Wednesday, November 22, 2017

There and Back Again, Part 5

Friday, October 27

Seemed only to open at night
Friday morning, we got up with the construction and headed out to find a place that was serving breakfast. I really wanted to sit in a cafe, drink coffee and not worry about dishes. We walked down rue Beaubourg and found a corner bistro serving omelets and similar breakfast fare and we ordered ham and cheese omelets all around.

After eating and another cup of coffee, we headed out to find a taxi and headed to the Louvre. Things were really hopping there. We had our museum passes, so I expected to get in fairly quickly. But there was a security line, and the things they were checking were purses, backpacks and the like.

Kittie and David at the Louvre
Now, I knew that they would be stopping people carrying stuff, so I advised Kittie and David, and took my own advice, and we didn’t carry anything. But this did not matter, as those of us without any packages or parcels were required to stand in line with those folks who feel it necessary to carry their worldly possessions in a ruck sack when they travel.

I think they would do well to create two lines, one for those with bags and one for those without. The French, though, don’t seem really good at streamlining that kind of procedure, though they excel Americans in setting up and installing (instilling?) bureaucratic structure.

I had started out the day feeling good, but by the time I had stood in line, my hip was aching once more, but a good stride and the reasonably wide open spaces of the Louvre would work that off.

The graces or muses or something
This museum, too, had changed over the decade I had been absent. On top of that, they had several exhibits closed down, the most notable one being the Egyptian antiquities. I tried to get my bearings in the place, but it, too, was a labyrinth, and things didn’t flow from one to the next as I thought they would. I guess this is what happens when you adapt older buildings as museums rather than building them from the ground up, like Americans do.

Venus and Cupid
Today, we decided to kind of hang together but not expect everyone to stick together all the time. We had a general plan of attack, starting at the Roman antiquities and concentrating on sculpture.

The things we did not get to see that I would have liked: the Asian-Oceanic exhibit and the collection of Arab art and artifacts. Another closed-off area was the medieval art wing. All three of these are exceptional collections.

It's that satyr guy I can't remember
In fact, walk into any room or hall in the Louvre and you’ll see enough to fill an entire regular museum. And to think that a good portion of the Louvre’s collection is in storage.

After we cleared the Roman sculpture and finished the smaller Roman artifacts rooms, we headed over to see the most famous painting in the world: her; the L de V bee-atch, the MoLi, dog.

Emperor Claudius, my favorite
She is situated on her own wall in the center of a large hall. There are ropes blocking off access at about six feet from her, and she’s in a bulletproof glass case. There she sits, grinning smugly at all these idiots in front of her, pushing, jostling, craning their phones into the air to get a picture of this trollop. And she just smiles back, like she’s the only one who gets the joke.

Now my back was bothering me. I hobbled and bitched. Kittie and David tolerated it as gracefully as possible, but I could tell it was getting as tiresome for them as it was for me. So we wandered around and got lost once or twice, but we finally found the main area below the pyramid and headed to the eatery (a cafeteria/restaurant affair with a food court atmosphere).

There she is back there!
I remember ordering a hamburger (I stayed at our table to save our seats while Kittie and David stood in line; of course there was a line). What I got was a kind of bland pulled-beef sandwich in the most mediocre tradition of prêt-á-manger. I can’t recall what Kittie and David had, since all of it was just okay.

After lunch we were all refueled, slightly rested, and I suggested that we walk over to Notre Dame. My back was feeling much better, and it couldn’t be more than half a mile. That way, we could see the Seine. Of course, as usual, it was rush hour and the Quai du Louvre, which we walked down, was crowded with pedestrians.

Look at them look at her looking at them.
This trek was a good thing and a bad thing: a good thing because I found some refrigerator magnets that I had seen when we were driving past the day before in the taxi. The stall that was selling them was right on our route.

The woman from whom I purchased the magnets (two of them; one of Monet's Irises and one of Lautrec’s Chat Noir) didn’t say a word to me, but earnestly wrapped the magnets each in a little bubble-wrap bag inside a tiny white paper bag. She then handed me the items and a lovely smile broke across her face as our eyes finally met.

What would you keep in this box?
Taking the walk was a bad idea because it was not a half-mile, but a mile between these places of interest. Also, waiting for traffic lights is not unlike waiting in security lines, and my back was knotting up and I needed to relax. And I find just the potential of discomfort, the anticipation of it, is almost as debilitating as the actual condition.

