Bob’s flight from Minneapolis to Paris arrived about four hours late, and our train from Rome arrived about two hours late – yet happily we all arrived in Paris, before the snow and ice shutdown most of the major airports and delayed or canceled most train travel in Europe. For the next week the news was dominated by record cold and snow, and flight cancellations. The media referred to it as “the White-mare before Christmas.” Heathrow in London took the worst drubbing. In addition to thousands of unhappy, stranded holiday travelers, they had jets frozen into the runway.
Despite the rain, snow and slush, we went out to see what we could see. On our first full day in Paris we went to Notre-Dame. 2300 years ago the city was the home of a Celtic tribe called the Parisii. In 52 B.C the Romans conquered the Parisii and built their Temple of Jupiter where Notre-Dame stands today. Later, the Germanic Franks conquered the Romans, knocked down the Temple of Jupiter and replaced it with the Christian church of St. Etienne in the 6 Century. In 1163, on the same spot, they broke ground to build the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, which took almost 200 years to complete.
|St. Denis holding his head.|
During the time the Romans ruled the area, the Christian Bishop, Denis, was beheaded as a warning or intended deterrent to those straying into Christianity. Legend has it, that Denis picked up his head, washed it off in a fountain, carried it ten kilometers, preaching the whole way – until he arrived at the spot where he wanted to “meet his maker.” The Parisians declared this a miracle and Christianity boomed. There are numerous statues of St. Denis holding his head – including one to the left of the doorway leading into Notre-Dame. Wandering about we stopped at the famed Shakespeare and Company bookstore and the deportation memorial. Surrounded by restaurants, brasseries and bakeries, our biggest challenge was figuring out where to eat.
On Sunday we took the metro the Jewish Quarter in Marias. This is a very lively neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants and artist studios. We had lunch at L’As du Falafel, home of the best falafel sandwiches in Paris, according to our friend Lena, and the New York Times.
On Monday, Josh cut off his hair, and in some “Sampson” like connection, promptly got very sick. He ran a fever, ached, chilled, and coughed and coughed. He was very sick for two days, but by the third day he was basically on the mend. On Wednesday, I went down – and, unlike Josh, was completely incapacitated our last five days in Paris. I was too sick to read, and too sick to write. So I was limited to watching the only TV station in English, CNN International, or watching French television. CNN International seems to have about one hour worth of content that they just recycle over and over all day. Having the flu when you are in Paris is crummy, but I reminded myself I was in a nice hotel room, and not sleeping on the floor at Heathrow airport. I found it mildly amusing to watch Mary Poppins, ET and an old Western starring Kirk Douglas (Man without a Star, 1955) – all dubbed in French. Gunslingers in a saloon speaking French seemed wrong, but ET in French worked just fine. I still loved it when those bicycles take off into the air in the great escape, and I still cried when ET left. That will be my memory of Christmas Eve 2010.
|Josh sans long hair, checking out the fromage.|
Despite having substantial practice, I am not very good a being sick. While my rationale self knows this is just an influenza virus and I will recover, my irrational drama queen self is quite convinced I have some undetected life-threatening illness and I will never feel well again. Generally my rational self prevails.
As I said, Josh bounced right back, and he and Bob were able to spent some time at the Louvre and enjoyed at least a little more of the fine cuisine of this city. This evening they are down on the Champs-Elysees.
The sun was out all day today, and air traffic is back to normal at the Charles de Gaulle airport. Yesterday over half the flights were canceled because they ran out of de-icing fluid. Tomorrow morning we fly to Tel Aviv, Israel where the forecast is for sunshine and mid-seventies. The three of us will welcome in the new year in Jerusalem.