After several weeks of next to no internet connection we hope to be sorted out by the end of this weekend, so I will hopefully be able to continue blogging and replying to comments. Grrrrrr.
I am in Paris and things are working out with some creative thought.
Unfortunately I am having trouble putting photos on my WordPress blog with my iPad so, although I am writing posts each day they will have to wait until I can sort out this problem. But I will be back when it is sorted.
with lovely , lovely pix:)
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OK I am back in charge of a laptop now and can do things with photos, at last. I’m afraid this means that my travel diary is rather out of sync with the dates, but nothing to be done about that.
With my friend, L, suffering from jet lag (she flew in from California) and I shattered by all the worry (albeit unnecessary) and discomfort of the travelling we opted for a slow start to the day.
I rested my leg until lunchtime as it was really sore while L went out to explore the local neighbourhood. This visit we are staying in a 1930s apartment near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arrondissement.
This is the Rue Dominique (in the C16 was the Chemin des Vaches – Road of the Cows: reading the history of the area I see that this was a very rural area full of woods, fields, marshes and farms until various religious and military institutions began to move in from the C17 onwards. Ravaged by the 30 years war many religious houses born out of the counter reformation came to find sanctuary here. At the same time Noblemen wished to leave the crowded and noisy Marais and discovered the charms of the Left Bank. The river provided easy access to Versailles to where the Court moved in 1672. The building of Les Invalides and the Ecole Militaire followed and then the University and the National Assembly. Later the area was to to be the site of no fewer than five Great Exhibitions, from 1878 to 1937, each of which included further redevelopment, including of course the Eiffel Tower) and we are staying on a small side road off it.
Redevelopment in the C19 and C20 means that this area does not have the elegance of our beloved Marais but is much cheaper whilst still being central and bustling. Since we hoped to take a few side trips this time we did not want to feel we were ‘wasting’ an expensive rental. The familiar buses go from either the end of the road or from just over the Seine which is only two blocks away.
On her wandering L found some small supermarkets just round the corner which will prove invaluable and a mobile phone shop at the end of our road; as we had decided before coming that we would both get French SIM cards for our phones for while we were here, this is the first thing we did in the afternoon. Knowing us, we will probably do some things separately so being able to phone/text each other cheaply would be helpful. Despite a few misunderstandings, my French is hardly up to tech standards, all was safely sorted. To celebrate we treated ourselves to tea in a sweet cake shop nearby, also conveniently at the end of our road. It is called the Moulin de la Vierge
and has the prettiest tiling on the walls and ceiling and lots of fairy lights festooned everywhere.
L had a raspberry millefeuille and coffee, I had a raspberry macaroon which tasted blissfully of almonds and rapberries, and tea.
As we ate I heard one customer telling another that this bakery sold the best cakes in Paris. We only ate half our cakes and brought the rest home for another day: we were given sweet little boxes in which to bring home the remnants.
Apparently there are several outlets for this baker/cake maker and reading the history of the Patisserie I came upon the following on their website: the oldest outlet at Vercingétorix in the heart of Montparnasse dates as far back as 1356, it is the location of the original le Moulin de la Vierge, and the whereabouts of the legend that became our history.
This little jewel houses the oldest wood burning oven still active in Paris. Inside the tiny boutique, the signature styles of the Art Nouveau period are revealed in the bucolic landscapes mirrored in the ivory ceramic tiles and flowered frescoes, gazed upon from a sky of wheat bearing angels. Under the bakery, the original wood burning oven (Lefort 1907) continues its role of baking the baguettes and special country breads available in the Moulins de la Vierge boulangeries around Paris, while the storefront windows honor the French pastry artists. The combination of the original architecture, the ambiance and the epicurean delights inside create a typically Parisian atmosphere, sought out by many seeking to delight in it’s historical beauty.
Certainly this became our ‘go-to’ baker of choice and barely a day went past without a baguette, some croissants or a petit patisserie finding their way home chez nous!!
And this is how it got its name, again from their website:
For lovers of history and tales of lore… We present you the official legend of le Moulin de la Vierge (the Windmill of the Virgin). Our story begins in 1356, at the original location where the windmill stood, that became the home of our very first boulangerie.
