Sunday, May 5, 2013

April 23, 2013 Last day in Paris, searching for the Uyghurs, Laduree' goodies, etc.

I am sitting at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris awaiting my flight to Amsterdam in about an hour and a half - perfect timing for writing a blog post. I wrote one last night on my way back to the hotel from the city but seems not to have saved, so I'll be re-writing it now. Darn!

The person at the counter told me she couldn't give me my boarding pass for Beijing yet because the flight is completely full. I might have to take the next flight and stay in Amsterdam overnight or for a few more hours. I would frankly be delighted. I really want to see the VanGogh and Rembrandt museums this trip! I don't want it to mess up Dylan's schedule - that would be the only problem but hopefully it would be OK for him...

So... Yesterday... The plan was to go with the Uyghur women on a bus tour of Paris. My roommate, Iris, told me that the bus would be leaving at 9:30 for the city. We figured that probably meant around 9:45 or so, since everything so far had been running late. We got up, got dressed, had breakfast, went downstairs to meet the bus by 9:40. Two of our other compatriots, Greg and Henryk, joined us. We didn't see a bus. Or any women we recognized from the conference. We were confused, had a hard time believing they'd already left. We asked at the desk. The gentleman there knew nothing. W tried calling Omer who'd organized the conference. No answer. We tried Subayra, someone else involved in organizing the conference. Again no answer. We went up to Omer's room. Not there. We tried a couple of other numbers of people whose numbers we had. I asked a woman at the reception desk. She remembered having seen a bus leave at 7:30! Oops! I have no clue how that happened. Henryk had seen Omer at breakfast at 9 and he told each of the three of them that the bus would leave at 9:30. We continued trying to make calls.

I suggested we catch the bus to the airport at least so we could catch the shuttle from there so we could go to the city at least. We hopped on the bus, still trying to reach someone - anyone! Finally we reached a man I didn't know. Greg spoke Uyghur with him. Greg's Uyghur is pretty good -about 50% - but this guy didn't want to stay on the phone. He kept saying good bye. Greg did manage to get out of him that they were at the Eiffel Tower. We decided to take a taxi into the city since it would be faster and not all that much more expensive since the were four of us. We raced to the city, about 45 minutes laughing all the way about the absurdity of trying to meet up with a group of people in Paris with no more information than we had.

Our taxi driver did his best and wished us luck as he dropped us off at the base of the Tower, 50€ (~

$65) lighter. We searched the crowds, scanned the lines for women in headscarves. I saw some and rushed over there excited, only to find they were Americans with their hoods up because it was briskly windy that early morning. Doggone it. After a powwow, we decided Greg should try calling the guy we'd reached before to see if he could extract any more information before he hung up on Greg. He was disappointingly unsuccessful. Greg couldn't understand him well but did catch Champs d'Ellyses and maybe Arc de Triomphe????

The Seine on the way to the Arc de Triomphe

Greg suggested we head in that direction - I have my suspicions that he mostly wanted to go there himself but that was fine - I didn't have a better suggestion and didn't mind. We walked the 30 minutes to the Arc where we searched the top of the Arc then the base and perimeter for brightly colored headscarves and boldly-printed dresses. To no avail. We watched the traffic zoom maniacally around the Arc as we planned our next step. We decided to head towards the Louvre to see if they we there. I couldn't begin to imagine how it would be possibles to find them in that sprawling space but, again, I didn't have anything better to do, and I didn't have a better suggestion.

The exterior of Laduree'.

The interior of Laduree'

Some of the goodies for sale.  It seems a shame to ruin them by eating them!

The boxed goods for sale at Laduree'.

the carpeted stairs at Laduree'.

the upstairs rooms at Laduree'

another of Laduree's window displays
the "gang" in the tearoom at Laduree'.  The decorations were amazingly fancy and art deco/nouveau. 

The tracery on the window at Laduree' in the tea room

the bar at Laduree' in the tea room.  Waiting for our coffees.
A Macaroon desert the woman next to me ordered.  Yes, that's a rose petal on top and those are strawberries in the middle.  And the whole concoction probably cost $15.

Greg also suggested we stop by a very very fancy shop along the way, Ladurre'. The building has been there since 1860 or thereabouts and is very very fancy art nouveau. I was enthralled by the interior walls which were covered with metal filigree that belongs in a Zentangle - a series of irregular hexagons swooping dramatically all over the wall. The bar where we sat was silver with beautiful stools, also with the hexagons. When I went to the bathroom,I actually took my camera with me. I had some trouble finding the right room - the bad relief sculpture connoting the men's bathroom was decided androgynous. I didn't know I was in the wrong room until I almost literally ran into a man coming out of the toilet chamber. I still assumed he was wrong and I was right until he told me he almost went into the wrong room too but upon comparison it became evident that this was indeed the men's room. The women's room was fancier. The toilets were very interesting - the seats were octagonal - rectangles with the corners cut off by diagonals. There was beautifully molding in the room where the individual toilet was each section painted a separate color. A fireplace and elaborate chest/sink adorned the main room. It was intense.

