Sunday, March 30, 2008

Paris Day 6 The Rendezvous

It is Easter Monday, a holiday in France. Many shops and museums are closed so we headed to Montmartre, where we visited Sacre Couer and the artists stalls. We encountered buskers coming and going. The best was the Italian guitarist pictured here at the steps to Sacre Couer. You can tell he was quite good by the size of the crowd. He could really sing and play guitar, but he was also incredibly funny.

We arrived back at our hotel around 4 p.m. to find that my friend, my ex-copain if you will, had arrived at our hotel. He came up from Lyon to meet us. It's been 28 years since we dated and 20 since I saw him last. It was so nice of him to come.

We had a bottle of wine and then went out to dinner and tried to catch up on 20 plus years. We long ago went our separate ways and both have happy lives in our native countries, but I always think fondly of him and of our college days. Can you guess which is my husband and which is the French guy?

Oh, and how does this relate to knitting you might ask? Well, mon ami Francais was the recipient of my very first knitted article, a rather badly knit hat. Alas, you all know what happens when you knit something for a boyfriend.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Knitter in Paris - Days 3 - 5

The beauty of Paris is that there is so much history and culture, and yet it is mixed in with a large, bustling metropolis where people go about their every day lives. It is a tourist city that is not devoted to tourism. A place where subway vendors are rude to American tourists whose French is rusty, but where a sweet old gentleman will go out of his way to help the same obviously lost tourists navigate the streets of Monmartre.

Language was not really a problem for us. English is much more widely spoken than it once was, but I tried to practice my French. Though I only had 1 year of college French and it has been more than 25 years since I had an opportunity to use it, I was able to make myself understood. I probably made a grammar mistake in every sentence and I no longer have an ear for the accent (Mostly because I don't have working ears! I have pretty bad hearing loss and am supposed to wear hearing aids, but I never do.) Still - I was able to get where I wanted to go, order what I wanted from the menu, and argue with the waiter when the bill was wrong. Pas mal!

The weather was not good when we were there. Temperatures hovered around 35 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit, at best. It rained every day in the afternoon. There was even snow and high winds one day. We could tell that this was unusual for this time of year, because flowers were already in bloom and there were green leaf buds on the trees. Oh, well! Cold weather is good museum weather. With our 4 day museum pass we saw the Orsay, Rodin, Louvre, and Cluny (Musee National de Moyen Age) museums. We also used it for our entrance to the Pantheon, the crypt of Notre Dame, and the Palace of Versailles. Oh, and I nearly forgot, we also visited the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was inprisoned before they chopped her head off. The Louvre and Vesailles are great, but the Cluny and the Conciergerie were probably my favorite museums. Smaller, more focused, and far less crowded, we were able to take our time, read the exhibits, and truly learn something instead of just "seeing" the "must see" exhibits.

We walked or used the metro to get around, and found we needed to stop at least twice a day for a hot tea or coffee to warm up. At 4.40 euros for a cafe creme or pot of tea at today's exchange rate it translates to $14/person/day or $28/day on coffee or tea. Fortunately, you can stay as long as you want in the cafe to warm up, watch the world go by, and knit.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Paris Day 2

We did not explore far from home on our second full day in Paris, still we saw so much because there was so much to see. We discovered a great view of the Eiffel tower could be seen just at the end of our block. We discovered the open market and shops of the Rue Cler, where I was pleased to find a yarn shop. Very small, and not very original by American standards, but I was pleased to see it was there! The american knitters whom I had met the night before said they did almost all their yarn shopping on the internet or on trips home. Quelle domage!

