The last day the Watkins brothers would be together in Paris. It was also the twentieth of summer vacation and I to make it count – it was going to possibly be the best day ever. Warren, Julie, and I leave to go home tomorrow morning; Julie and I will be flying together and Warren by himself. David and Trisha are staying an extra day. It was going to be a great day.
We got up early and met for breakfast and coffee in the basement dining room. Bruno was meeting Julie and taking her home for lunch with his wife and afterwards Julie would be spending time with Ritva. I am glad she was able to connect with friends of dad and her while she was here. I know it has not been an easy trip for her from getting around do being in a place that had been special for her and dad. The three brothers and Trish planned to go Versailles and have dinner – somewhere; but that was it. We headed out. Navigating the Metro was a lesson I wanted Trish to learn today as she and David are on their own Friday. I shared with her my secrets: look for connections, figure out where you want to go and backtrack, look at the endpoint – it is the direction you are headed, and lastly – do not be afraid to ask directions. We said to good-bye to Julie, walked to the Metro at Republique, and got rolling toward Invalides where we would interchange to RER C and get out to Versailles Rive Gauche and the Chateau de Versailles.
The RER C line is a regional line that reaches into the suburbs and has double-decker train cars. We rode on the top level. I wrote postcards and we followed the banks of the Seine past the Eiffel Tower and out of Paris toward Versailles. The ride went quickly and soon we were at Versailles. Versailles is the country home of the French monarchy dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries until the French Revolution in 1789. It is huge and walking the entire grounds is impossible in a day. However, there are many places to see. The grounds are immense with gardens, statues, mazes, fountains, and long walks. In addition, the buildings are beautiful to behold. As I walked the grounds I kept wondering how much it costs to maintain the grounds. I told Trisha and David about the fountains and Trish mentioned that they are on during the weekends when they charge admission. I was disappointed to learn the fountains were not operating, but I can understand that operating is expensive and Versailles has hundreds of fountains. We walked down the Grand Canal. Warren decided to sit down and we changed direction toward the Grand Trianon. When we reached it, much of it was closed off to paying customers we decided to walk back to the Fountain of Neptune and return to Paris. I texted Warren and we walked. It was a fair walk. I have made up for not exercising by all of the walking I have done here, much more than I would at home. The Fountain of Neptune is amazing as are the fountains and statues that lead from the Fountain of Neptune back to the main chateau. I kept thinking Versailles is a beautiful place that today is expensive to maintain. The cost of maintaining Versailles is important to France because of its historical and cultural value. Not maintaining Versailles is not option because of this value. I thought if it is expensive today, the cost of building such a palace during the 1600s and 1700s must have put an incredible drain on France and it is no surprise that the people revolted and overthrew the monarchy. It is important lesson to remember – never forget where you came from and who helped you get there. The French monarchy forgot about the people and when the people had a chance, they ended the monarchy.
We walked back to the train station and along the walk I overheard a young girl, about high school or college age, tell her mom that visiting made her wish she had paid better attention in history class. Attention, interest, relevance is the bane of my existence as a social studies teacher. Perhaps it is developmental. Perhaps we have not done a good job teaching and making the class relevant. Whatever it is we – social studies teachers – need to do a better job of teaching social studies.
Our next stop was the Musee D’Orsay. It is one stop past Invalides on the RER C line. We went back the way we came. It started to rain lightly. By the time we reached Musee D’Orsay, the rain had stopped. The Musee D’Orsay is the museum that houses the impressionist and other visual arts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The museum is in the old Orleans train station along the Seine; I only wanted to see a few parts of the museum. I wanted to see the paintings of Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, and Van Gogh and others. I enjoy looking at this period of artwork. I do not know much about art or how it all goes together; yes, this period makes more sense to me. The museum was busy and I was tired. I had seen what I came to see and was ready to go. The others agreed and we departed.
Our next and final stop of the day was dinner. Neither of us had a place in mind. I needed to get a few items to take home and I only knew of one place in the city to find it – Champion on Rue del Convention, dad and Julie’s old neighborhood from the early 90s. I had visited dad three times and stayed with him and was familiar with the street. The Metro got us there and we took the bus to the top of the hill. The Champion store was gone, replaced by a Carrefour store. Jack had told us yesterday at lunch that Carrefour was the second largest mass retailer in the world behind Wal-Mart. This store was busy and very large by Parisians standards. Most Parisian grocery stores are not much larger than an American convenience store. I was able to find most of what I was looking for, paid, and left. Now the adventure began. The best part of this neighborhood was its shops. I mean diversity of food shops. It had a patisserie, chocolaterie, fromage shop, and every imaginable type of food shop. I stopped at the fromage (cheese) shop, and smelled the cheeses. I had not made the time to a buy some cheese and bread, sit down in a park, and watch the people on this trip. It will have to be another time. However, I got cheese today and it is making its way home to Beth. We made it the bottom of the neighborhood where we started at the Convention Metro stop. We looked at a couple of menus and decided to sit down. France was playing Mexico at 8:30 in the World Cup and people were looking for the right place to watch the game, or match as the French call it in France. Each us ordered what we wanted and it was a good dinner together. We decided that it was the best dinner we had had while we were here. The food was good but the atmosphere was the best. It was a perfect way to end the day and our trip to France.
The Metro ride home was quiet. Many people were watching the world cup match and Metro traffic was light. We were silent thinking about our week. I thought about dad and the time spent with Warren and David, and Trish, too. I had hardly known Trish before this trip, but got to her know her this week. I hope that she got an appreciation for me, as well. I thought about the packing I needed to do and the last details before leaving and we needed to check in with Julie.
It was my last day in Paris and the twentieth of summer vacation. Warren, Julie, and I leave to return home tomorrow morning. It was possibly the best day ever; and it was well spent.