I arrived in the city on the afternoon of October 23. The new TGV that connects Paris to Marseille completely at high speeds got me there from Avignon in a few hours -- lunch at the new TGV station in Avignon and dinner on the Left Bank after settling into my hotel.
Based on internet research, I had made a reservation at l'Hotel de l'Empereur. It is listed in Michelin and other guides and turned out be be quite comfortable. The interior decor is an a vaguely "Empire" style. The name comes from its location at the corner of blvd de La Tour Maubourg beside the Invalides, where the Emperor Napoleon is buried. They gave me a room with a clear view of the dome.
It was surprisingly easy to get a reservation. Then I read while I was there that the number of American tourists was half the usual number for the time of year. The reduced amount of American English that I heard on the street would seem to confirm this.
I thoroughly enjoyed being in the Invalides neighborhood in Paris' 7th district. The immediate area of my hotel is not of an particular interest to most tourists, but a number of hotels, restaurants, and points of interest from the street market on rue Cler to the Eiffel Tower are within walking distance.
Hotel des Invalides
I spent many hours walking around the neighborhood, sometimes with no real purpose, which has become one of my favorite activities in a city that I know fairly well. Most of these pictures were taken during these walks.
Aside from considerable threatening and sometimes inclement weather, accompanied by unseasonably warm temperatures, the only problem of the trip was a rash of strikes at many of the major national museums, including the Louvre and Orsay. The issues, as I understand them, are somewhat arcane but related to the implementation of France's Socialist 35-hour workweek law. The larger museums were closed during much of my stay, and it was difficult to get accurate information about what was open or closed each day.
Hotel Biron - Musee Rodin
I had wanted to visit the Rodin Museum, which I had not seem for years and which was on the other side of the Invalides from my hotel. One morning I walked over only to find the gates closed. A day or two later I called and asked (in my best French) whether or not the museum were open. The answer was a clear and resounding "oui", so I walked right over. I was worried for a moment when the ticket booth was closed, but apparently the ticket- takers were on strike, as the gates were open, and no one was interested in taking any money from me. At no charge I got to wander around the garden oasis in the center of the city and admire a mansion filled with wondrous sculpture without having to look over the shoulders of too many tourists.
I was very glad to be able to meet my friend Cheryl Mann in the city and to spend many enjoyable hours with her. She had very graciously done a lot of research on restaurants in advance of our trips. As a result, we had a wonderful, gourmet dinner together each night. We dined in style but at reasonable cost and in the company of few, if any, foreign visitors. Most of the restaurants were new to us, as that was her preference, but we returned to one, "la Toque" in the 17th, where we had had a gastronomic meal some years earlier. We twice went to outlying neighborhoods to try fine new restaurants, including "Pascal Champ", owned and operated by young chefs who had apparently forsaken the center of town in order to keep prices down but quality high.
Notre-Dame de Paris
I stayed on the Left Bank most of the time. One afternoon I took a long walk in the 5th district to see some of the places I knew as a student. Place de la Sorbonne has recently been redone with a modern fountain. The guard would not let me into the courtyard, as I did not have a "carte de professeur". Place St-Michel was crowded with young people, as always. All but one of the North African pastry shops on the old, narrow streets behind it have been replaced by Greek restaurants.
I decided to visit two museums while in the neighborhood. I had not been to the Cluny for many years. It has an excellent collection of Medieval objects, including tapestries and the heads of the statues from the facade of Notre-Dame that were shopped off during the Revolution, and is located in a Renaissance mansion. I also stopped in to the headquarters of the "Assistance Publique" to see a modest exhibit on the history and future of hospitals in Paris. One of the things that I learned was that "Assistance Publique" has no real link to American-style welfare, which is what the phrase suggested to me. Instead, it is the 19th-century bureaucracy created to administer all of the hospitals and foundling homes that had been created centuries before by the Catholic Church and which had been taken over by the government during the Revolution.