In September of 1365, Edward of Woodstock, known as the Dark Prince, defeated the French in Potiers. He captured King Jean II and many of his chevaliers, forcing their withdrawal to the suburbs of Paris. Nearby, on rue Vercingitorix, lived a poor miller whose windmill had fallen to abandon. With no wind to turn its sails, he fell deeper and deeper into destitution.
Day after day collectors came to his door presenting him with debts he could neither read nor pay. Until one day, when he ventured into a nearby convent and fell to his knees before the statue of the Virgin Mary. He confessed to her of his pitiable situation and pleaded for salvation.
But as the days passed, convinced that she had not heard his pleas, he began to wonder if he had confided in the wrong person. Perhaps he would have had more sympathy from the Devil, who might have taken pity on his situation.
As he spoke aloud such horrific thoughts, out of nowhere appeared a strange little man with a malicious sparkle in his eyes. He came towards the miller and removed his velour hat, twisting it in his fingers, and politely introduced himself to the distressed man. “ Miller, you have called upon me. Here I am, Lucifer himself. ”
“ Is it really you, Lucifer? ” retorted the miller, taken aback at what had just happened… “ How funny it is to see you here. I always imagined you as more of a strapping man, with broad shoulders and big hands and feet… As someone that would swallow me whole, like an ogre or a werewolf. How funny are the notions we conceive in our minds ”.
To which Lucifer replied, “ It is not my size that is of concern, it is what I can offer you that only you can behold. I heard your complaints and have come as you desired… to bring you riches and happiness! ”
“ Oh but sir, ” explained the miller, “ riches and happiness are merely characters in children’s tales. For years I have awaited their arrival, yet I no longer believe they will come”.
“ Believe you me, my dear friend. Nothing is impossible where the Devil is concerned. What exactly do you desire of me? ” asked Lucifer.
“ Simply to hear the rustling of the wind that may turn the sails of my windmill ”, muttered the miller.
“ And so it shall be… Behold its wings! ” cried the Devil.
As the miller raised his head he cried out, “ I do not believe my eyes. It’s true it turns… But how did it come to pass? I didn’t feel the slightest of breeze pass by. If so the leaves on the trees would be dancing as well. It is quite the miracle… Your powers are great indeed! ”
“ And now what more do you wish for? ” asked the Devil.
“ Ah, but sacs of wheat! What meaning is it that my windmill turns if I possess not a grain to feed the mill…? ” he replied.
“ Look over there, down the road, ” replied Lucifer. “ Do you see the donkeys coming this way? They’re coming with sacs filled with the finest of wheat, with which you may make the finest of flour to sell and become rich! ”
“ It is true, I see them coming this way. This time I have been saved. Thank you Mr. Lucifer… I don’t know how I could ever repay you! ” cried the miller.
“ But it is not as complicated as you might think, ” quickly replied the Devil. “ To kindly prove your gratitude, you can simply sign on the bottom of this page. ”
“ Oh but not another contract, ” retorted the miller.
“ No collectors this time! Don’t worry my friend, I am yet an accommodating Devil, who understands the trials and tribulations of men, ” he proclaimed. “ Later when you are no longer of this world, many years from now, you can pay me back… in another world. ”
“ But how is this possible? Can we bring money to another world? How will I be able to pay you in this other world? ” asked the miller.
“ The money is not important, ” replied the Devil. “ I ask simply for recognition in the form of a small gift. ”
“ How can I refuse such an offer, ” said the miller. “ But what type of gift do you ask of me? ”
“ A gift of little value, ” said Lucifer, “that will cost you next to nothing.”
“ If money is not an issue, then we are in agreement. What exactly must I offer you? ” asked the miller.
“ Just your soul, ” said the Devil. “ It’s of little significance, the soul of a man… it weighs less than a grain of wheat! ”
“ But if it is something so insignificant, why do you ask of this as a gift? ”
“ It’s just a simple fantasy of mine, ” replied the Devil.
