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September 20, 2021 – I last posted seven weeks ago, on August 8, 2021. (Countdown to Paris – 2021.) I’ve been through a lot since then, preparing for a month-long trip to France and Spain.
I flew into Paris on August 25-26, and spent four days there. Then I – and the three others I was joining – took a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, starting point for the Camino Frances. That pilgrimage-by-hiking usually ends at Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain. (Thus the “Camino de Santiago.”) But while the other three in my group went on toward Santiago, I cut my hike short, at Burgos. (For reasons explained in that long-ago, August 8th post.*)
That post – Countdown to Paris – talked about what I wanted to do when I got to Paris. This post will talk about what actually got done. For starters, I had three main objectives for the month-long overseas adventure: To see Paris again, for the first time since 1979; to see Pamplona again (and have another beer at Café Iruña, of Hemingway fame); and last but hardly least, to hike over the daunting Pyrenees mountains. But first, more about that Paris visit…
From De Gaulle airport, around 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning, August 26, I took the RER Train B to Gare du Nord. (Once I found the train to Gare du Nord, after getting off the plane and wandering around the airport.) Then once I got into Paris itself, I had a hell of a time getting out of the “Gare,” being both very tired and not seeing any discernible “signage.” Once outside I did manage to find the McDonald’s Stalingrad. (So-called because it’s adjacent to the “Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad.”) I was hoping to start off the day in a strange new place with an iced coffee, like back home. But I found out they don’t sell iced coffee at the McDonald’s in Europe. They sell beer at those McDonald’s, but not iced coffee.
Another thing I found: A lot of homeless people, camped out and sleeping in the square, under the Metro line, across from the McDonald’s. (Above left.)
And speaking of the Paris Metro, I never did get a chance to ride it. I’d planned to take the Metro – famous for any number of “les pickpockets” – down to Choisy-le-Roi. (Where in 1972 Henry Kissinger conducted secret negotiations to end the Vietnam war. And where in 1979 I enjoyed a romantic interlude with a young lady named Janine, camping in a little tent on the grounds of the youth hostel that used to be there.) But I never got the chance to do that.
Mostly because I was too busy trying to find my way down to the swanky apartment across the Seine from Notre-Dame de Paris. (Where I was to meet up on Saturday with the other three family members of the Camino-hiking adventure.) The apartment was at 15 Rue Maitre Albert, almost directly south of the Cathedral, on the Left Bank across the Seine. I’d memorized the route, and had a map that turned out to have not-so-readable type. So somehow I got confused about whether to take the Rue St. Martin down, as opposed to the Rue St. Denis.
I got my “Rues” mixed up…
As a result, I somehow ended up angling too far to my left, trying to head toward Ile de la Cite from my “Ibis Budget Paris La Villete,” on Avenue Jean Jaures. Checking Google Maps – as I was writing this post – I saw that I had angled way too far over and ended up in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, and possibly got as far off as the 20th arrondissement of Paris. Which brings up a word about Avenue Jean Jaures. Turning left out of Gare du Nord, you end up on Rue la Fayette. But once you cross Boulevard de la Villette, Rue la Fayette magically transforms into Avenue Jean Jaures. (Kind of like what they do in Georgia. Change the road names at pretty much every intersection, mostly to fool the Yankees during “the late War of Northern Aggression.”)
But we digress. It took me the rest of that Thursday afternoon – and much of the evening – to find my way back home. I remember wandering around, sometimes stopping at a cafe-bar, having a beer and asking directions to Rue la Fayette. I also remember knocking over one glass of draft beer, later in the day, which makes me think I may have had one beer too many. (I figured all that walking would burn off the alcohol.) Be that as it may, much later still I somehow ended up on Rue Crimee. I had the good sense to head northwest, and eventually Rue Crimee crossed Avenue Jean Jaures. I thought to myself, “Eureka!” Then found my way back home, even though I had to get there “from the other end.” That is, from the Jean Jaures end, not la Fayette.
