October 9, 2012 (Tuesday) – our last day in Paris. I made a post on that day as we rode the Eurostar out of France, but that was more of a commentary on our stay rather than a journal of the last day. So, here is the journal version.
We woke up at 10 again and decided to have one last meal at Pomme de Pain, since their food was pretty good and it was close by (checkout was at noon).
I like studying the menus of the places where we eat, and I think I’ll remember for a long time that “chaud” is French for “hot” after seeing it so many times on Pomme de Pain’s menu. Seeing “C” on the hot water faucet helped to reinforce it as well (as opposed to “F” for “froid”). Anyhow, after some nice sandwiches and coffee, we made our way back to the hotel and made some final preparations before heading downstairs to check out. We experienced one bump which was a charge on the final bill for some items from the goodies tray in the room. As a rule, JC and I never take items from hotel mini-bars, and I had to repeat myself a few times before the receptionist agreed to drop the charge.
With four hours until the Eurostar was scheduled to depart, we stopped by the laundromat again. I put on the telephoto lens and captured some Parisians going about their business:
Well, it was almost smooth sailing because I kept setting off the metal detector at Gare du Nord. I emptied my pockets, took off my watch, and even removed my belt, but each time the infernal machine would beep. The female officer took me aside and waved the detector wand over me. When she got down to my shoes, we both realized it was the steel toe inside my boots; she tapped the toe with her fist, gave me a knowing smile, and shooed me out of the customs area. What a magnificent woman.
We didn’t have to wait long before boarding the train, and soon we were on our way out of Paris. At the time, I wrote that I would probably not visit France again, but after writing these posts and recalling all of the things that we did, I take back what I said. If I ever get the opportunity again, I definitely will go to France and Paris.
Other Random Notes from Paris
One funny thing about the laundromat was that I finally learned what the Baron in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown was shouting when his chateau was on fire: “Au secours! Au secours!” (“Help! Help!”) I was reading JC’s guidebook while waiting for the laundry and it just dawned on me. I was pretty giddy after that. Here’s the clip on YouTube, and here I am being giddy:
In our neighborhood there was dog poop everywhere. One definitely needed to watch where one was stepping. Apparently, this is a common thing in Paris.
There were a few interesting things about the Paris Métro. First, some of the trains run on tires, resulting in more of a floaty and bouncy ride. I’d never seen that before. Second, many (if not most) of the trains require the passenger to open the doors manually. When the train stops, the lock clicks and you pull up on a lever to open the door. Some people pull up on the lever before the doors unlock to get a head start, and a few times the doors opened before the train came to a complete stop. Pretty cool. Third, some of the trains that we rode on were pretty small and more like light rail cars, with corresponding smaller stations (vs. 10-car BART trains or the MTR). Fourth, when in operation, the trains had a trumpety, siren-like, wailing sound. Hearing that sound and seeing the train bounce around on its rubber tires as it entered or exited the station was quite a spectacle. Lastly, at any moment, someone on the train can bust out with an accordion and start singing and playing. Busking seemed to be a common and accepted (read: ignored by the locals) practice on the trains.
This video has a good selection of the different kinds of trains on the Métro:
I thought about World War II a lot while I was in Paris. There seemed to be little reminders of the war all over. For example, I’ve already mentioned in the Day 4 post a street named after the French Resistance member Georges Mandel. We passed through a Métro station named after Franklin Roosevelt. When we went on the Batobus and passed underneath all of the bridges crossing the Seine, I wondered how strategically important those bridges were during the war. A little tiny bridge may seem insignificant, but if it’s the only way to send troops and supplies over a river, then its significance increases dramatically.