As my second day in Paris dawned, I remained unconscious. My alarm clock was sufficient to wake me, but the workout from the previous day left me dragging. Finally crawling from bed and nursing my complaining calves, I set out for another day of touring.
My first stop was the Muse de Orney. Again, the Carte Muse was worth a thousand times its cost as the non-ticket holders line stretched easily a quarter mile.
The museum is large, and itself is quite pretty to look at. It´s collections range from architectural to Impressionist to sculptures of the Republic and beyond. Predominately French, there was a great deal to appreciate. Some of the sculptures of women had a magnificent, weightless appearance. One in particular was of a young woman, her hair hanging in front of her face as she holds it aside. It astonishes me what these artisans can do with marble.
I left the museum intent on the Catacombs, but to my disappointment they were closed for renovations until the 14th… Catacombs. Renovations. What´re they doing? Polishing the skulls?
Anyway, I then proceeded to the Grand Palais, which also was closed for renovations along with the Petit Palais. Humph. This falls into a general theme I´ve noticed- that London, Amsterdam, Paris, apparently all of Europe is in a constant state of repair. But I guess a little maintenance after a thousand years is to be expected.
Anyway, I finally found a museum which wasn´t closed for renovations. In my search for the Muse de Arte Modern, I stumbled into a side gallery with an exhibition of children´s clothing through the years. Embarrassment lead me to skulk through it rather than explain leaving to the attendants. And you´d be surprised how interesting children´s clothing can be. <sigh>
Anyway, I caught heap big attitude at the Muse de Arte Modern, but it was the first time the French really gave me guff. Up till then it was simply communication that was difficult and not the people.
I´ve taken to modern art recently, for whatever reason it´s become less silly to me. There were several installations that caught my attention. One was a short film of a woman with her cat, slowed down and set to music. The result was deliciously suspenseful and demonstrative of how music affects people.
Another was a really terrific idea. A light filled, white chamber with blaring choral vocals. It was a genuine experience to stand in this void and feel utterly unnerved, yet at peace.
To my surprise, the rear courtyard of the museum is a makeshift skate park with literally dozens of skateboarders and rollerbladers swarming across it like ants. One had a camera crew and still photographer following him, although he wasn´t anymore skilled than some of the other skaters.
After this, I proceeded to the Trocadero and settled into a sun dappled, sidewalk cafe. True to form, the Parisian waiter was a force to be reckoned with. Service was stiff, but polite and prompt. My salmon and cheese, I guess sandwich although I couldn´t eat it by hand, was a delicious collection of flavors and was well worth the price. I had a pleasant white wine and an Orangina, and was able to sit and simply enjoy sitting on a Parisian street.
After dinner, I returned to my hostel with the intention of taking a quick nap and going out to a jazz club that had been recommended to me. But after my shower, I drifted off and didn´t wake until the next morning. Traveling can be exhausting.
The Fourth of July was my third day in Paris and I spent it predominately at the Louvre. I awoke early to beat the crush so I could glimpse the biggies and be done with them. Again, Carte Muse is a god send, the Louvre´s lines are even more disgusting than Disneyland. (in the US that is, EuroDisney as no such problem)
Jetting straight to the ol´ lady herself, there was already a crowd of numbskulls snapping photographs of her. I found it odd that the Mona Lisa hung on a wall alone, with nothing else on that half of the room. Until I figured that the other paintings would be destroyed by the flashes. I´ve already mentioned my beef about tourists, but they really are shameful.
Anyway, the Mona Lisa is nice enough, but the world is crammed full of portraits and pietas and Madonnas and childs. These old artist guys really needed to do a wider cross section of work. If I see one more rotting leg of lamb next to grapes I´ll scream.
Okay, so the Louvre is a mouthful. Due to size, they shut down certain sections because they haven´t the manpower. Even still, I spent the better part of the day there, including an obscenely overpriced lunch. The artwork stretches from a wondrous Egyptian collection to Greco-Roman and vast periods of paintings and sculptures.
All told, my feet hurt but I saw a good deal of what interested me. However, coming back to my theme of remarkable sculpture, be sure to see Michelangelo´s Dying Slave and in the same room a woman who´s face is covered by a scarf. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is beyond words.
After the Louvre, I hopped a bus tour of Paris and lounged in the sun as a dual language audio track filled me in on the interesting details of the city. Traveling on your own, you might see pretty things but you don´t get a sense of history or perspective. It´s good to have a guide at times.
This finished off my day and I returned to the hostel to find the two guys I was roomed with gone and two Norwegian girls in their place. Oh well. There isn´t much to say about this except that women travelers over pack. A lot. And if they are any indication, women are also exceedingly messy in private and scatter-brained to boot.
Moving on, I lounged around the room until the clouds had gathered and the skies opened up. I had leaned my head out the window to watch Paris in the rain when a colosal thunderclap followed on the heels of a searing lightning strike. No more window.
It´s the Parisian rain that made me think of this, but backpacking alone has a host of advantages. Flexibility and speed foremost among them. A disadvantage is that it really is lonely. Particularly in a city like Paris, where every street and bench is assigned a couple making lovey-dovey.
While you meet people on trains, at stations and in the hostels, those temporary relationships can´t replace someone you know well. Even still, some situations seem untenable. Foremost among them is the threesome, the couple and the friend. My recommendation to the friend is stay home, you just don´t fit. I´ve seen more than one group like this and more than one awkward situation arise because of it.
Anyway, I set out alone to the seedy district in the hopes of skulking into the Moulin Rouge. Now officially a landmark and not the slightest bit seedy. You need reservations, nice clothing and a pair of dress shoes to attend. Money helps too.
It was waiting in line for the Moulin Rouge that I struck up a conversation with a lovely family from Miami. The mother, Alejandra and her daughter Ally were having trouble with Air France, so an extra night in Paris had brought them to the Moulin Rouge. As I chatted, I figured out that a reservation was compulsory and although I remained in line, I didn´t expect to get in.
In the end, Alejandra swept me in with her friends and insisted I sit with her and her daughter. Needless to say it was quite a show. Although watching showgirls with two women you´ve just met is a mite uncomfortable. The champagne helped.
All I can say is that Vegas owes everything to the Moulin Rouge, and that, while it´s a fun show, don´t expect high theater. It´s a spectacle, with costuming and staging to beat the band but with less sophisticated dancing than you might see at a college recital. Then again, how artistic can you be with a forty pound headdress.
Because I lacked the cash for a cab, and the subway had shutdown well before the show let out, I was forced to walk back the hostel. Not so much of a problem, Paris is as safe as any city and I´ve never feared the dark before. Of course, the rain returned with a vengeance and all romantic thoughts about Paris became waterlogged curses directed at public transportation. On reflection, I could´ve taken the bus.
<C´est Paris, To Be Continued>