A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: Incomparable Dance, Theatre, Jazz, Classical and Contemporary Music*

The Opera Bastille, designed by Canadian architect Carl Ott was the venue for a sensational production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet.

The Opera Bastille, designed by Canadian architect Carl Ott was the venue for a sensational production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet.

Music, theatre and dance in various forms have always been very healing for me – whether as a performer or as a member of the audience or as a remote viewer/listener via an electronic medium. While my primary motivation to travel to Paris in winter was to attend to wonderful wedding of my fabulous French friends Carole and Gildas, my second priority was to experience as  many performing arts productions as possible.  I was definitely not disappointed! “There are at least 800 performances on any given night in Paris!” Gildas informed me  of this fact during a mystery tour I took with them. (More on that in a subsequent post.)

My first big performance outing was on New Year’s ( called Old Year’s in the Caribbean) Eve. Thanks to Carole, who had secured a ticket for me several months in advance, I was off to see The Nutcracker Ballet, a traditional Christmas favourite entertainment in Canada, as well as in France.  It had been more than 30 years since I last watched this special 19th century spectacle on stage, and here I was in Paris of all places to see it again.  Well, I was beyond delighted!

I have been fortunate to see the Rudolf Nureyev choreographed nutcracker many years ago in both Ottawa and Toronto.  To see it in Paris was definitely a dream come true!

I have been fortunate to see the Rudolf Nureyev choreographed Nutcracker  Ballet many years ago in both Ottawa and Toronto. To see it in Paris was definitely a dream come true!

As I seated myself in the second balcony, I was amazed at the exceptional view I had of the entire stage at the Opera Bastille.  And I could also see the conductor and all the instrumentalists in the orchestra pit.  This well-loved ballet held the 3,000 viewers in the sold-out space  in awe for about two magical hours, with one 20 minute intermission.  I particularly enjoyed watching the harpists in the ‘pit’, as well as the conductor’s baton guiding the musicians through Tchaikovsky’s renowned score.  But of course, it was the dancers who stole my heart and everyone else’s, with their beautiful, precise, flowing movements, demonstrating their strength and agility in this challenging physical art form.   Yet it was more than that.  In Nureyev’s choreographed production, it was evident that the enchanting tale of The Nutcracker was also relayed through the dancers’  facial expressions and mimed  injections of humor, with which the audience could easily identify. The entire Corps De Ballet  and the students in the dance school of the  Paris Opera Ballet gave me a wonderful New Year’s gift with their world-class performance of a timeless tale. I left the opera house in a dream-like state, as is fitting a New Year’s Eve in the City of Light!

The Theatre Chatelet is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, alongside the Seine River.

The Theatre Chatelet is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, along the Seine River.

During the following week, I was well occupied by outings with Carole and Gildas.  However, when Saturday January 3rd arrived, I was determined to see the world première of An

There are 2,500 seats in the Theatre Chatelet, more recently called Theatre Musicale de la paris.

There are 2,500 seats in the Theatre Chatelet, more recently called Theatre Musicale de la Paris.

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The stage is set for the opening act and the piano is ready to be played!

American in Paris musical before it closed and headed to Broadway!  Again, Carole had tried to secure a ticket for me, but the house was completely sold-out on that last weekend of its run at the Theatre Du Chatelet.  However, she advised  me that rush seats with limited sight lines of the stage would be available for only $10 Euros.  Well, on that Saturday morning, I was at the ticket office as soon as it opened.  I was able to get a ticket with a caution that I might not be able to see the entire stage.  In my mind, something was better than nothing for an occasion such as this!

The  walls of the Joe Allen Restaurnat and Bar are adorned with posters from Broadway musicals and plays!

The walls of the Joe Allen restaurant and Bar are adorned with posters from Broadway musicals and plays!

As I had a few hours before the 3 p.m. start, I wandered around the Halles area of the first arrondissement.  It was a very rainy day and quite cool, so I was glad of my boots, wool coat and hat as I braved the elements with an umbrella for shelter. I was also on another mission:  I went in search of a well-known American

The renowned American Joe Allend Restaurant and Bar is located in close proximity to the Theatre Chatelet and the the Duc de Lombard Jazz Club.

