rebcake: Dawn: sqeeeeeee (btvs dawneeeee)
[personal profile] rebcake
I spent most of last month Over There, and it was lovely. That's the short version.

The longer version starts out with McDiva and I going off to Paris for a week and doing a bunch of things. This was my first time back in 20+ years, and her first trip to Europe. Every time I apologized in advance for dragging her all over the place, she just said, "the whole point of going is to see stuff, right?" Right!!

Sunday: We were very good little tourists and started our fun right away. We were a little late getting into town from the airport, and missed the afternoon concert she wanted to see at the Philharmonie in La Villette. But she indulged me by attending a late afternoon organ recital at Saint-Eustache, which is a marvelous church near Les Halles with an 8,000 pipe organ, the largest organ in all of France!* It was fantastic. Those low notes really made me pray the masonry was well-cemented. There is also an interesting rose window containing a multitude of coffins and a side altar with an entirely unexpected altarpiece by Keith Haring. We went back a few days later and discovered a very nice Jeanne D'Arc sculpture. It's packed with goodies, if you're wanting to see a gothic cathedral and don't want the fuss of Notre Dame. From there we headed to our apartment in the Marais via rue Montorgueil, a lovely pedestrian area where we saw a long-aproned waiter dashing by with a huge armload of baguettes. At that point, you've got to admit that you are nowhere but Paris. Ahhhhh.

*The greatest _____ in all of France! became a running joke, as she's read "Cyrano" and, well, you know. It's funny, even when it's true.

Monday: After some excellent pastries and coffee — I still can't believe we found the best neighborhood croissants on our first try — we went to Musée National du Moyen Âge, formerly Musée de Cluny, mostly to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. McDiva is not much of a museum-goer, but she really got into those tapestries. As she should as they are amazing. This one, called The Tournament, is also a lot of fun:



All the young women in the tapestry are doing excellent eyerolls in response to the swains' blandishments. Evidence that nothing has changed between the sexes since the 15th century?

It was raining so we ducked into Saint-Severín and while it's no Saint-Eustache, the organ just happened to be playing at that moment. We wandered through the restaurant row in the Latin Quarter, which is semi-entertaining, but had lunch on the other side of Île de la Cité at a quiet place called Trente 5 Rivoli. Delicious and relaxing. The waiter was very nice, and we ran into him again at another restaurant a few days later. He very much enjoyed our excitement over the Berthillon ice cream (red peach! raspberry!). I'm ashamed to say I'd never tried it when I was in Paris before, even though everybody said it was required. I won't make that mistake again.

We had a little time to kill before meeting up with [personal profile] shapinglight, so we went to the Conciergerie and tried to imagine Marie Antoinette's last days. It takes a little work, truthfully. Ah well. We walked along the Seine, through a courtyard of the Louvre where they were putting up or taking down some sort of splendid temporary structure for Fashion Week. By the time we got to the meeting place, it was pelting down like it was England or something, and we all got soaked through while waiting for a cab during rush hour. Isn't it always the way? But! Parisian rain! And rain is sort of a novelty to us Californians, these days, anyway. After we all dried off and made a general plan for the next day, we went out to get dinner in the neighborhood, with mixed results. McDiva thought SL and I were "so cute, nerding out about Buffy".

Tuesday: We walked around the Marais, which got pretty tony within a block or so of our apartment. We sprinted through the Musée Picasso, and managed to find some things that interested us without overtaxing the museum averse McDiva. Then we discovered the Musée Cognacq-Jay around the corner which has a delightful collection of small paintings and objets d'art and is free! Then we blew it all by trying to tackle the Carnavalet Museum, which might be free, money-wise, but is a huge investment of time. It's the museum dedicated to the history of Paris, which is deep, rich, and confusing. At some point, we had a nice lunch at a Thai place, and headed through Place des Voges on our way to Place Bastille and points beyond. We had promised no more museums to McDiva and hit a few of the shops she had on her list, and walked along a Parisian version of the Highline, called La Coulée Verte. Pretty views, and the rats frolicking in the trash receptacles were memorable. Very Ratatouille.

The other shopping spots we had in mind were under construction, alas, so after a fortifing café stop we took a bus back to the center. We visited the Fashion Week displays at Paris Rendez-Vous in Hôtel de Ville, wandered around Île de la Cité for awhile before settling on a visit to Sainte Chapelle. I do not like what they have done with the downstairs. It used to be womb-like and intimate and is now stuffed with souvenir stands and entirely open to a cement courtyard on one end. But the reveal when you head upstairs...well, it's still breathtaking. SL had never been, and her reaction was very gratifying. McDiva thought it was "nice". Pfft. Understatement, although it was after a very long day of looking at very nice things. After that, it was ice cream and a cab home. At which point McDiva and I completely passed out for two hours. Delayed jet lag, I guess.

