Monday, June 29, 2015

Paris Day 2– In Which the Louvre is an Asshole, Sainte Chappelle Makes up for it, and we Picnic by the Seine.

To say the girls (and my mum and I, also) were excited about our time in Paris would be an understatement. They were so excited that I had very little trouble waking them up on Saturday morning even though we had had a late night. Mostly, we were excited about our first breakfast in Paris: a basket of freshly baked croissant and pastries, homemade plum and raspberry jam, fresh fruit, hot tea, coffee or chocolate, and fresh orange juice. The best part is possibly that all this is served by Madame, who rattles away in French stopping frequently to say “n’est pas?” and then carrying on again. She is lovely.

We were soon out the door and on the streets. Or hotel is in the 7th Arrondissment and very near the Church of the Madeleine, an imposing Roman Catholic church built to the glory of war and soldiers, ironically. It is quite lovely to go in and also a refuge from the heat, which was already into the high 20’s by 10am.
There are some great signs and translations around Paris, or mistranslations as the case may be. This one almost gets it right, but not quite.
They do love their flowers here. The steps to the church were covered in planter boxes filled with bedding plants.
And around the corner was one of Paris’ ubiquitous flower markets. Every single bouquet was gorgeous.
I basically wanted them all. That last bunch is for you.
We walked up to the Opera House, as in Phantom of the Opera, partly because I was intrigued and partly because it was in the way. Turn a corner here and there’s some imposing structure between were you are and where you would like to be, and getting around it isn’t always that easy. The Opera House is actually very impressive and even has a few Horse-Messes jut to fit in with the rest of Paris. We were actually looking for our hop-on hop-off bus stop which eluded us for some time, but was eventually located, only to discover that I had left the tickets on my bed. So I burned a few more calories to retrieve them and off we went. Sometimes the running commentary is terrible on these buses and sometimes it is great - this one was excellent, full of juicy gossip about various politicians and their mistresses, ancient history, modern history, and a few gruesome facts thrown in for fun.
I had been trying to avoid going to the Louvre as I find it overwhelmingly overwhelming, but it was interesting to see how quickly I was voted down in this particular circumstance. Instead of just blindly going along with whatever I say, as has been the case, everyone spoke up and the Musee D’Orsay was out, and the Louvre in.
I should just say at this point that all those people who had taken over the Tower of London when we were there had now arrived in Paris and most of them were in the Entrance square to the museum. I don’t know if you have been there or not but there is a large glass pyramid which sits in the square, and is the subject of some controversy, not just because some people think it might possibly be very ugly and out of place. An original publicity brochure for the pyramid claimed it had 666 glass panels. Not the best PR move ever, as the official word now is that it has slightly more than that. Either way, the devil is at work in the square, laughing at everyone standing in the burning sun for hours at a time just to get in. I did stand there for a few minutes until a vague memory of an alternate underground entry came to mind. I wasn’t sure if I was a) making this up or b) recalling something fictional from The Da Vinci Code but either way I wasn’t going to stand in this line with these other 6436 people ahead of me. I asked a surly looking security guard who told me that I was indeed right and to go to an underground shopping mall just around the corner and use the entrance there. Why everyone doesn’t do this is beyond me, but anyway, I am glad they don’t as the line was only a few minutes long and we were in, minus the heatstroke that everyone else upstairs was dealing with.
Unfortunately, that is where our good fortunes ended and the swirling vortex of pre-history, objet d’art, and Old Masters and God knows what else sucked us in and didn’t let us go until we were basically rocking back and forth in a corner somewhere reciting historical dates and matching artists with their famous works. After spending far too long in the medieval section somewhere in the basement where one must march along a boardwalk with everyone else, their crying children, their confused elderly aunt, and the entire contents of twelve tour buses from China, all of whom have selfie sticks, we ended up in the Egyptian section. We had heard there was a mummy and so the search was on. It was again unfortunate that we had to share the space with another twelve tour bus loads of tourists from one of the Stans and all of whom, it seemed, had last bathed in 1963.
We did find the mummy, and it was suitably impressive.