The renowned American Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar is located near  the Theatre Chatelet and Le Duc des Lombards Jazz Club.

Café, as well as the location of a jazz club, called Le Duc Des Lombards.  I lucked out on both counts.  It was really just by chance that I came upon the Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar. I had an ulterior motive too: once I found it, I had hoped to meet the Canadian chef for which the place is famous – Graeme Bent.  My cousins from Nova Scotia are acquainted with his family, so I had hoped to say ‘hello’!  However, he was not in at that time, but I did enjoy my chicken Caesar salad with a mild apple cider on the side.  The place was packed, and by the time I finished my meal, I had to run for the opening of the theatre at 2:30 p.m. so that I could find my seat.  I made it on time, although I did get turned around once and was courteously redirected by a friendly Parisian, who understood my French perfectly!

A polite usher confirmed that it was not possible to take photos once the performance had begun.  This is a standard practise in most theatres these days.  For the same reason, I could not get action shots at Opera Bastille for The Nutcracker.  While I noticed that people did use their smart phones to capture memories from the stage, I respect the rights of the artists, as I wish to receive the same consideration for my own creations.

I was thrilled to discover that the sight lines for the stage were quite good, except for far stage left.  As it turned out, very little of the action took place in that area, so I felt well satisfied by my $10 Euro investment!  The plot is a well-known one, as the original film version starred Gene Kelly, and most people know at least a couple of the tunes, such as ‘I got Rhythm’ and ‘S’Wonderful’.  As the production was set in English, I could easily follow it, while French speakers referred to moving lines of translation above the stage.  Sometimes I looked at it and chuckled to myself.  As I have learned, it is often challenging to translate an idiom from one language to another; they tend to lose meaning.  However, the overall sense of the action was not lost on anyone.

Here I was in Paris, watching a musical written by  Americans George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, which really created a picture for me of what it may have been like  just after World War II and the end of Nazi Occupation in this City of Light.  The romantic leads were truly incredible: both are professional ballet dancers with fine voices and a great command of the stage.  You can read a complete review here.  They succeeded in thoroughly convincing me about their love for each other despite the challenges of post-war Paris,  as an American GI who stayed behind and fell in love with a French girl of Jewish ancestry.  The stage setting also depicted Paris as it would have looked during that era, and the cast cleverly moved the props on and off the stage without having  to make any big scene changes.  Without a doubt, I was entertained and instructed by these talented professionals, and of course, the music was so uplifting.  The whole creation transported me to another time – in Paris!

It was beyond a thrill to attend the world premiere of An American in Paris on its last weekend in the City of Light.  The show was then heading to Broadway, NYC!

It was beyond a thrill to attend the world première of An American in Paris on its last weekend in the City of Light. The show was then heading to Broadway, NYC!

As I was on a ‘high’ after that magical show, I thought I would try my luck at Le Duc des Lombards, which was located about 10 minutes away.  Unfortunately the two jazz performances were sold out that night, but I was able to return on another evening a few days hence.  I headed back to my cozy AirBNB apartment in Montmartre on the convenient Métro, as I had big  music plans for the next day too.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral is a prominent landmark on an island in the Seine River.

Notre Dame Cathedral is a prominent landmark on an island in the Seine River.

Because Sunday January 4th 2015, was actually the Christian celebration of Epiphany (when the Magi, (aka Wise Men) visited the Baby Jesus).  I made my way to the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral for the international mass to take place at 11:30 a.m. Although thousands of parishioners and visitors filled the immense sacred place, I was able to get a seat very close to the area where priests conducted the liturgy and the  soloists lead the

One of the amazing stained glass windows in Notre Dame Cathedral.

