Park It!

It is quite possible I’ve been too hard on our gracious hosts, the Parisians.  For their faults in the departments of mopeds, excessive smoking and taking themselves too seriously, they have figured out all things related to parks.  Even the parking of their cars – they can get cars into spaces us Americans would never consider. And yes, bumping your way into a space is completely acceptable. 

But for purposes of this post, allow me to spend a few minutes on park, er parc, life in Paris.  As previously mentioned, the European respect for the lunch hour runs deep here and many enjoy said hour lounging in a park setting both alone, with friends and with family. Quite a refreshing habit, I imagine.  However, parks aren’t solely enjoyed by lunch goers. People of all types are found in these parks. They are crowded spaces. They have tons of benches, yet a seat can be hard to find. The grassy areas are bordered by foot-high fences to keep walking traffic on the primary paths – sensible considering how wide the paths are.  Each park we have visited seems to have a functioning carousel with carousel operator along with sand boxes and swings for the kids.  The parks are home to several sculptures and significant monuments. In Paris, I give almost all sculptures the benefit of the doubt of being fine art and a part of history. In the U.S., I put most sculptures in the category of lawn art a la those homes you see in the country with dozens of concrete gnomes and angels dotting the yard.  My biases run wild!  Most parks have a few concession buildings and of course, the highlight of Charlie’s Paris trip, PIGEONS! 

One last note about parks and my biases. Several times in parks I have encountered a 60-70 year old man and woman together both wearing more clothes than the weather warrants (think cardigan for the woman and Members Only jacket for the man). Each time I find myself wanting them to pass me a secret spy message or a brief statement in a stately British accent.  I cannot explain this but the feeling that these parks are laden with elderly spy couples has haunted me on more than one occasion.  Oh Hollywood, your influence runs deep. 

Here’s a view into our day, a day my kids will refer to as our own special “death march.”  I swear I didn’t know it was almost 6 miles from our apartment to our final destination, Pompidou Centre. I blame the metric system. 
 

The Parc Monceau entrance and two best friends. I will never tire of seeing Stewart reach for Will’s hand.   
 Lunch is done – Charlie’s salami pickle sandwich and the shared Pain Amondine (almond pastry) were the highlights. Note: most sandwiches from a Boulanger are served with butter instead of mayo, mustard, etc.  Now, if only we had exact change…

  Rock hopping. Sometimes the simplest things can entertain. Who knew something without a screen could be so fun.   

 Time for a pre-death march frisbee break. 

   
The forced march begins. Ironically, the first thing we see is the Metro. 

   
A big impressive old church (Eglise Saint Augustin). A relatively young (1868) church taking influence from both Roman and Gothic elements.  Napoleon commissioned it to bring prominence to Malersherbes Blvd and to be the resting place of Napoleon prior to his exile.  Thanks Wikipedia. 

  
L’eglise de la Madeleine or more simply La Madeleine. This Roman Catholic Church was designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon’s army and completed in 1842. 

   
 Two clear signs of me entering into ice cream indebtedness…I bought time with a bench, an apple and a leftover sandwich from the depths of my backpack. It didn’t hurt to have a view of live coverage of the Tour de France from inside the neighboring bar. 

  
Ahhhh, the power of gelato!  It needs to be said that Nutella gelato may be the best flavor on this great planet. Important discovery Will. 

 A sign we are nearing the quirky Pompidou Centre.  Art whimsy. 

Pompidou Centre water fountain art thing (aka Fontaine Stravinsky). The museum was pretty cool on the outside with all parts of a typical building on the exo-structure to keep the focus on the art inside. Escalators, air ducts, water pipes all on the outside. So were the artisans and street performers.  

  
Metros from 5-7pm are to be avoided at all costs and for the most part we have succeeded in doing so on this trip. Not so much today. A cacophony of sounds and oh those smells. Just when you think it is full, 10-12 more folks shove into the car stop after stop. Smells are directly proportional to the volume of humans. Theorem proven on this Metro ride. 

  
Stewart and Charlie are not amused. This the first photographic evidence that Stewart actually does worry. My thought:  The walk doesn’t seem so bad now does it?  Life returned to good when we arrived at Fuxie, the place of the kids new favorite meal, pesto gnocchi and even more so when Cindy met us a bit later straight from work. 

Things I learned today:

1. I fancy a good spy encounter. 

2. Never start a conversation with a local dry cleaner with “do you speak English?”  It leads to a 30 Euro dry cleaning bill for 3 women’s garments and little ability to argue when you realize she conveniently knows no English. 

3. The air on subways improves with height. Poor kids at armpit levels…

4. Gelato/Ice cream is the currency of effort while on vacation. 

Tomorrow:  Sacre Couer

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