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Kicking It: A month in Paris Day 4

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to the Village News

Continued, Oct. 5, 2012: Finally, our biorhythms are aligning to our new time zone. Each of us are armed with a city map and bus pass, as we set out to discover Eiffel’s famous tower. Arriving at the bus stop, our number 69 just pulls away as we get there. Wouldn’t ya know? It’s a 30 minute wait until another one comes along.

As it turns out, riding the Paris metro is a hoot. It’s an easy, cheap way to see the city. Which is why we gawk out the windows in wonder that we are in Paris. Still, it does take a pinch because it’s Paris! A dream came true.

Bumping down Boulevard St. Germain, we pass residences and buildings older than our country. The driver lets us off at the Champs de Mars bus stop. Stepping onto the tree-lined street, we walk in the general direction given to us by the driver but after a block or so, we pause and look at each other, and on cue, shrug and ask simultaneously, “Where is it?”

Which is crazy because at that very moment in time and in unison, we happen to gaze upward and standing overhead in all its grandeur is Eiffel’s Tower. Regally it cuts through an azure sky above the treetops.

We follow a path next to a wide stretch of lawn, approaching the tower from the back. Although, truth be told, one side looks just like the other three and each with a separate ticket window.

This being the first sunny day since our arrival in France, it appears that everyone else has the same idea as we do. Crowds of tourists are out. VJ is excited to line-up for a ticket after confirming the elevator line is too long, he’ll take the stairs. That holds no appeal to me. Matter of fact, thank you very much, I’ll keep both of my feet on the ground. Now that VJ is heading up the stairs, I stroll over to the vendors to shop.

After buying my souvenirs, I start milling around the stalls for a snack. To my relief, croissants are everywhere. Yum. My treat and I find a sun-warmed park bench.

My first bench partner is a British woman, also waiting for her family, working on a crossword puzzle. From time to time, she adds an occasional comment before her family retrieves her. She is replaced by a 13-year-old girl wearing a gray-furry mouse hat. As it happens, mouse-hat has already climbed to the top of the tower and back down in what seems like very little time. She said she even passed her family somewhere on the stairs on her downward trek and is now waiting for them.

After her parents claim her, my next bench buddies are from Australia. We exchange several “hey mates,” when they mention they are on their honeymoon. Which prompts me to ask if they’d like their picture taken in front of the tower? They are tickled to accept, saying it will be the only picture they have so far with both of them in the frame.

When they leave, I move over to the South exit to watch for VJ. Growing impatient after waiting so long, he finally emerges from the shadows onto the granite stairs. Back on terra firma, he said he was glad he did the climb. And I am still glad that I didn’t.

Now, well past lunch time, we board the number 89 bus to return to the Left Bank. Naturally, we are both hungry. We jump off the bus at Rue St. Michel in search of food. The crowds seem to be edging toward an alleyway, so we follow along. Our hunch is right, the alley is lined with international cafés and bistros.

Checking our maps after lunch, we see we are close to the Luxembourg Gardens. In another life, I visited a bakery on one of the corners at the entrance to the gardens. It was a favorite of Napoleon Bonaparte’s, as the legend goes. It feels odd to step across a threshold that has withstood decades of strife, yet still carries on making the same sumptuous pastries. We take an upstairs table and order two pots of tea to wash down Napoleon’s favorite cherry tarts.

Nearby is his final resting place, at the Invalides. Napoleon’s sarcophagus is in a place of honor in a grand space next to other notable generals laid to rest in granite coffins. Although not nearly as imposing, the coffins are still of great consequence. Bonaparte’s body is inside a led casket inside eight others inside a gigantic ebony edifice, entombed to deter grave robbers.

With twilight looming, we edge our way homeward. The day being complete as we duck in for fresh baguettes along with a large chunk of quiche for supper. Well, hell, how did this huge chocolate chip cookie get in the bag?

As a Californian, I am a driver. Walking in California’s large cities isn’t practical. But, from what I can surmise, French ladies maintain their figures by walking! Therefore, when in Paris, do as the Parisians. Hopefully, I can walk off all of these damn baguettes, even if it’s 59 steps at a time.

We turn off the lights at 10 p.m., just as rain starts to fall against the front windows.

To be continued…

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected]

 

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