One of the amazing stained glass windows in Notre Dame Cathedral.

congregation in songs of praise – some of which were in Latin, while the rest were in French! As well, I enjoyed the choir’s rendition of J.S. Bach’s Cantata  BWV 123 for Epiphany: ‘Liebster  Immanuel’.  Although it was very chilly inside, and there was a slight distraction from hundreds of footsteps of tourists admiring the architecture around the perimeter, I was completely mesmerized by the voices and the beauty of the setting.  One of the  largest stained glass windows has been in place since the 13th century and parts of the organ date back to the 17th century!  I felt very joyful when the hour-long service was over, even though I was shivering!

The Epiphany display at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral wa a joyful sight to behold!

The Epiphany display at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral was a joyful sight to behold!

I have already reported about my next musical foray: ‘The Flute Project: Guitar and Flute’ which took place at the Trinity Church on Thursday January 8, 2015.  You can read about that moving performance here.

Yes, I actually did sing a little too:  that surprise performance took place during the happy occasion of the wedding of my French friends Carole and Gildas on Saturday January 10, 2015.  I had slightly modified a couple of verses of ‘La Vie En Rose’ so that the song focussed directly on them.  My a capella performance is referred to here.

It was almost the end of my visit when I got a taste of jazz , for which Paris is famous since World War II.  My return to le Duc Des Lombards jazz club in the Halles district of the first arrondissement with a reserved ticket was a fitting grande finale to my musical adventures in Paris.

Kavita Shah from NYC captivated the audience at the renowned Le Duc Des Lombards Jazz Club. Photo taken from page 9 of Le Duc Des Lombards French Quarter 5th edition Programme 2 -31 January 2015.

Kavita Shah from NYC captivated the audience at the renowned Le Duc Des Lombards Jazz Club. Page 9 copied  from Le Duc Des Lombards French Quarter 5th edition Programme 2 -31 January 2015.

I arrived at 7:30 p.m. on Monday January 12th for the first performance of the evening by Kavita Shah, a New Yorker of East Indian origin.  When I walked in to the intimate venue, the place was already close to its capacity of 65 seats.  A group of businessmen dined and casually conversed while technicians ensured that everything was in order on the small stage. Other jazz enthusiasts seemed to be seated at their favourite spots.  A friendly waiter took my order for mint tea. He also confirmed that photos were not allowed.  When Ms. Shah arrived, she passed casually among the crowded tables and smiled at everyone.  She then went upstairs for a few minutes and then quietly came down to take the stage while she watched her fellow musicians: drummer, pianist, guitarist and double-bassist as they warmed us up with the first selection.  Then she spoke to us in both English and French and told us about some of her own compositions and how she had fused eastern melodies with mystical stories.  The blend of jazz with unfamiliar  foreign musical influences resonated sweetly in my head.  Her clear soprano voice, pure in tone, seemed to melt perfectly into the timbre of the various instruments.  Sometimes I could not distinguish the sound of her voice from the guitar or piano when the notes were in unison. The whole room was spellbound by her low-key demeanor and superb talent. I was carried away be the loveliness of the music and her clarity of the words in each song.  I was completely ‘blown away’ by her duet of ‘La Vie En Rose’ with the double-bassist.  The  two diametrically opposed ‘instruments’ complemented each other despite the extreme differences in their harmonic qualities.  Suffice to say it was a very ‘funky’ upbeat presentation of this French classic. When they finished to loud applause, the double-bassist announced that the song was dedicated in love to the people who had lost their lives in the terrorist attacks  in Paris the previous week.

That was about the quickest hour and a half that I ever experienced in my life!  The show was over all too soon.  I could easily understand why critics call this tiny salon one of the finest jazz venues in the City of Light.

As I reflect on those wonderful and varied artistic performances, I feel truly blessed to have been able to partake of this amazing aspect of Paris life during my short time there. Now I dream of returning for more!

* This piece is dedicated to Leng Sorhaindo, renowned Dominican piano teacher (retired) and accompaniste extraordinaire. She asked me several times about my musical experiences in Paris, with great interest. As a singer, I am privileged to  be associated with  this exceptionally talented musician and supportive friend.   Thanks Leng!

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A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: the Palace of Versailles, an Extraordinary 17th Century Creation!*

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century marvel southwest of Paris.

