My husband and I slept in this morning, then headed to that gourmet outlet for breakfast: McDonald’s. It was quick and inexpensive, and they have a good capuccino!
The rest of the family was even slower getting going. We decided to meet at the RER station at noon. Along the way, my husband and I joined my parents for a brief walk through Notre-Dame cathedral. It’s large with beautiful arch construction, and chapels every few feet.
This time we took a more direct route to the RER station, and headed over to the Eiffel Tower. We stood in line for about 90 minutes; while waiting we were approached several times by young girls in saris attempting to get sympathy money by showing us notes written in English: I am broke and trapped in France. I need money to return to Bosnia. The police periodically swept these nuisances off the square but they rapidly returned, like vermin, once the gendarmes moved along to other areas of the park.
As we stood in the interminable line, it began to rain and I bought an umbrella from a (legitimate) street vendor for my mother; my husband and I were soaked through, however. At first we commented on our fortune, that at least it was not cold. The weather then turned chilly.
The lieft at the Eiffel Tower is like a funicular part of the way. Most of us went to the second level, but my brother-in-law and his kids continued to the top. They later reported that it was very windy at the top, and were well-pleased with themselves to have achieved the aspect.
Though the Eiffel Tower is a remarkable structure, I thought it was sufficient to be on the ground to admire it, and would not recommend taking the time or expense to go up the thing. The parks on either side were pretty, in the very manicured French style complete with topiaries and broad avenues approaching substantial buildings. It is certainly worth looking at this area as an example of the region’s culture and arts.
The entire family gathered in the evening and walked to the 5th arondissement, wandering down rue de la Huchette in search of a restaurant offering the formula dinners the family prefers (entree, main course, dessert); the proprietors of several restaurants approached us, and the gentleman at La Cour de la Highette flirted with my mom until we were so entertained we jointly decided to give it a try.
The food was good – not great, but quite good – and the desserts were excellent. We surprised Mom and Dad with a champagne toast, thanking them for the trip and feting their 50th wedding anniversary. A little bit of difficulty translating our request to the barman was met with good humour on both sides. Our waiter very patiently poured 10 glasses which is not easy with bubbly, after which my husband led the toast.
After dinner my mom, sisters, and one niece remained to souvenir shop on this last full day in Paris. The quarter was active and colorful late into the night.
An interesting event occurred tonight. While walking through the Hotel de Ville courtyard in the morning, my husband and I had noticed a large sign with a picture of a woman in a wood, a digital counter, and words to the effect In honor of Ingrid Betancourt. During dinner we noticed on the bar television we saw a news report indicating that Ingrid Betancourt and 14 others, all FARC hostages in Columbia, had been liberated.
As we walked back to our hotel after dinner, some impromptu celebrations were unfolding in the Hotel de Ville courtyard. Some French students on bicycles asked me to take their picture in front of the Betancourt sign, and the main entrance to the building was lit up with the European Union symbol. The atmosphere was light-hearted, festive.
Later at the hotel, my husband and I watched CNN, eager for background and further information. We learned that Betancourt is a Columbian who also holds French citizenship. She was abducted in February of 2002 while a presidential candidate, and held hostage by FARC militants for 2321 days. We watched the coverage as she disembarked from an airplane and deliver a grateful speech, which included repeated hopes for peace in Columbia.
She praised the rescuers, which was well-deserved. The Columbian military had planned the rescue well; they had infiltrated FARC so deeply that it was with relative ease that they persuaded the FARC guards to allow them to transport the prisoners. What a moment it must have been for these hostages to be convinced that they were being transported yet again, only to have the FARC crew subdued and receive the news You are free.