It was a day filled with French. It started out at Monoprix where I went to stock up on the heavy things via Monoprix delivery. Getting delivery is pretty easy and doesn’t require a great command of French. Now that I am in the system (from last year), all I have to do is give my French mobile or portable number… in French, but of course. And then they check you out as normal – which means you watch the gal scan the items and she hits the total key and you put your credit card into the machine. And now, of course, I have a real Chip and PIN credit card, so I enter my PIN and it’s done. No conversation necessary. I walk home and wait. The paper they give you says delivery between 10 and 1pm. Which is fine. Usually I don’t have anything else scheduled on a Monoprix delivery day – but today I did. A guided tour of the Apartments of the Duchess at the Hotel Sully. Had to be on my way about 1:30. And normally, every past delivery, the guy shows up at 11. The latest has been 12. But not today.
Figures. So at 1245 I call Monoprix. And spoke French. And had an argument. She kept telling me that the paper was wrong and there were no deliveries before 11 and probably after 2. We didn’t get very far because every time I told her that I have had deliveries at 11 before, she said it was a mistake. Finally she transferred me… to a gentleman who didn’t really speak English either. Now it’s 1250. And just as I was making my point and he sort of understood, the doorbell rang and it was the delivery. Whew. So I said to the telephone, il arrive. And tried to explain to the delivery guy who just said he was rapid… quick… whatever, not really but crisis averted and off to the next event.
And before I talk about the next event, let’s go back a few days to my tour in French of the Hotel Lauzun, built in 1657 on Ile St Louis. It is small but I think it rivals Versailles.
OK. Today’s next event was the tour of the Hotel Sully. It’s a grand hotel particulier in the Marais. I have crossed through the gardens several times using the semi-secret shortcut to the Place des Voges. Did just that on Wednesday to meet a friend for lunch. (French conversation with a compliment that I had improved greatly since he and I last met in May!) And stopped in the bookstore there. It’s a great bookstore. One of the best bookstores I have ever seen in a French monument. Know why? Hotel Sully is actually the headquarters for the Centre des Monument Nationaux. No wonder they have everything! (Notice in the photo – the right side of the building is a bit crooked… it’s in the Marais district – Marais means swamp. Guess the building settled…)
There are frequent tours of the place – but in July and August they have tours IN ENGLISH. So I had signed up for that. I have been going to the French tours lately, but I know I am missing information. Why not take advantage of my mother tongue?
Want proof that the tourism has plummeted? The tour in July had only two people. This tour had me. Yup. A private tour. Yikes. Now I am sure this place is not at the top of everyone’s list, but still. One person? I read somewhere that the 5 stars hotels have seen a 45% drop in stays over the summer. Now is the time to visit Paris. Uncrowded. You will be welcomed.
But back to French. I spoke in French with all people at the reception and bookstore, excluding my tour guide. And my tour guide may become a conversation partner when she comes back from… you guessed it – vacation. The Apartments are just 3 rooms and nothing as fancy as Hotel Lauzun (see above), but still beautiful. And mostly original. The ceilings from 1640 are amazingly beautiful. Apparently, someone put in false ceilings in the 1800s when the place was divided up into smaller apartments. That’s what preserved them. And the guide made me look up in the bookstore. Wow. Original beam ceiling – painted beams! How many times I was there and just looked at the books on the tables?
After Hotel Sully, I ambled over to the office of Paris Historique, a nonprofit dedicated to the history of Paris. They are located almost across the street from the two medieval half-timber houses from the 14th century. What’s amazing is that Paris Historique is also located in a very old building. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it. I stumbled upon it in one of my Medieval Paris books. This gal didn’t speak English so I was back to a tour in French. She took me downstairs to the cellars. This building was built by a Cistercian order as their Paris town house. The cellar was amazing. Even with a door to a tunnel that went to the Seine back then. They shipped food from the abbey located on the Oise River down to Paris and unloaded it straight into the cellar. Then she took me upstairs to see the medieval courtyard. And a photo of the terrible shape it was in during the 70’s. Quite a bit of renovation, to put it mildly.
Back home, I called the Sixt car rental in Brest to check on my reservation – and nope, he didn’t speak English. But I made myself understood and all is well for our rental on Monday. I was a bit worried because I just noticed that Monday is August 15 and that is Assumption. Another religious holiday that will result in Faire le Pont since it’s on a Monday. No worries. Sixt will be open.
Off to Brest on Monday with a Friday return. I love Brittany but haven’t been in the north yet so this will be an adventure. And more French to be spoken. I am growing in confidence!