For most of my life, I have had a real fear of flying. Nothing could convince me that there would be a time when I would actually board a plane and fly anywhere - though I did fly once, 35 years ago, from NY to Columbus Ohio with my four year old daughter to visit a friend. I ended up so sick with hives and fever and nausea that I spent the entire time there in bed.
That was it for me for air travel until Russell got me going with an e mail entitled - "Get out your rosary, you're coming to the dance."
He shamed me into thinking I should give it a try and see something of the world I read and wrote so much about. He told me it would be a real loss for someone like me not to see Paris, the Sacre Coeur, the Seine, the Left Bank, and the beautiful Luberon district of France. So, with his support and kindness, my daughter and I flew off last Saturday evening the 24th to spend a magical time in Paris and then in Bonnieux, in the Luberon district.
I survived the flight out and even began to enjoy myself on the flight back home. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Thanks to him always for pushing me to expand my horizons.
Going to the dance….
Special thanks to:
Russell for making it all possible – for giving us the finest of everything all during our week
To Keith Rodgers for taking the time to make all the arrangements in the midst of a very busy schedule
And to my daughter, Mary Beth – for leaving her husband Mark and darling 10 month old Griffin at home – and for being my eyes and my companion on the trip of dreams – which had a particular meaning for me, since my mother had visited Paris in 1918 during a leave from her duties as a nurse on a hospital troop train in WW 1 in the battlefields outside the city.
After traveling via Delta business class (first two seats on the plane), leaving at 7:50 EST from JFK, we arrived at De Gaulle airport at 9 AM French time on Sunday September 25. There was a driver waiting to take us to our hotel – The Ritz in the Place Vendome. (The Ritz is owned by Mohammed al Fayed, the father of Princess Di's friend who died with her). We saw him and his entourage of body guards at the hotel)
Our room was a dream of French Empire, looking out at the back garden of the hotel – all murals and gilding - a study in blue and gold. There was a marble bathroom, with silver swans on the hot and cold water faucets. The service at the hotel was impeccable and constant. The concierges were happy to make taxi arrangements for us, and to suggest the best things to see in our area of the city.
away were the couture shops (which we peeked into only!), and the Tuileries
Gardens overlooking the Seine.
During our three days there, some of the highlights of my visit were:
A boat ride at night up the Seine. - The weather cooperated, and we sat back, let the breeze invigorate us, and watched the grand buildings of Paris pass us by on right and left. We went under the ancient stone bridges and passed by the museums, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. All were glowing with light. I felt like I was part of a movie, and expected Fred Astaire to dance by on the bridges any minute.
The last full day in the City, we took a cab (and all the cabbies were characters – trying to communicate even if their English – and our French – was not the greatest.) to Le Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. This pure white vision of a cathedral sits at the highest point of Paris, and when you stand on the steps leading to the church and turn around, all of the city lies in front of you, stretching out to the horizon.
We were able to hear Mass inside, and could feel the peace and holiness of the soaring space. The Benedictine nuns from the monastery next door to the cathedral sang the hours during mass, and their beautiful voices filled the church. Most striking to see were the mosaic of Christ on the ceiling and the mural of His Passion at the back of the altar.
Here is what Frommers guide says about the cathedral:
After mass, we took a darling little tourist train through the streets of Montmartre and Pigalle. The streets of Montmartre were steep and narrow, and filled with shops and with people from all corners of the world. We saw several homes of the famous artists and writers who lived in the area.
Next to Montmartre is Pigalle, the red light district of Paris – and is it RED! Our train passed by the home of the Can Can – The Moulin Rouge, and shops selling every racy item you could think of.
My final special treat in Paris was finding the bookstore Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank. It was a very literary evening. We had dinner at the famous Cafe de Flore on Boulevard St Germain where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir held court for a cadre of other iconoclastic writers and artists (Fodors), and then Mary Beth and I set out to find the bookstore. It is hidden down a few steps from the street in a tiny cobblestone courtyard. Founded in 1951 by George Whitman, it follows the legacy of Sylvia Beach's original Shakespeare and Company which stood at the Rue de l'Odéon number 12 from 1919 to 1941. James Joyce’s Ulysses was published there on February 22, 1922.
There were people chatting on the benches outside, two contented cats inside, high cluttered shelves (but in good order), and a well in the center of the room with pennies in it. I think it might be there either for luck or for people to take what they might need. The place is famous for providing shelter for the night. We bought some books for family there. My son Chris is an avid reader, so it will be fun for him to see the Shakespeare and Company stamp on the two philosophy books I bought him.
I also visited the English bookstore WH Smiths on the Rue de Rivoli and the Librairie Galignani, a wonderful place with French and English books, also on the Rue de Rivoli. No wonder my luggage was heavier going home.
Now – On to Bonneiux! (Click to continue)