Pre-Christmas Season in Paris 2012

Skating Anyone?

Read about our family ski trip to Ste Foy Tarentaise, December 2012

Paris December 19-20 2012

Skating outdoors in the middle of Paris sounds like a great idea! It was Wednesday and the boys were off school. There was an article in the Ottawa Citizen Travel section on Xmas in Paris, highlighting outdoor skating rinks in the city. Erica suggested we go to the rink at the Place de la Concorde, near the Louvre. We got there easily on the Metro and found a narrow ribbon of ice in terrible condition, snaking around the park behind a series of Christmas market stalls. Paris was experiencing a very warm Christmas season; no snow and temperatures above 10˚ C, not ideal for maintaining artificial ice. Much to the boys disappointment we rejected the idea of paying to skate on ice that was likely to trip us all up. The alternate was a ride on the large Ferris wheel across the busy Place de la Concorde. Roman dragged his feet trying to persuade us to return to the rink. Bribed with a bottle of water and the promise of skating in the afternoon at an indoor rink the family had visited the previous weekend, he agreed to try out the Ferris wheel. Both boys were soon charmed by the view from our bubble covered chair. We had three tries identifying the familiar buildings as we circled high above the street.

After lunch back at the apartment, we set out to go to an indoor rink in the Boulogne, a nearby suburb. We chose to take advantage of an Autolib’ electric car, conveniently located close to the apartment, rather than transfer twice on the Metro. Paris has branched out from renting bicycles to electric cars. Erica had an annual pass, which meant she is charged 5€ for each half hour, rather than pay 7€ for each half hour of use on top off a one-time fee of 10€. You drive to your destination, park the car and when you are ready to leave, you check for the nearest available car on your iPhone App. The cost turned out to be less expensive than buying Metro tickets for the five of us as you just pay for the time actually driving. We all piled into one of the tiny cars, emblazoned with “libre comme l’aire” (free as the air) on the car doors. The cars are only built for 4 passengers so the two boys shared one back seat and the seat belt for the trip. They are still small enough for it to be comfortable, even if it not up to North American safety standards. It took about ½ hour to reach the rink. The entrance fee included skate rental and helmets and, after exchanging the rental skates several times to get the right size, we made our way onto the ice. There were several skaters of all ages on the rink but it wasn’t too crowded. Several young children were there for lessons with young instructors. The rest of the skaters just enjoyed themselves circling the rink. It took Roman more time than Atticus to feel confident enough to skate on his own but we all had a good time. We got another car from the Autolib’ stand and after waiting at least 15 minutes unsuccessfully trying to enter the main road, Erica backtracked and took another route.

The boys went back to school Thursday so Erica, Ray and I were free to visit another of Paris’s tourist attractions. One of the bridge players in Ottawa raved about the “war museum” in Paris. Erica said it was actually in Les Invalides, formally known as L’Hôtel National des Invalides, near where she works. The building is one of the architectural landmarks in Paris, with it wedding cake gold dome of the chapel, inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, shining above the surrounding buildings. Louis XIV established a military hospital and old age home on the site in 1670. It now incorporates the graves of Napoleon and several other military notables as well as a military church and several museums. The dome itself was the inspiration for the American Capital, San Francisco City Hall and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

We focused on a special exhibit of pocket handkerchiefs, designed with illustrations and handy hints for the military forces. The luxury goods company, Hermes, was one of the first suppliers of handkerchiefs. Several of the examples came from their private collection. Erica and I remembered our father/grandfather’s souvenir of his air force days during WWII. He marked a few of his bombing raid routes on a handkerchief map of France, Belgium and Germany. The kerchief is now framed and in Erica’s possession.

We didn’t have the time or the inclination to visit all the museums in the complex. We did visit one large room full of scale models of fortified locations as they originally existed centuries ago paired with photographs of their current state. We discovered we had visited several of the fortifications. We ended our visit with a tour through the military chapel and a visit to the mausoleum where Napoleon rested in the smallest of a series of coffins, nestled like Russian dolls inside a huge red quartz esophagus. Napoleon had lots of company. Almost all the French Marechals (military heads) and other military notables from the 17th to the 20thcentury shared space in the mausoleum.

 Read Skiing in Ste Foy Tarentaise Dec 2012

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