Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paris: Our Neighborhood

In order to set the context for our week in Paris, I have decided to start by getting you familiar with the neighborhood where we stayed. We stayed at the Hotel de Sers at 41, Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, but I'll save the description of that hotel for another blog entry. We highly recommend that hotel, by the way.

The first picture here is of the corner of Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie and George V, as seen from just outside the door to our hotel. One afternoon it rained for about 30 minutes, and that just happens to be when I stepped outside to snap area photos, so unfortunately it leaves one with the impression that it rained alot while we where in Paris. Not true: it rained on the travel days (arriving and departing, so no harm done) and 30 minutes one afternoon. We were fortunate.

 As I turn the camera to my right looking up Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie (who puts a '1er' in a street name??), we can see the glass canopy over the front door of the Hotel de Sers, just above the red canopy. This area is very safe and ideally located, as we'll see here in a moment. The doorman had the parking out front roped off for his valet service. I'll talk more about the hotel in a later post - there is too much to try and squeeze into this post.

 Turning the camera to the far left, we can see down the street the other way, where Pierre 1er de Serbie becomes Rue Pierre Charron. Though you can't see it, about 1 block down is the cafe we visited at least once each day. On the left, this photo just skims the edge of a little market that is the only thing between our hotel and, just round the corner to the left on George V, The Four Seasons Hotel. That hotel is obviously five star as there were Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Rolls-Royces lined up out front. Now, let's zoom in so I can point out a few key aspects of this view.
 Notice the very bright neon green cross...this is a pharmacy. This chain is extremely prominent in Europe: you could find a green cross about every 2 blocks in Paris, and almost as often in Italy. That company practically has a lock on the market.
Second, note the poster for the Indiana Jones movie. Posters for Indiana Jones were all over Paris and Italy. Only one movie was even more prevalent: Sex and the City. For every Indiana Jones poster, we must have seen 3 Sex and the City posters. They were everywhere.

 On another day, I stood at the corner of George V and Pierre 1er de Serbie - notice it wasn't raining! I wanted to point out the black Cadillac on the corner. While we saw quite a few Chrysler products (Chrylser 300s, Jeep Grand Cherokees, PT Cruisers and minivans), there weren't many other American cars - maybe 1% of the car population. This Allante sat on this corner all week, so one day I took a closer look. It was for sale and strategically placed at a busy intersection.
 This was the view when we walked south on George V towards our hotel. Note the building straight ahead. No, my camera did not malfunction. The build was being remodeled and therefore had scaffolding all around it. The scaffolding was covered with a fabric upon which was imprinted a fake building facade, in order I presume to minimize the ugliness of reconstruction. All buildings being remodel had a fabric facade. In this case, the fabric was imprinted with a warped image of a building, which really played tricks with our eye. That is beautiful Laura strolling home. On this day, she switched out of her beloved high heels in favor of footwear that would better handle the tremendous amount of walking we did during our two weeks in Europe.
 Here is another view of that building, taken from another street. The human eye is a extremely complex and wonderful thing, but it can sometimes be tricked also. Notice how even the tree and car on the street appear to be warped - to my eye, anyway. They are in fact not warped. Only the fabric on the building is done in that manner. Bizarre!
 One evening as we dragged ourselves back to the hotel, I snapped this picture of Champs Elysses, looking east. Not the greatest, but it gives you some idea of the feel for the area. The entrance to the George V metro station is on the right and just behind that, where the cars are turning, is the George V street.
Some tourists (all male) stationed themselves in the middle of Champs Elysses with a camera on a tripod to get that perfect shot of Champs Elysses. I value my record of no broken bones too much to do that.
 This is another shot of Champs Elysses about 2 blocks east of Arc de Triomphe. It appears a group was getting ready for a parade of some sort. The last time we were in Paris, there was a group nearer the Arc preparing in a similar manner - it must be a regular occurrence. Just a block or two down to the right of this photo start the high-end shops like Louis Vuitton
 Here is a shot of the Arc. Champs Elysses is about a quarter mile from our hotel, and the Arc is less than a quarter mile past that. When going back to the airport, our shuttle driver used the round-about around the Arch, and it was a wild ride! By then, we were accustomed to the cycles zipping in and out of traffic, driver's generous use of horns to say everything from "you idiot!" to "i'm bored", and the general lack of obedience to traffic signals and parking laws. But a trip on a round-about with a true Parisian is something totally different.