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century Chateau southwest of Paris.

When bride-to-be Carole and I stepped onto  an RER train in central Paris bound for  Versailles on a foggy morning in late December (my second day there), we had

Louis XIV, a.k.a 'The Sun King' was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived powerful monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant planet.

Louis XIV, a.k.a ‘The Sun King’ was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived, powerful, and highly creative monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant star and using it as his emblem.

no idea that thousands  of residents and visitors would be of like mind! This was to be my only excursion to a suburb of Paris, and I was curious to experience  a historic site that many people had highly recommended that I see while in the City of Light.

But when we first arrived at the Palace of Versailles, we collectively gasped at the  very long line of people patiently waiting their turn to enter ‘the State Apartments’ section of the grand complex.  While I held a place in the queue, Carole went off to another line to buy our entrance tickets.  We were both thankful that I was wearing my brightly coloured Rasta tam and canary yellow Canadian ski jacket, as it did prove to be highly helpful when she returned to the growing, moving line of darkly attired bodies and easily spotted me in the massive crowd.

I wasn't the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors...

I wasn’t the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors…

A smal section of the queue who waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn't raining!

The seemingly endless winding queue generally waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining!

While I waited for her, I gazed around me in complete astonishment. Yes, I had previously learned bits and pieces about Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’ (as my former professor at Alliance Française de la Dominique, Carole had introduced me to this memorable monarch!). But I had really no idea of his power, influence, personality or creativity until I ‘set foot’ on the grounds of his palace.  Of course, the massive structure was not his doing alone.  Obviously, the highly skilled and talented artists, artisans, sculptors, builders and landscapers of that  era could design and construct beyond the capabilities of most people, I daresay, even in the 21st century!

After a three-hour wait, we finally approached the entrance way.

But after all that time spent shivering, a bathroom was my first priority, once inside.  I trembled with the chill and was thankful that the sun started to shine (appropriately!) as I could not shake the feeling of cold that penetrated my very being.  Thankfully, my lovely friend had gone off in search of food a little earlier, and brought back the most delicious sandwich I have ever tasted in my life!  It was a warmed soft (tortilla) wrap, containing three types of mild, barely melted cheeses ( I recall Emmenthal as one of them), which were covered in a mildly piquant sauce. That quick meal succeeded in reducing the shivers and hunger pangs for a few hours!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace.  I only wish I could have heard the notes emenating from those organ pipes!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace. I only wish I could have heard the notes emanating from those organ pipes!

Now that I was comfortable, I concentrated on the massive ‘rooms’ and ‘ornaments’ which were everywhere to be seen: in all directions, as well as above me.  I quickly observed that many of the hundreds of people around me had their mouths open.  I don’t think they were being intentionally rude:  tilting one’s face upwards towards the decorated ceilings and then absorbing the stunning artistry of the paintings overhead

In every room, there was a good reason to look up! This scene was located in the Mercury drawing room or 'bed-chamber'.

In every room (salon), there was a good reason to look up!Each ceiling depicted a scene related to a different mythological god or goddess, angels or demons!

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Elaborate busts, ornate doors, marble table tops…if I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would have sworn the setting must have appeared in a dream!

compelled visitors to “drop their jaws” in amazement and awe!  I am not well versed in mythology, but anyone who is would truly delight in the depictions of the gods that Louis XIV preferred. It was truly incredible that this long-lived and long-reigned king had turned his father’s hunting lodge into such an opulent abode.  It certainly defies the extent of my imagination and I know I am not alone, as evidenced by the thousands who viewed the site along with me that day.DSCF3771

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The King’s Chamber must have been the epitome of comfort (and privacy!) for Louis XIV!

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Imagine the coördinated efforts it would have taken to light the candles on the chandeliers in those days!

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The Queen had her own ‘salon’ too. But do you think there was only one beloved? I am not going to tell!

