Friday, April 2, 2010

Parisian Memories, Part Deux

Alright, here's your play-by-play (I give up on doing it any other way...I've been home five days already and need to be finished).
Day One:
I got in, and figured if I did nothing else, I HAD to see the Eiffel Tower. I also figured it was something Socrates would have already done, that he wouldn't be interested in doing it when he arrived. Well, what did I know? Afterwards the dusk was coming on, so I went for a little wander, hoping to stick around long enough to see the tower all lit up, and found a place to get a haircut, which I've been meaning to do, as the Emirati lady that cut it for me back in October basically just hacked it off. And I was really pleased with what the guy did for me. I headed back across the park toward the subway, still without lights, and on my way passed an awning that read, "Restaurant Coreen." I took a few steps before it clicked...Korean Food! It was not the only Korean place I found in Paris - actually there were quite a number of them around, even one across from Socrates' hotel called "Sarang," which I thought was appropriate. After a nice set meal of miso, gun-mandu, and bibimbap (for only 17.50 Euros...don't know if that ought to make me laugh or cry), I was full and happy and confused. For example, the menu was in French, which I mostly understood, but I wasn't sure if the foods I thought were described were what they actually were. So they called the mandu something, I don't remember what, and I asked if they were mandu, which they knew, then I kept speaking in English to ask if they were steamed or fried, which they didn't understand, so I switched to Korean to ask if they were mul or gun mandu. I was pretty impressed with how much French I remembered, considering it's been ten years since I took it, but I kept wanting to speak my smattering of Korean words, especially the numbers, because it's just more recent, and after leaving the restaurant it was worse than before. Oh well.
Day Two:
I woke up in the hotel before the sun had rose, because someone had gotten into the shower. A night at the Hilton it was not, but when you stay seven nights in Paris, price becomes very high up on your list of standards (right after safety, in fact, but before cleanliness). I waited until about 9:30 and finally left for the D'Orsay museum, which Casey told me was not to be missed. I probably should have left earlier, the line to get in was ridiculous. They has an exhibition on called "Crime et Chatiment" (Crime and Punishment), which was interesting...and sort of set the dark mood for the week. I wandered through the wealth of amazing impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, and did some sketches of some sculptures, and had lunch at their cafe...I highly recommend the chocolate muffins in French museums. The baguettes with jambon et fromage, on l'autre main...let's just say that butter is not a condiment most Americans put on their sandwiches.
I wandered over to St. Germain Des Pres next, buying a painting from a street artist along the way, jam-packed with cute little cafes where some of the great minds used to hang out. Part of me wanted to sit down and smoke a cigarette and discuss existentialism...but it's hard to discuss existentialism with yourself and I didn't have any cigarettes. Oh, and I'm Mormon. Eventually I redirected my wander toward the Seine and crossed onto the Ile de la Cite, home of Notre Dame. It was free admission, at least for the ground portion, and so I waltzed right in and took a look around, and basically it is everything anyone has ever written about it, so I'm not going to waste your time or mine writing more. I bought a candle and lit it - even if it's not something Mormons strictly believe in, there's a kind of beauty to the tradition, and it's something I tend to do. I should have gone up the towers that night - I was going to later in the week but it got busier and so I let it pass. Next time. As I was walking away over the bridge, the bells - THE BELLS! - started tolling and it was a nice way to end the day. Well, sort of end...rather than hopping on the subway right away I kept wandering, and ran into the Pompidou Center, which is kind of an eyesore, but there's this huge reflecting pool with these kinetic sculpture/fountains, and a church on the other side, and that was nice.

Day Three:
I learned my lesson the day before and headed out for the Louvre an hour before it opened, with the result that I was the second person in line. While waiting in the atrium with the hanging pyramid (you know, the one in the DaVinci Code?), I was able to use the wifi from the Apple Store to get online on Giancarlo, and got Socrates' travel info - he was coming in two days, he was staying at a hotel near THE Opera house, you know, the one in Phantom, which I wandered over to find more than six hours later when I finally left the Louvre. In the meantime I ticked off rooms as I passed through them - and some of them that's all I did, breeze by paintings that are worth more than I've made so far in my life. After buying my ticket I made a beeline for the Mona Lisa, realizing this might be the only chance I had to get an unobstructed view (and was only slowed down a little as I came to the Nike of Samothrace on my way up the stairs). Sure enough, there was only me, two Japanese tourists, and two security guards, and I spent probably ten minutes staring at her, alternating between wonder at actually finding myself in the same room with
this much-reproduced masterpiece, and trying to figure out exactly what made her so special. I enjoyed wandering the palace and seeing works of art that I had studied back at UMKC, and it was interesting to come back and see the Mona Lisa swarmed by admirers again later in the day.

