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Margie Johnson is the latest of our intrepid travellers to la Belle France!  She has been in Paris for a month now and this is an extract from her latest letter home.  Hubby Rob has just been on a visit and daughter Kate is going to be visiting from Denmark.

It is 5am and Rob has just left to catch the plane home……. a lonely figure walking down the Seine as the trains only start later !!! He arrived here amidst curious stares dressed in bright red baggy hippy pants and crocs which soon got relegated to the bottom of his case …..not Parisian style !! It has been wonderful having him here to share the sights and it also gave me the chance to show off my local knowledge.    Now its back to being a student again.
Where to start ?  On our first outing we were passing Hotel de Ville .. the town hall….. and all the roads were closed off and a magnificent row of mounted horses lined the street…….large fancy cars began to arrive so i asked one of the soldiers what was going on ….can you believe it it was Zuma and his entourage visiting Sarkozy   I felt unbelievably proud seeing our flags on the cars and hanging high on the buildings but as Rob said it was a bitter sweet moment when one saw the opulence and thought of all the hungry people at home ….do they have to send sooooo many people …..we saw Zuma and who knows how many others !!! 
We spent a couple of days fossiking around the neighbourhood.. down the winding foodfilled streets in the Latin Quarter…up to Republic square and down St Martins canal where people live in fabulous houseboats…stocked up with fresh fresh fruit from the market and popped in to all the churches which never fail to amaze one.. Every evening there are vespers sung at Notre Dame …the insence clouding out from the alter and exquisite voices filling every corner of this ancient cathedral…..what an honour it must be to sing there….despite there being 100s of people it is surprisingly quiet and peaceful. We have been many times. A good place to rest ones weary legs after a days walking.
TheSacre Ceur stands magesticly above Momarte dressed in her pink marble.. in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of the red light area of Pigalle down below. This must be the holiest church Ive been in.After climbing endless steps up …up…up…and having watched the artists plying their trade …some of them really excellant . we stood and gazed over a hazy Paris ..I think one needs a year here to take it all in !! We caught the tail end of a service and then listened to a group of incredibly well behaved schoolboys who sang a couple of prayers….a very special memory’.
After weeks of cold and grey we have been blessed with many warmer (but still chilly ) sunny days Spring is sprunging and daffodils flowering , the willow trees that were bare when I arrived have turned from yellowy orange to bright green in a matter of a week….the leaf buds on the trees are fat with the anticipation of summer !!! The days are much longer too . Time passes fast at the change of season…..Been thinking of you all in the heat and can’t believe I’ll be home in Autumn.
Rob’s sister and brother in law came  last weekend and spoilt us taking us to dinner ….you dont want to eat out in Paris…R150 for a glass of wine !!!.but it was very nice wine….but ouch or eish !!!…. and a wonderful day on the river boat down the Seine you can get on and off so stopped at the Sunday antique market at Ponte de Concorde….could not believe the astronomic prices !!! About 5 to 10 x what we would pay at home !!!!   So didn’t buy an old anything !!! Being me I stood at the bow of the boat and woops a wave of icy dirty Seine water plopped right into my boots !!  That I think was the start of a goodly cold and earache!! But it will pass.
Highlight highlight !!!!! It was our 40th wedding anniversary and Rob booked for the Moulin Rouge woweeeee what a spectacular evening …a once in a lifetime extravaganza… one brilliant act after another..even a glass swimming pool rising out of the floor filled with pythons and a dancer swimming with them…..dancers …little horses ….acrobats….jugglers and so it went on and on just superb… not to forget the can can girls who really can can can. Sat there like lady muck with champagne gawking !! No photos allowed unfortunately and you have to hand in coats & cameras for the little sum of 4 euros ! Back home on the metro with the steet people settling in for the night sleeping on the platforms.. what a contrast of different worlds.
Having not been out of Paris it was a real pleasure to catch the train to Chartres a beautiful village or should I say city ,as it has the magestic Chartres cathedral…again I had learnt the floor plan in history of art….13 th century.. its 2 different spires one romanesque and the other gothic ..stunning stained glass the blues irredescent …the flagstone floors sloping and undulating .with the passing of time.     We meandered through  the cobbled streets that  are lined with buckled old buildings ..the town square with kids riding on the carousel with its twinkling lights…. and then back to gay Paree through forests and famland ..through the more modern residential areas ….the houses look like monopoly houses ! Suddenly its industrial  like any western city and out we pop at the gorgeous Ile de le Cite back to the old centre of town.
The old part of Paris isn’t very spread out, it’s very densly populated, one can walk everywhere but I was happy to catch the bus to the Eiffel tower which is further than our legs wanted to carry us ! Rob went up to the top but yours truly has a fear of heights and sat and drew surrounded by endlessly persistant hawkers and deaf and dumb money collectors ( whom I saw having a briefing from their “boss” and they were all chatting away !!!! ) I didnt feel very safe here unlike the rest of Paris and hung onto the backpack.  We did a whole loop on the bus home and saw Stade de France the stadium built for the Olympics……no wonder they wanted to run ours as its a far more attractive structure…ok I know theirs has amazing facilities  but it is a concrete  jungle.
To date the french have been nothing but helpful and charming except for the very rude lady at the memorial for the some 160 000 people from Paris who were killed in the Holocaust t . We were at the front of the queue ( there were only 2 others ) and she totally ignored us chatted to her friends and it was only when the other 2started to walk away after standing for about 15 mins that she begrudgingly scratched through my bag ..gave us the rules like a gustapo general ..and eventually lifted the barrier and let us down the steps to this very moving memorial.  So simple ..a long thin crypt like structure behind metal bars lined with thousands of what looked like pebbles , each representing a person so mercilessly killed and at the end a single bare lightbulb….shooo a lot said with so little. A sad experience but I am glad we didn’t miss it. Perhaps she thought we were German or English !! A bit of PR needed here !
The Jewish Quarter is right here and one of my favourite shops is the jewish shop which is filled to capacity from floor to ceiling with every conceivable comodity.. one drools at the sacks of nuts, glaced fruits and delicious looking goodies but at one heck of a price ! A tiny tiny jar of Marmite for 4 euros ! Jenny bought some pistacios there and ate them one rand at a time ! the owners are so sweet and dont seem to mind one just looking.
Rob has arrived at the airport ..yay.. was worried that he may be late but alls well as I hope it is with all of you ….only 2 more weeks and Kate & co come next weekend so its down to some serious art now. So from me to you all lots of love.
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