Post-Charlie Paris, Travel Plans for March


PARIS IS STILL PARIS, as these atmospheric photos, taken last weekend by my cousin Susan, show. She reported the streets were ‘normale,’ with plenty of shoppers (the semi-annual sales are on) and heavier police presence in the Marais.

My month-long, late-winter European sojourn is on, and I’m in trip-planning mode once again. I’m flying into Madrid, heading south from there to visit friends who live in the mountains near Malaga, then riding the rails toward the South of France and eventually into Italy, ending up in Naples and the Amalfi Coast. (Paris is not part of this trip, by the way; I’m hoping for warmth and sunshine.)

When I got realistic and started thinking about timing, I cut out ‘detours’ like San Sebastian, Lyon and Switzerland, and will more or less hug the Mediterranean coast, so I can spend more time in fewer places. Still, it will be a whirlwind. I’m aiming for at least two nights (Cordoba), sometimes three (Arles, Nice) or four (Milan, with side trips), at each stop. I’m making a few key reservations, mostly at modest but hopefully charming hotels, hostels and B&Bs. My budget for accommodations is $100/night, but I’m finding there’s plenty available and in many cases, I won’t even have to spend that much.

Working on the logistics, consulting schedules, figuring out how to hop from one place to another in half-day, three- or four-hour train increments. Overnight trains are out. I have enough trouble sleeping well in a bed, and I want to see the scenery I’m passing through — at close to 200mph, I’m afraid. The European rail system is largely high-speed trains now, though I’ll take local trains when possible.

Your encouraging input on my previous post and suggestions for places to go and see are much appreciated. So let us continue. I’ve been to Barcelona and Valencia; this trip will mostly be about seeing places I have NOT been. I’m considering spending time in Zaragoza and/or Giona. Anyone been to either of those?

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Photos: Susan Rosenthal

PARIS DAY 2: Beaucoup de Monuments

YESTERDAY WE WANDERED; today we walked. And walked. After a long-anticipated breakfast of croissants and cafe au lait at a sidewalk cafe on the Rue de Buci, we set off in the direction of the Musee Rodin to see its garden, below.

Above: Paul, a tea room and patisserie on the Rue de Buci

Our timing was just right. Roses are the main event there, and we found them in full and fragrant bloom, setting off the towering topiaries and Rodin’s muscular bronzes.

We headed across the Seine on the statue-bedecked Pont Alexandre, above, passing Louis XIV’s Les Invalides on the Left Bank and the iron-domed Grand Palais, an exhibition hall, on the Right. All the gilding and glittering was more than I could take in. To get one’s head around the history and architecture would require some serious study, or at least a proper guidebook. We strode past it all on the way to L’Orangerie to see Monet’s monumental Water Lilies and a much-easier-to-relate-to collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works on the lower level.

Place de la Concorde, above, a glorified traffic circle, with the Parthenon-like Madeleine in the background

Catnapping in the Tuileries

Lunch was Salad Nicoise at an outdoor cafe in the Tuileries; then we forged on to see the under-appreciated formal garden inside the Palais Royal, below, with its shady allees and, once again, the roses in their moment of glory.

A bit of shopping was in order, so we took back streets toward L’Opera, below, and spent an hour in Galeries Lafayette, the Art Nouveau department store.

The store’s atrium, above, is crowned with a massive span of decorative stained glass. We  rendezvoused on the roof terrace, below, which has a spectacular view of low-lying Paris.

The user-friendly Metro spirited us back to St Germain, where we had our best meal so far, below, at Restaurant Au 35 on Rue Jacob.

None of this was really planned, I might add. We just started walking in the morning and that’s how things unfolded. The weather was probably the main determining factor. It was too beautiful a day to spend indoors, even looking at great art.