Impression: France - The Paris Portion

Jul 26th, 2011, 03:09 PM
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Now I get it Kerouac! Who knew such distinctions in Parisians even applies to Central vs. Outer Parisians, but it does explain why Paris does seem to be such a "late" city.

Love the report and I love that salted butter caramel ice cream at Bertillon...pure paradise!

I feel your pain...we got lost a few times while holding a map...sometimes I don't think a compass would help! Great city to be lost in when it isn't raining.
denisea is offline  
Jul 26th, 2011, 04:15 PM
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bardo1 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2011, 06:14 PM
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Hah, Kerouac. I promise that we will explore more outside the center next time 'round and try to meet a few "real Parisians." About the roast chicken, Phil recalls that we spent at least 12€ -- but he was always torturing himself by mentally calculating the exchange rate as we went along, so he might be remembering the figure in dollars.
sap is offline  
Jul 26th, 2011, 07:31 PM
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Enjoying vicariously your Paris visit! It whets my appetite until I return there in the fall. Last fall, Paul was open early, as our flight arrived in Paris at 6:00 am and we couldn't check in to our apartment until around 11:00 am. We camped in Paul for hours and drank gallons of coffee and ate too many croissants passing the time. Oh wait -- there is no such thing as too many croissants.
theflock is offline  
Jul 26th, 2011, 07:46 PM
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Loving this report, especially with memories of DH pulling his "hidden" money out in the middle of a crowd!, can't wait for more!!
taconictraveler is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 12:26 AM
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Congratulate Joe on his excellent photographic skills!
avalon is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 02:11 AM
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Loving your report, Sap. Burst into laughter a few times in Day One. The "rolling his eyes" ticket clerk--oh so familiar!!!(All that was missing was a phony smling singing"Bonne journee!!" from him after looking down his nose to you.)The recognition of aplace...from Google Maps!! LOL!!

Glad your second day went better. Some sleep , and no rain, can make all the difference!!

TWK, i had the same experience on the first roundabout leaving the Toulouse airport--round and round and round--on the way to the Dordogne. It was like that scene with Chevy Chase in "Euroepan Vacation" ...but it wasnt so funny when i was the driver!!! Oh how we (me and daughter) grew to dread the female GPS navigator directing us "au rond point"!!
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 02:28 AM
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What a lovely start to your report, I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
cathies is online now  
Jul 27th, 2011, 06:21 AM
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Dear Kerouac could you please recommend some areas outside of the centre to stay in. I would expect hotels tarifs are a little lower in these areas too. Thank you.
pantsabunch is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 08:47 AM
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Thursday, 6/9/11

I woke up a' minuit with the sound of a French reveler singing in the cafe downstairs while his friends clapped encouragingly. There had been a lot of laughter and chatter down on the Rue St. Andre des Arts that Wednesday night. In the middle of the night. In the middle of the week. It was always that way, but I didn't mind. Heels clicked in rhythmic patterns up and down the cobblestones for hours. The strollers weaved in and out among each other like colorful ribbons floating on the darkened street, alone with their head down, or leaning into each other, kissing. Paris doesn't sleep - - at least not until morning when the people disappear like mice into the woodwork and the green men come to wash away their footprints.

When I, too, couldn't sleep that week, I would wander in the dark from room to room, peeking out the windows from different corners of the apartment onto each little night scene: The theatre crowd in a steady, babbling flow under the living room window; the brunette reading her book on a pile of red cushions in the house opposite our bath, Across from the kitchen, a girl in a white chemise leaned out, elbows on the sill, as she looked down into our mutual courtyard and smoked a cigarette. Accompanied by the chorus of disembodied voices rising up from the cafes below, the unshuttered, uncurtained frames revealed vignettes of activity on multilevel backlit stage sets. I smiled when I remembered how Lebovitz had described this lack of concern for privacy, how one could witness the drama of relationships and lives unfolding through open windows. This is Paris, unabashedly lifting and swinging her skirt. Who needs the Moulin Rouge? The entire city is a show.

And I liked the way I could choose to watch and listen, or close my eyes, stick in the ear plugs and shut it all out -- except the motorcycles, which were louder than chainsaws roaring down the street day and night.

