Paris - Part 1
Ah Paris! City of Light. City of Love. City of world iconic buildings. City of a million museums (we will see 2 of them.) On our first day, we conquered the Paris transit system, walked 20,000 steps and 17 flights of stairs, fought the crowds at the Louvre, experienced the Mouff (Rue Moufftard), picniced in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and managed to stay up till 9 pm. (Helped by a little shut-eye on the train coming home).
Knowing we would be awake early and not knowing how and where to catch the bus and train into Paris, we set out early. Best decision we made as we went straight to the Louvre and got in without any waiting. We did have a little hiccup with our online tickets I bought. After paying two euros extra to buy online tickets, when we got to the entrance they sent us to some ticket assistance office because the bar code on the ticket was incomplete. Apparently, if we had downloaded the ticket onto a phone, it would have been ok but being the non-trusting person I am when it comes to technology, I wanted a piece of paper in my hands. I guess I have to move with the times. Anyway, the good news was that there were no lines other than a short line at the entrance. From here we went straight to view the Mona Lisa along with all the other people going inside. Up several flights of stairs and into a large room with snake line barriers. But again moved through this quickly. The painting is displayed at the front of the room. They allow about 30 people at a time to stand in front of her to view her and/or take a photo. I say and/or as they only gave you 30 seconds and then move you out. John got one photo but no time to take one with either of us in it. When we left the Louvre the lineup to see her was ginormous. Now I ask you, why? What is it about this painting that makes it so famous. If it is in the technique used by the painter, or the details in the portrait, one is not going to be able to see any of this in 30 seconds. It was actually a bit disappointing and done really because it is the thing to do at the Louvre.
The next rooms, with the Italian Paintings then the French Paintings, to me were more interesting. Here, there were only a few people so we were able to spend more time looking at the paintings. What was amazing to me was these paintings were done in the 14th - 15th century with materials that were not like what they have today. And yet the detail was exceptional. The use of light and shadow to create these effects was unbelievable. Then on to the huge rooms where the sculptures were housed. We did the obligatory viewing of the Venus Di Milo but couldn’t understand what the hype was all about especially when in the next auditorium were some amazing sculptures some of which were humungous. It must have taken the sculptors years to complete. Unfortunately, many of them were reproductions or scaled miniatures as the originals were destroyed during the revolution. They were melted down to make guns. We have seen this time and again in our other travels, where war has denied us of our cultural heritage. Touché to the French for trying to bring them back to life for us. As a note, when we were at Angkor Watt in Cambodia, it was the French who were helping them to restore many parts after the ravages of the Khmer Rouge and financing it.
The apartment of Napoleon, was also part of the Louvre. Some has been updated but most is as it was in the days of Napoleon. Very ornate. Somewhat similar to Versailles which we never got to see. On display in the apartment were some huge tapestries. The photo shows just how big and think - this is a tapestry not a painting. Even ceilings were done in tapestries. Unbelievable talent.
After our Louvre visit, we went to an open air market to buy some items for lunch, found our way to the Luxembourg gardens and had our first picnic in France. It consisted of deer sausage, Brie cheese, olives, a baguette of fresh bread and a bottle of wine. Just like the French do.
The transit system in Paris is amazing. We have learned to use the regional train, the metro and the bus system and transfer seemlessly between them. Our Navigo pass which we bought the first day has been used for all of these trips. Unbelievable value. We were feeling quite proud of ourselves. Then we encountered rush hour on the train. Everyone was packed in like sardines, and I mean packed. You didn’t have to hang on to something, as you were not going anywhere when a sudden stop or turn was made. We had to fight our way off the train starting at the stop before ours. Maybe if you live in a large city anywhere you are used to this but for us it was quite the experience. As I said, the transit system works great UNTIL........STRIKE. The entire transit system went on strike for 24 hrs supposedly starting at 9pm. Glenda and I were out adventuring by ourselves when we were talking to a Parisian who told us to be careful with this one and it could start at 6. We hightailed it back quickly as it was already 5 and would take us 1 1/2 hrs to get home. There are more rotating strikes to come all objecting to Macron’s plan to centralize the 42 pension plans that exist. Lawyers on Monday, airline pilots next. Huge disruption to the economy.
The French people are quite subdued, very polite and very well dressed. The trains and the busses are extremely clean. They love it when you try to speak French but get a little impatient with my attempts and usually switch to English to make things go faster. Once again, we are amazed how well they speak English. They put us to shame. Paris is clean and the suburban district we are staying in is very neat and shows pride of ownership everywhere. Paris has made a huge effort to clean things up. There is no garbage around and they are gradually pressure washing all the buildings so there is no black on them at all.
Our walk through the Marais district was able to give us a feel for life in medieval Paris - from beautiful houses and their architecture, to a restored church, to the back narrow streets used for transport, walking and you guessed it, the disposal of the potty bucket. This was, and still is, the desired place of the wealthy to live. Property values for an apartment with a shared courtyard are through the roof. Some of the photos give you an idea of the huge mansions around a front courtyard that escaped destruction during the revolution. Nowadays, it is several apartments, but originally it was one house. The pictures also show some of the quaint streets here. This is also the old Jewish quarter but there is less evidence of this as the chain stores take over. And finally, it is where a burgeoning LGTB community is found.
Stay tuned for Paris part 2. Robbie and Glenda will join us then.