European Vacation – August 8

We were heading back to Chambéry today, but our train wasn’t til the afternoon, so we had time to squeeze in a little more Paris. Another morning run to MonoPrix for breakfast and the makings for sandwiches later, and then we were off to Montmartre.

The goal was the Basilica Sacre Couer, which sits on a hill with an amazing view of Paris, but the streets of Montmartre that we walked through on the way proved very interesting in their own right. Vibrant would be an apt description. We made our way to the Basilica, climbed the many steps, walked right into the cathedral (no line ups, no admission!) and then had our lunch on the steps overlooking Paris. I’ve never been in a restaurant with a better view. The price was right as well.

A quick check of PocketStreets showed that the Moulin Rouge was just a quick walk away. I couldn’t resist. We had a few minutes to spare before we had to get back to the hotel, pick up our checked bags and head to the station. We walked down the hill. On the way, a street vendor/pan handler (the distinction between the two was blurred in this case) tried to get me to stop so he could show me some little plastic bracelet for my daughter Lauren, who was holding my hand. I skirted past him, mumbling a “Non, merci” and started off. Apparently I transgressed some French etiquette, as he launched into a tirade about my being an American and how we “never had a time for anything, always in a hurry”. I kept walked as the tirade picked up in both intensity and volume. Apparently there was some emotional baggage that needed unpacking and he was in full swing. I didn’t bother stopping to correct the question of my home country. I felt the fine points of distinction between Canadians and Americans would be lost on him.

As we moved from the solemn sanctity of Sacre Couer, I couldn’t believe the transformation as we got closer to the Moulin Rouge. It was a graphic depiction of the dichotomy of Paris, with history and religion juxtaposed against bacchanalian sensuality. And we saw it all in a few blocks. My wife was kept busy diverting our daughter’s attention from the graphic posters depicting the entertainment in the neighborhood establishments.

“Look over there, on the right girls”

“What..what are we supposed to be looking for”

“There, over there..no..not left..right..quickly!”

“Where?”

“Oh..never mind. It’s passed now”

Although it was a valiant attempt, I’m not sure it was entirely successful. I think I caught a knowing grin on their faces as we quickly shepherded them into the nearest metro station.

A bit of stress navigating through the metro back to our hotel and then back to the Gare du Lyon, but we made it back on the train and settled back for the 3 hour ride back to Chambéry. I realized I had a column due so I fired up my PDA and jotted down a few thoughts about attitudes about time in North America and Europe, based on my observations over the past week. Here’s the link if you’re interested. I’ve got to admit, it was pretty cool being able to file a column while on a high speed train. But I’m sure I’m in for a shock when I get my cell bill.

After arrival back in Chambéry, we were whisked off to a family reunion, seeing as my mother and father-in-law were departing the next morning for southern Italy. More food, more grasping for conversational meaning in 4 different languages (English, Italian, French and vigorous sign language) much more kissing on both cheeks, a lot of pictures and we were ready for bed.

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