It was around 4 p.m. when we got to Notre Dame. It was as crowded as any other popular landmark, and there was a long, long line to get in. Since the cathedral closes at 5 p.m., there was little point in standing on line. And even if we did get inside before closing, the sun would have gone down by that time, and the whole point of Notre Dame is the stunning stained-glass windows. Kittie and David saw the wisdom in this, and spent some time wandering around the exterior as I sat on a stanchion and stretched.

Notre Dame Cathedral.
The long lines are behind the doors.
After Kittie and David had seen what they wanted to see, we headed to the taxi stand, getting a most unpleasant driver. It was obvious he did not want the fare (he was playing solitaire on his iPad), and took us begrudgingly because it’s the law. Once we got to the Marais (our neighborhood), he took several wrong turns and ended up dropping us off like three blocks from the apartment.

So we walked up the street to our place, climbed the four flights of stairs to the apartment and I, at least, collapsed. But only for a time.

Selfies prove you were there.
I am finding that, in writing these missives, my memory dulls once we have returned to the apartment and trudged up the four flights. Then the shoes get kicked off and my thoughts turn to relaxation.

Cantina California was open
Such is the travesty of old age and infirmity. Where evenings were
once a time for partying and celebration, as I’ve aged, evenings have become the time when I unwind, relax, withdraw from the crazy and find my center. Perhaps this is why I can’t clearly remember what thing happened on which evening.

In any case, we headed out to dinner and ate at a place called Cantine California. David had poo-pooed it once earlier in the week when we walked past. In Paris, he thought, we should be eating French food. He would derisively point out every Starbucks and McDonald’s that we drove past in taxis.

The bar inside Cantina California
When we went out, I was looking for a certain restaurant, only to find out it was really more of a bar and smoking spot. This was true with the Royal Beaubourg and the Maryland (the name of the restaurant Kittie had spotted the previous day). I soon realized that a “tabac” sign on an establishment meant it was a bar that served food, and not a bistro, cafe or brasserie.

After once or twice around the block looking for something new, we stumbled upon Cantine California. I was just wanting to sit down and have a drink. I don’t know whether it was my whining or his spirit of adventure, but David decided to give it a try. I’m glad he did, because it actually became one of my favorite meals of the entire vacation.

My bacon-guacamole burger with fries. I'm sorry, but
the French do better American food than we do.
I ordered a bacon-guacamole burger. It was a gem of ground beef, like a juicy, tasty cabochon, on a brioche bun with lots of lettuce, tomato and sautéed onions. It was so juicy, and with the guacamole there was no need for condiments although, being an “American” restaurant, they did have ketchup on the tables.

Our server was new to the job, and she spoke a fair amount of English. She was kind of amused that people from California were coming to eat there. Her service was wonderful and attentive, and David flirted like hell with her, which she loved. I left her a €10 tip, even though the tip was included in the price.

After dinner and a drink, I was feeling much better. We got back to the apartment at a reasonable time, though, because the next morning was the raison d’être for the trip: le Salon du Chocolat.  It would be our last day in Paris.


Monday, November 20, 2017

There and Back Again, Part 4

Thursday, October 26

Interior of the d'Orsay Museum
We got up at a reasonable time on Thursday. With everyone's phones on different time zones, the clock didn't seem to have the importance it does in everyday life.

Now, there are a couple of downsides that I haven't mentioned yet: one, Kittie and I were catching a low-grade cold which reared its head around this time and, two, the apartment next door was being remodeled with a plethora of power tools, most of them being applied to the adjoining walls. This being so, we needed no alarms, as they started up at 9 a.m. sharp.

The station clock
The construction work next door went on all day, stopping around 5:30 each evening. Each of us was driven mad by the noise at least once during our stay.

So Kittie put together breakfast from the food they had brought back the night before. Afterwards, with the workers busy making noise next door, we headed off to find a taxi. We walked down rue Beaubourg toward the Pompidou and ran into "those women."

I had warned Kittie and David about them. They hang out in groups of three to six women. When Steve and I visited, they were handing out handwritten notes about being destitute and asking for money for their children, etc., etc.

Statue of Zeus
This time around, they had clipboards with a petition on it about blind and deaf people. They were merely asking for signatures. Knowing their scam, I was firm about not getting involved, but while I was fending off one, the others were cornering Kittie and David.