 I eventually wandered my way over to the Arc de Triomphe, and got to see it by sunset light, all painted gold.
After a look around and a few pictures, I walked down the Champs Elysees, stopping at the Gap because they had a sale on. I bought myself a grey, short-sleeved knit top, which was a linen/cotton blend, so I was disappointed when I had to take it back on Sunday because it had gotten a run sometime on Saturday when I wore it (I exchanged it for a linen/cotton dress that I had also liked, but hadn't bought because I didn't think I should get them both).

Day Four:
When I left the hotel on Thursday, it was gloomy. When I emerged from the internet cafe, it had started to rain. I went back to the hotel and got my sweatshirt, then went for a wasn't raining that hard. It was about lunchtime, and I was looking for a restaurant, so I went down new streets that I hadn't seen before, and eventually sat down in an Indian restaurant on the other side of Canal St. Martin. After lunch I went back to the hotel to warm up and sat inside for a while, reading. Later I decided I would go find the restaurant with the chansons that I wanted to eat at that night, and I did, at the top of Belleville Park. On the way it started raining again, and so I stopped in a cafe and drank hot choco while I read (much better than smoking and discussing existentialism!) As I mentioned in the last one, I did go see the music, and afterwards got a view of the city of lights from the top of the park, and it was all just magical.

Day Five:
I decided to go on an all-out ramble this morning, so after checking my email I set out down the Canal St. Martin, eventually breaking off because I found a street that looked enticing. As I followed that street, eventually I started seeing signs for the Place de la Republique, so I went there and took a look around, and then from there hit the Place de Bastille. The building is no longer standing, but there's a column standing in memorial. I thought I'd try to see the towers of Notre Dame, so from Bastille I turned toward the river, and as I walked I passed a side street that led to the Place des Vosges, which I mentioned in the last blog. Finally I made it to the river, and crossed onto Ile St. Louis, where I stopped for some gelato at Berthillon's (which is supposed to be famous...I've never heard of it, so maybe it's a Lonely Planet scheme to make them famous. Whatever the case was, I enjoyed the cerise glace), and found a gallery that had a show of art inspired by Alice in Wonderland, which I found interesting because I made my own Alice art several years ago, and was thinking of another before I came to Paris. In the end, Notre Dame turned out to be crowded, so I gave it a miss, and eventually met Socrates at Gare du Nord, and we had a nice, if not terribly eventful evening.

Day Six:
Socrates and I had decided we would meet at his hotel at 11, which left me with some time to fill in the morning. It wasn't quite enough to do anything substantial, so I turned to my trusty Lonely Planet, and decided to see if I could find the covered passages or Galleries, which turned out to be quite lovely and made me miss our own Passageway in Omaha. From our rendezvous, Socrates and I walked over to the Arc, and did the Eiffel Tower - yes, I did the Eiffel Tower twice in one week, and both times I took the stairs. Between them, Montmartre, and the Catacombs, on top of all the other walking I did, by the time I left Paris my legs were screaming, "NOOOOOOOOO!!!! NO MORE STAIRS!" We had dinner and went out that evening, and it was really nice to turn down the pace from being a tourist and just chill out.

Day Seven:
I met Socrates at 10:30 to see him off at the train station. I kept it together pretty well, in spite of the fact that it was going to be goodbye for a while, but was, as I mentioned, glad for the gloomy weather and my somewhat macabre itinerary. I already wrote about the Catacombs, so I won't waste any more time on them (at this moment I've been typing for an hour and a half...I should be half so disciplined with my school work!) I swung by the Champs-Elysees to exchange my shirt, then hit Montmartre. I started with the Cimitiere, which has some famous people buried there, but I didn't bother looking for them, instead just wandered around, looking at the monuments and softly singing sad songs to myself (see what I mean? I get very interesting when left to my own devices).
Headed up to the top of the hill via the Moulin de la Galette, which is the name of one of Renoir's paintings, and the only remaining of Montmartre's famous windmills. I wended my way to the Place du Tertre, which was more packed with tourists than anywhere else I've been so far, as well as having its share of chintzy artists. I went to the Sacre Coeur, and had a look around descending the stairs in front down the steepest part of the butte. I wandered the streets to the main thoroughfare, and saw the outside of the Moulin Rouge...I should have splashed out on a show, but Paris is expensive, and I just couldn't be bothered. Lastly - and I saved it for last, knowing it was the only museum in Paris open til 2 a.m. - I went to the Musee d'Erotisme, just for the hell of it. Lonely Planet was right - it WAS surprisingly artistic! - but nothing a worldly traveler and well-read art student such as myself hasn't seen before (Khajuraho?? Been there, seen that.)

So, to sum up Paris - it was just about the perfect vacation (in fact, it could only have been improved if it would have been cheaper). It had good food, good friends (I say friends, plural, because even though only Socrates was with me physically, I thought of you all, whether it was because I was eating food that reminded me of you, or because I saw something I knew you would love, it was like having you there), death, sex, freedom, beauty, truth, "and that which I believed in above all"

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