LadyM's vacation draws to a close—and just in time, because we were about to DIE of jealousy.—Sparkitors
Your favorite eager traveller was thrilled to return to Paris... it's a wonderful, wonderful city, and you all need to visit it before you die. Sadly, we were only there for a few days, when a year wouldn't be enough time to do everything that Paris has to offer. We settled on a very condensed "Highlights Reel," one that did not include a tour of the sewers, the catacombs ("more rats than bones," says Fosette), or the Museum of Eroticism. Drats!
The night we arrived we were positively knackered (points for using knackered, please?) after the 5 hour drive from mountain-land, so we ate at their favourite Chinese restaurant and then slept. I like sleeping in France, because that means waking up to Pain au Chocolat (pain = bread, and not an unpleasant physical sensation). It's a marvellous French invention.
After my Pain au Chocolat, we metroed down to the Louvre. I was extremely excited... until we walked right past it. Psych!
Megann: Are we going to the Louvre?
French People: No, don't be ridiculous. It's Tuesday!
French People: Museums are closed on Tuesdays... everybody knows that!
We were in the neighborhood to address my shopping list. Apparently Paris' best tourist stores are right across the street from the prolific museum. And I had a lot of tourist shopping to do... see, every other Canadian in France who wasn't going to Paris wanted an I <3 Paris T-Shirt or Hoodie. And. being a nice person (who happened to have Daddy's plastic), I volunteered to pick them up. That is why I spent the day lugging dozens of articles of clothing around the city. I'm a fan of I <3 Paris merchandise. They have everything you could imagine—from clothing to table settings to thongs to condoms. I may have purchased a few for good measure.
Since museums are randomly closed on Tuesdays (probably just to disappoint tourists), we headed up to Sacre-Coeur, another beautiful church. And I say headed UP quite deliberately... SO. MANY. STAIRS. I thought that we were out of the mountains... but cardiac arrest much? Sacre Coeur is pretty, but without the big stained glass windows of Notre-Dame. To a non-church goer who never developed a proper appreciation for religiosity, it seemed very much like the other churches that I've been to: dark, hot, and full of guilt (probably my guilt, for not knowing more about churches and the like).
Sacre-Coeur is situated in the Mont-Martre district, which I'm told is fairly sketch. We walked over to a square full of artists and other tradespeople, and it made me feel bad about my feeble (read: completely non-existent) artistic talent. I got a caricature done with Fossette and Flux. I think that a certain amount of self confidence is required to have an artist point out and exaggerate your biggest flaws, but we were dying of laughter, and I think that that is going to be one of my favourite souvenirs.
We spent the rest of the day in the Galerie Lafayette, which is the biggest, fanciest department store ever. Maybe you mega-city dwellers can relate, but the biggest city that I frequent is a quaint little town of 2.5 million. As wonderful as Toronto is, it does not have stores like this. After eating Greek food for lunch (who'd have thunk that I'd go to France for the international cuisine?), I saw more shoes in one place that I have ever seen in my life. The cumulative price of the shoes is probably more than Canada's GDP. I'm not a big shopper (I inherited my father's frugality) but I did enjoy looking at all of the beautiful things that I can't afford.
The next day we remetroed to the Louvre, for reals this time, and joined what is the longest line I'd ever seen. I told them that if the line was too long, we could do something else, and I wouldn't mind (lies! lies!), but it was an efficient line, so we were in the museum before we knew it. For some reason, Flux felt the need to cut the line—not significantly, just the last 10 people or so. The little boy behind us found this endlessly distressing. My heart went out to him. Observation of the day: as we proceeded through the queue (rhyme!), we heard about every language ever spoken. Gotta love tourist destinations...
The first thing you see is the glass pyramid, currently housing a sculpture that is probably a masterpiece but looked distinctly like a stack of cold cuts. The inside of the museum is much more appealing. After a botched attempt to get me in without paying the admission fee (don't ask...), we started with the Ancient Middle East. I saw the Code of Hammurabi, which was mostly exciting because it reminded me of the excellent mark I got on that law test. Many of the things were worn away with age, but it just added to the mystery—it was clear how intricate they once were. I love the sphinxes, because I could fill in the blanks left by the weathering. I also saw a stone lion called Arslan-Tash... is it just me, or does that really bring The Horse and His Boy to mind? And THEN I found out that it's related to the legend of Lillith (the White Witch's ancestor). Mind. Blown.
I loved the paintings best of all. I liked the darker stuff, while Flux and Fossette like the pictures of landscapes and flowers. There was a dead rabbit (the same dead rabbit...) in almost every painting, many Jesuses, and naked people. Often, the wind would conveniently blow a piece of cloth to cover up the man and lady parts.
Miscommunication of the day: Flux was explaining a painting of a man avenging his son. I was horrified, because I thought that she said he was eating him.
By the time we got to the Italian Paintings, we were pretty tired out. Fossette was in a rush, she ran right to the Mona Lisa (called La Joconde in French), and she walks fast for somebody with such short legs. I often lagged behind to admire the other spectacular paintings but didn't get lost because of my tallishness and the loud nature of Fossette's dress. I did make it to the Mona Lisa... and I'll tell you the same thing as everybody else: it's a small painting with a wall to itself, protective glass, and security guards. There's a large crowd clamouring to see this one picture, and the several large, colorful, and equally masterful (arguably better) paintings around it go largely ignored. None of them can compete with the mysterious Lisa de Giocondo.
We headed to the second Egyptology exhibit, skipping over the Greeks and Romans. This was disappointing at first; I love ancient Egypt, but was really feeling the marble statues. Luckily, we got lost (the Louvre is like a labyrinth) and toured this section accidently. I love the Venus de Milo the most—I even have a little one in my bathroom at home.THEN we went to Egypt and saw the mummies and it was all very exciting and such.
Even more knackered post-Louvre, we left our hotel to stay with friends, where I learned that the French like to sing I Love the Tiger when belting this lovely piece of music. Continuning with our international dining, we ordered in couscous. I slept extremely well under the Angel cast poster in my borrowed bedroom. This sign of excellent taste made me exceedingly happy.
The next day was Versailles. We couldn't find a parking space, and so parked illegally (Flux explained that it's actually cheaper to get a parking ticket than to pay to use a parking lot for the day). The lines were about twice what they were at the Louvre, so we opted to skip the main castle (apparently it's just like every other castle, and I'd already seen Napoleon's Apartments in the Louvre and Carrouges) and explore the even prettier gardens. I'm always impressed by a good shrubbery. When I try to trim the hedges at home.... well, it's not pretty. Versailles managed full on sculptures. There are also a lot of fish in the ponds.
We didn't go totally castle-less, though. We hit the Trianon castles behind the main Versailles. As with the other castles, it was full of very expensive, very ugly decor. Kitsch is the French word of choice.
After two weeks of mountaineering, shopping, and museums, we were sapped of all energy, so we took the little tourist train back to the car (no ticket, a nice bonus), recharged on Laduree Macaroons (so expensive, but you must eat them now!), and then headed home to get back to reality.
Music: Thumbs up if you like it acoustic. Une Bonne Idée by J.J. Goldman
I love this one. It's so light and cheery. Un cheveu blanc by Brune
Have you ever been to Paris? It sound AMAZING.
Related post: My French Adventure