The Louvre was wonderful, but overwhelming of course. It doesn't take long before the depth and breadth of its treasures simply short circuits the senses. My plan was to leave by noon before we became walking shells, staring at master works with unseeing eyes and mouths hanging open. I'm not quite sure we made it out in time.

The first highlight was arriving early enough to beat the lines and sidle up to the Mona Lisa before the crowds -- or at least up to the rope as she is cordoned off and armed with a guard. I had seriously thought about skipping this celebrity viewing, but Joe insisted that it mattered to him. There were less than a handful of people paying homage to the petite lady when we arrived. (Later that morning, we passed through the room again and the crowds were so deep that the people in back had to wait to move forward before they could get so much as a glimpse.) I mentally curtsied to her as she serenely, almost smugly stared me down. I thought, "Forget the wry smile, it's all in those eyes." Joe apparently enjoyed little Mona more than we did. He said that seeing her was a highlight of the trip because now he could tell everyone back home that he had done so. (That's Joe.) Frankly, we like many of da Vinci's other works much more and were surprised to find The Virgin of the Rocks practically unnoticed in the Grand Galerie, completely exposed and unguarded.

We didn't quite find everything we were looking for at the Louvre and got lost trying to find works on my "must see" list, despite my detailed turn-by-turn notes. We passed the Victory of Samothrace so many times it became an inside joke. At some point, I just gave up entirely and decided to enjoy what was in front of my face instead of staring down at my map.

In my mind, the other high points which rang bells through the growing brain fog that morning include the Galerie Daru (Borghese Gladiator), Michelangelo Gallery (Slaves), Salle Mollien (Raft of the Medusa), Salle Daru ( three of my favorite David masterpieces), the Rotonde de Mars and Cour Marly, of course. In fact, all of the countless sculptures were beautiful and impressive. Phil liked them even more than the paintings, with perhaps the Michelangelo Gallery being his favorite room.

After about four hours and lunch at the Mollien Cafe, we left enthralled and humbled, awed to the point of numbness. Comparing notes, Joe and I liked the museum more than Phil, who felt it was really too, too much. This truly surprised me and I realized that he must have short-circuited. The husband I know is more than a passing fan of art and knows quite a bit about many of the major works.

Our next stop was Angelina. The infamous chocolate chaud was definitely wonderful, but so rich that it made Joe slightly sick (especially since it was paired with a Napoleon). Apparently, cocoa as thick as mud after a morning of non-pixelated sensory assault is more than a teenager can handle in one day.

We angled up to La Madeline, which I liked more than my boys. Phil was running out of steam, Joe's stomach was giving him grief and neither of them wanted to stop at any of the gourmet stores in the square. Not that, as the sole female in the group, I had ever counted on actually shopping-shopping; but my vin fan even turned down the mammoth wine shop, Lavinia, nearby.

I did rally the troops enough to swing by the Palais Royal before our walk back to the Left Bank. Phil simply hated the Opera/Bourse area that we passed through en route and I had to admit it was not my favorite part of Paris so far. He said it looked like downtown San Francisco, or the generic business district of any other random city. If you take out the rows of Baron Haussmann's creamy facades and black Mansard roofs, leaving only the heavy traffic and crowds of walking suits, I guess that could be true - but I think the Baron would take exception to the idea. I'm sure it was more pleasant in the horse-and-buggy days.

After landing at last in the Jardin du Palais Royal, we rested for a short while by the fountain next to some teenagers who looked like they were still recovering from a night on the town. I took heart in the fact that they appeared to be in worse shape than we were. Joe had a minute of fun balancing on Buren's silly striped posts in the Court of Honor and then we went home to recharge our batteries.

After a few hours recuperating at the apartment, we were all up for a boat ride to end the day on a happier vibe. And yes, the Louvre and the Seine did make rather nice bookends.

It was a quick stroll over to Isle de la Cite to get tickets at Vedettes du Pont Neuf. Our apartment really was in the best location for most of what we wanted to see that week.

