I don't have much faith in omens, but if I did, this would be one I would like to believe in. Today, my 11 year-old grandson and I flew from Detroit to Paris. We thought it would be an adventure to take the Metro from Charles de Gaulle airport to our hotel. What we didn't know was that it was a grueling journey that had us switching subways three times while hauling our luggage behind us, up platforms, into trains, up escalators and steps, and finally across the long stretches of vast wasteland that make up the Paris Metro. After two hours of vigorous "exercise" trying to reach our hotel, we finally landed at our final train stop, "Grand Boulevard."
Once we emerged from the underground, we went to the corner and saw this restaurant near our hotel. The "omen" is because it is named Christeve (Chris being my name and Steve being my husband's, Eli's grandfather.) My grandson greatly appreciated the significance of this coincidence.
At the end of the street, looking out of our hotel window, is the famous Folies Bergere. The Folies, established in 1869, began as a music hall and eventually became a popular venue for risque entertainment. It gained popularity between the 1890's through the 1920's. (Edouard Manet's 1882 famous painting , A Bar at the Folies-Berger, shows a bar-girl standing before a mirror.) In 1926, Josephine Baker, an African-American expat singer, dancer and entertainer was an instant star after her suggestive "Banana Dance" in which she wore a skirt made of bananas and little else. Among some of the popular performers at the Folies Bergere were Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Edith Piaf, and W.C. Fields, among many others.
This is the photo from our balcony overlooking the Rue Bergere in the 9th Arrondissement.
Another "omen" for our family is that our hotel was situated in a district that is home to many Jews. Eli's father is a rabbi and we both commented on the significance of landing right in the middle of this Jewish neighborhood. How appropriate!
We were fascinated with the Jewish delicacies and baked goods.
They were lovely, but we held our appetite for a true French dining experience.
We planned our route this evening and we know in advance what subways will lead us to our destinations tomorrow. Today, we avoided the area most tourists flock to in order to escape the gargantuan crowds in Paris today to witness the final leg of the "Tour de France." While many people would have wanted to view this historic event, I spent the afternoon training my young grandson to be a navigator of the Paris transportation system.
Surprisingly, for never having been on a plane in his recent memory, nor having been in a mass-transit underground, he held his own very well. He was able to tell me what stops were ours on the subway maps and when we needed to hop off the subway. He is becoming familiar with Parisian maps, language, culture, and food.
We decided to do a "Meal in Reverse," and start with the desert. He chose chocolate crepes and a glass of "iced cold real whole milk" that looked like it came straight from the cow--it was so thick with cream. The chocolate on his crepes also looked true blue --not the Hershey's syrup variety he is familiar with living in America. I chose Grand Marnier crepes that were served flambe style when the waitress lit it on fire. Eli was duly impressed! Once we finished our crepes, we decided to call it a meal.
When I chose the hotel I thought about the Hilton, the Intercontinental, and the Crowne Plazza in Paris. Instead, I chose a local French hotel; the Atel Royal Begere Hotel, for Eli's first experience abroad. Small, quaint, no air conditioning, narrow hallways and lifts, and a rather common European breakfast of croissants, tartines of baguette bread, plain yogurt, and a slice of fromage. I did well as he shared with me that he enjoyed the intimate nature of the small hotel and it's close proximity to the Grand Boulevard with all of the excitement of many shops and dining establishments.
As you can tell, he is enjoying his French adventure!
This window display actually frightened the both of us. He begged to go in, but I was certain the "horror show" was in French and I had already had my limit of freak for the day after seeing this.... Instead, I gently guided him to a shopping passageway with bookstores, antique stores, toy stores, and candy stores. (I have a lot of practice with being a Mimi of 10 grandchildren and if there is one thing I've conquered, it's the skill of diversion!)
|Checking out French Literature|
|Sampling the wares|
|Our corner Italian/Jewish Pizzeria|
It was a fine beginning to what promises to be a three week adventure with our grandson. Tomorrow, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Champs Elysee; if we are fortunate enough to accomplish all three attractions in one day.
Eli is a wonderful travel companion and I'm delighted to show him that the world is truly a spectacular and amazing place.
Meanwhile, he will return home to Waterford, Michigan an experienced traveler-- knowing how to negotiate airports, train stations, hotels, bike routes, trams, buses, and read maps of every variety. It is my intention to have him sort the daily itinerary, lead, and feel confident that he is capable of knowing his way in a very foreign country. So far, so good!