David, good soul that he is, had signed the petition before he realized what was happening, and when they asked for a donation, he asked if they could change €20. The woman simply took the bill and walked off. He did have the presence of mind to sign a phony name and e-mail address.

Pan pan pan
We caught a taxi nearby and headed to the d'Orsay. When we arrived there, another group of women with the same petitions were there. We were waiting to cross the street and they came up, starting to hassle us to sign the petitions. We were all firmly saying no, then one woman pushed Kittie just a bit too much. Kittie turned and barked, "NO!" at the woman, who got terribly offended by that. They did leave us alone, though.

Art Nouveau bedroom set.
This museum was originally a train station, one right in the heart of Paris. When new stations were built, the d'Orsay was eventually converted to a museum to house impressionist paintings. The overall form of the station has been preserved while providing large and compelling display spaces
in the building.

Lunch at the d'Orsay
Again, we decided to split up and meet later for lunch. My back was in pretty good shape, as there were no long lines for security and we had our museum passes, so I decided to walk to the top of the station and work my way down. I probably got through about half of the museum before lunch.

I got to see quite a bit, and there was a fair amount that I just passed by, having seen it before or being distracted by expanded exhibits and whole new collections since I had last been there. I did come away with the knowledge that I'm just not as in love with impressionism as I used to be. But the other 20th century forms on display were very intriguing.

The lunch room at the d'Orsay
The two areas of the museum that I found the most interesting were the Art Nouveau exhibits (with furniture, glass and ceramic creations), and an impressive collection of early 20th century sculpture. on the main level of the museum.

A painting
When lunchtime rolled around it was now Kittie who we couldn't find. After some confusion (because the museum really is a labyrinth), we all met up and had lunch in the museum restaurant.

Pewter bas relief
I had a French version of chicken pot pie, with puff pastry and a wonderful light sauce. Kittie had salmon, I believe. David, as is his habit, pointed to something on the menu and had that. I was glad that we didn't take a break and go out to find a café for lunch. It was pricey, yes, but a very nice experience and the perfect punctuation for the day.

Another painting
After our lovely lunch, I checked out the impressionist paintings, all of which have been moved to interior rooms to preserve them from the sunlight that streams into the station.

It was the shank of the afternoon, and my back was wearing out, so I went out to the courtyard to stretch and have a cigarette. After, I went back into the gift store and bought what I thought would be my refrigerator magnet for this trip (this is how I memorialize my vacations; the next day would prove me wrong and create another gift to bring home with me).

Small grotesque statues
We all met outside and got a taxi back home. In the rush hour, of course. Later that evening, Kittie and David went down to check out the Pompidou Center, which was open late on Thursday evenings. What they didn't explain was that the building was open until 11, but the museum closed at 9.

Meanwhile, I decided to get out and stretch the legs. I went up to the grocery store and picked up some snacks. The woman was very nice, even giving me a canvas tote bag free instead of charging me for a paper one (another souvenir).

We all collapsed around 11 o'clock. No need to set the alarm, as the workers would be back next door first thing in the morning.


Monday, November 13, 2017

There and Back Again, Part 3

Wednesday, October 25

As I recall, no morning alarms were set Tuesday evening, and we got up had some coffee and got ourselves together for a visit to the Picasso museum, which was just a couple blocks east of the apartment.

We ate just inside the corner window, across from the park
There was a little bistro (Le Saint-Gervais) on a corner near the museum, so we stopped in there and had lunch before doing any touring. I recall fettuccine in a lovely mushroom sauce on my plate.

We lost David for a time (this was to become normal), and after an initial panic, I realized that he's a mature adult fully capable of getting around on his own and he has a mobile phone if he needs to text for help. This time, he had found a restaurant just across the street from Le Saint-Gervais. It's California surfer motif had caught David's eye. It was called the Pink Flamingo (are we in the gay section of Paris or what?)

After we ate, and while we were waiting for David to return, we stopped in a pocket park behind and museum and I had a cigarette.

Midget star trooper for a cereal restaurant.
Now, originally, I had planned to quit smoking during the trip. I had brought nicotine gum and a week's worth of patches. But with my back screwing up and the other stressors of travel, it was decided between David, Kittie and myself that perhaps purchasing a pack of cigarettes for the duration was not a bad idea. It did allow me daily time to sit and rest, stretch and continue on.