While we waited for our time slot, we sat on a bench in Square Vert Galant and ate a picnic of cheese, a baguette, crepes and wine. The weather had greatly improved. There was a group of well-dressed, young student types who began to gather on the grass. Their numbers gradually grew by twos and threes, with a corresponding increase in wine bottles, until a park official came over to kick them out. It's really too bad because they were quite entertaining and it appeared to be a lovely party. Later we saw the same group from the boat, happily pique-niqueing on the quay.

The boat was certainly an edifying perspective on the Parisian scene. I felt like a kid at Disney, but couldn't decide if the ride was more like the Storybook Land Canal or Pirates of the Caribbean. If you don't count the guy blithely peeing on the quay in broad daylight and the guitarist in purple pants hauling a suitcase whom Phil dubbed Mr. Bojangles, highlights of our cruise included the leg-dangling partiers lining nearly every quay; the lonely guy leaning over the Pont des Arts smothered with love-locks; passing under the gorgeous Pont Alexandre III; peeking under the Eiffel Tower's lacy iron skirt; and the tango dancers at Jardin Tino Rossi. If I had been steering the boat, that's where I would have docked as the sun set and Paris began to hum.

NB: You'll notice that Phil only took photos of sculptures and no paintings in the Louvre. While he is an art fan, I suppose he just didn't think the canvases were the right subject. His camera is an Olympus SP-560 U2 and Joe's was a Kodak Easy Share. (I say "was" because the latter died the next week in Provence. Phil told Joe it must have committed suicide after being forced to take so many pictures of pigeons.)
sap is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 06:40 PM
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I love your style.

I had a similar experience at the Louvre, finally gave up on my attempt to follow a plan and tried to appreciate the things that were right in front of me. Amazingly, the things I saw and the things you saw had absolutely no overlap.
Nikki is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 07:32 PM
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Enjoying each installment of your trip! Everyone who goes to Paris takes photos of the same landmarks, and yet every person has a different viewpoint and, so, a different photo.
theflock is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 08:48 AM
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Thanks, Nikki and The Flock. (There’s a BoPeep joke in there somewhere.)

Nikki, I love your style, too, and so it really means something when you say that. Your trip reports were manna for me during the trip planning phase - always so very entertaining. Your descriptions of the streets, people, food, the cannibal exhibit and your adventure at the circus. Not to mention that train ride to Bethune feature the hirsute men in evening gowns. How I wish I could “run away” to Paris as often as you do; attend the theater and concerts and the classes at the College de France. (Someday I will go alone and just do that.) You are so adept at painting a picture with words. Looking forward to more from you over the next few months/ years. In the meantime, “Au revoir, madame.”

I note also that our own reporting experience is a two-headed creature. The "impression" that I was getting wasn't always what Phil was seeing behind his camera lens. He will read my report and get a fresh viewpoint and I will see his pictures and think, "I never noticed that." (Though more often, it's "How come you didn't take a picture of . . . .") Next time, I may be bring my own camera; but it is an accurate reflection of our joint endeavor from different angles.
sap is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 09:48 AM
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love your appreciation of Paris and the life always going on there (I do wear ear plugs to drown it out, but to no avail with the crotch rockets at all hours)!

look forward to more. I love the great shops around Madeline-Hediard is great for gawking and I love my Maille mustard!
denisea is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 10:44 AM
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Friday 6/10/11

Cafes, cabarets, artistic innovation and the avant garde. What can I say about the d'Orsay? Paris' great tribute to La Belle Epoque. Impressionism, pointillism, art nouveau and the fabulous, trippy Mr. Van Gogh.

Loved it.

Even better, the d'Orsay is bite-sized. Covering a timeframe just over six decades, it is an amuse-bouche compared to the Louvre's 2,000-year cultural feast. Keeping in mind that one wing was still under renovation, we were able to see every inch of the museum in a little over two hours.
We had considered walking the mile or so to the musée, which certainly would have been doable, but we decided to give our travel-shocked legs a brief respite. The RER was a quick, straight shot west from St-Michel to the d'Orsay stop. It also gave us a chance to more precisely determine which train we needed to take to Versailles the following day, confirming it was the C5 named Victor.

We arrived about 15-20 minutes before opening, but even the separate museum pass line already had a dozen or so people in queue. When we left before noon, we noticed that the regular line extended nearly to the quay.

