Friday, May 2, 2008

Letter 5: Felix Hotel, Paris

Letter 5
FELIX HOTEL 26, Rue Moliere Paris, FRANCE.
October 19, 1932 (Wed.)

Dear Folks.
On Columbus Day we took a second stroll around Canterbury (England) and of course again took a good look at the beautiful and historic old Cathedral. I took motion pictures of parts and also of the town from an elevation. We then took the train to Dover and promptly boarded the Channel boat and just as promptly seated ourselves in the dining room for lunch, which we enjoyed. It was a beautiful day, and the trip was only an hour and fifteen minutes to Calais, France. It was as smooth as a ferry ride to Hoboken. The passport formalities were very simple.

From Calais we had second class seats to Paris. They were very fine indeed and the people with us (five others) were high grade. Next to Dora sat an old Gentleman who turned out to be an English physician and school inspector. He was very agreeable company. The trip lasted three hours and we had a good view of French landscape and agriculture. The fields were beautiful, every different kind of crop showing a different color.

We dined in a near-by restaurant. My first test in French was when I gave the chauffeur the address above. He understood! I may say at this point that I have been immediately understood on very nearly every occasion. However, the answers sometimes come too fast for me to grasp the entire reply. Yesterday I began to take French lessons again and I think I shall improve quickly. I find that it helps a lot to know the language.

This hotel Felix is a very small affair, run by Nicholas, his wife Madeleine and two or three maids. Nicholas himself waits on the dozen guests, all Americans. The house is said to be that of Marie Antoinette's dressmaker. Owen Wister stopped here and wrote the place up. The beds are good, the rooms are clean, the service fine and the meals are just grand -- not at all elegant, but excellently cooked, simply served and very well balanced. There are three vegetables every evening. Everything is delicious, even such things as potatoes. Instead of the small French breakfast Marcus and I get a regular breakfast. And cheap -- well, I'm ashamed to tell you; it's less than the rent I paid in New York. We take our lunches out wherever we are and have thus been in many different restaurants. The food is good everywhere but the prices vary from 24 cents to $1.60 for a luncheon, depending on the place -- and the lunch.

Now to go back to the second day in Paris. We all went down to the Gare du Nord to claim our four bags -- the trunk is in Cannes. We opened two bags and the customs inspector was satisfied. Then we went to the American Express and were disappointed with the small amount of mail. I may say that, to date the families check as follows: KLEIN, David, Jack; LOURIE, Isabel. That's not so good. More of that later.

Of course we went to the Louvre. This morning I made my third trip there and I expect to go at least once more. The galleries are simply immense. It is a fine thing for Marcus, too, to see such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.

[Page 2]

If you want to know the details about Paris there [are] a great many excellent books on the subject. In a letter one can give only a brief idea of what's it all about (and even then the typewriter slips as it did in "what's" in the line above). At any rate the city is fascinating. It has all the crooked little streets such as London has, but it also has wonderful open squares and circles. The Place de la Concorde has fountains playing and at night they are illuminated. All the public buildings are flood-lighted at night, brilliantly. From the Arc de Triomphe, the largest in the world, twelve majestic avenues lead in every direction -- wonderful boulevards with double rows of trees, each tree trimmed like a hedge. What a sight from the top where we looked on the magic city.

Today we had even a more wonderful view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, nearly 1000 feet high. It is a marvellous sight and the day was perfect. There are no other very tall structures in Paris and so one gets a fine view for miles. The grassed plots below look like an architect's painted design. At this season of the year the trees have such wonderful colors!

The Luxembourg gallery is a treat. It is wonderfully well lighted and not too large. We all enjoyed the sculptures and paintings. As usual, I bought colored post-cards for a collection of several hundred I am making and which you are all welcome to see at our home when we establish one. From the galleries we went to lunch in the Latin Quarter and then to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which you all know is one of the oldest and finest Gothic structures it the world. The light within was very dim but those gem-like windows made an inspiring display of sapphire, silver, emerald, amber and ruby. A guide explained in French and in English how the various treasures were acquired -- gifts from Louis this or that or Napoleon.

One day we saw all the paintings in the Petit Palais and then lunched in a truly Parisian atmosphere. The red wine they serve free makes plenty of spots on the cloth, so they add a clean paper table-covering when you sit down. The Frenchmen finish the "red ink" but of course we just sampled it. Amusing things happen as when we saw "pommes" listed so we thought it meant apples, but when "pommes" is listed under Legumes (or vegetables) it means "pommes-de-terres" or potatoes. So, one day we got potatoes twice. They were delicious, too.

The longest trip was to Chartres, 50 miles in a new, luxurious bus. The price per person was 17 francs one way, or 68 cents. The round trip for the family therefore was about four dollars. The private busses with lecturers cost 130 per person, just double what we paid. It would be easy to waste money, if Dora did not look into prices carefully.

This letter was done in two sections. It is being finished and mailed on Thursday, Oct. 20th. You may reply to American Express, Cannes, France, where we expect to arrive about October 30th, and to stay quite a while. PLEASE WRITE, and mention Mother Klein or Mother Lurie, if you have seen either.



Rube: Please dictate a card right away and then one fortnightly. We'll be grateful. M.

* Owen Wister - Wikipedia
Owen Wister (July 14, 1860 – July 21, 1938) was an American writer of western fiction.

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