“ Well if it’s merely just a fantasy of yours, then why not, ” agreed the miller. “ I will give you my soul. But before I sign, ” he hesitated, “ let me think things over. Give me five minutes and I will return to sign your contract. And we shall have a deal. ”
And with this, the miller, an honorable man who represented all that was good to those who knew him, thought to be prudent in his decision… and perhaps not engage in a deal for all of eternity.
He quickly returned to the convent to seek the advice of the Mother Superior. As he ran through the church he passed the statue of the Virgin Mary and stopped dead in his tracks. Having seen no one in church at this hour, he was startled by the voice that seemed to come from the statue. As he stood there, rather frightened, he witnessed as it came to life. Rolling her eyes, with the disapproving look of an angry mother, she scolded the miller for being so naïve.
“ Stupid man, who told you to call upon Lucifer! You should have come to me first before committing such a grave mistake. You did not have enough faith in me… and now you have given your word and your promise must be kept, ” she explained.
“ You will sign the contract, as an uneducated person would, but listen carefully. With your index finger, make a cross at the bottom of the page. Not in ink, but in holy water. And with this you will see the true face of the Devil! ”
Ever grateful to the Virgin Mother, the miller followed her instructions and dipped his finger in the holy water. As he touched the Devil’s contract with the holy water there was an eruption of light and the parchment paper burst into flames. And with that the Devil vanished, leaving behind the faint scent of sulfur.
From that day on the windmill continued to turn… and the exquisite white flour poured from the sieves. There were no more collectors, in this world or any other.
Years later, in memory of the miraculous story of the miller and his windmill, the name was given to the street that later became the inspiration for the bakery that is today Le Moulin de la Vierge.
Aren’t we lucky to have such a find just a few doors away?
The rest of the day was spent quietly planning and booking our trips. My knee was hurting a lot so I decided to make some changes round the flat and use the crutches all day, every day, instead of the walking stick and see how it goes.
Trying hard to exude confidence and calm I had a lift to the station and registered at the Assistance desk.
I was very heartened to be met by a young woman who greeted me by name holding a form with my details on it. I was whisked away in a wheelchair accompanied by a rather worried husband, and put on the train, followed by my suitcase. We set off gaily waving goodbye to ‘other half’ who says he is looking forward to some bachelor time!!
The first part of this trip was completely uneventful and when we drew into St Pancras there were two young women waiting on the platform for my coach. Apart from having to look in my suitcase to find my Eurostar ticket which I had mistakenly packed (senior moment/nerves) all went smoothly and I was wheeled straight to Eurostar Assistance.
However, here we met with a problem. My suitcase was weighed and came in at 21k. The weight limit per case had been changed (I was told it was hidden in the small print) and although I could have taken two cases totalling 30 k my one case was not acceptable. To have the case go with me on the train would be an extra £30.00 each way. To add insult to injury I had specially chosen the one case as being easier for those helping me. And it was half full of medical supplies, not geegaws or nicknacks!
I had a good chat with the luggage booking clerk the upshot of which was that he disobeyed all the rules, refused to take payment saying he felt it was discrimination and insisted on taking it to the train personally and putting it on for me. He said that some of them still had a heart despite the corporate ethos. We ended by discussing particle physics, the state of health of his mum (why does everyone appear young nowadays?) and he said what a shame I did not have longer before my train or we could go for a coffee and discuss string theory!
Once again I was helped onto the train and happily settled: my gluten-free meal came as ordered and all went smoothly until Paris where two gents were waiting for me as the carriage drew in. They whisked me and luggage straight to the taxis where they had already booked me a taxi which was waiting at the front of the queue.
There followed a drive filled with panache, hooting and hand gestures during which I sat back and enjoyed the tree-lined Boulevards, the Circulation, the Seine, the bridges, and so many old haunts. We flashed over the Pont Royal, past the Musee d’Orsay, down the Left Bank and turned into the 7th Arrondisement where nary a riot or strike was in evidence
My friend had arrived earlier that morning from the airport and opened up the flat and came down to open the door for me after the driver had reassured himself that someone was meeting me. He held up the following traffic for me and the crutches to get out of his taxi insisting that there was no hurry at all.
