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Belated Travel Post, Paris

I spent most of last month Over There, and it was lovely. That's the short version.

The longer version starts out with McDiva and I going off to Paris for a week and doing a bunch of things. This was my first time back in 20+ years, and her first trip to Europe. Every time I apologized in advance for dragging her all over the place, she just said, "the whole point of going is to see stuff, right?" Right!!

Sunday: We were very good little tourists and started our fun right away. We were a little late getting into town from the airport, and missed the afternoon concert she wanted to see at the Philharmonie in La Villette. But she indulged me by attending a late afternoon organ recital at Saint-Eustache, which is a marvelous church near Les Halles with an 8,000 pipe organ, the largest organ in all of France!* It was fantastic. Those low notes really made me pray the masonry was well-cemented. There is also an interesting rose window containing a multitude of coffins and a side altar with an entirely unexpected altarpiece by Keith Haring. We went back a few days later and discovered a very nice Jeanne D'Arc sculpture. It's packed with goodies, if you're wanting to see a gothic cathedral and don't want the fuss of Notre Dame. From there we headed to our apartment in the Marais via rue Montorgueil, a lovely pedestrian area where we saw a long-aproned waiter dashing by with a huge armload of baguettes. At that point, you've got to admit that you are nowhere but Paris. Ahhhhh.

*The greatest _____ in all of France! became a running joke, as she's read "Cyrano" and, well, you know. It's funny, even when it's true.

Monday: After some excellent pastries and coffee — I still can't believe we found the best neighborhood croissants on our first try — we went to Musée National du Moyen Âge, formerly Musée de Cluny, mostly to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. McDiva is not much of a museum-goer, but she really got into those tapestries. As she should as they are amazing. This one, called The Tournament, is also a lot of fun:



All the young women in the tapestry are doing excellent eyerolls in response to the swains' blandishments. Evidence that nothing has changed between the sexes since the 15th century?

It was raining so we ducked into Saint-Severín and while it's no Saint-Eustache, the organ just happened to be playing at that moment. We wandered through the restaurant row in the Latin Quarter, which is semi-entertaining, but had lunch on the other side of Île de la Cité at a quiet place called Trente 5 Rivoli. Delicious and relaxing. The waiter was very nice, and we ran into him again at another restaurant a few days later. He very much enjoyed our excitement over the Berthillon ice cream (red peach! raspberry!). I'm ashamed to say I'd never tried it when I was in Paris before, even though everybody said it was required. I won't make that mistake again.

We had a little time to kill before meeting up with [personal profile] shapinglight, so we went to the Conciergerie and tried to imagine Marie Antoinette's last days. It takes a little work, truthfully. Ah well. We walked along the Seine, through a courtyard of the Louvre where they were putting up or taking down some sort of splendid temporary structure for Fashion Week. By the time we got to the meeting place, it was pelting down like it was England or something, and we all got soaked through while waiting for a cab during rush hour. Isn't it always the way? But! Parisian rain! And rain is sort of a novelty to us Californians, these days, anyway. After we all dried off and made a general plan for the next day, we went out to get dinner in the neighborhood, with mixed results. McDiva thought SL and I were "so cute, nerding out about Buffy".

Tuesday: We walked around the Marais, which got pretty tony within a block or so of our apartment. We sprinted through the Musée Picasso, and managed to find some things that interested us without overtaxing the museum averse McDiva. Then we discovered the Musée Cognacq-Jay around the corner which has a delightful collection of small paintings and objets d'art and is free! Then we blew it all by trying to tackle the Carnavalet Museum, which might be free, money-wise, but is a huge investment of time. It's the museum dedicated to the history of Paris, which is deep, rich, and confusing. At some point, we had a nice lunch at a Thai place, and headed through Place des Voges on our way to Place Bastille and points beyond. We had promised no more museums to McDiva and hit a few of the shops she had on her list, and walked along a Parisian version of the Highline, called La Coulée Verte. Pretty views, and the rats frolicking in the trash receptacles were memorable. Very Ratatouille.

