I'm going home to Vancouver tomorrow morning. I feel sad to be leaving my grandmother and the theatre of the 72 Rue de Seine. It's been a wonderful trip. Merci to my family for their kindness and hospitality... I hope to come back soon! This was the view in front of the Hôtel de Ville last night.
Last night, everyone came over to my cousin Nathalie's apartment to celebrate Christmas. We exchanged presents, sang traditional French carols, and had a delicious meal with smoked salmon, salads, champagne, wine, and a fantastic assortment of deserts (chocolate truffles, christmas logs, cakes, pastries, fruits de la passion!!!). The tree was decorated with real burning candles.
Yesterday evening I had dinner with my cousin Ninon and her husband Georges at their house across town. Ninon took me there on the back of her scooter. Ninon drives like a true Parisian; weaving her way through rush hour traffic, she confided that riding her scooter is "tres therapeutic." Dinner was great. Bettina and Valentine charmed me with their usual skill.
I got up early and caught the RER train to the Château de Versailles. After an audio tour of the palace where I daydreamed about what life must have been like for the kings and queens of France and the members of their court, I had lunch and wandered out into the gardens. Most of the statues were covered in tarps for the winter, but the air was crisp and I enjoyed the 3KM walk to the other end of the grounds.
At Claire's place, I got an email from Phoebe telling me she was
driving in from the Netherlands and would arrive in Paris with her
friends Brad and Kaitlin later that evening. We met under the Tour
Eiffel and had fresh croissants for breakfast in Le Jardin du
Luxembourg. This kid walked by in a funky hat. His dad pronounced that
it was made of reindeer leather.
Last night I crossed le Pont des Arts and walked along the Seine until I reached the road that passes in front of the Pyramid du Louvre. I walked along the Jardins des Tuilleries (the gardens were closed for a huge launch party inaugurating a new television station called "24") and made my way up to the Champs Elysées where I decided to climb the Arc de Triomphe and take in a panoramic vista of the city. It was a beautiful night and I suspected the weather would afford an impressive view (the visibility is always improved after the rain), but I had to promise the lady at the ticket counter and the kid collecting tickets at the bottom of the stairs that I would not use my tripod. Up top, the presence of two armed guards in a glass shelter helped me keep my word. I made a few attempts to balance my camera on the railing, but the wind was fierce and my hands were cold and I couldn't keep it steady. I came back down and headed for the nearest metro station. I got off at Trocadéro where I found the Tour Eiffel intersected by sharp rays of blue light from spotlights mounted below the square. I setup my tripod (no guards!) and fired off the 21 frames that make up this panorama (3 rows of 7 images, the first row level to the ground, the other two above and below). Click on the picture for a larger view.
I woke up at 6:15am this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. Instead of fighting the jetlag I took my camera and walked down to Le Pont Des Arts where I waited for the sun to rise (click on the photo to see a larger version).
I had my first croissant for breakfast yesterday. I dream of fresh croissants and real baguette with tea and jam all year long.
The only thing that's better than a real french breakfast is a real french breakfast with my grandmother. Grand Maman is 94. I used to see her every summer when I was a kid. She would come with us to her summer house in the little village of St Genies in the Dordogne and drive me and my sister around the countryside to visit castles and caves in a beat up old Renault 4L which she manoeuvered like a Formula 1. If we fought, she would threaten to kick us out and make us run behind the car. Grand Maman is the glue that keeps the family together. I love her very much.