Carole did make every effort to explain so many pertinent details to me.  But I was so taken with the grandeur of the place that I could only nod, then gawk and gape some more! I simply marvelled at this structure and its elaborate contents.  But I did also  naïvely wonder how or if a building of such proportions with its elaborate artistic displays could ever be built in today’s world. The ‘Sun King’ certainly was a creative visionary, and he couldn’t have been worried about the cost of his mansion, even in the 17th century!  There is definitely more to that story, so if you’re curious, I am sure you will search for the facts!

After more than an hour, I felt satiated by this artistic feast and was now in need of some fresh air. Carole suggested that we spend a little time in “the Gardens,” and I eagerly agreed.  We found a little food hut that offered hot chocolate, so we sat down (finally) for about 20 minutes and sipped the sweetness, while giving our weary legs a much-needed rest from  the many hours we had spent standing up!

Carole poses with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

Carole poses in  ‘the Gardens’ with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

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The trees along the pathways in the Garden of Versailles were perfectly symmetrical and evoked a feeling of serenity in me. The canal is on the far right.

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Gwendominica stands by the Dragon fountain.  The Sun King certainly loved mythology!

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The Apollo fountain is situated between the Palace and the Canal.. Louis XIV apparently identified with this sun-god! The Grand Canal is in the background.

After that little break, we both felt refreshed and decided to take a walk by the Fountains around the grounds, even though it was the middle of winter!  We were not deterred, and as we walked around, I was mesmerized once again by the natural and created beauty: stone sculptures, fountains, the mile-long ‘ Grand Canal’ and perfectly pruned rows of trees. As I breathed in the fresh cool air, I became entranced with the stillness and the silence. It was late in the day,we were almost the only people there. Occasionally, a bird chirped or a runner passed beside us.  Sometimes we spoke and other times we retreated to  our private thoughts.  My mind drifted to an earlier time:  I could almost visualize Louis XIV and his court strolling around the grounds in any season to improve health and well-being. Our leisurely saunter took us along the small body of water to its opposite side.  At this point, it was quickly becoming dark. When I glanced at my watch, I saw that we had been on the move for over an hour!  There were no artificial lights, so we  turned around and hastened our steps back to the Palace where we exited the gate and walked a short distance  to take the train back to the city.

It had been a very long day and we were both pleasantly exhausted.  As I look back on that magical experience, I realize how lucky I was to have  had a good look  and a new appreciation for the artistry of a fascinating time and place in France’s history!

*This piece is dedicated with gratitude to my dear friend and former French professor, newlywed Carole! XO

 

A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: A New Year Adventure in the City of Light

Gwendominica (in canary yellow!) shivers at the top of Arc de Triomphe, having arrived in Paris only a few hours earlier.  Photo taken by Carole.

Gwendominica (in canary yellow!) shivers at the top of Arc de Triomphe, having arrived in Paris only a few hours earlier. Guess what’s in the background? Photo taken by Carole.

My first-ever trip to Paris, France from  Roseau,Dominica had been anticipated for several months.  From the moment French friends Carole and Gildas extended an invitation to their wedding ceremonies to take place on January 10, 2015, I focused on preparations for this big trip overseas. I never dreamed that I would see them just under a year after they left Dominica. And it would be my first winter foray in 18 years! Fortunately, my Canadian visit during the summer of 2014 enabled me to buy winter clothes at bargain prices! However, it wasn’t a simple matter of packing my bags and boarding a plane.  With my environmental health challenges, I ensured that my immune system would be in good shape for this exciting

Gwendominica enjoys her first cafe au lait on the Champs d'Elysses. After a very long flight, very little sleep and a confused internal; clock, it certainly tasted sweet!

Gwendominica enjoys her first café au lait in a cozy café on the Champs d’Elysees. Despite a very long flight, very little sleep and a very confused internal clock, it certainly tasted sweet! Photo taken by Carole.

 

 

adventure. As a conscientious ‘canary’ (that is, a person living with significant environmental health challenges), I consulted by phone with my longtime Canadian naturopathic physician, Dr. Shawna Clark, N.D. , whose clinic is located in Orillia, Ontario. She advised me about helpful nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies which would provide support throughout this new  and unfamiliar journey.  Although she knew that I was somewhat apprehensive about what could happen, her positive encouragement enabled me to put my fears at rest and expect only the best!

