Saturday, April 05, 2008

Paree Is for You and Me--Day Two

In our effort to hit all the key Paris spots quickly, just in case the world implodes (and it almost does) during our trip or something, we go for the top of the art list, the Louvre, for our first full day. But first we work on the pastry-coffee combo that is one of the reasons to go to France. Thanks to Pudlo Paris we try Pain d'Epis for the pastry portion of the day's program, and while what we get is fine, they don't give us what we ask for despite pointing and my piss-poor French. Still, eating a pastry by the Ecole Militaire while staring up at the Eiffel Tower--there are worse ways to start your day. Then we go for caffe creme at what will become a regular morning haunt, La Terrasse. And we buy our Metro tickets and are off to the Louvre, which I'm pretty sure means "too much" in French. There's only so much great art anyone can come come close to , well, when I'm tempted to say the word "process" you should already see the problem.

As you might know, the museum kicks off with a central lobby under a glass I.M. Pei pyramid...

And then everyone heads off to a wing. We opted for the wing without arms, or I mean the wing with the statue without arms, although we learned even in ancient days people wore low rise pants...

And from the front, the punk rocker in me could only think about Television, and falling into the arms of you know who....
She's even more beautiful in person, by the way. The Mona Lisa ain't bad, neither, but the crowd is huge, the painting is small, and when you're 6'3" (after all, you all are me, right?), the idea of fighting to the front of the narrowed queue by the painting seems sort of mean. But then you can go on to see the Raft of the Medusa, and learn Shane McGowan isn't in the orginal, and all sorts of other stuff you might remember from your intro art classes and bull sessions when you argued about art like you knew something. Here we see some poor soul who doesn't realize he could just buy a poster of this painting at the gift shop....


After a full morning of art, it was time for food, drink, and an excuse to sit for an hour or so. So we headed out from the museum to Le Rubis, a real Paris institution. The couple at the table next to us offered to translate while we tried to order, taken by our ability to find a guidebook that found this off-the-map place. For here we found real food by folks from Auvergne, as Amy had a house-made sausage with lentils and I had choux farci, a stuffed cabbage (be still my Slovak beating heart), but better than anything from my heritage. For this one seemed to be wrapped in more a kale or chard (better than cabbage, that is) stuffed with a meat/rice combo that still tasted fresh and not over-boiled. And the few spoons of broth, and well cooked carrots. Some peasants knew how to eat. We also enjoyed, in the joy sense, glasses of Cote du Rhone, as the bistro is known for its wine. The woman running the place/waitress didn't bother to show us what we were drinking, but our palettes knew what was good without visual cues.

Thus fortified we head back to the Louvre, as we'd miss a few centuries of artistic brilliance. Even outside the building, once a royal palace, there's fantastic stuff, like the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel--another spectacular thing about that short guy the Parisians seem so fixated on....

This time inside we saw more of the greatest hits of Western Culture, including the room with the king's jewels, which are so big, you have to assume they're fake. But even better in the same room are magical, miniature snuff boxes, about as ornate as 1" by 2" can get. More so than anywhere else in this cornucopia of artistic riches, these boxes make you wonder at humans and our desire to overdo, to scrabble for the exquisite at any cost, to revel in all this useless beauty.

Like, perhaps, a chair for three...


We finally surrender to Western Civilization's Greatest Hits and decide it's time to leave. Heading a bit west and north we are in Les Halles, where we check out St. Eustache (if you don't see a church a day in Paris they revoke your passport), and learn there'll be a free organ concert on Sunday. We also just wander around, seeing spring if not feeling it (althought today is far from the coldest day--see us in a week or so atop Notre Dame)....


One guidebook suggests this is a good neighborhood for beer bars, so we hunt for Au Trappiste, but if you go the wrong way on rue St. Denis, not realizing street numbers re-start when you imperceptively slip from arrondisement to arrondisement, you see a lot of sex shops and leather stores. Instead, head towards place du Chatelet and you're almost there in a bar with Belgian beers a pression. It's a fine place to sit. And drink.

But, it's our first real day in Paris, so we don't sit for long (plus we drink fast--glug glug glug). Instead we hike up and into the Marais, mostly window shopping but never stopping to buy, and then decide it is dinner time, so we go to one of the city's great brasseries Zimmer. We learn if you don't have a reservation, you get a table but not in the main--incredibly decorated--room. Our porch is still charming, but also, still a porch (enclosed, yes). Still pretty full from lunch, we try to eat light, soAmy has a salad with duck confit, I have one with foie gras. Both are perfectly pleasing. And then for dessert we share ice cream, as Zimmer wisely sereves Berthillon the essence fo creaminess where the chocolate is THE chocolate ice cream. We have stared into the Platonic ideal.

After dinner we walk a bit more, as we are full and need activity and are toursits and need to tour. One of the last sites we see is the Hotel de Ville, i.e. Paris's city hall. It probably beats yours, don't try fighting it, especially just post-sunset...

The Metro took us back to the Hotel Muguet and we slept the sleep of the artistically sated.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Cookie Jill said...

More Food! More Food!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Smitty said...

Between the food and the art, I may explode if I ever get the chance to visit.

Did you find some of the "greatest hits" sorta...overrated? Because honestly, though I appreciate them for their impact on Western culture and perception, I find some of the "classics" kinda meh. It becomes mroe about the experience of seeing it than actually "appreciating" it in the way art is, you know, appreciated.

6:58 AM  
Blogger George said...

Smitty, I'm going to get to that issue in a few entries, but yeah, between how overwhelming having so much great stuff can be and the sense not every masterwork particularly connects with you personally, you're right.

1:53 PM  

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