Now here is an example of someone who would benefit from the use of overnight moisturizing gloves. Just saying.
But the bandage wrapping pattern on the head is very good. Well done, Osiris, or whatever your name was.
There’s a lot of this sort of thing there, like this dude, who reminds of someone but I don’t know who, and also this guy.
This selfie was taken in the days before the Egyptians had learned to turn their heads forward.
I am also convinced that there is a control booth somewhere in the building from which  they can change the direction of the Sortie (exit) signs on the wall and then laugh hysterically while watching people trying to get out. They would have been rolling on the floor in stitches watching us. This way and then that way we turned, following this sign and then that one, down this flight of stairs, up that one. It was ridiculous. We also kept ending up back at the Medieval Bargain Basement which was annoying as it was packed with other people who had also ended up there and whose lives had since lost all meaning and were reduced to trudging back and forth along the boardwalk getting in each other’s way.
After having fought the crowds for nearly two hours just to see a few VOD items, we were all feeling completely frazzled, and hungry. Line-ups for food were miles long everywhere you looked so I was happy to find a cafe up on the third floor where the queue was only 15 minutes long. We waited for our table, gratefully sat down and opened the menu, and then quickly got up and left after seeing that the cheapest item on the menu was cold tomato soup for 15 euros. Sandwiches started at 24 euros. The woman must have been surprised when she came back with our water to an empty table. Or maybe not.
Another battle with the crowds and we ended up in what was basically the Louvre version of the BC ferries cafe. Zoe was hangry, my mum was exhausted and I was planning my conversation with the Louvre:
Me: Hey Louvre, some places limit the number of people who can come in at any one time. Ever thought of that? That way, we might all actually be able to see the art ourselves instead of having to look into someone else’s phone at the end of their selfie stick just to catch a reflection…
Louvre: Ooo are you?
Me: I am a visitor here. Or I was.
Louvre: Why are you wearing ze running shoe?
Me: What does that have to do with anything?
Louvre: Here in Paris, we do not wear ze running shoe unless we are going to la gymnase.
Me: ok fine whatever, Louvre, can you answer my question?
Louvre (rolling eyes): Eeet eees not ze problem of myself eef you cannot see ze items. Come earlier or maybe don’t come at all.
Me: Really? It’s not your problem? Whose problem is it then?
Louvre: Also, in Paris, we do not wear ze… how do you say…jogging pantalons.
Me: These are leggings, not jogging pants. And it’s a good thing I am wearing them as I have basically been kickboxing my way through this place.
Louvre: Do not touch the Venus do Milo
Me: Hahahah very funny, Louvre. If you think I could actually get anywhere the near the Venus de Milo…Have you even seen her lately?
Louvre: Well, not exactly. But I have seen her of course I have. I am The LOUVRE. THE LOUVRE! THE ALMIGHTY POWERFUL LOUVRE.
Me: No that’s the Wizard of Oz.
Louvre: Oh right. Sorry about zat.
Me: Just don’t be such an asshole, ok, Louvre??
Louvre: I am sorry eet ees just that it is not the same as eet used to be. Back when I was younger people could move around with out ze problem. Now eet ees so busy I cannot hear myself theenk. (Getting louder now) and the Mona Lisa! She is harassed all day by everyone! And now, she must live behind the glass window, like a mannequin in ze shop window!! EET EES TERRIBLE! And I theenk she ees getting smaller and smaller! I don’t know what to do!
Me: Ok, ok, Louvre, calm down. Sorry to have upset you. I am going to leave now, OK? Bye, Louvre! Here’s a Kleenex.
Louvre: Ok thank you. You are too kind. (blows nose). Please come back  one day, maybe at 2am on a Sunday in November. I will let you in. Ok? (blows nose again).
Me: Yep, sure thing. Take care now.
Back at the lunch table,  Zoe was at risk of slashing a priceless work of art and Terra was practically begging me to leave as soon as possible so there was nothing for it but to hit the gift shop.
I will just say here that it is entirely possible to experience all the highlights of the Louvre, in the gift shop, and may be the better way to go as they have them all in one convenient place, scaled down, and sometimes in multiple colours:
I was also surprised to see that they had moved the Mona Lisa to the gift shop. Although I don’t remember this line of Japanese script being on it before. Weird.
I thought I saw her get up and stretch her legs, too.
It was at this point that I realized there was smear of glue or sunscreen or something else  across the lens on my phone, which would account for the haze on all my photos. Things were much improved after I cleaned it off.
After escaping the clutches of the Louvre, we thought we would try our luck at getting within 100 metres of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Nope. The line-up wrapped all around the square so we took some pictures of the outside, I told everyone that it was cathedral-like inside, and we went to find a cafe instead. Fortified with some people-watching and cold drinks, our next stop was the stunning Sainte Chappelle. I was not going to miss this one so I made everyone stand in line for about 30 minutes, and it was worth it:
I highly recommend visiting this 13th Century chapel. It’s amazing.
Dinner that night was a picnic by the Seine. We are pretty sure all the tourists on the Bateaux-Mouches thought we were locals, although Zoe and Terra certainly looked the part.
We weren’t done yet.
Every year this fair sets up in the Jardin de Tuileries next to the Louvre. We went last time were here and Zoe has been looking forward to coming back ever since.
This year they had a new ride, which makes the Salt and Pepper Shaker look like Kindergarten.
These pictures don’t really do it justice but you get the idea. I did have a hard time watching, but they loved it. Freaks.
They also subjected themselves to the bungee ball catapult from hell but I will let them tell you about that. There’s a video that I can’t post (thanks again, Google) but I will later. You won’t want to miss that, trust me.
I finally convinced everyone we should go home, but not before another cold drink at a cafe, where we were serenaded by a group of minstrels.
It was a great end to a fabulous day.
More tomorrow.
Yanks for weeding,

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