Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Hello, Montmartre, hello!" - Paris, Part 2

Continuing my story of my trip to Paris from last year, reposting it here in my blog from Facebook.

Some of my flaws (and I have many) come out when I am traveling. One is that when I get hungry, I become very, very grouchy. It's only appropriate that Mr. Hyde's first name is "Edward." Yet I never seem to prepare for it in advance because I never feel it coming. It just happens. God help you if you're with me and I haven't been fed in a while. I lose all sense of rationality. Thankfully, Paris has plenty of places along the way where I can grab something to go, especially if I start to crash while in a museum gallery. Another is my ridiculous addiction to Diet Coke. It tastes different in France but it's available in abundance. I tried and tried not to be silly and drink wine but I couldn't do it. Wine just doesn't agree with me and I have to go with my own comfort. It's hard to not feel declasse in that case but it was my vacation.Funniest thing was when I would respond "si" to a question when I meant "oui." It's even funnier because I am not proficient in Spanish so where the hell did that come from?


The weather in Paris was iffy at best, so we took advantage of one of the clearer days to go to Versailles. Marc had taken the week off so he drove us out. I need to say here how generous Marc and Thierry were with their time. Marc drove us to Normandy AND to Versailles. Thierry wasn't on vacation, so he did not accompany us this day. Thierry found it very funny that Fernando and I always asked him, "How was your day?" when he came home from work.Versailles is huge and a complete optical illusion. The view from the gardens is stunning, like you're staring into an impressionist painting and it goes on much further than you'd think it does. Heck, we parked in the back near the gardens and the walk to get to the ticket line up and around the buildings took a good thirty minutes. And when we were there, we bumped into an old friend who was visiting for the day from London. How weird is that? Versailles is great, the hall of mirrors is gorgeous but the one place I really loved was the old "play village" Marie Antoinette had built where she would pretend to be a shepherdess. It's really beautiful, like a living museum but no play actors like at Williamsburg or Sturbridge Village.Those who have been to Versaille before will be interested to know that it's undergoing improvements and the exterior gilt edging is being polished back to a shining gold. It's quite stunning. Versailles pretty much took up the entire day and we were exhausted by the end of it.


Paris in the rain. It sounds so romantic, doesn't it? It's not. The rain started and of course while I had bought an umbrella my first day there (It said PARIS in big letters on the side), I did not bring my jacket that day and it was POURING. So of course I had to complain that the rain was dripping down onto me. Really, what was anybody going to do? Was I five? But the rain did subside a bit and we headed on our day. I do understand now why the leaves are so, so dark green in Paris. Those trees are well watered. In one of my favorite French movies "Cleo from 5 to 7," (1961) poor Cleo is wandering through the streets in the daytime, and some are very shadowy. I was happy that the streets still are just as well-shaded as they were back then.One of the out of the way museums Fernando wanted to see was the Musee Nissim de Camondo museum near Parc Monceau. It was the family home of Turkish Jews who emigrated in the 19th century. The father had two children. The son died in WW1 and the father was stricken with grief and willed his home to be a museum in his son's name. Even worse, the daughter and her family were rounded up during WW2 and died in the camps. It's a very Thomas Mann-like ending to the family. But the house remains and it's stunning. I think I liked it more than Versailles. Anybody who goes to Paris should visit. enough, the part of the museum that fascinated us the most were the servant's quarters and kitchen. It was like something out of "Gosford Park."It had cleared up and it was time for me to come face to face with the experience I was waiting for: The Eiffel Tower. Yes,it's touristy and blah blah blah but it's touristy for a reason. That thing is amazing. I had been reading in a guidebook (one of those beautiful Knopf guides) that one of the best ways to see the Tower was to climb up the first few levels. It's cheaper AND you get a sense of how the edifice all comes together. The only time I'd ever seen anybody climb the Tower was Lois Lane in "Superman 2." Well, those first two levels are much, much higher than they look, even from the ground but I did it. Sadly, they do not sell "This Man Climbed the Eiffel Tower" bumper stickers at the top like they do Mount Washington bumper stickers in New Hampshire, but I did it. The Tower is amazing. And they have toilets up there, even better!From there, it was back to Marc and Thierry's for dinner and then a walk back up the hill to the hotel for me.


I spent the morning on my own, going to the Musee D'Orsay - a converted train station -which was wonderful. One of my favorite parts of that museum was all the Art Nouveau furniture. It surely wasn't their lame cafe. It was one of the few places in Paris where the sandwiches were of subpar quality. So if you go to the Musee D'Orsay, stay for the art but not for the food. They do have a very elegant restaurant there, the very type of restaurant you'd dream of eating at, but I couldn't afford that so I shuffled up to the sixth level mezzzanine for a soggy sandwich and no seating. A real surprise greeted me there as among as the amazing Cezannes, Lautrecs and Renoirs was none other than Whistler's Mother. How fun to meet a fellow American! there, I wandered down to the Saint Chappelle to meet up with Fernando. It is across the street from Deux Magots which I'd been hoping to see, but now it's very expensive and in a ritzy neighborhood. Quelle dommage!We went back to Le Marais and Marronnier and had some drinks at the outdoor cafe before heading to dinner. It started to rain again while we were at the cafe and we were at the very edge of the awning so we tried to creep back as far as we could. It was hard because the cute boys behind us wouldn't budge. How very rude of them!Here is a picture of Marronniers (I just realized I haven't been spelling it correctly but won't go back and correct it) but when I was there, everything face out, nobody had their back to you. was in a neighborhood near the Bastille Opera House. Oh that poor Opera House. I guess somebody thought it was nice but the main entrance looks like the front of a Community College. And I went to a community college so I know of what I speak. It was a Moroccan couscous restaurant and it was delicious. I loved that everybody who walked in there seemed really happy to be there. The bathroom was across a small outdoor patio but it was growing dark and I almost walked up the stairs and presumably, into somebody's apartment. Good thing I looked more closely. The Bastille area is very lively at night. We ended up back in Le Marais and I finally felt confident enough to take the Metro on my own back to the hotel. It let me off in Pigalle which is a short walk and for blocks it's "Sex Shows" and Girls. It must be somewhat what Times Square was like in the 70s and 80s. There was even a Boulanger on the corner right next to a shop that advertised live sex stage shows. No thank you, I'll buy my bread elsewhere.There was also a McDonalds. And it was packed. sad!

Then I went to bed.

Two more days left!

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