Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 5)

Now what's going on in that head?

Now what’s going on in that head?

I got up early to visit the Rodin museum.  Turns out, I was little too early.  The museum opens at 10 and I got there around 930, so I had to march around in front of the gates for half an hour to keep warm.

I think these smaller, less hectic museums are for me.  I’ve been to giant places like the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and Chicago Museum of Art.  Both come with hordes of people, screaming children and people bumping into you trying to take pictures.

The Rodin had none of these things.  There was a special exhibit (or at least I think it was) of Rodin’s pre-work.  I say pre-work because it was like all the stuff he did before he created his masterpieces.  There was stuff he intended to use for an exhibition on Victor Hugo, but I think the exhibition never came about, and Rodin just had all this stuff lying around somewhere.

I went out into the gardens but it was raining pretty good.  I wished I still had that janky umbrella I threw away in Montmartre.  I did see The Thinker.  What you thinking about, guy?  I also saw The Gates of Hell.  Glad it’s only a depiction and not the real thing!

I think the hotel portion was closed for renovation.  There was scaffolding up and guys working on things.  I was pleased with what I saw, so I left.

I headed over to the Pantheon next.

So far, I think this might be my favourite.  It’s more about architecture here.  It was a church first, but now it’s a gigantic tomb.  Some of France’s most famous persons are buried here.  I guess it’s a little morbid to gape at someone’s final resting place.  I only knew a handful of those interred here.  I know Voltaire and Zola, though I never read their work.  Of course, Victor Hugo.  Le sigh, my dear Victor.  I loved Les Miserables but suffered through Hunchback.  When he started going on about Notre Dame, describing every square inch, I had to put the book down.  I never did finish it.

Marie Curie is here too.  I wrote a paper on her in high school.  I’ve also read Alexandre Dumas, and then there’s Louis Braille, who probably does not need an introduction.

Only the dead keep it.

Only the dead keep it.

I like the crypt here far better than the one in the Bayeux cathedral.  There, the ceilings were very low and the room was tiny.  The crypt in the Pantheon has very high ceilings.  It’s quite spacious and the air can flow through easily.  Of course, there’s a difference in the architecture of both buildings.  So it’s probably comparing apples to oranges.

It was not crowded at all, and I’m beginning to think wintertime is the best time to visit.  You can do almost anything without a queue.  Sure, you’ll have to brave the cold, but I think it’s about weighing what is most important to you.  If you have your heart seeing certain things and you really want to enjoy it, you might do well do come in the winter.  On the other hand, you might be a person who thinks vacation is about standing in line, like at Disney.

My Lost in Paris adventure began right after I left the Pantheon.  My next stop was supposed to be Notre Dame, but when I exited I found that it was raining really hard, and the temperature was low enough that the rain was actually a little icy, turning into snow.  I thought it was too early to go to back to the apartment, and I really wanted to see Notre Dame.  I thought, “well, when you get there, you’ll be indoors, so what’s the difference?”  When I did the GPS, it said it was about a 15 minute walk.  I tried to memorise the directions so I would not get my phone all wet, and that’s where I fucked up.

The first step I took was wrong.  I think I went left when I should have gone right, and made a right when I should have turned left.  I didn’t take my phone out to recalculate; I have no idea why I did not.  Pretty soon I was completely turned around.  Don’t ask me to describe where I was, because I can’t.  Now it’s full on snowing (thankfully, it didn’t stick).  I love snow, like I really love snow but this is that wet, heavy kind that soaks you.  After about 15 minutes my outer layer of clothing was soaked.  My feet were also wet because I stepped in a puddle.

I ran into a lavarie to get my bearings.  My hands were so numb I could hardly operate my phone but discovered I had walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction.  Fuuuuuuck.  Should I go on to Notre Dame?  I felt like a drowned cat.  I decided to go back to the apartment for a little bit.  The GPS said the nearest train was a RER B.  Well, I couldn’t find that shit either.  Another 20 minutes wandering around in this little neighbourhood.

I started to despair.  I thought, well I’m just going to die here on the streets of Paris.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had just passed a bus stop and I decided I was just going to get on a bus, any bus, just to be out of the elements.  Once inside, I would figure out where I am and go from there.  Well, when I turned around to go to the bus stop, I saw the RER station.  Voila!

I’m not sure why I was having so much trouble.  I’m pretty good with directions, but I think once you lose your bearings it can be hard to right yourself.  Some of the streets look the same.  The streets are not perfectly straight.  They veer off and go every which way.  I don’t mind being lost but not when I’m cold and wet.

I made it back to my neighbourhood and at this point I’m hungry.  I went into a kebab place that also makes crepes.  I guess now is good a time as any for a taste test.  Delicious kebab, but the crepe was just so-so.  It was too dry and even the Nutella did not liven it up.  So far, I think the crepe in Bayeux might be the best.

I spent a few hours drying out in my apartment.  I took a long rest until around 5.  My concert at St. Ephrem’s church did not begin until 9PM, leaving me plenty of time to do a little more sightseeing.  I was surprised to see the sun when I went out again.  I was beginning to think there is no sunlight in Paris.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

I walked to Notre Dame just to enjoy a little bit of light.  Here, I found my first lengthy queue.  I thought the line was really long, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in the height of summer.  I also found rude ass line jumpers.  When I got into line, a young guy got in line behind me, and then a family behind him.  The line was slowly moving forward, inching towards the entrance and two Russian bitches came up beside me.  They stopped to take a picture and then they stayed.  Biiiiiitch!  I don’t think so.  I gave the girl the stank-face just to let her know she wasn’t about to cut in front of me.

