My Trip to France

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The hotel had a marvelous breakfast everyday, croissants, fresh cheeses, crème fraiche, sweet butter, rolls, jams, juice and cereal.  After breakfast we took a walk up to Sacre Coeur cathedral, up the many flights of stairs with the many tourists (it was Sunday morning) to see the musicians and puppeteers performing on the various landings.  The puppeteer we saw was wonderful; changing characters, costumes and masks in minutes.  There were large crowds; we would come back to see the artist market later that week.  Montmartre is like Greenwich Village (or vice versa) very bohemian and racy, with the Moulin rouge and where so many artists and writers lived and died.
The Seine River
We traveled back to the Seine by the Eiffel Tower to take a small boat excursion (instead of the huge Bateaux Mouche) on the Bateaux Parisienne.  The weather was gorgeous again, sunny and not too hot.  It was a small open-air boat that traveled down to the Ile de la Cite and back (about one hour).  Another great introduction to the city and the places we were to see later.  Our guide spoke in French and English and described the bridges, landmarks and history of each place.  The Grand and Petite Palais built for the World Fair in 1900 (and now museums), the Concierge where the prisoners of the Revolution were held before their execution, the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay which was originally a beautiful huge train station…the Alexandre Bridge newly reguilded and sparkling in the sun.  The Seine is a wonderful river, winding it's way through the city in and around the Ile de la Cite where the original Parisienne tribe lived.
Notre Dame and the Left Bank
After the fantastic boat ride we took a cab ride (fun!) over to Notre Dame past the Louvre.  There was a mass and so we did not go in, but walked around it and through the parks.  It is under restoration and the front is covered over, so we bought a postcard, and you cannot climb the tower until June - but I knew that the Cathedral in Bourges was coming up - and it is larger than Notre Dame and even more splendid.  Notre Dame is splendid, the gargoyles being just wonderful. We crossed over into the Latin Quarter and down St. Germain where we discovered a cinema playing an Orson Welles film festival!  Today - Touch of Evil and Citizen Kane (they had just played Third Man), and coming soon Rita Hayworth in Gilda (the film for which I got my name). We had a marvelous lunch at a little café watching the folks go by.  Frank had the Croque de Madame Sandwich which is bread, ham, cheese and egg French Toast style and I had a cheese sandwich and green salad (soft butter lettuces).  And of course we had "vin rouge", the Bordeaux…and relished every drop. We did not have the guidebook and so decided to come back (which we did twice!) but we did find the Church of St. Nicholas, and cruised the booksellers' back along the Seine.

We thought we would walk down the river towards the Botanical Gardens and ended up first at the Zoo!  It is a very old-fashioned zoo with animals in cages - the black panther and leopards were gorgeous!  But it was sad to see them pacing their cages.  The large male lion kept a look out for the snow leopards, which did not appear.  You could get very close to them and the zoo was filled with French families.  There were Australian wallabies, and many types of deer.  There was a big brown bear in a pit that you looked at from above.  It was very much like the old Central Park Zoo (before it became humane) and reminded me of my childhood.  There were bison from Europe and America and a whole avenue of Owl cages.  This was very interesting - I had never seen so many different kinds of owls.  A few were eating which was rather wild!  We entered the botanical gardens from the zoo and traveled up the maze that was really just a small spiral path up a hill and then down through the main garden.  A very big tropical greenhouse was surrounded by tulip beds and an alpine garden that was closed that day - but you could look into it.  We sat for a while on a park bench and watched the families go by.

We decided to go back to the hotel and freshen up before dinner.  We chose to walk around Montmartre and find a nice looking place for dinner.  Frank had seen one small elegant restaurant he had wanted to try.  It was very nice with velvet curtains and small wooden tables and candles.  I had the escargot and the terrain (country style pate) and Frank had a mushroom pastry and the lamb.  And we had a fantastic bottle of…yes, red Bordeaux.  After chocolate cake with a coffee sauce (death by chocolate au francais) we took a night evening walk through the streets till we could see the Sacre Coeur all lit up with lights. He pointed out the little jewelry shops along the way. The tourists had gone home and the little souvenir shops were mostly empty.  We had a lovely glass on vin rouge at a sidewalk café before we went home.

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