I have been fascinated with ‘French’ for most of my life. I guess that makes me a ‘Francophile‘ who grew up in a Francophone country – Canada! However,  I was born to Anglophone parents in La Belle Province, which means,  in essence, that I  really am Québécoise! I actually spent some time there in June 2014, and if you’re interested in that French adventure, then you can read about it here.

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This little beach near Princess Julianna Airport in St. Maarten is a popular spot to see, hear and feel big jets landing – and taking off! I kept well away but the distraction help to pass the time while I was in-transit to Paris.

As I boarded the WINAIR flight at Charles-Douglas Airport in Dominica, I looked inland towards Morne Diablotin, which was shrouded in clouds.

As I boarded the WINAIR flight at Douglas-Charles Airport in Dominica, I looked inland towards Morne Diablotin, which was shrouded in clouds.

Over the Christmas season in Dominica, I rested as much as possible, and continued with my walking, so that I would be in good shape for the Big Trip. My French friends, Carole and Gildas (the bride and groom) had asked me well in advance

My French friends, Gildas and Carole took time from their busy schedules to take my on a day-long mystery tour of Paris a week before their wedding!

My French friends, Gildas and Carole took time from their busy schedules to take me on a day-long mystery tour of Paris a week before their wedding! More on that in a subsequent post.

for a list of things I would like to see and do.  After I submitted it for their recommendations, they surprised me by informing me that during my first few days,Carole would escort me and then they would both take me on a mystery tour later  that week. They had also provided me with detailed instructions so that I could more easily find my way  from the airport to the Solar Hotel (an ecological hotel), where I would be spending several days. I had my agenda at the ready and I was determined to check everything off of my list.  You’ll find out later whether I succeeded or not!

Finally, Sunday December 28th arrived.  I left before daybreak to travel across the island to board my flight on WINAIR from Douglas-Charles Airport at Melville Hal,l Dominica to St. Maarten. From there, I spent a few leisurely hours before boarding my Air France flight to Charles De Gaulle

There's my Air France plane.  I am ready to board and fly away 'across the pond' to France, a land of my dreams!

There’s my Air France plane. I am ready to board and fly away ‘across the pond’ to France, a land of my dreams!

Airport (CDG) near Paris.  While there were some slight delays, I was well occupied by watching planes land not far from a crowded beach, just a short walk from the airport. I also studied the guide-book that my Dutch friends Gijs and Georgie had loaned to me.  And I also carried a mini-tablet, which proved to be an invaluable tool for communication with friends and family, ordering tickets for a jazz concert,  getting detailed travel directions for locations around the city, and reading  frequent updates on the terrorist attacks during this unforgettable trip.

Although I only slept a little on the overnight flight, I was almost beside myself when the plane crossed over the southwestern coast of France en route to CDG. As we neared Paris, and started our descent, the bright lights of the city kept my attention, as I marvelled at the unrelenting darkness. It was well after 8 a.m. local time!  I had forgotten about the very short days this far north just after the winter solstice!  I certainly did gain a full appreciation for the lovely City of Light, as the displays of illumination at night were breathtaking.

The RER train station (Denfert Rochereau)where I first surfaced in the City of Light!

The RER train station (Denfert Rochereau)where I first surfaced in the City of Light!

Thanks to those specific instructions from my French friends, I easily made my way from the CDG Airport by RER train to the Denfert Rochereau station, a mere five minutes walk to my hotel.  However, after I stepped out of the warm train and then dragged my 50 lb. bag and other paraphernalia up a steep flight of stairs, I walked out into the cold air and gasped. My hands turned to ice quickly as I  searched  for my gloves without success. I had Carole’s map in hand, but I felt so disoriented in the dim light that I did not know in which direction I should proceed.  As I dragged my heavy  load across a busy street, I noticed a taxi stand. Although I knew I was close, I approached a driver  for directions and he graciously pointed the way.  He could see that I was uncertain, so he kindly offered to take me without charge to the Solar Hotel, which as it turned out, was just around the corner.  No sooner had I stepped out and thanked him, than Carole ran up to me and embraced me warmly.  I said (in English) “I have to pinch myself.  I can’t believe I am really here!”