The other shopping spots we had in mind were under construction, alas, so after a fortifing café stop we took a bus back to the center. We visited the Fashion Week displays at Paris Rendez-Vous in Hôtel de Ville, wandered around Île de la Cité for awhile before settling on a visit to Sainte Chapelle. I do not like what they have done with the downstairs. It used to be womb-like and intimate and is now stuffed with souvenir stands and entirely open to a cement courtyard on one end. But the reveal when you head upstairs...well, it's still breathtaking. SL had never been, and her reaction was very gratifying. McDiva thought it was "nice". Pfft. Understatement, although it was after a very long day of looking at very nice things. After that, it was ice cream and a cab home. At which point McDiva and I completely passed out for two hours. Delayed jet lag, I guess.

Wednesday: I had so many things planned for today, but we went to Musée d'Orsay, and it's an all-day affair. Especially if you have lunch in the excellent and beautiful restaurant there. The art nouveau rooms pleased everyone, including McDiva. There is so much art, and virtually none of it was what I remembered seeing there before. It's a little overwhelming. Toward the end we discovered they were having a special exhibition called Splendour and Misery, Pictures of Prostitution. By that point, McDiva had given up and decided to lounge in the sculpture gallery while SL and I hurried through one. last. thing. Hurrying was not an option, as it was packed. Also, it was a very complete exhibition. There were even areas curtained off and labelled as being for patrons over the age of 18. As only men seemed to be going into the curtained areas, we abstained. The whole thing was rather too thought provoking and depressing at times. The quality of the work was top notch, though. And there was this little treat: the "love seat" of Edward VII. Hee. (Turns out Dear Old Dad stumbled across this item with my little sister 30-years back, and was throughly mortified.)

We rescued McDiva and went off to our appointment at the Catacombes. They just started accepting reservations rather than making everyone stand in line for hours, so I had done that. Down we went, into the empire of the dead. 6 million former Parisian's bones, all stacked up, with various poems and deep thoughts on plaques throughout so you take it all seriously. Turns out, it's not as depressing as prostitution.



Also, it's thirsty work, so after taking the loooong flight of stairs out of there — and noting the defibrillator at the top — we headed for happy hour at the local café. The waiter was flirtsome and we were nicely mellow as we headed off for our nearby dinner reservations.

Dinner was fantastic. Le Jeroboam was casual, cool, and the food was gorgeous and delicious. It was the best meal we had in Paris, although the Orsay is pretty great. I don't usually take food pictures, but this might have been the time to make an exception. Oh well. It was about as far off the tourist-beaten path as we ever got, and I'm so happy we went. Afterward, we weren't sure where to find the nearest taxi stand, so I approached some handsome young men outside the restaurant to ask. They sprang into action, literally chasing down a cab for us. It was all very thrilling. *fans self*

We headed for the Eiffel Tower, hoping to see the light show. I like that building. Not enough to wait in a horrendous line to go up it, but just to watch from below and afar. All that steel lattice work. It's a worthy landmark, Paris. You may keep it.

Thursday: SL had to head for the airport noonish, so we enjoyed a pastry run with her and walked through rue Montorgueil and surrounding areas so she could take in a last bit of Paris. All went well — until she got to the airport, though that's her story to tell. McDiva found a little shop to buy Tintin-themed gifts for her friends and then we went to the Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, which has a fashion wing. This is the kind of museum that McDiva likes. The South Korean fashion exhibit was fantastic. The tiny French schoolchildren there for the Children's Literature exhibit were adorable. The Art Nouveau would have been splendid if we hadn't been at the D'Orsay the day before, but all in all it was pretty cool. I'd definitely go back.

We walked over to the Pompidou Center, the Stravinsky Fountain, the Anne Frank Garden, and the Musée de la Poupée (Doll Museum). Guess who I found there?



We had what should have been a very good dinner near our place, except that most of the patrons were Americans even more clueless than we were and I felt sorry for the poor waiter. I'd also managed to catch a cold.

Friday: We slept until noon, at which point I went out to find pho, spicy Thai curry and decongestants. I'd have loved to stay in, but it was our next-to-last-day, and we'd planned to go to Versailles. At the RER station, they announced that the Chateau was closed. Strike. Oh well. There is plenty to look at no matter where you find yourself. We walked through the Tuilleries Gardens, had tea at Angelina, and strolled back to our apartment to have leftover pho and do laundry.

