June 5, 2014- I left my luggage downstairs at the Hotel Monte Carlo, so the ladies could get about their business. There are two types of chambermaids in Europe: Those who blaze through the rooms like the White Tornado of 1960’s American television, having everyone’s room clean by check-out time; and those who pick and choose which rooms on which to focus, maybe getting them all done by quitting time, or not. With one exception, I had the first kind working on my rooms. The Monte Carlo was definitely of the first order. There are also two types of desk clerks at these same hotels. The first kind are semi-formal, but professional, glad but not overjoyed at your arrival and helpful with all reasonable requests. The other are dour, have to work hard at even letting guests in the door and less than pleased at one’s approach to the counter. The man who checked me in was of the second type, and never quite forgave me for having removed his door block, in my initial attempts to get in. It took the Senegalese woman in the real estate office around the corner, calling and asking just what kind of hotel locks the door on their guests at 5 PM on a Sunday evening, to guarantee my entrance. That was about my only encounter with the French arrogance of legend.
The vast majority of people I met, in this land of my paternal ancestors, were more than gracious and very pleasant. France is a very busy place these days. There was a strike by SNCF workers, the entire time I was in the northwest of the country. I was pretty much inured to coming to Paris, each time I traveled from one provincial city to another. Despite that, though, people were focused and seemed to be working hard at whatever task was in front of them.
I spent the morning of this final day of my first extended visit to Paris, visiting a place that may well be one of the most important offices in the City of Light, in years to come: The National Centre of the Baha’is of France, several blocks east-northeast of L’Arc de Triomphe. I say this out of personal conviction, but anyone who is interested is more than welcome to investigate the Teachings of Baha’u’llah for themselves. The unity of the human race, and independent investigation of all truth, are cornerstones of what we believe, and of what we do. Here are scenes of the immediate neighbourhood, the interior and the garden of the National Centre of the Baha’is of France. The buildings below are not the Baha’i Centre. The actual location is just to the right of the Red Cross, on Rue Pergolese.
Once inside and properly introduced to staff, a prayer room is available.
The staircase leads to offices on the second floor.
I spent about thirty-five minutes speaking with the three staff members who were present, enjoyed a cafe au lait, bought a prayer book in French, and bid them a fond “A dieu”. After retrieving my luggage, and thanking the gracious daytime desk clerk, for his steadfast help over the four days, I headed to Gare St. Lazare, for the journey to Rouen, from whence some of my paternal ancestors set out for L’Amerique du Nord, one day in 1650. So, this is a good point to look back on Paris. I first made a brief stop here, with Penny, in 1982. We were en route to Israel, and our Baha’i pilgrimage, so sightseeing was not on the agenda. It was a mere transit stop. This time, though, was planned almost to the hour, and I certainly took in a lot: Montmartre (though not Le Moulin Rouge), Tuileries, Le Musee de Louvre, Versailles, Champs-Elysees, Le Tour Eiffel, Trocadero and L’Arc de Triomphe. I enjoyed Petits Dejeuners aux pain, viande et fromage, a four course dinner at a Brasserie, another four course dinner at a Turkish restaurant, and a few kebab sandwiches here and there. One rainy day, I wore my poncho. On the other rainy day, I pretty much stayed indoors or underground.
I learned the difference between eating au place and taking my meal emportee. (It was usually 5 euros). I learned that one should never, ever write on a France Pass rail voucher, before it has been cleared by the proper official. I learned that, if the first three trains on the Metro are overcrowded, the fourth will afford sufficient space for a man and his household. I learned that Paris is a supremely lovable place. Many thanks then, to the young lady at the Montmartre Tourist office, the clerk at Metro Station Le Peletier, the desk clerk at Hotel Victoria and the aforementioned real estate agent, for getting me to Hotel Monte Carlo, albeit in piecemeal fashion; to the manager of Hotel Monte Carlo, his day clerk and the chambermaid, for arranging a most pleasant stay; to our tour guide at the Louvre and to the staff at Versailles, for their most informative explanations of these fabulous cultural repositories; to the restaurateurs, of establishments great and small, for unfailingly delicious fare, served pleasantly and to my Baha’i friends, for helping me add a spiritual dimension to my Paris visit and for connecting me with the friends in Rouen and Strasbourg. I leave you with this view of the French countryside near Vernon, west of Paris.
NEXT: An Evening in Rouen