Art and romance were far more prominent than yarn. We bought a 4 day museum pass and used it at the Rodin museum and the Musee d'Orsay (full of impressionist paintings-- Monet, Degas, Renoir, Manet, etc.) Traveller's tip--The museum pass is well worth it for the priority entrance and ability to skip long lines. You can buy passes for 2, 4, or 6 days. We bought the 4 day pass and thought it was well worth it for both the price and the quick access at both the Louvre (day 3) and Verailles (day4).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Knitter in Paris - Day 1

I am back from my Paris trip. So many stories to tell and photos to share! It was an incredible trip to a romantic, historic, fashionable city. I'd been there before, but the last time was 26 years ago. My memories (and my French) were fading, but I wanted to show my husband a bit of this wonderful city. We both love history, and we mapped out an itinerary that demanded 1 or 2 museum visits per day, plus all the major monuments. We packed it all in, and by the end of the week, I managed to meet my personal agenda as well - a meet up with anglophone knitters, a visit to a Paris yarn shop, and a dinner with a dear old friend.

We stayed at a lovely tourist class hotel near the Eiffel tower called Hotel Tour Eiffel Rive Gauche. If you are a Rick Steves type of traveller, and prefer smaller hotels with personal service at a reasonable price, this is a great place.

Being so near the tower, it was our first tourist stop. Also near the hotel, was the Musee du quai Branly--Paris' newest museum, with highlights of third world cultures--lots of great textile artifacts to interest knitters and fiber enthusiasts. The highlight of our first day, was my meetup with Kai, Ellen, Kate, and Lindsay. All American knitters working in Paris in various professional jobs. They meet Wednesday evenings at Le Depart, a cafe just a short walk from Notre Dame on le boulevard St. Michel. It was great fun, and so easy to find them. I have tried to meet up with other knitters in my past travels, but except for knitaways, knitting camp, and visits to yarn shops (which are, of course, capitalist knitting enterprises) this was the first time that I managed to meet up and knit with locals.

Les tricoteuse (and un tricoteur, since Kai is a guy) are a friendly, youthful bunch. They are hardworking professionals, but they are also devoted to their knitting and the camaraderie they found in their group. Je vous les recommendez!

I have many stories to tell from Paris--both knitting and non-knitting. Watch for future posts. A bientot! (Excusez moi, Francophones, I don't know how to type all those accent symbols. You will just have to use your imagination on the spelling.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

WWII Veteran's Story

This is not a knitting story, but a story of a closeknit bond that I have to my dear Uncle Bob. This last week, I invited my 82 year old uncle to come to my school to be interviewed for an oral history project. Uncle has many interesting WWII stories to tell.

First there was the story of how he asked for a deferrment of his draft date so that he could finish High School. Not only did Uncle Bob receive the deferrment, but the draft board also deferred the enlistment date for his twin brother, my dad, (who had dropped out of high school to work and didn't deserve an educational deferrment)Their deferrment meant that they would not have to report to duty until June 20th, 1944. If they had been inducted on their 18th birthday in January, they would have completed their basic training with perfect timing to be shipped off to Europe for D-Day. That gives a whole new meaning to the value of education.

My father entered the Navy and was in the battle for Okinawa. Uncle Bob went into the Army, arriving in Europe in September of 1944 as a replacement troop. Although he arrived late in the war, he saw plenty of action, earning two battle ribbons and the bronze star.

Telling his stories after 64 years, Uncle was still able to graphically describe in great detail, the battles he was in, and his strategy for survival.
My favorite story though, was not a battle story, but a human one. It was the spring of 1945, at the end of the War in Europe. Uncle Bob was assigned to string telephone communication wires in a German town that the Allies had occupied. He was going from house to house in and out of apartments so he could string the telephone wire. In one apartment, he came upon a heavyset, middle aged german man in a room filled with money. Gold coin and german bills were heaped on a table. Who is to know how the man acquired the money, Uncle didn't ask, but he assumed it was not honestly, or the man wouldn't have been hiding it in his apartment. Uncle lashed out in anger, calling the man a *!@!* Nazi. He scooped up an armful of money and threw it out the window. Then he filled his rucksack with more of the money . . .

Listening to this story that I had never heard before, I was worried about where it was going. I needn't have been.

"I took that money, and went to the outskirts of town, where there was a D.P. (displaced persons) camp. I gave them people all that money. They were so grateful. They didn't have a thing. They didn't even have proper clothes or shoes and nothing to eat. I suppose I could have set myself up good if I had kept some of it. . . but, oh, they were so grateful."