A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, August 28, 2009

J’adore Paris

Paris really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There are small unexpected wonders everywhere amidst the myriad of parks, cafes, and museums where one alone would make anyplace wondrous and special. A city meant to be walked with large sidewalks lining wide boulevards.

We bought a couple books of metro tickets and quickly became pros at the underground system. Although it was highly enlightening when we found out you can use your ticket twice. Duh. And once when we were running late Ron ran out of tickets at the most inopportune time. I waited impatiently on the opposite side of the turnstile while he waited in an endlessly long line. I saw a grandpa struggle with his balance and arthritis to awkwardly jump over the turnstile for a free metro ride. A few seconds later over bounded Ron. I guess if grandpa can do it…

Unlike most things that don’t live up to the hype, the Louvre actually is all it’s cracked up to be, an oversized and tastefully designed complex housing millions of works of art. I’ve heard that if you spent a minute with each piece it would take you 150 years to see it all. Sometimes the sweeping staircases, perfectly sunlit courtyards, and grand ballrooms overshadow the art it is supposed to showcase. But I wondered (in irritation) how on earth they can get away with only four bathroom stalls for the 4,000 daily visitors and they don’t have a single drinking fountain and make you fork over twenty dollars for water. The nerve. We especially enjoyed the Medieval Louvre remains and the historical displays of the museum itself. During World War II the Louvre was emptied of all its treasures and stored in secret lest the Mona Lisa be sacked and carried off to Germany.

We visited the Musee d’Orsay which is a transformed train station housing lot of famous impressionist works and Rodin sculptures. Rodin’s mistress, Camille Claudel, also a sculptor and apprentice of his, went crazy when he wouldn’t leave his wife, and she spent the last thirty years of her life in the insane asylum. This is a haunting sculpture of hers, in between the incalculable distance of the girls outstretching hand, you can feel her longing pain….

We visited the nearby Pere Lachaise Cemetery one dreary afternoon to see some of the famous graves of Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf, Colette, Oscar Wilde, and of course Jim Morrisson. The latter, definitely underwhelming, since some grave robber stole the famous bust of “James” back in the eighties. Now its just like any old grave in any old cemetery in the world, except for the incoherent letters and drug offerings left strewn on the exposed dirt grave. And to add a dramatic flair to the afternoon, the sky darkened and it started thundering and raining. We splashed through muddy puddles between the headstones with the lightning striking sideways in jagged spikes across the bitterly gray sky. Running breathless through the cemetery we found shelter under the awning of a nearby café and enjoyed a nearly perfect espresso, safe and snug from the cold rain.

One night we met up with a Canadian couple, Jay and Corina, who are on a strikingly similar world tour as us. We met online several months ago and read each others blogs, share travel notes, and the inevitable struggles of life on the road. It was just pure chance that we crossed paths in Paris and we jumped at the chance to meet each other in person. We ended up at a pricy restaurant in the ultra-touristy St. Michel area, more by accident than choice, as their host struggled to find a restaurant to suit the burgeoning group of all the friends-of-friends that showed up. We numbered an even dozen when we sat down, which may or may not have added to the wait for our food and the inexcusable serving of some dishes over two hours later. Ron and I shared the French staples of an onion soup, bowl of moules mariniere, and a half bottle of red wine, but for the over $60 bill we still felt hungry and a bit ripped off, lamenting on the lackluster taste. Once again feeling thankful we live in San Francisco where good food is a right not a luxury.

Jay & Corina - hope you are doing well in Spain!

We went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it at night. Ron got to use his new tripod (bought off the street for twenty bucks) to get some stellar nightshots. Unfortunately we missed going to the top. The tower itself is open until midnight but they stop selling tickets at 9:30pm, and our dinner ran a bit too late to make it on our second to last night in Paris. We also missed Saint Chapelle which is supposed to have amazing stained glass windows. I guess that means we will just have to return.


corina September 24, 2009 at 9:05 PM  

nice night photo of the tower Ron :D

we were a bit bummed about the food, service etc that night too. as winnipeggers, we also enjoy the right of good food and have been generally underwelmed by the food on our travels. I'm pretty sure that it has mostly to do with our budget and the quality of restaurants that we can afford while on the road...but that place was pricey...the food should have knocked our chacos off!

Nolan September 25, 2009 at 6:55 AM  

AP (and Ron),
J'adore Paris aussi. It's been years since I last set foot in that fantastic city. I totally get the KFC thing. It really does taste better abroad.

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