Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 53: Paris, France
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Day 50: Arromanches, France
Day 51: Caen, France
Day 52: Plasir, France
Day 53: Paris, France
Day 54: Paris, France
Day 55: Paris, France
Day 56: Paris, France
Day 57: Flying Home



Hotel Moderne St. Germain


Mostly sunny with a high of 19°C


Day 53: Friday, October 27    Paris, France

Crazy Drivers in Paris; Wandering la Rive Gauche; Jenny from North Battleford

We had another excellent, huge complementary breakfast in our hotel in Plaisir and set out for Paris on the freeways.  Ken was not looking forward to driving in Paris and his worst fears were soon realized.  We had just exit the freeway at Porte d'Orleans on Av. du General LeClerc when we came to a stop light at a six-way intersection.  We were first in line at the lights to proceed straight through the intersection.  (Click on the Google satellite map at left - we were about were the red arrow is pointing.)  Pretty soon first one taxi, then another and another and another came flying by us on the right hand side, cut in front and screeched to a halt at a 45° angle, all four stacked in a row (much like the other cars in the photo except they were on more of an angle)All we could do was wait

Satellite view of Av. du General LeClerc intersection.

until they made their turns and then we could continue on our way.

We eventually arrived at Rue des Ecoles which was the street our hotel was on.  We later found out why it was called the Street of Schools - there were several schools, colleges and universities on this street or just off it.  It was too early to check in so we stored our luggage at the hotel and Kathryn did a good job of navigating us to the Gare de Lyon, the train station were we dropped off our car.  Ken was relieved that he would not have to drive anymore on our holiday.  We decided we would walk the 2.5 km back to our hotel and see some of Paris.

Crazy Fact
Kathryn had booked the Hotel Moderne St. Germain back in February.  Some months later she was going through an old Paris tourist book that she had used the last time she was there in the 80's. 
She came across a receipt stuck in the book for a stay at the Hotel St. Jacques.  The address sounded familiar and when she looked it up on the Internet she found that the St. Jacques was right next door to the St. Germain - what a crazy coincidence.

We crossed over the Seine on the Charles de Gaulle Bridge and came upon the Jardin des Plantes, the main botanical garden in France. It covers 28 hectares (280,000 m²). The Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle is situated within the garden.  In addition to the gardens there is also an aquarium and a small zoo, founded in 1795 by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre from animals of the royal menagerie at Versailles.  We cut through the Gardens and then passed by the University of Pierre and Marie Currie and the University Dennis Diderot before

Kathryn in the Jardin des Plantes

arriving at Rue des Ecoles.  We had read in our Frommer's France guide about a restaurant called Breakfast in America.  It turned out it was only a block and a half from our hotel.  Its self-proclaimed mission involves dispensing proper, rib-sticking American breakfasts and diner food to a generation of Parisians who assume, prior to their visits here, that coffee comes only as espresso and that quantities, per meal, are rigidly limited. To their delight, coffee cups here are "bottomless," and food items, especially breakfast items, evoke the good old days of America's bountiful agrarian

past. The venue replicates a 1950s-era railway car, replete with scarlet-and-black Naugahyde banquettes, faux windows with mirrored insets, and an unabashedly Americanized staff.  It was very crowded and we had to grab a table outside.  It turned out that our waitress Jenny was a girl from North Battleford, Saskatchewan who had come to Paris to visit a boyfriend and had stayed three years.  She was happy to know that because we were Canadians, we wouldn't want a spoon with our muffins which apparently the French do.  When she brought our food, Ken asked her "Ou est la cuillère (the spoon)?"  She started to apologize until she realized he was only kidding.  The food was good and we came back again.  We went back to the hotel and checked in. 

Ken eating at Breakfast in America.  Our waitress Jenny is serving just by the door

We then walked three blocks north to the Seine (
who would have thought that a boy who used to go skinny-dipping in Moose Jaw Creek would be walking along la Rive Gauche) and Notre Dame de Paris.   The Gothic cathedral lies on the eastern half of an island ,called the Île de la Cité, with its main entrance to the west. It is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.  We entered the cathedral and took a few photos inside. 
We then went a block west and a few blocks back south along side the historic University of Paris, which
first appeared in the second half of the 12th

Notre Dame de Paris

century, but was in 1970 reorganized as 13 autonomous universities. The university is often referred to as the Sorbonne after the collegiate institution (Collège de Sorbonne) founded about 1257 by Robert de Sorbon, but the university as such is older and was never completely centred on the Sorbonne. Of the 13 current successor universities, the first four have a presence in Sorbonne, and three include Sorbonne in their names. The University of Paris remains one of the most famous and prestigious of universities in the world,

The Sorbonne

having produced Nobel Prize winners from its faculty and student body, as well as a number of highly regarded intellectuals, political theorists, scientists, physicians, theologians, and artists of the Western tradition and canon.

Then it was a block back to the east and we came to the Panthéon (meaning "Temple of all the Gods"), a building in the Latin Quarter.  It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a façade modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a small dome. Located  on the top of Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Marat, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect.

Ken, tiny in black with a white sweater tied to his neck, in front of the Pantheon

From here it was about three blocks down the hill to our hotel - our hotel was obviously in a great location.  We used the Internet in the hotel to send out emails and catch up on what was happening at home.  We tried to book tickets to various Parisian shows but did not have any luck.  Our hotel clerk suggested we should try it in person the next day.  Ken was still suffering with flu symptoms on and off all day so we walked a couple of blocks toward the Seine to Place Maubert Market, a collection of vegetable stalls, pastry shops and meat markets. We bought sandwiches, fruit and Kathryn's absolute Parisian favourite, lemon tarts, to take back to the hotel.  Finding the perfect lemon tart was her mission while we were here in Paris.  We had a very peaceful sleep on our first nice in Paris.

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Day 54

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