Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bikes, Gardens and Sages

After another trip down Rue de Montorgueil for croissants, we headed into the center of Paris for another "Fat Tire" bike tour which focused on French Revolution history, the Louvre and it's nearby jardin (garden), otherwise known as the Tuileries.
First stop was the Chappelle de la Invalides, where Napoleon was buried.  During WWII, Hitler visited his hero's tomb, and as he paid hommage to Napoleon, members of the French Resistance hid in the dome directly above.  They had the opportunity to eliminate Hitler right then, but decided against it.  How different World History would have read had they done so!
Next stop was L'Ecole´ Militaire, where Napoleon attended the military academy, and developed his war strategies.  Being short, he did not do well in the infantry branch, so he took up studies in artillery.  He excelled so well, that until Waterloo, he was undefeated during his service as General.
We cycled across one of the many bridges spanning the Seine.  The pont (bridge) de Alexandre III (in honor of the last Czar), is the most photographed and admired in Paris; extremely ornate, being painted in parts with faux d'or (fake gold).

The tour stopped for lunch in the lovely Tuileries, which was welcomed.  It's the law that cyclists must walk their bikes through the garden (approximately 1/4 mile end to end), otherwise, they are knocked off their bicyclettes by the gendarmes (police).  Twice I forgot and rode my bike a short distance before I was sternly warned to dismount!  We watched people stroll, jog, and and enjoy the sun as they sat near the fountains around lunchtime.  What a relaxing sight!
Tuileries Garden with the Louvre in the background

After the tour, we headed for the Eiffel Tower...quelle horror!  By suggestion, we took the Sud (South) leg to go up the tower, only to find that we purchased the "walk up" tickets to the 3eme level, which was really  the 15th floor.  I was exhausted and what was more frustrating was that we could not find a way up to the very top via elevator.  I was so disgusted that I refused to pay the 12.50 euros to take the elevator once we found it.  I was also out of breath, so Olivia and I stayed behind and enjoyed the view.  We kept running into a mother daughter team on our journey up the stairs, and ended up sitting next to them on the observation deck while we waited for the guys.  She was Russian, but spoke a bit of English.  We chatted, and then I gave her a French Gospel tract, which she could read.  It seemed to encourage her, since she was homesick for her homeland.  God works all together for good!
When we finally reached la Terre Ferme (the view was fabulous, no matter what level), the red bus awaited to take us near "Les Deux Magots", a famous cafe´ where literary and artistic characters such as Hemmingway, Sartre, Picasso and St Exupery (The Little Prince) would sit for hours as they worked and chatted.  I thought the translation of the name was strange...the two maggots...who would want to frequent that sort of place?  Well, this is where my knowledge of French failed me.  It made much more sense when I discovered that "Magots" meant "Sages", and not creepy crawlies!
Our waiter reminded me of the food critic in Ratatouille...tall, slender, and balding older man with a sly smile.  He seemed to enjoy serving us, and I relished the idea of ordering my meal "en Francais".
Our main meal was splendid; I had steak tartare (raw ground beef with seasonings).  We all enjoyed dessert w/les boissons chaud: chocolate chaud (very thick) for the kids, and cafe´au lait pour moi!
The cafe´was strong and rich, but not bitter, with warm milk to
                                                                add; almost three cups worth.
Well, we are not sages, but we are two!
We took a few photos, then headed for the Louvre.Wednesday evening was half price, but we had limited time.  So, we hurried to see the Medieval art; The Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture, the Mona Lisa (behind plexiglass; very small and disappointing), and the original Roman wall over which the present city was built.
Above ground entrance to the Louvre
We closed the place up.  A quick trip to the gift shop, and then we were on our way back to the flat via the Metro.  Our suitcases packed, we took our showers and went to bed, ready for our journey to the Metro station "Le Louvre Carouselle"(hard to find), where our rental car awaited us.  Au revoir, Paris, Bonjour French countryside; we are on our way south via Versailles!

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