They tried to get behind me, but the young guy saw what was going on.  He cut them off and they ended up behind him, in front of the family.  The family wasn’t paying attention so I guess it doesn’t matter.  Yes, the line was long but it wasn’t miles long and it was moving pretty good.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I think I did not enjoy Notre Dame.  Of course, it’s very pretty but it was also crowded.  People were talking too loud.  Every time I stopped to read some information, someone would jump in front of me or bump into me.  I tried not to get pissed off, sometimes these things happen.  The church is a point of interest, but it’s still a church and should be treated as such.  There was just too much horseplay, and these people were adults!

I had my fill, so I left.  As I walked away, the bells were beginning to peal.  Now that’s lovely.  I walked around Ile de la Cite a little bit.  I thought about going to Sainte-Chappelle but it was already closed.  Instead I went on to Pont Neuf and was able to get a fabulous picture of the city at sunset.

I saw some locks on the bridge there.  So I’m confused.  I thought the “thing” was to put locks on the Pont des Arts?  So now just put a lock any bridge?  I’m of two minds on the whole love lock thing.  When I saw all the many, many locks on Pont des Arts I was really shocked.  I knew there were locks on it, but not that many.  It was a little bit insane.  I think it’s wrong to destroy property like that.  I read the city has to cut them down because the weight tears up the bridge.  But the locks keep reappearing.

Then, on the other hand I think c’est romantique.  It’s stupid, of course.  I’ve never been so in love that I’ve wanted to vandalise someone’s property.  Someone made the suggestion that instead of putting a lock on the bridge, buy a lock here in Paris and put it on your own property.  That way you can look at it daily, and it is still a symbol of your eternal love.

Until you get divorced or break up.  At least if it’s on your own property you can cut the lock off and have it melted down.

I’m such a cynic.

Waaaay too much going on.

Waaaay too much going on.

After Pont Neuf, I walked to a restaurant I had chosen near the church:  La Petite Perigroudine.  I picked it based solely on reviews and proximity to my evening entertainment.  It was a good choice.  I ordered oxtails and scallops in a peppery gravy atop a bed of mashed potatoes.  The oxtails were quite tender and meshed quite well with the gravy.  The scallops were perfectly sautéed.  Not too rubbery, not too chewy and not too mushy.  Perfectly firm.  I don’t like mashed potatoes, but I ate a bite or two.  A good flavour, but I just hate potatoes.

I let the server pick the wine for me.  I like that about France.  They know what goes with their food.  You can’t really do that in the US, unless you’re at a high end place.  If you’re in Olive Garden and you tell the server to pick the wine, the good Lord only knows what you’ll get.  He might come back with Boone’s Farm, or some shit.

For dessert I had profiteroles and chocolate.  The profiteroles were swimming in about a gallon of chocolate sauce, stuffed with chocolate ice cream and drizzled with a different kind of chocolate on top.  I was stuffed by the end because I tried to eat all that chocolate.  I’m such a child when it comes to food.

I like how in France they don’t try to rush you from the table.  It was around 730 when I finished eating and the concert didn’t start till 9.  I had a seat in the window and I was quite content to people watch for another hour or so.  No one bothered me, or gave me dirty looks to clear the table like they do in the US.  It wasn’t crowded anyway so I didn’t feel as if I was holding anybody up.

Around 830 I left to dash into a bodega to buy a half bottle of champagne for when I got back to the apartment.  No more full bottles for me.  I’m glad to see half bottles are easily available.  A full bottle was great for the first night or two, but that’s a lot of alcohol to consume.  In just a few short days I’ll have to go dry again.  Better start weaning myself now.

St. Ephram’s church is small and intimate, a perfect venue for a piano concert.  The pianist is Pascal Mantin, a student from the National Conservatory of Music of Paris.  I selected this concert because of the repertoire:  Erik Satie, Beethoven and Franz Liszt.  All composers that I am quite familiar with.

Mantin started with Beethoven.  Claire de Lune and Appassionata are recognizable to most people.  I taught myself to play Claire de Lune on my first deployment.  Mantin plays it differently than I do, and by different I mean WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BETTER.  He had a very tender touch to the keys, like a lover’s caress.  It was very moving, so sensitive.

Dude could play.

Dude could play.

His selection of Liszt was also quite excellent, but my favourite is Erik Satie’s Les Gymnopedies.  When I was studying for my Master’s, we were taught different methods to read literature.  In one method, the method almost everyone uses, is that you read the text, then you get a little background information on the author and try to correlate the two.  With this method you might try to discover why the author wrote whatever it is he wrote.  For example, it is suggested that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein based on her experience of miscarriage and childbirth.  Others think it’s because she was hanging out with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron at the time, and they were weirdoes.

There is another method of reading where you completely ignore the author.  You simply read the text and try to figure out what the story is about.  It’s a little more complicated because you’re supposed to look into the meaning of every word, simile and metaphor.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that these methods of reading can be applied to music.  I do not know if you have ever heard Les Gymopedies but it is a most sensitive piece of music.  Is it depressing?  Is it sombre?  Is it hopeless?  Why did Satie write this music?  What was he feeling?  I think Mantin is trying to tell us something in his playing.  Perhaps he has discovered the motivation for Satie’s work.  I listen to Satie when I am melancholy because the music is so despondent, but strangely, afterward I feel better.  I do not know if it is the healing effect of music, or if because the music itself offers a little hope at the end.

Mantin played for us two encores.  He introduced all of his music—in French.  So I had no idea what he was saying.  I didn’t recognise the first encore, but the second needed no introduction.  Chopin!  One of his glorious etudes.

What a wonderful way to spend the evening.  I have another church concert lined up for Monday night, or is it Tuesday?  I’d better check the tickets.


Tomorrow:  Sacre Coeur, some light shopping, another crepe and another opera!


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