April in Paris–someone ought to write a song. But wait–someone did! Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong basically invited us to spend Anita’s birthday in Paris this month, and it only took us six trips to schedule it. So here we are. And to welcome us, the French weather service scheduled rain and the French transportation unions scheduled a train strike. But our continual great fortune held form. The rain hasn’t slowed us down, except for a few cloudy skies. The train strike is complicated, but suffice it to say that the one day we have a train scheduled is on a day when the trains are supposed to be running normally. We’ll find out Friday.
Our hotel is the same one we used last October, half a block from Place des Vosges. (If you click the link, notice the photo of the lobby. At this moment I’m sitting at the table under the tapestry on the far wall.) What I didn’t realize before today is that it’s only a block from Place Bastille, home of the new Paris Opera house, shown below. The old classic Garnier Opera House of Phantom of the Opera fame continues to host ballet, but the new one is where grand opera is staged.
The magnificent tower is relatively new, by Parisian standards. It replaced a giant wooden elephant, of all things. The main reason I mention this is that the musical Les Miserables is coming to UNM’s Popejoy Hall in May, and the elephant plays an interesting role in the original novel by Victor Hugo. It’s one of the few parts of the novel that didn’t make it to the modern stage. I won’t spoil your reading of the unabridged version by telling you the role it plays; just know that when Hugo wants to make you cry, you cry.
After our thirteen hour flight, we only had enough gas left in our tank to grab a sandwich and a pot of L’Africaine hot chocolate at Angelina’s Tea House before grabbing a bus back to our hotel. But to get to the bus stop we had to go through one of the nicest spots in Paris–the Tuileries Gardens. In the day of Louis XIII (think Three Musketeers), this was the royal strolling garden. The statuary is wonderful; here are a couple of samples. You can see that in the three hour space between my visit to Place Bastille and our stroll through the royal gardens, the sky had already cleared wonderfully. That’s just the way we roll!
And as we waited for our bus across the street from one wing of the Louvre, I noticed for the first time the exquisite detail on the outer wall:
So what’s in store this trip? A couple more days in Paris; a high-speed train to Avignon where we rent a car; five days in Arles on the Mediterranean coast, one of the oldest Roman settlements in France (all together now: “All Gaul is divided in three parts”–the opening sentence in Julius Caesar’s epic The Gallic Wars); a night in the tallest chateau in France; and opening night of the annual Chartres light show. Come along; it’ll be fun.