The ceiling of the room where the toilet was.

the fireplace and sink in the bathroom at Laduree'.

which one is the man?
and the woman?

the sink in the men's room

Besides the decor, the restaurant also offered food - macaroons are what they are famous for. Macaroons are, in Paris, at least, small (Oreo-size, but thicker) cookies with a filling. They come in different flavors and colors ranging from Marie Antoinette which is bright blue, to Coco Noir a brown chocolate one with tiny chocolate pieces distributed throughout. They are a little bit crunchy on the exterior and chewy once you get through the crunch. The fillings seem to be a bit like marshmallow. They cost 2.40€ each, or about $3.20. For one cookie, yes. Coffee, in its various manifestations, is about $7 per cup. Paris is probably one of the only places where Starbucks is the cheaper alternative, though I didn't check to see if that's true. I still haven't managed to like coffee.

After our relaxing sojourn, we accepted that we were no longer really looking for the Uyghur women, so we reconsidered our plans. We still decided to walk the length of the Champs d'Ellyses through the Place de Concorde through the Jardin de Tullieres, to the Louvre. It was a long way but a nice day, about 60 degrees I'd guess.
Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

Arc by the Louvre

Couple being photographed for their wedding - I was to see MANY more of these in China!

Washing the Pyramid at the Louvre

Spring is in full bloom despite the unusually cool temperatures. There are tulips, Lenten roses, and many other flowers to delight the senses. I didn't see any jonquils. We also saw a fair number of pigeons. Unlike French women, who seem to be constitutionally built for thinness, the pigeons were so thick, I, on one occasion, mistook one for a grey-feathered hawk.

Once we got to the Louvre, we all decided that none of us really wanted to go inside to see the at, so we continued on towards the Quartier Latin where Laura and I had enjoyed looking around and eating the day before. I took us in the wrong direction at first so we ended up near the Centre Pompidou before Greg took over and realized we needed to cross the Seine to get to the other side, the Left Bank. We eventually found a cafe where we could sit outside and the prices didn't look too terribly bad.

Musicians on the sidewalk at the cafe where we had lunch.

This gentleman reminded me of Andy Warhol.

Iris's Salade Nicoise and Greg's cheese plate and salad.
My Daube - beef stew.

The beautiful bathroom in the cafe, replete with flowers!
The waitress pulled out a couple of round tables, one foot in diameter, so two of us could sit against the wall before she put the tables back in place, effectively blocking us in but giving us a great view of the street where a couple of men were playing Spanish guitar and singing. Service is slow at these cafes. I think they realize we're going to lounge anyway and enjoy the view and the ambiance, so everything goes lackadaisically. We first got some water to drink, then some wine, then we ordered our meal. I got some Daube de boeuf - a kind of beef stew with a strong red wine flavor. It was quite good. Greg got a cheese platter and a green salad. The cheese platter consisted of four different types of cheese - a lot of each - he shared some with each of us and still wasn't able to finish it all! He got blue cheese, a round log of something like Camembert, a Brie, and a harder cheese of some sort, plus a big slab of butter. They also offered lovely dark bread to go with the meals. iris got a Salade Nicoise which looked beautiful but had all sorts of stuff I prefer not to eat - sardines, various sorts of peppers, olives. But it sure was pretty!

Sue, another one of the presenters, joined us after a while and suggested we go on a boat ride. I really wasn't interested because I've been on one already, and I saw some galleries on the way to the restaurant which I wanted to check out so I left the group and went off on my merry way after hugs and best wishes all around. I figured I probably wouldn't get to see them again.

I'm very glad I went to the galleries. I didn't know it but I happened upon one of the main art areas of Paris, St. Germain de Pres. The were at least forty galleries in a several block radius. Several of them were no more than holes in the wall, literally - about four feet by twenty feet. It was difficult to get far enough back from the paintings to see them well. Obviously smaller pieces worked better in those galleries. My favorite gallery was at the tip of an almost triangular building. It was about ten by ten, narrowing down to about six feet at the tip. The art in there was by Pierre Bergian and was of beautiful interior scenes, empty but for indiscernible paintings on the walls and beautiful moulding. The walls had years of patina on them and were scratched through to other layers. I'm not describing them very well, I don't think. I'll post some pictures of them too. Thankfully the owner had some postcards of them to help me remember them by. I found the surfaces and the gentle melancholy of the spaces to be quite lovely.

I also enjoyed some large paintings I saw in a large courtyard gallery. They were created by the smoke from a kerosene lantern, of all things. The images were of perfectly shaped women and sometimes their partners sitting close or embracing or making love. I liked the images a lot but of course wished the artist had found a more alistic range of female bodies to work with. Regardless, I found his technique and style wondrous.

I will have to bring this to a close now. I'm about to board the plane to China. I don't know if I'll have Internet there or not. The plane is completely full. It's about a nine hour flight. We arrive at 5:10 in the morning. Dylan has bravely agreed to pick me up there then. I'm so grateful!

I'll write more later... Bon voyage on all your voyages in the meantime!

Reflection of St. Germaine de Pres church in the Louis Vuitton window, next to Deux Magots where Satre and Simone de Beauvoir wrote and met and conversed and drank.

The pictures below are of the Laduree' stand at the Paris Airport along with some of the other goodies for sale there.  One of the MontBlanc pens was 950 Euros!  I decided not to get that!  I don't know what could make a pen worth that much money - about $1300.  It's confusing to me.

In the Amsterdam airport - this area was very ecofriendly.  You could see at the stand there and cycle to re-charge your electronic devices!

I liked this sculpture in the Amsterdam airport.  It looks so friendly and comfortable.  It's actually made out of metal, but it fooled me into thinking it was out of soft cushy material.

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