Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.
There is no better way to fully experience a city than to walk, eat, walk, drink and walk some more, especially a city like Paris. My friend Fiona of 23 years took the TGV train from Switzerland to Paris and I flew in from California via Israel and Sweden to meet her. After all that flying, I was definitely ready to explore.
With the sun shining, we hit the pavement at 8:30 AM, no specific destination in mind. Fiona could see the Eiffel Tower so we headed in that direction. I felt a plastic model before, which did not do it justice, especially when standing underneath embraced by the four tower legs hundreds of feet apart. With Fiona's explanation, I was able to visually understand the structure so there was no need to stand around to go inside. The cue was already long at 9 AM.
Over coffee and croissant, Fiona pored over the guidebook and map while I used my BrailleNote GPS to see what I could find. After two coffees, we buzzed out the door with a couple ideas of areas to visit. I often find that a city bus tour is a good way to get an overview but we elected to take a hop-on-hop-off boat tour instead.
We proceeded up the Seine at 10 kHz. Fiona pointed out the sites and I told her the names of the many bridges we passed using my BrailleNote GPS. There is so much history, on both sides and around every bend. Notre Dame for example on the island in the Seine. It too had long lines but was fun to see from the outside. Next to it was a working hospital with its own plaques, memorials, courtyard with box hedge and much quieter portrayal of history and no lines.
We continued to hop on and off the boat, seeing things like the memorial to the Jews deported by the Vichy government, the zoological park and the museum of natural history. It had a fun line up of two-by-two life-size stuffed animals headed for Noah's Arc. The strangest animal in the zoo we saw was a raccoon-like creature called a Binturong. I couldn't see its details but I could see its vague shape as it clambered on its rock mound. It was interesting and unsettling at the same time to see these animals in captivity.
The Modern Art Museum caused quite a stir when its design was first proposed because of its radical look. Much of the structure, supports and pipes are exposed and painted colorfully. Multiple escalators lead to the top for a 360-degree view of Paris and its mostly white rooftops.
One of my favorite sites of the day was a pool below this museum with many useless but playful fountain creations. We ate lunch while we watched the bright yellow and red woman spinning around on her back with water jetting from one breast along with a dozen other wild moving spurting fountains.
I really loved just walking the narrow lanes and grand avenues being a sponge for a vibrant Paris on a beautiful day. Fiona told me everyone was smiling. I certainly was. She described the people and places, the nooks and crannies, the bronze man emerging from a stone wall, the pest control store window full of dead rats, a street where a nail bomb was exploded, the Kindergarten from which children were deported from 1942 to 1944, the specialty shops for cats, for writing tools, for sex toys, Goldberg's Jewish Deli, the sidewalk book sellers, the Porsche Gt convertible in front of the Ritz, not to mention the ubiquitous short metal posts to keep the cars from parking on the sidewalk. I discovered when tapping these poles with my cane that some resonated at a lower tone than their neighbors, kind of representative of the melting pot of the people on the street.
After 10 kilometers walking around Paris, we were more than ready for a glass of wine and dinner at Fiona's friends, Eva and Dick. Finally, after fifteen hours since we set out, we returned to Hotel Muguet and the opportunity to take off our shoes.
If we thought we covered a lot of ground on day one, we covered even more ground on day two. Fiona was adept at navigating the underground and I had fun helping to guide us with the GPS above ground. Sometimes we followed a route, other times we would be deep in conversation and just followed our feet, which led us first on day two, to Mont Martre. This is one of the highest vantage points in Paris. It had a more distant aerial perspective of Paris than the Modern Art Museum from the previous day. It was a great place to have lunch.
From there we walked and talked and occasionally stopped for a coffee. We traversed several Paris districts including the world's most exclusive shopping district. The crowds thinned out around those stores and became dense again around the more affordable shops. The Jewish district had a wonderful array of small shops, which specialized in everything you can think of. I even found my favorite liquor, Genepi, which is derived from alpine herbs.
Saturday night, I tried Lebanese wine for the first time along with a very tasty meal, not an American accent within earshot, great ambiance.
On the way home, our underground transport went a bit awry when we couldn't find a working ticket machine so we hopped the gate. There are cameras everywhere in the underground but we were not arrested.
We arrived back at our hotel, nearly 10 miles and 14 hours since we set out Saturday morning. Fiona has a beautiful, natural way of articulating what she sees that I can visualize what she sees for myself. In 17 miles of walking and 29 hours of talking, we had really experienced Paris and dissected the world’s problems in the process. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.Hotel MugetLoubnane Lebanese restaurant