So after the pause in the park, we went to the museum. On the way, we passed this brilliant idea of a restaurant called Cerealiste. The sign in the photo says, "Choose your size! Choose your cereal! Choose your milk! Choose your accompaniments/(sides)! Choose your topping. In our bowls!"

I didn't write down the names of the paintings.
It's usually nude lady reclining or nude lady sitting.
The museum was just around the corner from the cereal restaurant. We bought tickets for the Picasso for that day, and bought two-day museum passes to use Thursday and Friday at the d'Orsay and the Louvre (where crowds would be much bigger).

Once again, we started out in the wrong place, hitting the featured exhibit, Picasso '32, Année Érotique, which had a fairly substantial grouping of his more important pieces from that period. It also leant some insight into how he was developing his visual techniques and choices.

Study of a grouping
Kittie kept promoting the idea that we all just kind of split up and go our separate ways and meet back at a certain time. The only problem with that is one almost always bumps into the other folks while you're looking around, and there's a nascent urge to start hanging out with them.

One of the sections I enjoyed the most was Picasso's private collection, where he purchased or swapped or was gifted artwork by his contemporaries: pieces by the masters whose works sit in the d'Orsay, here on display because they hung in Picasso's home.

Nude woman at a mirror
We did fairly well at the Picasso with this task of independence. One of the upsides for me was being able to sit down and stretch the leg whenever I wanted without feeling like I was dragging down Kittie and David's time. That never really became a problem. Whenever I had to retreat back to the apartment (and a hot bath), Kittie and David were now comfortable enough to have their own adventures. And to be honest, time without me was probably their best times in Paris.

Still life
My memories of Wednesday evening are of sitting back and watching BBC World News. It was a different feed than we get in the U.S.A., and it was interesting to see what the rest of the world thought was important. I noticed there was a lot of coverage of Africa and the political problems there. Trump was covered as a sort of crazy American footnote to what had happened in the world that day.

When David and Kittie returned to the apartment, they brought back some food, which I was more than thankful for. It was from a ready-to-eat place, all microwavable and fairly palatable for what it was.

Another evening was upon us. My back had eased up quite a bit with prolonged rest, and we went to bed with the d'Orsay museum as the focus of tomorrow's adventure.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

There and Back Again, Part 2

Tuesday, October 24

The exhaustion of being up for nearly 24 hours took hold, and Kittie, David and I all agreed to set no alarm for the morning. We were going to sleep for as long as we needed.

Tuesday breakfast
I remember waking up at around 3:30 a.m., wandering out to the toilet (which is situated just inside the front door), stumbling back to bed, then waking up about seven hours later.

Kittie and David were still out cold, so I got dressed, hobbled down all four flights of stairs and took a walk to the corner grocery store to work out the kinks and get coffee. The one thing we hadn't found at the health food store was coffee. I know Kittie and David love their coffee. I got a small bag of it, some lemon tart cookies and went back to the apartment.

Consciousness and blood sugar levels return.
Kittie got up and, with some invention, made coffee. It seems the bag of coffee I purchased was actually a bag of pre-measured packets, so she had to disassemble them, retrieve the coffee grounds and make the coffee. The coffee maker was horribly slow, taking about 20 minutes to generate a full pot.

When David awakened (Kittie threatened to Walnetto walk him*, I said let him sleep), Kittie made a lovely meal of free-range eggs, transubstantiated ham and organic bread and butter. It was very good in a bland, healthy kind of way.

Statue of Liberty model at Arts et Métiers
Our museum of the day was le Musée Arts et Métiers, which translates as Arts & Crafts, but the museum was more about invention and innovation in France, from the mid-1400s until today. And it was just a couple blocks up the street.

David, being mechanically inclined, loved this museum. I also found it fascinating, but at a slightly faster pace.

The museum is broken up into over a half dozen areas like construction & materials, scientific instruments, communications, energy, mechanical energy and transport. As is my typical habit in new museums, we did the whole thing backwards.

A thing with wheels captivates David.
This meant we started with transportation; a hall with full-sized and models specimen of the earliest of technologies (like the first steam-powered French automobile).

Most of the signage in this museum was in French only but, thanks to Rosetta Stone, I could make out enough of the text to understand what I was looking at. David did not have this problem. A friend to all machines and things with cogs and wheels, he seemed to be in his element.

Captain Nemo to the max!
At the end of the hall are the stairs to the next level. Tucked into a corner near these stairs is a most-astounding item, something that seems like a fever dream of Jules Verne. A fully functional diving suit, one of the first ever manufactured.

