I bought a Museum Pass to tour some of the museums and other important sites in Paris. You can get them in 2, 4, or 6 day increments and they’re good for like 1000 museums. Of course, I don’t plan to see a thousand museums, just a handful. I’m not crazy about art but I have an appreciation for it because I think the world would be a boring place if there was no art in it. Like, what if we weren’t creative? Ugh.
I went to see Monet’s water lilies first, at the Musee L’Orangerie. It’s not a large museum, so I didn’t have to spend hours and hours. They have about eight of his water lilies on display. I had no idea how big these things were. I mean, you see it in books and you might think two or three feet. No, these things are at least ten feet wide, and maybe six feet tall. That is a lot going on.
I was glad the place wasn’t crowded. I hate going places where there’s a thousand people crammed into a little space, talking all loud and being obnoxious. The only people here were people who actually like art. I took a seat in front of one of the water lilies and stared into it. After a second, my eyes lost focus and I was transported to another place. Suddenly, it’s not water lilies anymore. I was lost in the forest, the same forest from Where the Wild Things Are. It’s really dark. It’s scary, but not in a way where I fear for my life. More like the same fear I get when I visit a haunted house. You know it’s just fun and games. I was trying to find my way out of the forest, then someone coughed and I was back in reality.
There is more to l’Orangerie other than Monet’s paintings but I couldn’t get into it. They have some Picassos here, and I hate Picasso. I also discovered I hate Matisee too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and now I look at it and I’m like, “Ugh.” I just don’t like blocky look. It looks like something I could draw. Why is it famous?
On the way out I passed Henri Rousseau’s“L’enfant a la poupee.” That shit looks like Grumpy Cat in a baby doll dress. You know it’s a masterpiece worth millions too. Damn.
Outside l’Orangerie is the Jardin des Tuileries, a garden, but in the dead of winter ain’t nothing here but naked ass trees and some dirt. I’m sure it’s really pretty in spring. I’ll put it on my list for things I need to do when I come back. I went over to Musee d’Orsay next. Now, I really liked this place. It’s full of art a simpleton like me can understand. My sister despises this. She thinks portraits and landscapes and the like are plebeian. “Everybody likes it because it’s basic and commercial.”
I guess I’m common. I think her argument is that most regular people do not take the time to understand forms of abstract art. A portrait of a noble lady is not hard to understand. You don’t really have to think about anything. A commoner can appreciate it because the lines are all neat and the colours make sense. Everything is as it should be.
This is where I feel she is wrong. Although I’m not big on art, I do wonder about the human experience. Why do we create art? Why do we sing and dance? Why do we make music? Why do we preserve our past? Why do we create anything that is not for eating, survival or shelter? These are things unique to all humans. It does not matter race or religion or anything. All cultures have a method of passing on stories. Why do we want to remember the past?
Musee d’Orsay was a little more crowded than l’Orangerie but still quite manageable. I spent about three hours here, mostly because I was doing a lot of thinking and being silly. I don’t like the artists’ names for their paintings so I make up my own. Henri Regnault’s “Summary Execution under the Moorish Kings of Grenada” is too much of a mouthful. Instead, I call it “Thug Life.” Honestly, if you can cut someone’s head off in one fell swoop and then just stand there, all chill, then you are, how we call in my neighbourhood, a thug. Sometimes the titles are too simple. Degas’ L’Absinthe should be called “This Date is Really Boring.”
In all seriousness, if we didn’t have art of any form could you imagine what we would be like as a people? It’s depressing to think about. Have you ever met a person who doesn’t listen to music, doesn’t go to the movies, doesn’t enjoy theatre or other fine arts? They’re just not into any of that stuff. They seem so dull, so passionless. I met a guy once who did not like music at all–like, he didn’t like anything. Not rap, country, classical, R&B, jazz, NOTHING. He said he sat in his car in silence. He didn’t own a stereo or any music playing device. And he wasn’t big on going to the movies either. Boring.
I spent a lot of time perusing religious paintings. I think these are my favourite, given my minor is in religious studies. I like all things religious: angels, demons, monks, vestal virgins, etc. I love depictions of holy text. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the Bible. It can be anything. My opinion is that we all come from the same place; we just tell the story differently.
After d’Orsay, it was almost 2PM and I just randomly decided to go up to Montmartre and see Sacre Couer. I have a plan to consolidate some of my sightseeing because I think I’m going to go to Versailles on Monday or Tuesday.
I purposely made my schedule loose and easy. I don’t like to leave anything until I’m ready and I don’t want to rush from site to site like a madman. I do have more museums on my itinerary but I know what I can handle and I did not want to try and do them all in one day.
Besides restaurants and museums, Paris has an awful lot of stairs. I mean, geez! Stairs to every museum. Stairs at the churches. Stairs in the subway. And when I say stairs, I mean, like, stairs. Not just one or two, but hundreds. The stairs at the Abbesses metro station are not a joke. I just learned that Abbesses metro station is the deepest in Paris. I guess that’s why it took an hour for me to get up to street level. Yeah, they have an elevator but I can’t get into pissy-smelling metal boxes underground. I need to work these thighs anyway. I was a little breathless when I got to the top. Unfortunately, it was pouring down raining. I bought a cheap umbrella at one of these stands and that was pretty much a waste of euro. Next time I’ll just throw six euro into the street to commemorate that piece of shit. As soon as I opened the stupid thing a gust of wind came and tore it inside out. Le sigh.