Saturday: Flea Market Day! McDiva had spied the Puces when we came in a week earlier, and I'd been promising her that we'd go. My cold was much better, and we both found some treasures, so I'd call it a success. Then we headed over to Montmartre to check out the Grape Festival. It was very colorful, with funny little marching bands, and girls in adorable costumes, but I think next time I'll try the neighborhood when it's less crowded. Plus, tired, yo!

Sunday: We managed to get all our stuff together, hail a cab in the dark, drop the keys and still make it to our shuttle by 8 AM. The airport was a bit of a zoo. Mainly because there was a baggage strike. Boo. They kept saying "technical problems" but all the terrified management types struggling to find places for the mountain of baggage were a dead giveaway. As we boarded our flight to Rome, we were informed that NONE of the checked bags would be on the flight. Bon voyage!

This entry was originally posted at http://rebcake.dreamwidth.org/40349.html. Please comment here or there using OpenID.

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Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
ceciliaj
Nov. 11th, 2015 11:51 am (UTC)
Oooooh! I don't have the brain to read every word right now, but the pics are fab. You are a hardcore sightseer!!!!!
rebcake
Nov. 11th, 2015 12:13 pm (UTC)
It was kind of crazy. I don't think a week is enough for Paris, in retrospect. I knew we would slow down once we got to Italy, though! A vacation from our vacation.
shapinglight
Nov. 11th, 2015 11:57 am (UTC)
Yay! This took me back.

It was all such fun.

In retrospect, even my flight home doesn't seem that bad at all- and when I see stressed (for relatively trivial reasons) people on TV these days, I'm inclined to say 'They need a good Zen Buddhist.'

ETA: Also, I'm glad to see Miss Edith ended up in a good home.

Edited at 2015-11-11 11:57 am (UTC)
rebcake
Nov. 11th, 2015 12:16 pm (UTC)
This part was a month ago, already! Did my link work for the album?

I am so happy that you met the Buddhists! It really seems to have made an impression. Still, I wouldn't have minded if you'd been able to stay in town another day...
shapinglight
Nov. 11th, 2015 03:12 pm (UTC)
I am so happy that you met the Buddhists! It really seems to have made an impression. Still, I wouldn't have minded if you'd been able to stay in town another day...

It would have been nice, I agree. Plus, if I'd stayed another day, I would probably have saved myself a lot of hassle. ;) Oh well, never mind.

Have sent you an email re: the album
petzipellepingo
Nov. 11th, 2015 12:01 pm (UTC)
Is that you or McDiva in the photos?

And yes, it was nice to see Miss Edith again. Clearly she's living it up in Paris.
rebcake
Nov. 11th, 2015 12:18 pm (UTC)
Hahaha! Those are McDiva. She's 19 and I'm...not.

Miss Edith had an air of serenity about her, I thought.
raidingparty
Nov. 11th, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC)
(random internet stranger here because of LiveJournal's front page)
Funny, we got caught by a luggage strike on the way through Paris as well.
rebcake
Nov. 11th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC)
Re: (random internet stranger here because of LiveJournal's front page)
I have to say, it wasn't unexpected because it was the week the workers tore the shirts off the Air France execs when they threatened layoffs. I took far too much glee in those images, so karma will out.

Edited at 2015-11-11 07:30 pm (UTC)
brutti_ma_buoni
Nov. 11th, 2015 07:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm sorry Paris was a little cruel to you with the industrial action. There's a lot of it about rn. Also sorry we didn't manage to coincide while I was waltzing across Europe. But it sounds like you did some fabulous stuff. I've never been in St Eustache when it was in use; it's usually this chilly barn of a place compared with Les Halles right outside. And I like the Cognacq-Jay a lot. Great place to be, in the Marais!
rebcake
Nov. 11th, 2015 07:48 pm (UTC)
Nah, I needed the downtime, I think. Besides, as I told the commenter above, it was payback for chortling over the Air France execs getting figuratively tarred and feathered earlier in the week. Tsk. I mean, zillioniare oligarchs are people, too, right? For all I know, France has some sort of upper limit to keep executive salaries in line with the workers or something all progressive and socialist like that, so I shouldn't leap to conclusions.

