgot that our daily medicines were in that bag. That created a problem upon our arrival in Paris because the bags got on a later flight than the one we were on. The bags were sent to the wrong hotel as well. We didn’t get the bags for two days. Fortunately, I carry a complete back up medicine and health item kit in his Eagle River back pack and S had enough of their medicine, so it did not present the emergency that it could have.

After a long time of waiting and not seeing our luggage appear on the carousel, it was determined that our luggage didn’t make the connection at LHR. Since we didn’t have luggage, we took the tram into the city and then three subway trains to the area of our hotel, getting off at the Hotel De Ville (city hall) stop. When we emerged in front of it, our reaction was WOW! [This is same exact spot that the celebrated Kiss at the Hôtel de Ville by Robert Doisneau, was shot in 1950. (left)] It is on the fashionable busy Rivoli, named after Napoleon’s 1797 victory at Rivoli. It was designed to be elegant and is similar to Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. The Hotel De Ville has a huge block plaza directly in front of it and across from the subway entrance. There was a choir concert in progress. Since we didn’t know exactly where the hotel was from the stop, even though we knew it was only two or three blocks, I tried to use the pay phone only to discover one needed a prepaid card. I waited till a fellow exited a booth and he told use about the phone system and also how to get to our hotel. He was German, so I could communicate with him a bit. Luckily, he also spoke a bit of English.

We made our way to the tiny Hotel Jeanne de Arc, at 3 rue de Jarente, a charming one block, one way street that, to us, seemed narrow enough to be an alley. It is located in the heart of the Marais. It is between rue de Sevigne on the west and rue de Turenne on the east, only one block from the Place des Vosges!
Most taxi drivers didn’t where it was! I had to show them on my marked map. The hotel was built in 1786, three years before the French Revolution. It has been a hotel for over 100 years. The façade is adorned with lanterns. It has wide vertical windows that open easily to let in fresh air and light. Our room over looked the street, but other rooms offer a view on paved courtyards filled with flowers and greenery. The style of decoration is a somewhat eccentric, the mirror in reception is truly bizarre, but the rooms are comfortable and good-sized. Ancient iron banisters lead the way up ancient stairs but a plus was the elevator with a sign advising it was good only for two guests or one guest and their luggage!

Around the corner, just off the Place du Marché Saint-Catherine, is one of the loveliest squares in Paris, a large open area surrounded by a few cafes and shops that used to be the general market. Across the street from the hotel, is a U shaped open area that was the fish market. The fountain that was used to use to wash down the area is still present.

Everyone is bundled up in scarves, but they are still sitting outside of those great coffee shops and restaurants all over the place, complete with propane radiate heaters that look like pedestal lamps!

For dinner we walked a few door west of the hotel to the Auberge de Jarente at 7 Rue de Jarente.

We ate salad and a Basque cassoulet of leg of lamb and pork sausage in white beans and a fully flavored sauce. It was excellent! Reminded me of the hearty meals he shared family style at Basque restaurants in San Francisco in the mid ’70 that no longer exist. We shared a very light and flakey slice of Basque Gateau pie with a thin filling. Since we hardly speak a word of French, the waiter had a bit of fun at our expense.

The photo was taken at the corner of our hotel is a stencil by the celebrated Miss Tic.

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