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Day 5 2013 - Paris

Dear Friend,

Wednesday was our last day in Paris and once again, the weather was not playing nice. Our train back to London also wasn’t until late in the evening so we had several tricky factors to work in our plan.

The Arch de Triumph is something I photographed from a street corner during my last visit. While I didn’t feel the need to climb up the arch, I did want to ga closer look. Of course, this monument did not disappoint and was full of detail and sustainability over hundreds of years.

Right near the arch is the famous Champs de Elyesse. This road houses all of the fancy shopping stores I dream of affording and frequenting one day. Obviously didn’t buy much during this walk, but it was still fun to window shop.

At the end of the road and just past a park stands the Concord. Couldn’t tell you off hand what it’s about, but we saw it! By now, we were hungry and went to a local bread shop next to our hotel for some Classic French snacks.

Once nourished, we grabbed our bags from the hotel and went tot brain station to lock our bags so we could  continue to tour and walk during the day. Go figure, the lockers were not available! Wrench, meet, plan. Rude! Mom was able to get some information from one of the many police officers, and was told there was a suspicious package threat they were investigating. Hooray!

Mom decided to stay with all out bags in the security threat station and send us on our merry way. Nothing about this sounds like a good idea, and in the end everything was fine; however, it’s all about the journey.

The girls and I had a map and were told where not to walk to get to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre - more spectacular views from a pretty church near a Dutch artsy town. On our way to the top of the mountain, we naturally and accidentally ended up where we were not supposed to be. Let’s just say, during our final stretch to the top of the mountain, a streetman got in my personal sphere and said, “give me all your money,” to which I replaced, “uh no” and never stopped walking. The man hissed at me for saying no. Crazy.

We did arrive to the mountain, enjoyed the views, bought a few souvenirs and went back to the station to head back to London. Mini Paris adventurer complete!

Filed under Paris Arch de Triumph Concord Sacre Coeur Montmartre

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Day 4 2013 - Paris

Dear Friend,

My saying for this entire Eurotrip is, “we’re doing it wrong!”. There are so many things that London and Paris have or do that make so much more sense than things in America. I’m positive Europeans feel the same way about things we do in the States, but still, we are doing it wrong!

On Tuesday we took a train to Versailles. In short, the place is spectacular, unbelievable and nothing in the United States compares. Sorry Versailles wannabe in Florida!

The palace (one of three on the property - might be its own zip code? country?) is ginormous. We did the audio tour of the public parts of the main palace and gardens. It took three hours to tour, but it was worth it. History lesson and looking at shiny, pretty things? No problem! 

We opted out of visiting Marie Antoinette’s estate and area of the palace because that would have added two more hours to our visit. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine how grand the place must look.

I did purchase my Laduree macarons at a shop within the palace - winning! 

After swooning for hours, we head back to Paris and prepared for our evening. This night, we walked around St. Louis isle and had dinner at the same place mom and I went to during our last visit. The food was very Parisian and delish!

We ended the night with a boat tour around Paris and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle at 11 PM. It was gorgeous, despite the rain and the men who mooned our boat.

Filed under Paris Versailles Laduree

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Day 3 2013 - Paris

Dear Friend,

The day started very early for our trip to Paris. Upon arrival, we checked into out hotel, Hotel Original Paris, which is right near Bastille. We walked around our new home to get a feel for the area before kicking the tourism in high gear.

The weather was less than pleasant, so it definitely changed our original plans, but we had three days, a lot to see and we sure made it work.

First stop - Notre Dame. This year celebrates the 850 year anniversary of the cathedral. It was spectacular as usual. From the church, we walked towards the back to make our mark on the locks of love bridge. We signed our names in our lock, squeezed it in the super-filled bridge and threw the keys into the water. These girls are stuck with me.

As we walked to the other side of the bridge, we entered the Latin Quarter. This eventually lead us to St. Jermaine and the St. Michael statue and Sarbone… If you look at all of these places on a map, you would see that we covered a lot of ground, and this was only a portion of day one in France.