It would have been great to meet up! And, yeah, Saint-Eustache was packed for the weekly concert. 5:30 Sundays, if you're ever in the area at the right time. I hear they also do one at Notre Dame and at Saint-Surplice. Clearly, I'll have to stay at least 3 weeks next time if I want to compare them all. In retrospect, I probably should have splurged on a Sainte Chapelle concert. I'd forgotten how amazing it is to be in that space, and to be in it with beautiful music would be fantastic.

Of course, the next trip will probably be England, so we'll eventually collide!
sandy_s
Nov. 12th, 2015 06:16 am (UTC)
Wow...your trip sounds absolutely amazing! You sure packed a lot in a few days. I hope someday to go!

I can't get over the idea of rats digging through the garbage...big ones?
rebcake
Nov. 13th, 2015 03:25 am (UTC)
This is only the first part of the trip! We probably did too much, but who knows the next time we'll get there?

The rats were not as large as NYC subway rats in the 90s. That's my yardstick for rats. They were sprightly, though! (I am allergic to rats, but they kept their distance, so I give them points for gallic manners.)
sandy_s
Nov. 13th, 2015 03:53 am (UTC)
I don't blame you for packing a lot in! :o) Can't wait to hear about more....My husband proposed at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Vegas and I'd love to visit the real Paris someday...

*shudders* I'm so glad I didn't see any giant rats on the subway when I was in NYC last summer. And ha...glad they ket their distance from you...
feliciacraft
Nov. 13th, 2015 04:32 am (UTC)
The biggest rat I've ever seen was just 'round the corner from Picante (that Mexican place in Berkeley). I'd thought it was an escaped pet chinchilla, until my husband set me straight...
rebcake
Nov. 13th, 2015 06:59 pm (UTC)
Well, the French are famous for eating well and staying slim...
feliciacraft
Nov. 12th, 2015 06:55 am (UTC)
They renamed the Cluny?!?

Sorry, glad you had a lovely time overall, but I can't seem to get over the shock of that. The art there has been preserved for hundreds of years, and I sort of expected the name to...never mind, I'm over the shock. :P

My first & only visit to Paris has to be over a decade ago, but I remember Sainte Chapelle fondly. Most gorgeous chapel I've ever seen.

Running into Miss Edith in Paris! Well, I guess Dru has sense enough to stay away from the Slayers...

Thank you for sharing!
rebcake
Nov. 13th, 2015 03:36 am (UTC)
I know, right?!? There were a lot of things like that which had shifted just enough that it threw me. Usually, there were improvements, such as the way the Lady and Unicorn tapestries are displayed. When we went before, it was a practically deserted space, with very chilly stone floor and walls, and they were just sort of there. Whereas now they are in a special dark, plush room and you get the impression that they are really being cared for and cherished. The downstairs of Sainte Chapelle is a travesty, though, and feels like it's being destroyed by the crush of people and the elements. The Orsay might as well be a totally different museum from the one I visited in 1993. Not worse, not exactly better, and in the same beautiful space...but almost totally different contents. There are definitely more tourists everywhere than there used to be. It's sort of stunning and I haven't made up my mind how I feel about that. I mean, I am one!
feliciacraft
Nov. 13th, 2015 04:28 am (UTC)
I remember feeling indignant on behalf of the artworks while visiting the Cluny...they just had that air of neglect, including masterpieces such as the Lady and the Unicorn. So I'm glad they're better cared for, now.

I'm generally more tolerate of lines, so I have no problem with tourists. I recall tons of American tourists clutching a Rick Steves tour guide everywhere we went in and around Paris. It got kind of funny. :)

The shopping, though! I miss the shopping...and the food! Sigh...this makes me *really* want to visit Paris again...
rebcake
Nov. 13th, 2015 07:06 pm (UTC)
I am an inveterate line-avoider. I'm one of those people who shows up at Disneyland with a plan and sends runners for FastPasses and what not. We once did every single ride before noon! (Admittedly, it was a rainy Sunday.) I had spreadsheets for this trip, and a file full of shortcuts. I, um, enjoy the planning process. So, naturally, my favorite bits of traveling are things that just sort of happen...
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