The d'Orsay building perfectly complements the art it houses, stemming from approximately the same era and so clever in its design. Even before the former train station was built, the site had accumulated an interesting history with the palace a victim of the Commune flames, like so much of Paris.

We opted out of the special Manet exhibit, though he is one of my favorites. I was able to peek into the exhibition space as we passed by and did catch a glimpse of Olympia on the wall. (She's not one of his best IMO and is most notable for the hoopla she created by her stare.) I know that we also saw Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe and his portrait of Berthe Morisot at some point, but I don't recall whether they were out on the main floor, or visible from the exhibition door. (I believe one of Manet's best works is his portrait of Mallarme.)

On a personal level, the visit led me to learn/confirm that Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Millet are my least favorite from that era; I feel a little warmer toward Sisley, though I tend to confuse him with Pissarro; and my love for Monet is inconsistent. I am increasingly aware that Degas was more talented and versatile than I first realized. Meanwhile, Renoir, Van Gogh and Rodin remain at the top of my list. I must have stood in front of his large canvas of Bal de Moulin de la Galette for more than five minutes, though I prefer Luncheon of the Boating Party, which I think is in D.C. Ditto for the time I spent staring at Starry Night, that haunted church and the 1889 self-portrait, though my favorite Van Gogh is Dr. Gachet and his desolate expression, which was also on display.

I have always had mixed feelings about Cezanne, but am slowly learning to appreciate the diversity of his work. The same holds true for Corot, whom I am beginning to like almost as much as Degas. Artists we also enjoyed, though relatively new to us, included Vuillard, Bazille and Caillebotte. Joe thought it was pretty cool to come across a couple of live artists set up with their paints & easels, creating amazingly accurate copies of the original masterpieces.

The sculptures interspersed throughout the museum were a real treat, particularly those in the center of the ground floor. We discovered Alexander Falguiere, whose work we later admired at the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse. I also found Schoenewerk's seductive Jeune Tarentine to be luxuriously beautiful.

Leaving the Musée d'Orsay, we took the same quick train west toward Pont de l'Alma and walked down to the Rue St-Dominique in time for a nice little lunch at Les Cocottes.

Unfortunately, we emerged to a sudden, heavy downpour. What was supposed to be a relaxing stroll down Rue Cler became a mad dash. Even with an umbrella, it was so heavy that we had to stop under the eaves along Motte-Piquet to wait for a let-up. I think the Parisians must have received a month's worth of their much-needed rain in that one week we were there.

The first shower that day was quick, though, and we were able to take some pretty decent photos of the Eiffel Tower from the foot of the Ecole Militaire, cast admiring glances at the golden dome of Les Invalides as we passed and make it all the way to the Rodin Museum before the skies let loose again.

If the d'Orsay is an amuse-bouche compared to the Louvre feast, then the Rodin must be a macaron. It is, however, a luscious little cookie.

We all like Rodin, the rebel, the genius, the best sculptor since Michelangelo. Who doesn't? (Well, maybe he was a beast to poor Camille Claudel.) While we had seen many of his works at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center and that morning at the Louvre, I really wanted to see his actual home and studio. It's such a small, pleasant museum that it took only a little over an hour to visit. While Joe and I started with the house, Phil went out to the garden to take pictures. It turned out to be an excellent plan since the rain had resumed with a vengeance by the time we got back outside. Joe and I actually had fun sharing the umbrella, tiptoeing around puddles as we made a circuit of the famous works displayed throughout the pretty garden.

Highlights of the museum include the great Thinker surrounded by roses with the Eiffel Tower looking like a street lamp behind him; the tragic Burghers of Calais; the dark, creepy trio of The Shades (probably my favorite), The Man with the Broken Nose (the early result of a poverty-induced accident which Rodin treasured for its deformity); Claudel's poignant Maturity; and the room filled with Rodin's frustrated attempts to capture the enigmatic Balzac (one of the busts being better, we think, than the final shapeless bronze). We wrapped up the visit with the sculptor's unfinished, dramatic magnum opus, The Gates of Hell, which we sat to examine for some time under the umbrella while the rain created rivers flowing around the hills and valleys of the Inferno's tortured figures.