Wednesday: I had so many things planned for today, but we went to Musée d'Orsay, and it's an all-day affair. Especially if you have lunch in the excellent and beautiful restaurant there. The art nouveau rooms pleased everyone, including McDiva. There is so much art, and virtually none of it was what I remembered seeing there before. It's a little overwhelming. Toward the end we discovered they were having a special exhibition called Splendour and Misery, Pictures of Prostitution. By that point, McDiva had given up and decided to lounge in the sculpture gallery while SL and I hurried through one. last. thing. Hurrying was not an option, as it was packed. Also, it was a very complete exhibition. There were even areas curtained off and labelled as being for patrons over the age of 18. As only men seemed to be going into the curtained areas, we abstained. The whole thing was rather too thought provoking and depressing at times. The quality of the work was top notch, though. And there was this little treat: the "love seat" of Edward VII. Hee. (Turns out Dear Old Dad stumbled across this item with my little sister 30-years back, and was throughly mortified.)

We rescued McDiva and went off to our appointment at the Catacombes. They just started accepting reservations rather than making everyone stand in line for hours, so I had done that. Down we went, into the empire of the dead. 6 million former Parisian's bones, all stacked up, with various poems and deep thoughts on plaques throughout so you take it all seriously. Turns out, it's not as depressing as prostitution.



Also, it's thirsty work, so after taking the loooong flight of stairs out of there — and noting the defibrillator at the top — we headed for happy hour at the local café. The waiter was flirtsome and we were nicely mellow as we headed off for our nearby dinner reservations.

Dinner was fantastic. Le Jeroboam was casual, cool, and the food was gorgeous and delicious. It was the best meal we had in Paris, although the Orsay is pretty great. I don't usually take food pictures, but this might have been the time to make an exception. Oh well. It was about as far off the tourist-beaten path as we ever got, and I'm so happy we went. Afterward, we weren't sure where to find the nearest taxi stand, so I approached some handsome young men outside the restaurant to ask. They sprang into action, literally chasing down a cab for us. It was all very thrilling. *fans self*

We headed for the Eiffel Tower, hoping to see the light show. I like that building. Not enough to wait in a horrendous line to go up it, but just to watch from below and afar. All that steel lattice work. It's a worthy landmark, Paris. You may keep it.

Thursday: SL had to head for the airport noonish, so we enjoyed a pastry run with her and walked through rue Montorgueil and surrounding areas so she could take in a last bit of Paris. All went well — until she got to the airport, though that's her story to tell. McDiva found a little shop to buy Tintin-themed gifts for her friends and then we went to the Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, which has a fashion wing. This is the kind of museum that McDiva likes. The South Korean fashion exhibit was fantastic. The tiny French schoolchildren there for the Children's Literature exhibit were adorable. The Art Nouveau would have been splendid if we hadn't been at the D'Orsay the day before, but all in all it was pretty cool. I'd definitely go back.

We walked over to the Pompidou Center, the Stravinsky Fountain, the Anne Frank Garden, and the Musée de la Poupée (Doll Museum). Guess who I found there?



We had what should have been a very good dinner near our place, except that most of the patrons were Americans even more clueless than we were and I felt sorry for the poor waiter. I'd also managed to catch a cold.

Friday: We slept until noon, at which point I went out to find pho, spicy Thai curry and decongestants. I'd have loved to stay in, but it was our next-to-last-day, and we'd planned to go to Versailles. At the RER station, they announced that the Chateau was closed. Strike. Oh well. There is plenty to look at no matter where you find yourself. We walked through the Tuilleries Gardens, had tea at Angelina, and strolled back to our apartment to have leftover pho and do laundry.

Saturday: Flea Market Day! McDiva had spied the Puces when we came in a week earlier, and I'd been promising her that we'd go. My cold was much better, and we both found some treasures, so I'd call it a success. Then we headed over to Montmartre to check out the Grape Festival. It was very colorful, with funny little marching bands, and girls in adorable costumes, but I think next time I'll try the neighborhood when it's less crowded. Plus, tired, yo!

Sunday: We managed to get all our stuff together, hail a cab in the dark, drop the keys and still make it to our shuttle by 8 AM. The airport was a bit of a zoo. Mainly because there was a baggage strike. Boo. They kept saying "technical problems" but all the terrified management types struggling to find places for the mountain of baggage were a dead giveaway. As we boarded our flight to Rome, we were informed that NONE of the checked bags would be on the flight. Bon voyage!
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