So there we have it: all my fears were groundless and in fact I was bowled over by the kindness and patience of strangers (exactly as Jocelyn predicted, omniscient woman!)
So, here I am, back in Paris, with my great friend, and we will just have to see what I can manage. Or not.
For over a year my friend from California and I have had a plan to return to Paris together this Spring, after the fun we had last Easter.
We have been organising a small apartment in a cheaper part of the city, buying cheap advance train tickets to other parts of France and booking Air B&B places to stay when we got there.
Deposits have been paid, flights and Eurostar booked and we were all set for adventure until this upset to my knee. All through recent events I have been determined not to cancel but it was looking really impossible. So, after the MRI, I rang the Train company in the UK and Eurostar to examine my options for assisted travel. Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic, helpful and went out of their way to explain what might work for me.
So, much against the advice and opinions of those around me, I have booked wheelchair assistance to all trains and connections with luggage being put on and off trains too. I have changed my seats to single, airplane type seats so that neither I nor anyone sitting near me might be inconvenienced by my immobility.
I have to admit to being afraid: of pain, of making things worse with the knee, of appearing a helpless old woman and of being dependent on others. Of the reported strikes and being abandoned on a ‘foreign shore’ unable to help myself. It is salutary to appreciate that this is what many people must have to face for much of their lives if they wish to travel.
But I do not know what the rest of this year holds for me medically and I cannot bear to let my friend down so, with cold, clammy hands and a tight fist round my stomach, I am going for it. I shall wear a spotty kerchief and a hat and take some marmalade sandwiches in case I need rescuing;)
I have bought a snazzy, scarlet walking stick (with coloured spots all over to match my scarf) and will paint my crutches with the tricolour going for a ‘disabled chic’ look.
Mercifully, just in the last few days, the swelling has subsided, finally, and with it much of the pain, all thanks to the ugly, ironclad but wonderful leg brace which is holding the knee together.
A young nurse friend has offered me a lift to the station and I was greatly affected when she hugged me and said she was proud of me for going. As against those who prophecy doom and gloom.
We have yet to see what help actually materialises. Oh yes, and the State Department has issued a warning to US citizens to avoid the part of Paris we are going to because of riots, tear gas and ongoing strike action.
Wish me luck, because although I may appear intrepid, I always have to push myself to do things since I insist that fear will not diminish my life, and I am usually scared!!
It was some time before I could even get into a vehicle to go and have the MRI. This was a worry but using a fearsome leg brace (all straps, metal and Velcro pads and looking like something from the first world war) I managed with pain and difficulty to get into our son’s car and be ferried to hospital.
I was duly transferred to the waiting area where a nurse enquired whether I had anything metal about my person. I explained about the leg brace and her immediate response was that it would have to come off. I agreed that in a heavily magnetised machine it would not be a good idea but that it would have to remain in place until I was lying on the bed of the machine.
She exclaimed in horror that this was not possible as the metal in the brace would interfere with the magnets!! I was equally adamant that I could not move even half an inch without the brace because of the pain. Stalemate.
At this point I was getting upset and tired from the efforts I had made to actually get there as well as the pain levels so Isuggested that I went home.
“But you need the MRI”, she exclaimed. Well, yeah . . . . Duh?
I remained silent and immovable, not hard in the circumstance, leaning against the wall pinned to my crutches.
Luckily she gave up at this point and said she would go and speak to the Radiologists. 20 mins later and no signs of anyone so once more I was preparing to leave: by this time I and the wall had been making friends for over an hour.
When, out of the blue a handsome young chap in his early thirties came hurrying down the corridor and reminiscent of Apollo 13 said, “I gather we have a problem?” He was one of the Radiologists. I explained and he grinned and said there was alway a way round everything and that he and his colleague were two strong young men and he was sure they could cope. I almost fell into his arms then and there:)
So I hobbled into the anteroom of the MRI machine and was asked to leave my crutches at the door, whereat each chap took an arm and I was regally escorted, hopping like a rabbit, towards the magnets and the flatbed of the machine.
Very slowly I inched my way onto the couch, oohing and aaahing the while until finally the leg was in position. Then the fun began. I was just about to remove the brace when they urgently asked me to stop.