While crowding shoulder-to-shoulder with other visitors in the gift shop hoping for a break in the weather, we studied my map to figure out the fastest way straight home. My plans for gourmet shopping were foiled again. No Le Grande Epicerie, no Poilâne or Barthelemy. (Someone up there was certainly on Phil's side.) Fortunately, the Varenne Metro is quite literally in front of the Rodin and only one stop from Invalides, where the RER is just another quick hop back to St-Michel. Piece of cake. The French are geniuses when it comes to anything that makes life easier. (Except for their flimsy toilet paper, but we won't get into that.)

Later in the evening after the clouds had retreated, Phil and I decided it was a perfect time to take a walk around the neighborhood. Joe opted out so he could Skype with his friends, so the idea of pre-dinner libations was introduced. For fun, we took the alley of Rue du Jardinet/Cour de Rohan and popped out onto Cour de Commerce St-Andre at the back of the 17th century Le Procope, Voltaire's favorite cafe. Down a block on Rue Quatre-Vents, we were sorry to see that the wine bar La Cremerie was closed as that had been my idea for a little verre de vin; but just up on the corner was Gerard Mulot where we selected nine pretty little macarons which we shared later for dessert, each in a different flavor. (I think rose was my favorite.)

Then up Rue de Seine and a few steps west, we found our real prize. Le Derniere Goutte (the Last Drop) had an open door and wines available for tasting. It was founded by an American, Juan Sanchez, and features only boutique, rarely-exported French wines from independent producers. Both of the gentlemen who assisted us spoke excellent English and, after our tasting, we were taken back into their cellar area for a discussion about the little-known Alsace wines. We left the shop with three bottles -- all quite good -- and we will certainly make a point of stopping there on our next visit to town. Too bad shipping is so expensive.

Back on our beloved Rue de Buci at the corner with Rue de Seine, we stopped at the open-air verger we'd been frequenting, Cours des Halles, to pick up more fruit and veggies. Just as we were leaving, a young but weatherbeaten drunk staggered down the street like a bowlegged cowboy and started yelling at the shopkeepers. Of course, we couldn't make out a word he was sputtering in French, but we got the gist as his belligerence continued for a good 15 minutes. People began to stop and stare, but the gentleman behind the cash register who had become the focus of the tirade just laughed and threw back retorts as he elbowed his co-workers with a grin. I do wish I had understood what he said, because it caused the drunk to jerk and turn circles, suddenly speechless, as he frothed at the mouth and glared. Do you suppose he is a regular character in that colorful neighborhood?
sap is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 12:44 PM
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JeanneB is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 01:03 PM
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I love Le Dernier Goutte as well! I hope you also had a chance to go to their restaurant, Fish, which is just around the corner.

Really enjoying your report! It's like taking an afternoon excursion to Paris for me.
paris1953 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 01:09 PM
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Love d'Orsay! Also, sorry that you shopping for little luxuries is not going Poilane and the food hall at Le Bon Marche...Barthelemy is on my list for November since we will be in an apt and have a place to sit and enjoy the cheese and save a little for the next day!

We went to Gerard Mulot everyday for pain au chocolat! The pastries there are delicious and works of art. You were right by our old haunts...a lot of champagne was drunk at Le Danton!

Great shots...enjoy those macarons!
denisea is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 01:11 PM
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Very enjoyable report and photos. I loved the Eiffel with the two modern elements! More please.

(Luncheon of the Boating Party is indeed in DC at the Phillips. Some years back, sculptor Seward Johnson did a life-sized 3-D version of it and many impressionists' works including Olympia if memory serves. They were at the Corcoran and great fun. The van Gogh of his room was life-sized and much climbed upon by kids! Some are at the Grounds for Scupture in NJ now.)
TDudette is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 01:18 PM
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denisea, if your apartment is anywhere near a Gerard Mulot, they have excellent tarts and quiches for any easy dinner. Quite often, if we have significant lunch, we'll just grab something easy for dinner in the apartment before heading back out. A 3 hour lunch really makes you want to skip a big dinner!
Judy is offline  

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