A New Adventure Begins

Friday, May 18, 2018
Paris, Île-de-France, France
A new trip has begun, which we didn’t originally plan to make. This month was supposed to be spent quietly at home recuperating from our recent travels.
Then: Dr. Greg Swartz, an intrepid traveler, church elder, dentist and all-around lover of things Rwandan, ask about organizing an expedition to offer dental treatment to church members in Rwanda. That was generous of him and certainly filled a need. I approved whole-hearted, and so did FOI. Then he had the thought that we could pair the dental project with an English-teaching project. Rwanda is in the process of switching from French to English as its second language, so there is a great need for good English teaching programs. I approved of that idea for Rwanda as well.
Once things were rolling, I was approached about being the on-site director. It was logical, so I agreed. That meant a two week trip to Rwanda.
Tangentially, my wife and I have been intending to take some time off to visit India, a country where she has never been, and I once almost 15 years ago. David Baker, the regional director for Asia, had offered to let us accompany him on one of his visits, giving us the chance to meet our brethren in India and for me to speak on two Sabbaths. I’ve also been tasked with shooting video with Mr. Baker that we will be able to use in one or more editions of In Accord. So this would be a working vacation for us. It turned out that we could attach the Indian visit to the Rwandan project. And with Pentecost near our planned starting date, and since we would fly through Paris in any event, we added a few more days to the trip so we could spend the Pentecost weekend with the Paris congregation.
Thus from a quiet end-of-June at home, we’ll be working in Europe, Asia and Africa during this time. It should be very interesting.
We left Dallas yesterday, Thursday 17 May at noon, on our first flight, to Atlanta. There we connected to a flight to Paris where we arrived this morning early, having slept about two hours. It’s not easy to sleep on an overnight flight that lands at about midnight Dallas time. We found on arrival that the national train service and the local suburban train systems were hit strikes. Half the normal number trains were running on some lines and only a third on others.
We took a taxi to our hotel, where we arrived about 09:00. Usually Parisian hotels are not eager to let clients in a room earlier than the advertised time, which is usually about 2:00 pm. That’s a pain when one arrives early. We’re usually too tired to want to just drop our bags and head off into town, especially since we’ve seen all the major tourist attractions many times over. We just want a shower and a change and a rest. But this time there was a very helpful and efficient man at the front desk, who bustled off to check if a room was ready. It was! We had a top-floor, gabled, room with a view of the rooftops of Paris.
After settling in, we walked to a little supermarket and bought water and snacks. Then we changed and took naps for a few hours to help us stay awake until a decent bedtime.
Our hotel is located at the foot of the butte of Montmartre, a short distance from the famous or infamous Moulin Rouge cabaret. This part of Paris was and is a favorite of the Bohemian crowd, the flamboyant artist types, with all that implies.
My wife had never stayed in this hotel before which has become my usual one, since it’s in walking distance to the hotel where we hold our services. The second hotel has a suitable meeting hall, but the rooms are not so great, so this arrangement works well. We had a few hours in the afternoon, so I suggested we walk through the Montmartre cemetery a stone’s throw away. Paris has three famous cemeteries, Père Lachaise (the largest of the three, with 3.5 million visitors a year!), Montparnasse, and Montmartre. Each of them contain the mortal remains of famous people, so much so that the cemeteries are tourist attractions. Plasticized maps can be borrowed at the entries to allow visitors to find the final resting places of the famous dead.
Jim Morrison’s grave is a big draw in Père Lachaise, as is Jean de La Fontaine, Molière, Oscar Wild, Proust, and Chopin the musician who after a grand life of composing, had spent the intervening years, wait for it… decomposing…. What?
Montparnasse has the grave of Bartholdi, who sculpted the Statue of Liberty, Baudelaire, Jean-Paul Sartre et Simone de Beauvoir, Guy de Maupassant, Saint-Saëns, and many famous (in Europe) actors, Prime Ministers and so on.
As we strolled through the Montmartre cemetery we found he graves of authors we had read, like Zola and Stendhal, artists we admired like Degas, and a few people we just learned about like Adolph Sax who invented the Saxophone. 
We found the tomb of Mme Juliette Récamier who at the age of 15 was married off to man 30 years her senior. Her beauty was legendary (several famous paintings of her hang in museums), but she was a literary muse as well and her salon brought together great artists, writers and politicians. Her influence was so great that Napoleon had her exiled when he suspected her of plotting with the opposition. It was a fascinating and ultimately rather tragic life. And now dust. Tempus fugit.
We felt like an early dinner, so we could catch up on our sleep, but most French restaurants don’t open for dinner until at least 7:00 pm, sometimes even later. But there are also less formal places that offer service throughout the day. 
We found one near the exit from the cemetery and took our chances. I had couscous, a dish I often choose when in France. It comes from North Africa originally, but after the years that France included Algeria in its national territory (from 1848 to 1962), couscous is definitely a French dish too.
Back at the hotel, I finished my weekly member letter and got it sent off, and we’ll make an early night of it and try to catch up on our sleep.

Comments

mary
2018-05-23

Glad to see you are blogging about your trip. With all the places you'll visit, we look forward to your comments. Thanks for the photo glimpse of Montemart and the remarks about Mme Recamier. Exciting times ahead for her and the other folks entombed there.

2018-06-25