The Eiffel Tower was a requirement for day one because the weather was being very uncooperative. I had only gone to the middle floor during my last visit, so making it to the very top was a must. While the structured and panoramic views are incredible, I have no desire to tour the tower again - mini rant - the long lines and sardine atmosphere are really not worth it. Going to the top is fine, but why are the windows up there so tiny?!? Also, gentlemen, do not propose on the tower. It’s a romantic thought but the excessive amount of pick pocketers will probably snatch the ring! 

We were in line for quite awhile and it was very cold, so after the trip up the tower, we called it a day and had dinner in Bastille.

Filed under Paris Notre Dame Locks of Love Friends Bastille

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Vel’ d’Hiv’ 

Dear Friend,

Prior to traveling to Europe, I purchased two books to read on my trip during my down time. First of all, I don’t have much down time and second, when I purchased the books, I had an order in which I wanted to read them. The first book I intended on reading was Steve Jobs. I also purchased a book called Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosay, which I knew nothing about other than what it said on the back cover. When I was flying to London, I showed my mom both books, and she asked to read Sarah’s Key while I finished the other book. She was engrossed in the book and wanted to tell me all about it, though she refrained so I could enjoy the quick read too.

What she did tell me was that the book was about the Holocaust, which I knew to some extent. I won’t spoil the book because I do recommend it for anyone who has 5 hours and has an interest in WWII. Basically the story is about a modern French journalist and a little Jewish girl from France who lived in Paris during WWII. Their stories intertwine: the book is fictional; however, the events that occured in Paris on July 16, 1942 are very real and have not been publicized very much until about 2005.

Vel’ d’Hiv’, or the roundup of 1942, was an atrocious act carried out by the French police. The Nazis had asked/ ordered the French to round up all of the Jewish men and women in Paris. Once captured, they would all be sent to Auschwitz for immediate extermination. What many people don’t know is that Jews were outcasted many times throughout French History, but after WWI, the entire country and communities within France decided to unite as one. Between the two wars, many immigrants arrived in France. Many of them were Jewish and had different perspectives on Judaism. They had their own communities that included Jewish youth societies, sports, etc. The French Jews began to mold with the immigrants, which upset some of the French who were comfortable with the “one-France” community at large. Everything seemed to be going well during WWII aside from the air raids and such, but then the French Police, under the Vichy Government, began to create anti-Jew laws. All of this occurred before the Germans had even entered France. Jews were forced to wear stars, stop conducting regular daily activities and some were even sent camps (pre-German concentration camps).

Months before the roundup for the Nazis, the Vichy Government planned to take the act a step further. The plan was to round up men, women and children a few days prior to the deportation day. Once captured, all of the Jews were sent to Veledrome d’Hiver, a French bike race stadium. In the stadium, which was not far from the Eiffel Tower, healthy living conditions ceased for the Jews. After a couple of days of captivity, the men and women were sent straight to Auschwitz for extermination. The children, now orphans, were sent to concentration camps and eventually extermination camps. 80,000 French Jews were deported to their death and never returned to Paris. The French had betrayed their own countrymen and sent them to their death.

In France, Vel’ d’Hiv’ was not discussed after the war. How some surviving children were able to stay in Paris for the rest of their lives is beyond me. My mom and I discussed how we could never go back to my country that betrayed us and killed my family. In the mid 1990’s, small memorials were created, like plaques. The sad part is that not many French know what their own country did during the war to their own citizens. Finally, in 1995, French President Chirac issued a formal apology on behalf of the country and publicly acknowledged the country’s responsibility in the Holocaust. This was a bold move, but absolutely necessary. Since then, memorials and museums have been created, though they are not visited as heavily as those in America - in my opinion.

The stadium no longer stands but there is a monument with a few men women in children on stadium bleachers and “Never Forget” engraved. For those who were deported, there is the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deported, which was 2 minutes from our hotel in Paris. We were so glad we were able to see it. The memorial is underground on the edge of the island that Notre Dame sits on. The pictures above are from this memorial except the two signs of the Shoah museum.

The Shoah Memorial has the names of every French Jew who was deported engraved on walls. The order is based on the year they were deported during WWII, and if a name is missing, they add the name to the bottom of the list. There is also a Wall of the Righteous, which recognizes the French who did risk their own lives to rescue their fellow Frenchman. There were not many who helped, but there were pockets of people who did hide and rescue some of the Jews, especially orphaned children. What was neat about this memorial was the thousands of French police files about the Jews. There is a small corridor filled with these files. The fact that Jews were considered offenders of so many criminal offenses is insane.