Airplane titled "Air No. 3"
The stairwell sports some stone benches, so I sat back and waited for David and Kittie to catch up. In general, I did need breaks when walking in museums. If allowed to stretch and walk, I felt much better. Standing and waiting drove me nuts and could provoke a twinge of muscle at any time.

Theatre du automate: antique wind-up toys
So I sat and stretched and stared up through the stairwell to another one-of-a-kind object, the third iteration of one of France's first powered airplanes, this one powered by steam. I checked carefully on the placard that went with the airplane, but it didn't specifically say whether the thing ever flew or not.

No satellite dish; a solar oven from the 1800s
Kittie and David catch up. I stand up, the back is fine. Stretch and walk. We climb the stairs and are treated by a new extensive hall with vintage and antiquated gears and cams and bearings of every kind, wheels and screws thought out and rethought. Some are so bizarre they don't look like they should mesh, much less turn. Some seem like abstract exercises in topology. Yet all these permutations lead to contraptions and inventions that hail the industrial era as a golden epoch of ingenuity.

Generator, ca. 1600
And directly in the middle of this hall was the Theatre de automate, a collection of mechanical toys and moving machines of amusement. There are a few very large and impressive toys: clowns, a magician, a beautiful lady, but none photograph well.

Telephone exchange
Once again, I am ahead of Kittie and David. I am entering the Energy section. There is a solar oven from the 1800s, and a device for generating electrostatic energy, designed and built in the 1600s. There are quite a few eye-opening things on display. The nuts and bolts of energy generation and distribution laid out in historical fashion.

Early fax machine
From the world of energy, I move into the next hall, which is communications. Here I am at home. The majority of the displays are iterations of the telephone, telegraph, phonograph, photography, cinematography. You get a real sense of how things exploded in the late 19th, early 20th century. Not just new ideas, but new applications that provided economic incentive to continue the inventing and innovating, driving progress just as doggedly as 21st century communications are driving ours at this very moment.

Phototypesetter: the green box on the left processed film;
the one on the right was just for electronic components.
The one last thing that I think is worth mentioning is a version of the first French photoelectronic typesetter. It's sitting across from a model of Telstar, so you can get an idea of how huge this machine is. All that to generate type. And the weirdest thing is: I know how to run that machine!

Beyond that was a section dealing with construction techniques and architectural models dating back to the 1400s. I was just finishing up with this section and looking toward the final hall with scientific instruments, but I realized the museum was going to be closing soon.

Model of construction of Lady Liberty
Kittie, David and I met back outside the museum. We were looking for a place for dinner. We stopped by the Café Arts et Métier, but it looked like they were only serving drinks outside, so we went around, trying to find a place I had read about online. We never did find it, but ended up back at the Café Arts et Métier, so we headed inside to eat.

Kittie had a list of French food she wanted to get while in Paris. One was escargot, another was foie gras, and a fourth was French onion soup. Here at the café, we started with a very friendly waiter who handed us off to a very friendly waitress. It was a really great experience.

Our spread at Café Arts et Métier
Kittie ordered the escargot and foie gras (canard) and a cheese plate. That was her starters. I can't recall what her main dish was, but David had veal Milanese (which looked good) and I had a crocque monsieur.

One of the things I enjoy most about dining out in Paris is that the people don't lean on you to vacate your table so they can turn it over. If you are ordered or have ordered, you can take as long as you like, linger over drinks, have another coffee, and it's no problem.

So after a leisurely dinner, we headed back to the apartment. Kittie and David made several excursions in the evenings when I was recuperating on my own. I'm glad that they didn't feel compelled to baby-sit me and my back, but to go out and enjoy their time in Paris. At this point in the vacation, I suspect they're having a really good time.

*For the uninitiated, Walnetto walking is an old McDougal tradition used to arouse the slumbering.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

There and Back Again

David and Kittie at the Louvre
It's taken me about a week to mentally digest the trip to Paris with sister Kittie and brother-in-law David. We'd been planning it for months, and then in one fell swoop the whole thing happened.

I'm splitting this up into days. The first day is actually three in one. Who knows, I may meld other days together into one entry as well. I do have to write enough to fill the space between the pictures.

This trip started with a half-serious Facebook post. I had seen a video promoting Le Salon du Chocolat, shared it on Facebook and posted, "Does anyone want to go with me. I'm serious."

