Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paris, day two

It was supposed to rain so we decided that this would be a museum day. As it happened, the rain didn't come till later, but these things are an imprecise science. But first to the train station to buy our tickets to Barcelona. We have modifed our trip a bit and now will only spend a week in Spain and only in Barcelona. The whole getting accommodation thing was weird. We were finding it stupidly difficult to get somewhere to stay outside of Barcelona so ... (It's been the same with the South of France, very odd.) Then I argued that despite the fact that we were going to be walking around the Louvre all day, we should walk there so we could see some of Paris in daylight. It is a pleasure to walk along the river and across the various squares and look up at other people's windows. But it did result in everyone being exhausted way before the day was over. I wanted to see the prison in which Marie Antoinette and Louis and various others were kept duirng the Revolution. We need to get a proper map we can walk around with. We keep looking online and thinking that we have a fix on the place, only to get there and go: hmmm. Anyway, I think I saw it; but there was heavy duty restoration going on, so I'm not sure.
We arrived at the Louvre. Niccolo was thrilled to see the glass pyramid at last. Zelda liked the fat pigeons ('the richest pigeons in the world'). Why am I concentrating on the externals? Because the Louvre was closed for some kind of private function ('Or cleaning', as Paris suggested). Bugger. So we went next door to the shopping mall to see police on roller skates (see previous post). They were not to be seen. Myles was distressed but his credibility is not looking good. It was all super glamous and posh though. So we then went to the Museum d'Orsay. The lines here were incredibly long though the woman in line in front of us thought that they were pretty short considering. She was interesting, and had all kinds of advice for things to do and places to see. After waiting for some time - the kids wilting a bit - we arrived inside. It is amazing to see paintings all together on walls that you have only really read about or seen reproductions of. The Van Goghs were really fabulous as were all the post impressionists. I liked the impressionists too. A fun fact. On the information board about the impressionists, there is a note at the bottom that many of the paintings have been aquired through the state seizing art in lieu of taxes. Imagine. On the fifth floor, where the impressionist are, there is a huge window that is the back of a clock and you can see across to the right bank and all over the roofs of Paris. We liked this very much. There was also a comfy looking couch right by the clock that the kids were desperate to try. But no one was moving. Many people in Paris are tired.
It was time to buy new pants. We are having a pants crisis, so off to the Galleries Lafayette for some shopping. We negotiated the Metro (Paris and I discussed the merits of the Metro versus the Tube. This is probably not going to be a popular opinion but, after watching Myles spend ages buying tickets through a really helpful lady, and then trying to decifer the lines, we decided that we thought the Tube much easier to use. Perhaps it is a problem of language. And dog pooh. The whole dog pooh thing in the Metro is beyond a joke. And when you are travelling with a kid like Niccolo who is very busy looking at everything but the ground, it can get trying), and made it out into shopping heaven. Now, call me churlish, but shopping in the Galleries Lafayette and Printemps was nothing short of torture. I guess I don't like shopping too much anyway - so unbelievably boring I think - but in addition, there was a sale on that wasn't accessible unless you were a card holder which meant that everything was stupidly expensive. We are also giants in Paris (France generally, and possibly across the world) so it was hard to find sizes for any of us. The heating was sub tropical - I thought Paris was going to expire. We did manage to get pants, miraculously, for Paris, Zelda and Niccolo (and tee shirts for Myles), and I was beginning to think that unless you are young, thin and very rich (ie: Kate Moss), Paris shopping was not for you (or, as it turns out, me). Perhaps with more time and less kids and someone who was excited about being in a large department shop ... but even then.
I'm starting to wonder about me and Paris. I was here about twenty years ago (yes ... shudder). I think it was about three days with my mother. I think I liked it then, but I don't remember being overwhelmed by love. I don't remember the people and cars from that time. I do remember walking around everywhere but I have no recollection of the people. (FYI, people everywhere in the most intense manner. And cars. Holy hell, cars, cars, cars.) Perhaps we are not meant to fall in love, me and Paris. I have been thinking back to my idols and their relationship with Paris. Zelda Fitzgerald wasn't much of a fan - she liked New York better. Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher write with more passion about provincial France rather than Paris. All those starving artists came close to freezing to death in the winter and had to find patrons to get them off to warmer climes. It makes me think - and there are probably howls of protest here - that Paris is a city to love when you are incredibly wealthy. Not that we are poor, of course. But right bank wealthy in swish hotels and eating in swank bistros and going to the opera. Or perhaps you have to be in the bright light of new love. I watched Midnight in Paris on the plane coming over and it is a love story about Paris, but is it also a love story about wealthy and connected Paris. Those writers and artists who came and loved Paris with little money usually came clutching a letter of introduction to Stein or someone. And then they could come and go in the warm bath of intellectual Paris. Me, I'm struggling. It is like there are too many of us (I don't mean me and the family, I mean generally) trying to find a toehold in the myth of Paris and there aren't enough spots.
Perhaps tomorrow I will fall in love with it. Tomorrow I think we are going to the Eiffel Tower and all around the places there.
I guess too that I'm looking for Revolutionary Paris (that is, Paris of the Revolution) but because the French apparently don't like to celebrate this part of their history, there is little to see or marvel at. There is a statue of Danton on the Boulevard St Germain and the Palais Royal is still there, but the stories have been removed. I was trying to find out if the Louvre is the same palace that Louis and Marie were bought back to Paris to stay in, but I think not. I think they were at the Tuileries Palace which perhaps no longer exists. I must get history and a map of all the buildings.
It is a problem. Everyone is supposed to love Paris. What happens if you don't? Are you another kind of cliche (but a bitter one), or is there something really wrong with you?
Stay tuned. Perhaps there will be a turn around.

1 comment:

  1. I seem to be the only one commenting but can't help it :-) If it's Fr. Rev you want go to the Carnavalet Museum. They are particularly strong on that period with amazing artifacts - the letter Marie Antoinette wrote before she died,locks of hair, etc.
    Open every day except Monday and bank holidays, 10am to 6pm. 23 rue de Sevigne, 3eme (Marais). Metro Stations: St Paul or Chemin Vert. AND IT'S FREE!!!