Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 6)

Sunrise from the steps of the Basilice of the Sacred Heart.

Sunrise from the steps of the Basilice of the Sacred Heart.

I tried again for Sacre Coeur today.  I’m so glad I went.  I liked it a lot better than Notre Dame.  For one, it was very early morning and there wasn’t a lot of people.  The sun was already up but here sunrise is at 820 so at 9AM you can still get that sunrise feel.  I think that’s cool.

It was very peaceful overlooking Paris below, and the church here is wonderful.  Sacre Coeur is far younger than Notre Dame, but to me, it looks older (in a good way).  I was disappointed I couldn’t take pictures inside Sacre Coeur, but that’s okay.  I will remember its majesty.

I think all people of the Christian faith, especially Catholics, more or less do what they ought to do when they enter a place of worship.  At Notre Dame, I saw a few visitors going off to where the priests were said to be located, but mostly people were just there to gawk.  At Sacre Coeur, I think there were more people there for worship and prayer, even if they were just tourists.

I witnessed a very intimate moment between an African woman and God.  She was crying hard and praying out loud.  She was in front of the statue of Saint Antoine of Padoue.  I just looked him up right now and apparently he is the patron saint of lost things or lost people.  Whatever or whomever the woman lost, it hurt her very badly.  I think I’ll say a prayer too and hope that she finds what is missing.

After leaving Sacre Coeur I went down the steps and towards the right, to an area filled with fabric stores.  A lot of the shops were just opening up and it’s nice to see regular working folk going about their business.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

I turned the corner and ended up a street with basic shops.  These were places that remind me of Family Dollar or the Chinese-run store that specialises in random things like bathroom hooks, aluminium foil pans and cheap party supplies.  There were two stores at the end of the block that confused me.  I couldn’t figure out what they were.  One was called Sympa-Poutou and the other was called Sympa-Something Else.  Some guys would drag out these big brown boxes full of stuff and women outside would dig through the boxes, looking for… I don’t know.  The women were very excited by whatever they found.  One woman found a pair of underwear.  I can’t think of an American equivalent.  It’s not a thrift store or flea market.

I don't know what's going on here but it was a frenzy!

I don’t know what’s going on here but it was a frenzy!

I hopped on the 2 train, which was right there and went to Rue de Commerce.  I wore heels to the last opera but they were uncomfortable so I felt like new shoes were in order (actually, any reason will do).  I strolled along for a little while but did not find what I was looking for.  I think the shops here are for more conservative people.  The clothes in the windows were very classy.  I need something all little more edgy.

I ended up going back to my own area.  There’s all kinds of shops in Rue St. Denis, Rue Rambeauteau and Sebastapol (I probably spelled all those wrong).  The other night when I out to Opera Bastille via the Chatelet metro, I found all kinds of stuff that I would buy.  The shops here are for a younger, more edgier crowd.  I ain’t young but I do like that edgy look.  I found some simple black flats.  I also found at least seven pairs of boots I should have bought but I only have the one piece of luggage.  There’s absolutely no space for me to keep all these treasures.  Better save it till next time (there will definitely be a next time).

I stopped for a crepe at Jet Lag.  I chose plain sugar.  It was a good crepe, a little fluffy though.  Closer to a pancake, but not as thick.  I think I’ll put it in the number two spot.  As of yet, no one has beat out the Bayeux crepe.

Just one of a dozen crepes I had.

Just one of a dozen crepes I had.

I had another la tradition for dinner.  I’m penny pinching because I’m supposed to dine at Jules Verne (or equivalent) either Monday or Tuesday.  So, yeah, like a dummy I did not make reservations.  Some reviews stated that I could walk in, and yes, I do know that it’ll be a crapshoot.  I’m trying for lunch and I’ll be there when the doors open at noon.  I’m banking on the fact that it’s winter and no one is about.  I never made reservations because there was that whole deal about me not even coming to Paris.  If I cannot get into Jules Verne, then I’ll stalk another Michelin-rated restaurant.  There’s bound to be at least one here that will take me on a moment’s notice.  I just call it part of the adventure.

I took a nap then headed back to Opera Bastille for Ariadne auf Naxos.   So, I’m figuring the edgy push-the-envelope thing is totally French.  Don Giovanni went for full frontal nudity and Ariadne had the lesbian love thing going on.  I’ve never seen the like in the US.  Frankly, it’s refreshing to find new twists on old stories.  Men in powdered wigs and pantyhose are the reason no one wants to see the opera in the first place.

Ariadne auf Naxos is an opera within an opera.  It starts off with some rich guy hiring a concert master to create an opera to entertain his guests, as well as a ballet master to put on a comedic ballet for after the opera.  Rich guy invites all these people for dinner and they linger too long at table, so rich guy tells both masters they’ll have to perform their masterpieces at the exact same time.  Oh, and by the way, you only have an hour to do it and not a minute longer, and be ready in about fifteen minutes when my guests are done eating.

The composer of the opera, typically sung by a soprano, is, naturally, incensed at the idea of someone taking liberties with his (her) creation.  She spends 15 minutes bemoaning plebeians and their constant need to be entertained.  The diva of the opera cannot fathom being on stage at the same time as a comedienne.  It’s just too shocking.  The comedienne, Zerbinetta, says, “Well, people hate opera anyway.  It’s a good thing we’ll be on stage or else the guests will fall asleep.”

The two masters get together to come up with a whole new piece.  Zerbinetta tells the Composer she hopes there will be a handsome male lead to fall in love with.  “Someone with smoky eyes just like you,” says Zerbinetta to the Composer and they share quite a passionate kiss.  The Composer kind of likes the idea but is too melancholy to think properly.  In the US we’re still dancing around the gay marriage issue.  I don’t know what the laws are in France.  (Just looked it up, totally legal.)

In the next act it is the opera the two masters have created.  The diva is the title character Ariadne.  Theseus has just dumped her and she is in the throes of despair.  Zerbinetta comes along and says, “Honey, please get over it.  Men like him are a dime a dozen.  The best way to get over a man is to get under a new one.”

Then she breaks into the famous aria “High and Mighty Princess.”  Wow, just wow!  And wow again.  This is written for a coloratura voice, which, in my opinion, is the best voice.  They have so much range, so much control, so much ability.  Zerbinetta’s voice was both strong and delicate, which is rather unusual because it’s usually one or the other.

Zerbinetta sings about her various lovers, encouraging Ariadne to snap out of her gloom.  Ariadne decides there’s nothing left to do but die.  As she awaits death, she flirts with a young man but he doesn’t really capture her attention.  Then a new man shows up.  She thinks it is Hermes, the Messenger of Death.  It’s not Hermes, but Bacchus instead.  She sees him and instantly falls in love, forgetting about Theseus.  They sing their true love for one another, and having only just met 10 minutes ago, they live happily ever after.

The end.

Ariadne is not a tragic opera; nobody dies.  It’s also very short.  This production was again modern.  Zerbinetta was more like a burlesque dancer.  Ariadne was still the typical opera diva dressed in a ball gown, but when they staged opera (within the opera) they were on an island wearing board shorts and flip flops.  They even had a VW bus in the background.

If this is opera in France, well, I think I know where I need to buy my season tickets.

This time, after the show, there was a queue of cabs.  Yes, the metro is easy but it’s cold and I want to be home RIGHT NOW!  I paid the 6E to go up the street.  I had plans to go to a club after the opera but let’s be realistic, I’m doing too much and I don’t like to go by myself to the club anyway.


Tomorrow:  Louvre, Arc du Triomphe, I think we got the number one crepe, and Super Bowl in Paris.


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