I, like millions of others, enjoyed admiring the Tour Eiffel from various viewpoints - this one from the top of the Arc De Triomphe.

I, like millions of others, enjoyed admiring the Tour Eiffel from various viewpoints – this one from the top of the Arc De Triomphe.

I did not feel tired due to my immense excitement, so I dropped my bags, quickly showered and located my gloves while Carole patiently waited for my in the

Some sections of the Paris Metro have been around since 1900!  I like the older signs: this one was located 5 minutes from the Solar Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. (Denfert Rochereau)

Some sections of the Paris Metro have been around since 1900! I like the older signs: this one was located 5 minutes from the Solar Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. (Denfert Rochereau stop)

foyer.  We had a light lunch (I savoured a big bowl of French Onion Soup!) and then we headed off by Métro (underground) to the Arc De Triomphe and the Champs d’Elysées.

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is a prominent landmark as Paris's highest point. I had many adventures in that area, including an unforgettable wedding ceremony!

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is a prominent landmark as Paris’s highest point. I had many adventures in that area, including an unforgettable wedding ceremony!

The vibrant Champs d'Elysees ia a sight to see at any time of year!

The vibrant and lively Avenue Champs d’Elysees from atop the Arc De Triomphe is a sight to see at any time of year!

I was still chilled, so the first order of the afternoon was a café au lait!  As we strolled along the broad boulevard, surrounded by thousands of darkly attired Europeans and tourists, I realized that my brightly coloured Canadian ski jacket was not in vogue in this fashion capital of the world.  However, I did stand out in the crowds, which proved to be helpful during the next few days. Carole  could easily spot me in long queues when she went elsewhere to buy our tickets or find food to sustain us during lengthy waits to enter tourist sites!

When we commenced our climb up the winding stairway inside the 50 metre high Triumphal Arch (I was too close to take a proper photo of it), I was indeed thankful that I liked to walk up hills in Dominica.  What I didn’t expect was a little shortness of breath due to the cold air – a dramatic climate change for me!  While I admired Napoleon’s handiwork, I was more than mesmerized by the 360 degree views of Paris. Carole continued as my professor by pointing out numerous sites and explaining their significance.  My head was not just spinning from the height!  I took in what I could, knowing that I would follow up in my guidebooks and online references.  Meantime, we circumnavigated the structure, and I swooned when I looked through a sheet of glass down to the Memorial to the Unknown  French Soldier during WW I (1914-1918)beneath the arch, far below! After our descent, I spent a few moments there, thinking of my late paternal grandfather who as a young man, served in the British Army  and spent time in the trenches in northern France.  While he did survive, I wanted to pay tribute to him on French soil as that was one of the important priorities on my list of things to do here.

I hadn’t yet been here a full day, and I had taken in some important points of interest with my wonderful guide and teacher, Carole.  We decided that we should continue our explorations the next day, so we boarded the Métro with plans set for a few hours hence.  When I arrived back at the Solar Hotel, another

The eternal flame beneath the Arc De Triomphe pays tribute to the unknown French Soldier who died during WWI.

The eternal flame beneath the Arc De Triomphe pays tribute to the unknown French Soldier who died during WWI.

Season's Greetings were plentiful in the City of Light.  Despite recent tragedies, let us remina hopeful that peace and love will prevail this New Year.

Season’s Greetings were plentiful in the City of Light. Despite recent tragedies, let us remain hopeful that peace and love will prevail worldwide this New Year.

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I, like the merchants on Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement wish you happy celebrations and all the best in 2015! I took this photo on Monday January 5th, two days before the terrorist attacks.

warm shower and a cup of organic herbal tea enabled me to lie down for a restful night in anticipation of the many adventures that lay ahead!