Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paris part two…Western Civ 12 Strikes Again!


As most of everything in Paris is closed on Sundays, we planned to take a day trip (they don’t do Days Out here) somewhere outside of Paris. I was torn between Giverny, the home of French Impressionist Claude Monet and site of inspiration for many of his Waterlillies paintings, and Chartres, site of the World’s most Impressive Gothic Medieval Cathedral. In my mind I could hear Kenneth Clarke enticing me to Chartres with his graphic descriptions of the stained glass, the sculpted statues that filled each portal, the very wonder of the fact that such a building looks much the same today as it did in 1260 when it was built. But I was also keen to spend some time in a shady garden pondering the various shades of blue and purple of a waterlily. In the end, Giverny was no match for Kenneth Clarke and so we boarded a train to at Montparnasse station and got off one hour later in the Medieval village of Chartres.


The Cathedral is enormous and towers over everything. It is visible from virtually everywhere in this small little town – a fact I was grateful for as it ensured I would not get lost. It’s only a short walk from the station through narrow little cobble-stoned streets, past patisseries and boutiques and the ever-present cafes. The French seem to need a cafe about once every 3 ft or something happens to their national psyche. There is a knack to sitting in a French Cafe, I have learned. One must not look too eager. One should sit in a relaxed manner, never slouching, and not lean over the table when taking ones tea or sipping a coffee. A friend is nice to have at a cafe but not required. One elbow may rest on the table while the other is engaged in smoking, texting, or sipping. I tried to do all these things correctly while sitting at a cafe but I’m pretty sure I didn’t pull it off. The look of complete disdain I was given by the server was my first clue. I had attempted to order a cup of peppermint tea. “Je voudrais un tasse de the menthe” I said, reasonably pleased with myself. Silence, a brief flicker of impatience, and then a shrug. “The du menthe” I said again. She snatched the menu and stalked off only to return a few minutes later with a teapot of hot water and a earl grey tea bag. I grabbed another menu, opened it to the tea section and pointed to the word ‘menthe’. ‘D’accord?’ I asked in a semi-polite, semi-irritated tone. ‘Menthe?” she said, scornfully, in exactly the same way as I had said it. ‘OUI, Menthe!” I said, getting ticked off now. How hard was this? Was I dealing with some sort of idiot savant? Just get me a frickin’ peppermint tea and be done with it. And by the way I don’t like your hair either. She sighed audibly, took the offending Earl Grey tea bag and flounced back to the kitchen reappearing with a peppermint tea bag in hand. ‘Ce n’est pas difficil, le the du menthe” I muttered. She glared at me, then stomped off again. I’m sure my french, or lack thereof, is terrible but it hardly garnered such a sneer. Anyway I’m over it now. Really.

And so we spent an enjoyable couple of hours wondering the cathedral and town. Once again I could see Zoe glaze over after about .34 of a second as I started in on the virtue of the flying buttress or the joy of bas-relief. Jacob, however, was taken with the whole place and spent most of the time looking at the windows through a pair of binoculars. He has since declared this day as one of his favourites. Kenneth Clarke would be thrilled!DSC04054 DSC04027

We made it back into Paris in time for dinner and then somehow, ended up at the Fair for a last pass on the rides. One of the rides we enjoyed watching the most was a huge set of posts that angle up 100feet into the sky like a huge V. A couple of enormous bungee cords descend from the tips and come down to attach themselves to a round semi-open cage with two seats in it. The two brave souls are strapped in, the cage is attached to its post, the bungees tighten and then someone presses a button and the cage is released. It shoots up in the air at alarming speed and then hurtles back down as far as the bungees allow, and then bounces back up again etc etc  you get the picture.The first time I saw this I was horrified. I’ll try and post the video. The screaming you hear is me, not the people in the cage. I much preferred the bungee trampolines.

We made it back to the hotel at 11pm (again – how does this happen?) and slept like logs.

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1 comment:

  1. Thought you might be interested to know that a new study annoints the French as the world's most obnoxious tourists, primarily due to arrogance, though most commentators seem to think that the Brits should permanently wear that crown.
    Regarding your waitress, neurologist Steven Pinker says being unpleasant is one of the few options open for losers to maintain their identity.
    Meanwhile carry on whizzing through air upside down. It's a mad world and this is as good a choice as any other!

    I love the Monty Python picture at the top of this post, Graham Chapman on the left I think, though looks a bit pregnant. Did you ever find out what happens when he pushes that button on his gut?