1990-04-11: Paris

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11 April, 1940, Soindres

Too busy, too late to write, lately.

Sat: long drive to Paris. Stopped at Jardinerie in Vesoul to look for fountain-like spigot for our bathtub at home. Autoroute from Besancon to near Paris, then confusion & high tension trying to get right road without going into Paris. Not really difficult, just one place where had to make quick lane change, and one where had to merge abruptly. Drivers relatively forgiving of that sort of thing.

No sign for gite, & nothing matched picture, but at prop. address, woman came out to greet on second pass.

Most of gites so far have appearance of contractor reworking a shell of prev. structure (2 houses, 1 school). This one looks like owner fixed up, with care. Four rooms, living room = C’s bedroom; kitchen with largest refrig so far (window opens directly onto street); BR (window ditto) fairly large with built-in closet; bath large as BR (almost), 2 sinks,largest tub so far (larger than home), toilet, cupboard with vacuum cleaner, egg-shaped passage thru wall to BR, door to LR. All apparently done with care. Bookcase with many SF books in BR, quite musty.

Owner very careful to explain working of elec pump in toilet.

Sun. went to Paris to get our bearings. Turns out our luck has held up. The town 5 min. away, Mantes-LaJolie, is nearest town to Paris at which almost every train stops. Many trains, quite a few direct. Parked in auto-lot accross st. from station, even though closed Sun. Train stopped ~25 times.

Wore light jackets & we were all chilly in wind. Walked past closed stores & Madeleine to Place de la Concorde. Bought guidebook with map showing metro station and lines (very important). Bought carnet (10 tickets for metro) & went to Bois de Boulogne to find amusement park for C. Though chilly this was a success (also expensive, since we bought more ride tickets than really necessary). Took petit train back to entrance to park, then walked to Arc de triomph. Bought elevator tickets (~10 min line), then went to top for view & walked down. Took metro to Louvre, but line looked long & near closing, so walked along rive droite toward Pont Neuf. Bought PC & chestnuts from vendors who have stalls on stone edge. Saw cages of live chickens (~50) across street. Saw the loneliest thing: a young man set up his camera pointing toward Pont Neuf with timer, then went to stand in picture, alone. Ah, romantic Paris. Crossed P.N. to Ile de la Cite & got on cruise boat. About 1 hour, down to Eiffel Tower & around Ile de Saint Louis. Narration in E, F & German, mainly about bridges & buildings on river, but at least out of wind. Before boat left doc, girl went through taking pictures. When boat returned, they were on display. S thought ours very funny so paid 20 F.

Susan is finished calling her mother.


11 April, 1940, Soindres

Our brief stop to look for a spigot had to do with a fantasy of Susan’s and mine: we both think it would be amusing, interesting, or shocking to have a small gargoyle or other fanciful shape in place of the usual bathtub spout. We have talked about this for years, and thought perhaps in France people would use some sort of fountain ornament hat we could adapt for the purpose. No luck, so I am going to try to make my own.

The drive from Melisey to Fontenay-Mauvoisin was a long one. As we neared Paris, traffic built up and the road, which had been Autoroute the whole way, became a tangled skein of roads not clearly delineated on our map. We got through alright, but it reinforced our preliminary decision not to attempt to drive in Paris. We also joked that the stress of this kind of driving vacation in foreign country would be a severe test of a weak marriage, but it truly would; not of ours, however.

We found the village easily enough, and drove through its street twice. It is amazing how such small places can hide a house in full view. Most of the gites had the Gite de France logo in a visible spot, but not this one. The proprietor’s house is just across the yard from the gite, and the owner has his office (I think he is an architect) in a little room attached to one side of the gite. They also had a boy about Chrissy’s age, and they proposed the two of them might play together. Chrissy didn’t seem to want to, and I think the boy was relieved; he had other playmates.

On Saturday evening, we drove into Mantes-LaJolie to check out the procedure for getting train tickets. Susan didn’t want to go into the station, so she stayed in the car while Chrissy and I went in. We looked at the racks of schedule pamphlets, trying to find the appropriate one, but didn’t find one we felt was right. Finally, when there was no one in line, I went up to clerk, and tried to ask about trains to Paris. I had a terrible time understanding him, probably because nearly every train went to Paris. He pulled out a three-ring binder with pages of times in columns, different pages for weekdays and weekends. Finally someone got in line behind me and the clerk brusquely dismissed us. When Susan came in the next day, she had no trouble, and there was also an automated ticket-selling machine which took our credit card.

When we returned from Paris, and went into the car lot to get our car, there was another man just getting in his. He looked doubtfully at us, and finally came over and asked if we were going to try get out. Finally we understood that the gate would not open (on Sunday) unless you had a special permanent pass, which he had. He had us follow him closely up to the gate, waited until we were ready, inserted his pass, and when the gate went up, went through fast enough for us to follow him out before it came down again. A nice example of kindness toward strangers.

One of the neatest things at Bois de Boulogne was an oval track where Chrissy could drive a car, without any guide rails or other constraints except the curbs. It was about three lanes wide, wider where you got in and out, and she got (I think) three laps. She got in the car and appeared to listen to instructions (which pedal was brake and which was throttle). When the man stepped off, she smoothly accelerated, and then, before pulling out into ‘traffic’, looked back over her left shoulder just like she had been driving all her life! This so surprised Susan and me that we laughed the whole time. I think it was Chrissy’s favorite ride. (1991-06-19)


On Monday we went to an old abbey. It was very nice. We had to take a barge across the

[ sketch of crossing river ]

river to get to it. There were spots that would have a whole engraving or something like that. Then we drove to Honfleur a seaport town. Finally we satopped in a resterant and had a good meal. Walked around a little and drove to a little town called Bayeux. Bayeux (bayur) has a tapestry called the bayeux tapestry. It tells the story of William the Conqueror. I like it. We saw the English Channel, bought pasteries and went home. Next morning rode train to Paris and went to the d’Orsay. There was a long line so we went to stand in it. We got in grabbed a brochure bought tickets & went in. Saw several impressionists things and went to see a few Monets. I saw, an origanal, painting of the Japanese Bridge! I love it! After the d’Orsay we walked to the one & only . . Notre-Dame! We looked around outside, and went in. We don’t have to pay to walk around inside but to climb you have to pay. We went outside, paid & started to climb. A girl ahead of us, English, wanted her camera to take pictures. Remember her. Climbed a wide spiral staircase, dashed off to the gift shop, and got on a small staircase. These steps do not have lights. A teen with some people spoke English going down past us & said, ‘Forgot to tell you I have claustrophobia’? later the camera girl, coming down past us, well she didn’t go past us, higher up she had let mom past and then she let me up, but she said should have a system like this:

[ two sketches of people, labeled “20 going down Chuck” and “20 coming up Phil” ???]

I went up counting steps. 495 + 372 = 868.

Went down scared. Rode subway to Tour Eiffel. Waited in line for a long time and finally got on the elevator. Went up, and got off on 2nd floor. Changed elevators and went to the top. Looked around. There was a viewing platform and we went up. Came down & went down. Waited on 2nd floor & bought sweatshirts. We were in front of some Italian lady ogres!

[ sketch of lady ogre ???]

One of them shoved me hard in the back. We walked along a famed street in Paris. It had a lot of sidewalk cafes. Stopped in a Burger King had frites and went to Printemps, a department store. Had no souvenirs so went to 1 more store. Went to St. Lazare, & got a big double decker train. Home got carry out [???] and went home. Fell in bed & fell asleep. .

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