The memorial also serves as a Holocaust Museum. Once again, like London’s museum, it was interesting to learn about the war through another country’s point of view. In order to understand France’s role, the history of France v. Jews was depicted back to the 1800s. This museum has a camp bunk door from the camp where many children were sent after the round up. There are also many personal stories from French Jews and observers. It was a very informative and some heart-heavy history. 

Now, I went to these memorials because I have such a great interest in WWII and the Holocaust. It frightens me to read about the power and influence of a madman over millions of people. In Sarah’s Key, much of this history is mentioned, though I hadn’t read the book prior to my visit, but my mom had read it and taken notes for our trip. As soon as I returned to London, I picked up and finished the book in two sittings. It was interesting to read about places that I had just visited. It made the experience richer.

To conclude, I recommend these hidden memorials should you ever be in France, and may we never forget those who perished at the hands of evil during WWII. History repeats itself - I remember learning this over and over in middle school history classes. There are parallels between America and other countries’ current events and the world right before WWII. I’m not saying WWIII is about to break out, but it is worth noting the similarities. Ironically, when I returned to London, I saw a tv advertisement for a movie called The Round Up, which documents Vel’ d’Hiv! What are the odds? I also learned that Sarah’s Key was turned into a movie within the past year. It goes to show that the history of this particular act is not as publicized as other discriminatory events of the time.

I’m sure more facts will race through my mind randomly, but until then, all the best,

Danielle Athena

Filed under Vel' d'Hiv Veledrom d'Hiver Holocaust Paris France Jews Sarah's Key The Round Up Vichy

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Food de Paris

Dear Friend,

I love food. It’s no secret. I love to eat it, cook it, read about it and obsess over new food shows. While in Paris, I made sure I tried many of the staples of Paris. The first meal I had was onion soup, which was obviously French because I was in France! I loved it, as much as I love it in the states. For dinner the first night, I had spaghetti boulognaise. This meal was the first meal that made me think of home comfort food. I was quite pleased.

The second day started with a simple, yet delicious breakfast. We ate at Le Petite Pont and had a breakfast special, which included a cappuccino, orange juice, water, a toasted baguette, butter and jam. It was seriously so simple, yet so tasteful. I also realized I enjoy apricot jam. With a start like that to the day, what more does a girl need? For lunch, which we usually eat around 2 or 3pm, we ate at Deuville on Champs de Eleysse. Here we had savory crepes (Salt) with ham, cheese and a sunny side up egg on top. I’m not sure what the deal is with the French and ham and eggs, but it is a fantastic combination. I was so pleased with my menu selection. Finally, day two ended with a bowl of vegetable soup. In Paris, I only saw two types of soup on every menu: onion or vegetable. I didn’t mind it, but I wondered where the seasonal squash soups were hiding!

Day three started strangely. We woke up late because we were exhausted, and when we went to look for a place to grab a quick breakfast, no where seemed to be open or offering food. It was so strange, but mom walked into this tiny shop where an elderly lady was bar tending at 11am. She didn’t understand English so mom was doing baby sign language to tell her we wanted to eat. After funny signals and a man at the bar translating a bit, we were given the best cup of coffee we had and a baguette loaded with butter. This woman must have been competing with Paula Dean for the World’s Biggest Butter Lover. It was delicious but definitely not nutritious. For lunch we had soup at the organic shop. Mom and I have been trying to eat a bowl of soup a day. Not sure how this started, but it’s been working out nicely. As I mentioned in an earlier letter, on our last full day, we devoured French Macarons before dinner. I googled a recipe and will be attempting to make them for Christmas this year. For dinner, we ate at a place right near our hotel and had Beef Burgundy. It was so good, I could taste the French wine in each carrot. The meal also came with a dessert, so I ordered a personal favorite, Creme brûlée. Magnific! 

Overall, I enjoyed the French cuisine. I didn’t have a chance to try their unique ice cream, but it was far to cold to enjoy such a treat. I’d like to say NEXT TIME, and see where that lands me!

All the best,

Danielle Athena

Filed under Paris French Cuisine Onion Soup Macarons