Kittie replied, "Dave and I want to go. Got an idea of cost? Flight, hotel, diabetes treatments?"

Several e-mails later, a plan was afoot and we were planning it all out.

Saturday, Oct. 21

Pam, David, Kittie, Steve after Sunday breakfast
So the day came. Oct. 21, Steve, Pam and I drove up to Minneapolis. David and Kittie flew into Minneapolis from San Luis Obispo in the afternoon. We picked them up and headed to lunch, since it was almost 2 p.m. It was a little place called Chevy's, a Mexican restaurant, and I got the worst heartburn from their burrito.

Then we headed to the Comfort Inn, where we had room reservations overnight. There is an Outback steakhouse attached to the inn, so we gathered there in the evening for dinner. The next morning we slowly congregated around the indoor pool and had the complimentary breakfast, which I found very lacking. We paused for picture-taking, then checked out, with Steve and Pam dropping us off at the airport, a good four hours before our flight time.

Sunday, Oct. 22/Monday, Oct. 23

iPads at the tables are ubiquitous now.
Once at the airport, we were assisted by a very helpful agent who walked us through the process of using kiosks to register our passports and print our boarding passes. I haven't flown out of the country in three years, and that was Montreal. Even in those few intervening years, the technology has advanced. I definitely felt like I was being processed by the machine.

Through security (rather quickly), we found our gate right away and spent most of the next hours waiting in a bar/brasserie called Mimosa. We had lunch there, which gave us the right to play on the iPads while waiting for the gate agents to show up for our flight.

On the plane
I was kind of on tenterhooks because Delta, the airline we were flying, only assigns economy seating at check-in. I was really looking forward to sitting together, three across in the middle section of the plane, because once we were in the air, we could lift the arm rests and make it like a couch.

My sciatica, which flares up every couple years and takes weeks upon weeks to resolve, had started acting up, and shlepping bags around an airport and standing in lines was not helping it any. This early in the trip, I was getting unconditional concern from my travel mates. When the agent finally arrived at the gate desk, Dave went right over and got us seats together, just as we had wanted.

Selfies on a plane
The seats in the plane were a tiny bit larger than on domestic flights (we were on a 777), and there was a bit more leg room. When airborne, it was as pleasant a flight as one can hope for these days, sans some magical upgrade.

Nine hours folded into an airline seat, however, take their toll on my back, and I was hobbling when we got out of the airplane. Luckily, David had left his journal behind on the plane and had to run back and retrieve it. This gave me some time to sit and stretch even more. Following, of course, was standing in lines to go through the French border police. Because I had a checked bag, I was separated out from the carry-on-only folks and got through the checkpoint first.

Our car was there and waiting by the time I got to baggage claim. I knew because the driver was texting me. And this brings up another new facet of this overseas trip: wireless connectivity here in the 21st century. I find it rather fascinating.

My cell provider, Verizon, has an overseas plan for $10 a day. It allows you to take your stateside cell plan along with you in most countries. So when I landed in Paris, I turned my cellphone off, then rebooted it, and I was getting service through a French provider.

The sign says "Welcome to Paris."
Kittie and David, who are with AT&T, had chosen a $40-a-month plan that allowed them to use data services, but calls were charged on a per-minute basis. There was an $80-a-month plan that included talk, but they didn't feel the need to pay twice as much for calls when texting would do. And it worked perfectly for us.

But on Kittie's phone (an iPhone4), the time did not update. On Dave's phone (an iPhone 5), it did. On top of the cell service, we had Wifi at the apartment we were renting, so checking e-mail and such was feasible, though none of us felt the urge to do it.

Front door of the apartment
So when we got separated at the border patrol checkpoint, I went ahead to claim my bag and hoped they would get my texts. Once through the checkpoint, one can turn right or left, both of which lead to baggage claim areas. I texted "go to the left," and they found me. I had already retrieved my checked bag, a large green affair from the 1980s with four wheels on the bottom and a leash to pull it.

Once together, we found the driver, who dashed through the terminal toward his car. I was not able to keep up with him, dragging my checked bag behind me like a reticent poodle, hobbling mildly and feeling very uncomfortable. Finally in the car, I discovered that my change online (from an older apartment address to the new apartment address) had not be processed by the car service. I made a mental note, since this same company was picking us up to return to the airport in a week, and they would be showing up to the wrong address.