I threw it away and just walked into the rain. By this time I’m actually quite hungry. There are many brasseries and cafes here. That’s the problem with Paris. It’s not there isn’t enough to eat, it’s that there is waaaaay too much to eat. I could hardly decide. Everything smelled great. I walked half a mile before I could make up my mind. And they have the nerve to have their menus on the outside! You see something on a menu and you’re like, “Oh, man, that looks great.” Then you read another menu and you’re like, “Ohh, that looks good too!” My stomach started rumbling when I was reading the menu at Café Chinon. Guess this is where I’m eating.
I love how the restaurants are small and cosy. I like how there are more mom and pop places than there are chains. If one place is too crowded, just go one door over and there might be a seat for you there. I’m sure there are places where the food is not that great, but with so many choices it’s like you really can’t go wrong. I am told that French people do not wait to eat like how we do in the US. Meaning, if you go to a restaurant and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s an hour wait,” the French don’t do that. They just go someplace else. I think it’s because a lot of these restaurants are very small. Cafe Chinon had like 20 tables. Other places even smaller than that. They just don’t have places with 100 seats, not really. And there are just too many choices to have to wait for any amount of time.
And I didn’t go wrong with Chinon. I had grilled chicken with mushroom sauce and homemade pommes frites. I got a non-alcoholic drink called chantaco. I’m not sure of all the ingredients but it had orange flavours listed in the menu and I like citrus stuff. They brought a whole basket of bread, which I devoured while waiting for my food. Everything was delightful. When you have a small place like this, you can make everything fresh. Nothing has to be frozen or preserved in chemicals to last. It’s just good food.
The wind had picked up considerably and it was raining a little too hard by the time I settled the bill. I stood on the corner debating whether to press on to Sacre Coeur, and then I just decided to head back in for an afternoon nap. This weekend promises to be less wet. Sacre Coeur has been standing since 1875. It’ll still be there on Saturday.
Before I could go back to the apartment, however, I decided it was time to continue my research on crepes. Across the street from the Franprix there is a place that does crepes with indoor seating. I went there and ordered a crepe with Nutella. It arrived rather boringly on a red plate but good things don’t always have to come all dolled up.
It was good, but there was something about it…. A little too buttery. It was like the chef started making a beurre crepe but then suddenly remembered I wanted Nutella. I do like butter on my crepes but only if I’m ordering butter and sugar. I think butter and Nutella is a little too much. I washed it down with a café crème. Tomorrow is another day and I will continue the search.
I took a long nap then met my friend for dinner and drinks around 6PM. We started with drinks in a little spot on Rue St-Denis. I think he’s just looking for a hook-up girl, which really is most unfortunate. He’s not bad looking and he had good conversation. After I disabused him of the type of girl I am, we did fall into easy conversation. We talked a little about our lives. He is from Sri Lanka and had worked all over the world, looking for a place to make his fortune. He really likes France but he thinks he might do better in Australia. I told him not to bother to come to the US—not because he wouldn’t like it there, but because the “strike it rich” days are over. Everybody is just trying to survive.
He took me to a Sri Lankan place up in La Chapelle. I liked this little area because it was very ethnic and a place where I think regular folk hang out. Apparently, it’s considered a no-go zone, but I think it’s because there are working class people here. You can tell that by the menu prices. Everything was cheap as hell. They’ve got wine, and you just ask for red or white. Don’t worry about vintages or varietals. I know it’s not the right way to do wine but whatever the server brought me went just fine with my food. I had some kind of chicken with blazing hot sauce and basmati rice. It reminded me quite a lot of Indian cuisine.
By the time we went to yet a different restaurant for dessert we were talking about race relations and classism. He said that human rights were well-respected in France and that’s why he loves it here so much. In the subway station we had seen a well-dressed lady with an expensive handbag talking to a homeless (I’m assuming) person, laying on a dirty blanket and all his worldly possessions around him. They appeared to be having a lively conversation and it wasn’t about money. She was laughing and even touched his shoulder. I said, “In the US, that wouldn’t really happen.” You don’t see a lot of well-dressed people talking to bums and shit. Most of the time we pretend they don’t even exist. I told him I felt like there were class issues in the US. Poor people, working class people and rich people don’t really cross lines. Oh yeah, for many people it’s hardly noticeable but for everyone else there is a huge gap between the tax brackets and we all know it. Poor people generally don’t stop being poor, and the rich only get richer. He said that was really unfortunate and I agreed. I’m just a middle class person, so what I can do?
We talked about terrorism and what if America wasn’t a superpower. Realising we were getting into heavy stuff, we turned the conversation to sports. He asked if he could see me again and I invited him to the bar I’m going to for Super Bowl. I did keep using the phrase “American football” just so he wouldn’t think I was talking about soccer. Apparently, that was no help because he thought I was talking about rugby. I had to use google images to show him the difference.
And that’s why the world is awesome. Everywhere is not the same. Everywhere people have different interests. Imagine if we were all the same? How boring.
I finished the evening with champagne and a molten chocolate cake with white chocolate cream. It was wet and freezing but I had a good time. I am quite comfortable to travel alone and I encourage it of anyone. I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t wish someone was here with me to share the whole experience. In the evenings, all the restaurants are full of friends chatting and having a good time. I felt a little bit like a Sad Sally in the corner by myself on other evenings, so it was nice to have him accompany me. I told him that I was just using him to be my dinner date. He said that I could use him any time.
That was nice of him.
I left him on the steps of the 13 train in the rain.
Next: Rodin, Pantheon, lost on the snowy streets of Paris and a church concert!