The lovely blokes said that they would have to take the leg brace off together, on the count of three, one holding each end to avoid it being whipped away and dragged towards the magnets and into the machine. The whole process was so funny as they gingerly undid the straps while holding onto the body of the brace for dear life and then in one smooth movement pulled it away and took it out of the room. So gentle, kind and understanding and making no issue of the process at all.
From then on all was plain sailing and an hour later I was ringing to ask for my lift home.
The results came back ten days later, I do not understand them yet but I gather that a lot of damage has been done and I have been referred to an Orthopaedic consultant. Given that I have allergies to painkillers, antibiotics and anaesthetics I am unsure as to my options. However, one lesson I learned from this scan was that with a willingness to find a way through hopefully all is not yet lost:)
Here’s a toast to helpful young men (and women) wherever they may be. Cheers chaps!!
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been suffering from a leg injury.
Many, many years ago I slipped on a saliva-rich, cat-feeding plate which happened to be on the kitchen floor (I’ve never been house-proud), span across the room and dislocated a knee-cap on the way. That knee has always been a little weak ever since but recently there have been a few small episodes which have not helped it.
Three months ago I tore some cartilage turning abruptly on that leg at the top of a rise of steps. I felt it go and waited for it to heal. When it did not I visited a locum doctor where I was diagnosed with arthritis, which I hotly denied, and sent for an X-ray instead of the MRI I requested.
As I expected the X-ray showed nothing to be wrong, but my doctor was away and rather than see the locum again I took myself off to see a physio who confirmed that the knee joint was fine and agreed with me about the cartilage. We had a very jolly hour as I was invited to talk about myself in order for him to assess my muscular-skeletal health.
He aked some questions which surprised me: “Do you play a musical instrument?”
Apparently this was suggested by the way I sit in a chair.
“Do you ride horses?”
Apparently this was suggested by the way I walk.
His diagnosis was that yes, indeed, I had injured the cartilage, but that the old dislocation of my knee-cap had altered my stance and gait causing further problems. His prescription, “Learn how to ‘mosey’ when walking: loosen up, turn your feet out and move your arms and upper body”.
This I have been doing, with the result that I ended up walking like a constipated duck.
He also gave me some exercises for my knee.
Off I went home to put this all into action.
The constipated duck regularly walked the dogs in public (!) and lay on the bed doing knee exercises.
Now I always believed that ‘no pain, no gain’ – so in order to increase muscle strength around the poorly knee-cap I counted the reps until the muscles began to feel a little tired. 200 reps. OK, tired muscle, time to stop. Very sensible.
On my next visit to the physio the knee was huge, swollen and sore.
The physio collapsed with laughter and disbelief: “I normally have to urge my patients to activity, not rein them back. I shall have to be clearer with you. Only five or ten reps two or three times a day, and never when there is any pain. And wait until the swelling goes down.”
It took ten days for the swelling to go down. And at the end of it I fell down stairs bending that very knee back under me. Back to swollen knee again.
Two weeks later I did the very same thing all over again.
And then did the Spring digging to get the vegetable garden ready for planting out all my lovely young seedlings.
Bad, bad, move.
Back to physio. “What is going on with this knee?”
I explained what had happened.
“You were digging using the knees as fulcrums.”
“Of course,” I replied, “That is what we are all told. Do not use your back, use your legs.”
“You took that advice to heart didn’t you”, he laughed. Rest was recommended.
However, on the way home sudden pain shot through my knee every time I depressed the clutch to change gear. By the time I arrived back chez nous I was white and shivering with pain having screamed each time I changed gear and stalled the car at least five times when I just could not bear it.
And now? Clearly, the knee cap is compromised and given the progression from bad to terrible, clearly something is badly wrong. I can only walk on crutches at the moment and even turning over in bed is a nightmare, while getting up from a chair and going to the loo are actions I only perform when absolutely essential.
On her return I asked my usual doctor to send me for an MRI scan to show up anything that might happening to the soft tissue. Like I requested months ago. Exasperation. Why do medics never believe that we know what is happening with our own bodies?
Anyway, yesterday I went for the MRI, which is a whole story of its own.