The George V metro station was under reconstruction, as you can tell by the look of the walls. The surface had been completely stripped at this point. That's Laura contemplating hopping on the metro which probably would have left her camera happy husband behind. We really liked the Paris metro. It is very well marked, easy to use, the trains arrive every 4 minutes or so, and there seems to be a metro station about every three or four blocks. It is one city where I can very easily imagine living without a car. If you visit Paris, we definitely recommend not renting a car - it will save you from many headaches.
 A few stops down the line was the Concorde station, which was not under construction and therefore offered a better idea of what a typical metro station was like. Note the woman in high heels - very picturesque. We found we used the Concorde station quite a bit in order to switch metro lines in order to reach our destination.

 If we walked south a quarter mile down George V, we were at the edge of the Seine River and had a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower. We did not wander down this way too often since the cafes down this way were ultra expensive. Midway between here and our hotel is the Crazy Horse, which according to Parisians is the only authentic cabaret left in Paris. We visited it on our last trip but did not make it there this time. This photo shows my lovely bride Laura in front of yet another Indiana Jones poster.

 As I mentioned, we developed a favorite cafe that we visited once or twice daily: La Belle Ferronniere on Rue Pierre Charron. As in all of Paris, the waiters were phenomenal (why can't we do that in the US?) and the wine spectacular. The food was very good also, though we usually just stopped in for breakfast or for a nightcap. Or both!
This was the view we often saw while sitting at the cafe. It was a non-stop stream of small cars and motorbikes. The motorbikes were the most fun to watch - men in business suits and women in high heels. On Saturday night about 2 AM, we watched as tow trucks cruised the area looking for illegally parked cars. They must have towed three off in front of the cafe within about 3o minutes. They could have a car hooked and removed within about 60 seconds, even if it was boxed in front and rear by other cars (they had lifts).

Also, we watched a dude "create" is own parking spot by starting at the corner of the block and inching forward pushing the end car forward, which pushed the next car forward which then even pushed the next car forward! I'm not making this up! The end result was four cars bumper to bumper with zero room between cars! Unfortunately, a 20-something female reveler then came out to leave in her car and was speechless at what she saw. She just stood there. I went up to her and tried to explain was happened, but she did not speak English. Glad it wasn't my car!

Of the 2000+ photos I took during the trip, I have processed about 10% of them at this point, mostly photos from the Louvre. Therefore, the next few posts will be about the Louvre. Stay tuned, but it may take awhile.


Photos in this post: Olympus C-5060


Gwen Buchanan said...

This is really entertaining J. and not nearly as crowded as I would have thought.. I am having a great time going along with the two of you...

Sandy said...

J, you've done it again!! Great post with such detail. Since I don't like to fly, I feel I've at least visited some great places.

Your descriptions are great, loved seeing your favorite cafe and reading about the "parking lot". Wow..

This was so fun to see the pics and get to see where you visited.

When I get a chance I'll check out your other link for last time you were there.

I really enjoyed this.

Here I was checking every day for a long time for an update and I go and miss a week and look what I've got to read.

thanks for the great posts. I will be looking forward to more.

J said...


Sorry for the spotty-ness of posting. Work has had me traveling alot again, so I fall silent while I'm gone (I don't like to pre-announce when that'll be for obvious security reasons - never know who else is watching the blog).

The good news with this last trip is that it gave me time to use Photoshop for enhancing some of the vacation photos while I sat in the hotel room at night. It keeps me out of trouble. :)

Sandy said...

Totally understand not wanting to announce when you are leaving.!


Carol said...

What a wonderful web page! The pictures are fantastic. Visited Paris in April with my son for the first time and enjoyed the Louvre tremendously. Now I dream of returning again someday as our time disappeared so rapidly and there was so very much to see. Your pictures fill in what we missed. What a fascinating city! Only complaint was our American money was no match for the Euro and went so fast. Will stop in again to check your web page.

J said...

Thanks Carol.

Paris is very addicting, isn't it?

We've been twice now and will probably make it 3 in the next couple of years.

I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.