• Paris

    Notre Dame and the Louvre

    Notre Dame and the Louvre

    I don’t have much exciting to report about Notre Dame and the Louvre. Of course I would recommend that you see them if you are here but I did not find them as fascinating as I should have. It’s funny so many people said to me, “You must be going to Paris for the art because you are an artist!” and I nodded my head like a dummy thinking: yeah, sure I’m part of that club. But in reality I’m a traitor. I never studied art history and I only took a few beginning art classes in college. I majored in journalism and I have a minor in English so how I turned into a real “artist” is just sheer will and trickery.

    Not to get too far off on a tangent on valuable Paris time but… Seriously, one day I tried that mental trick where you look in the mirror and say you are whatever you want to be and then you keep doing it day by day until you start believing it yourself. That’s what I did and now I call myself an artist all the time. And the funny thing is PEOPLE BELIEVE ME!

    I’m ashamed to admit that I wander through museums and I gaze at the art, but a lot of the time I don’t know the difference between a Monet or a Manet and of course I have no clue what time or during what period they were painted. I wish I could say that I walk in and stand there mesmerized, gazing at every brush stroke with wonder. But I don’t. I have the attention span of a gnat. I do like to hear the stories about the artists though. That’s like reading People magazine from the 1800’s or earlier. I love the gossip of who chopped their ear off or who was color blind and who had affairs with men. That’s all good fun. I really do intend to enroll in an art history course and take it credit no credit so I can just listen to all the stories and not worry about memorizing any dates or taking any tests. I already did my time in college.

    Anyway the Louvre was nice. Crowded and not as air conditioned as museums back home but very very very very very very big and amazing. My sister-in-law told me that if you take 6 seconds to look at every item in the Louvre you will be there for twenty years. TWENTY YEARS!!!! I totally believe her. So what you have to do is pick an area and see that or make a beeline to the specific areas you want to see and don’t dilly dally in between.

    My mom and I decided we better see the Mona Lisa because we knew everyone was going to give us hell if we came all this way and we didn’t at least take a peep. But Puleeeze! It was worse than Chinese water torture getting there. The massive tour groups herding us along with them whether we wanted to go or not, the small doorways, the pressing bodies, the teenagers goofing off and stepping on my mom’s neouropothic (is that a word?) feet (a very very painful disease that affects your nerve endings in your feet and hands… but life is short, so we try not to dwell on it) … it was bad. I feel crappy whining about such a wonderful part of Paris but in contrast to all the other fun stuff we’ve been doing, seeing the Mona Lisa gets a negative 2 on a scale of 1-10. Sad, I know. But I’m just telling it like it is.

    You know something strange about being in Paris? There isn’t much air conditioning here. In some ways that’s nice because I’m always cold and I hate being frozen all the time but when I was in the Louvre I found it very stifling in some of the smaller rooms. Being so close to so many other breathing bodies was weird. Don’t get me wrong, the Louvre is probably quite air conditioned just not as much as it would be in the states. I’m used to any building with marble floors and walls being near freezing. The Louvre was easily 80 degrees F.

    Enough about the Louvre.

    I did like climbing the stairs of Notre Dame. It was not crowded and the top tower was closed so I didn’t really get to experience the 342 narrow winding claustrophobic stairs that you hear so much about. Not everyone in our group chose to climb the stairs so my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and a crack-up-old-man named Dave from our group got to have our very own guided tour from our tour guide’s husband. Our tour guide’s husband is a Harvard graduate and he studied French History so he’s been peppering our trip with several interesting bits of information. Sometimes he throws in fiction just to see if we we’re paying attention. I enjoy his company immensely. He’s the first lawyer I’ve ever met actually, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

    It was fun to see the Notre Dame gargoyles. If you tilt your camera just the right way you can make the scary monkey goat guy look like he’s eating the Eiffel Tour. I think that was the high light of my trip to Notre Dame. Does anybody know why there are gargoyles on top of the Notre Dame? I haven’t seen the Disney movie and I haven’t read the famous book either so of course it’s all new to me but our lawyer tour guide told me he’s never heard an explanation for them either. They are really quite funny but they seem so sacrilegious. It’s not like the Catholics were trying to keep the evil spirits away is it? I have no idea.

    The inside of Notre Dame is quite impressive as well. Of course the rose windows are beautiful. It is really really dark inside. It would have scared the crap out of me to live back when they only had candle light and confess my sins in the shadows of some dark dank confessional. (Not to mention the gargoyles! I probably would have never gone to church!) I’m really curious about how they painted and built the thing. In the middle of the day I could barely see from one side to the other.

  • Paris

    Sunday Fun Day Part Deaux

    Birds, flowers and bunnies oh my! I couldn’t conjure up a more perfect day.

    Did I tell you we went to the out door bird market and flower market? I’m rushing because I only have a little time in this cafe to upload a million things… but we did and it was the perfect Sunday morning thing to do.