We left Minneapolis at 4:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Paris at 7:30 in the morning. It was still dark outside, so we greeted our ride into Paris and the sunrise (such as it was in a drizzling rain) at the same time: morning rush hour.

Four flights up
I have learned to trust local local drivers completely. They are professionals and understand traffic conditions and the etiquette of the road. This is what you are paying them for.

We were supposed to meet the real estate agent at the apartment around 9:30. I got a text from him saying he was running late at another showing and would be there around 10:00, which is about when we arrived. We waited about 10 minutes, then another agent showed up a few minutes later. It turns out their offices are just a block or so away from the apartment.

The fellow was very nice, and spent a good deal of time familiarizing us with the particulars of the apartment. We were given two keys to the apartment, so David took one and I took the other. If Kittie needed one, we could switch off if need be. The only drawback of the apartment: it was a three-story walkup, which means four flights of stairs up and down.

Kittie and David get cash from the ATM.
We took some time and unpacked, then lied down for about an hour before heading out to the Eiffel Tower. We had reserved tickets for 2 p.m., and the wording on the website seemed to say that if you were too late, they might not honor the tickets.

So we headed out a little after noon and stopped to get cash out of the bank. I had hit an ATM at the airport, but Kittie and David hadn't. Smart, though; you get a better rate in town.

When we went down into the Metro, I realized there were new machines everywhere. The simple ticket machines of ten years ago no longer existed. Now it was all touchscreen technology and, even in English, I didn't know which buttons to push to buy a carnet (a pack of 10 tickets at a discount).

Me lagging behind.
By the time I purchased the tickets and we got onto the train, my back was singing. After the flight and the lines and only a bit of rest, my back was protesting. The block-long treks underground between trains didn't help, nor did the fact that we ended up going the wrong direction on the regional train that we transferred to. We caught the mistake, and a very nice young woman verified in which direction we should be going. Soon, we emerged from the ground to the site of the Eiffel Tower.

At that point, I had to stop. I told David and Kittie to go ahead while I rested my hip. After about 10 minutes, I got up and set forth (slowly) to the tower.

Later on, David and Kittie told me they had no problem and walked right into the security stations (one to get onto the grounds of the tower, a second to get onto the elevator or stairs at one of the four legs). In the few minutes that had passed before my arrival, there must have been an influx of people, as it took me about 15 minutes to get onto the grounds and almost 40 minutes to get through the security at the elevators.

In line to get in line.
I texted them and let them know I was on my way and would meet them on the 2nd story. We had tickets that allowed us to go all the way to the top on a second elevator. By the time I got up to the 2nd story and waded through the mass of people, I found Kittie and David nearly through the long line for the elevator to the top. I was in no mood to wait for 30 minutes in another line, so I sat and waited for them to come back down.

Sitting on a bench, it hit me that this is the tower of Babel. There are people from all over the planet who had come just to see this tower, climb it, take photos, be able to say they were there. Like me.

My back was tired and begging for rest. The idea of hobbling through the Metro back home did not appeal to me, and it was starting to rain, so we decided to get a taxi. I attempted an Uber ride but was totally confused by how the car would know me. We found the taxi stand in front of the tower, David and Kittie grabbed a cab (there were many people wanting one but no one bold enough to just go up and nab one), and we crawled through afternoon rush hour back to the apartment. But we were dry and comfortable.

Menu is eight pages of choices.
After a little relaxation, we went out to discover the neighborhood. One of the things Kittie wanted was to find a grocery store and get goods for breakfast the next morning. It turns out that we happened upon a health food store. They did have eggs and ham and fresh fruit, so we got our food and headed back to the apartment. At my suggestion, we stopped at a dim sum restaurant I had found online.

The majority of their business is obviously take-out. The kitchen and cash register are in the front of the shop as you enter, but a short trek to the back reveals a very minimalist, nicely appointed, Asian space. The place smelled amazing, and the menu provided a huge assortment of foods.

We realized that we hadn't had a decent meal all day, and we all chowed down. We ordered four different dim sum dishes, and each of us got a main dish as well. Some of the dinner did come back to the apartment with us, including the sautéed marigold greens Kittie ordered.

A mutual decisioni was to set no alarms for the next morning. We were all running on batteries after almost 24 hours awake. Kittie and I took turns taking hot baths (a tub was a prerequisite for me), and we crashed around 10 p.m. The bed was comfortable enough, and I slept a solid night's sleep.