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Eventually on Saturday I did meet up with the rest of the group at 15 Rue Maitre Albert. Which brought up one thing we had to do. We all had to get tested for Covid; we had to do that so we could take the train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
As it turned out, Paris featured all kind of places to get tested. We found ours along the Seine, a little tent set-up – shown at right – by the Pont Neuf. And the guy in Paris was a real pro.
I’d heard horror stories back home of nurses sticking the swab far enough up your nose to tickle your brain. (Enough to bring tears to their eyes, according to two ladies I talked to.) But this guy had the swab in for maybe two seconds; I barely knew it was there. And in a few minutes the test came back “Negatif,” in PDF, downloaded onto my tablet.
In the process, one or two of the others in my group were kind of a pain, asking all kinds of questions and taking too much time. So I ended up tipping the guy 20 euros, for all his help dealing with crazy Americans. It cost 30 euros apiece, cash, for the quicky test. (Plus tip.)
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So, Thursday the 26th I got lost trying to find the way down to 15 Rue Maitre Albert. On Friday the 27th I finally found the quickest way down there, and also did a little sightseeing. Among other things I found and photographed a statue of Michel de Montaigne.
You can see the photo in the notes below, but the statue caught my eye because Montaigne was a great essayist. And what is a blogger – like me – but someone who writes “analytic or interpretative” compositions, usually dealing with a subject “from a limited or personal point of view?” (On a regular basis and sometimes accompanied by photos and other images?”)
In a word, Montaigne is my mentor (as an essay writer), if not my hero…
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Which brings up the last day the four of us spent in Paris, Sunday, August 29.
We started off by visiting the Musée Picasso Paris, “5 rue de Thorigny,” within walking distance of the apartment. Later we went in search of a famed place to buy great baguettes – the place turned out to be closed – and in doing so walked through the grounds of the Louvre and by the Arc de Triomphe. (Also undergoing renovation.) We had a great dinner at La Placette, 13 rue de Montenotte, then did some practice hiking up and down the Champs-Élysées.
The following day – Monday, August 30 – we took the train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, by way of Bayonne. After a day off in St. Jean we started our Camino hike, but that’s a subject for future posts. In the meantime, here’s a hearty – if metaphoric – “Good night from Paris!”
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I took the photos in this post. I took the upper-image photo on August 28. I took the lower-image photo on August 29, our last evening in Paris. From the Pont Louis Philippe, at the north end of the Ile Saint-Louis. In daylight the Eiffel Tower would be visible just off the upper left, about two-thirds up.
Re: Reasons for me stopping at Burgos. I’d hiked to Santiago de Compostela twice already, via the Camino Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese Camino in 2019; I’d gotten two Compostela pilgrim certificates already. Also, the rest of the party planned on taking two months to get to Santiago, and I get nervous being away from home more than a month.
Re: Montaigne, my photo at left. He was primarily “known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight:“
Montaigne had a direct influence on Western writers including Francis Bacon, René Descartes,Blaise Pascal, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Edward Gibbon, Virginia Woolf, Albert Hirschman, William Hazlitt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Henry Newman, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Alexander Pushkin, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer, Isaac Asimov, Fulton Sheen, and possibly, on the later works of William Shakespeare.
See also Essay – Wikipedia: “Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author… The concept of an ‘essay’ has been extended to other media beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions.” Then there are “blog-post essays.”
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Some other notes I took during the trip: For one: “I seem to be blending in here [Paris] too. Several people have stopped and asked me directions. Boy were they surprised!” A second, longer note:
A couple hours ago I went to get a beer and a salad. I was sitting alone, at the sidewalk cafe, when in the fullness of time a rowdy birthday group of five young ladies sat down to my right. Then two affectionate young ladies sat to my right, so I was “a thorn between seven roses,” so to speak. They interacted well with one another, and with those who came by to chat. Including one old guy with wild hair and beard, who in America would be called a bum.I had no idea what they were talking about, but the body language bespoke mutual respect and “joy of life.” It was so enlightening and pleasant that I had a second beer.
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