    In the afternoon we met up with our group and headed off to Montmarte and the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, aka Ameli-ville–except I didn’t recognize a thing from the movie. (I’ll have to email Amanda about that if I ever manage to find an internet connection). On the way there we traveled up the most amazing little cobbled street called Rue Moffetard. At the entrance accordion players welcomed us and definitely made it feel like somewhere Amelie might live. Along the way there were small restaurants and shops selling clothing and scarves. It was a very hot day and by the time I got half way up the hill, some of the ruffled prairie skirts hanging on the racks were catching my eye simply because they looked like they would be very cool and breezy to wear.

    Because it was Sunday, I was wearing my ankle length “chode skirt” (as Toby calls it) that is made of a lot of polyester. I like my “chode skirt’ because it’s fun to wear. It’s long and narrow and if you take big strides, the fabric stretches as if you’re wearing a rubber tube. I guess I’m weird, I think it’s fun to take restricted stretchy steps. But the problem is, when it gets hot, my legs feel like they are being suffocated in a rubber tube.

    So I popped into the cutest un-airconditioned boutique and proceeded to try on fifty or so of the most beautifully feminine strappy sun dresses and skirts you’ve ever seen. It took me a million years to figure out what size I am in French in the tiniest little closet of a dressing room. It was pretty much a shower curtain hung across the back two foot corner of the one room shop. With no circulating air and the temperatures and humidity rising, I was dripping with sweat by the time I finally found the most perfect black sun dress ever. It was knee lenth and empire waisted and tied in the back with two string ties. It was perfect.

    In fact it is because of that dress that was so perfect that I have no pictures of my favorite little street ever! And that is because I took so long trying things on that by the time I was done, the rest of the group was at the top of the hill waiting for me. I was so embarrassed. It’s okay if the grandmothers slow the group down but I am the kid of group and I should know better!

    Thankfully all was forgiven when they saw me flouncing up the hill in my new little black dress and a big fat smile on my face. The old ladies oooh-ed and awe-ed and because I’m a show off and some festive music was playing at a pub nearby, I grabbed my sister-in-law and did an impromtu do-si-do to show off my new dress. Now that’s a fun dress. My purchase was worth every penny! It was heavenly to be cool and carefree in the most charming neighborhood ever on a hot sunny day. I felt like Amelie herself.

    My mother-in-law told me later that two people sitting at some out door tables at the pup had started to get up to join us in our dancing but I didn’t notice them and had already started off before they could. It’s too bad too because how cool would that be to start a little festival of my own right here on a little street in Paris?

    After our little trip up Rue Moffetard we visited the Genevieve church (which I can’t find in my guide book right now so I’m not sure of it’s real name) and then a quick stop in the Pigalle to catch a little bus up the hill to Sacré-Coeur. Pigalle is the red district of Paris and there were bright neon signs for sex shows everywhere. (That’s where the Moulin Rouge is.) We waited and we waited for our “little bus” and it never came. Many of the women in our group have knee problems and we hadn’t eaten in several hours so they were about to start a mutiny if our guide made us climb one more hill. So we waited and we waited and we waited. And we smelled the french fries cooking in a restaurant nearby. Everybody was getting very cranky.

    There is one woman who is 79 and another 81. The seventy-nine-year-old doesn’t act old at all. She smokes and drinks and runs off at the mouth to anybody who will listen, including perfect strangers on the street. She’s a real crack up. Plus, she keeps up just fine. It would be a dream to get old and have as much energy as she does. So while she’s having some conversation with a funny old man in Spanish (Yep, she speaks Spanish too. Apparently she travels the world quite a bit and has picked up a little of everything) our tour guide rounded up a funny little shuttle that looked like a train. It was right out of Toontown.

    Up the hill we went in our little funny train, past Toulouse-Lautrec’s house and all the way up to the beautiful white Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. The hillsides were covered with young people just sitting and watching the amazing view of Paris below. Some people were singing and playing the drums. Other’s were drinking and celebrating some soccer game that was either just played or about to be played. The fans of the rival teams have been harassing each other for a few days now. There was just a general sense of relaxation and merriment that I haven’t really been a part of since maybe when I was in college and
    we used to hang out in Berkeley.

    Probably some people who read this will be terribly disappointed in me that I didn’t actually go inside the Sacre-Coeur and you are right I should have. But we only had twenty minutes and I was so captivated by the crowd that I spent most of my time wandering and taking pictures.

    At dinner we ate in the square at the top where all the artists gather to make charicatures and sell their wares. We sat in the middle of it all and decided to splurge on a steak in pepper sauce, a glass of bordeaux, tomato and mozzarella cheese salad and a caramel cream custard for desert. It was a perfect end to a perfect day!

    But wait there is one more thing we did that day! We took a night boat ride on the Seine! I took some movie footage (as well as some from the Eiffel Tour, the Arch de Triumph, some acordian music from the magical Rue and a ton more) but I just haven’t had a moment to put the footage together in a movie format. Maybe when I get home I’ll just have to play catch up. As it is, I’ve used up my entire free time just typing all this up.

    But don’t worry, I’m not wasting my Paris time, I NEED to write this down because I want to remember every moment.