Because I fly standby, I did not get on the airplane with my girlfriend. She, on the other hand, was the last one aboard and they put her in Business Class that was a very fortunate gift of long-distance comfort. I had given her all she needed to get to our rented apartment near Place de la Nation. In spite of her unfounded trepidation, she got there without incident.
NNNNNBecause there's only one flight a day, I arrived 24 hours later with pneumonia and fever raging through my body. When I appeared at the door, around 18:00, she all but fainted at the horrible apparition I apparently was. I bathed, we went out for dinner then returned home for an uneventful evening.
NNNNNThe Château and Gardens of VERSAILLES, is a lovely Louis XIV palace that had been the hunting lodge of Louis XIII. I highly recommend seeing it before visiting the Louvre because, by comparison, lovely as it is, it ain't much. I said “by comparison”! Its architectural details are wonderful and quite lovely. The furnished rooms are spectacular. It was not difficult for me to blot out the throngs in the Hall of Mirrors to see gloriously begown'd and periwinkled couples Waltzing (even though the room precedes the Waltz's arrival in France) the length of the enormous room.
That evening we went to the SLOW-CLUB (130 rue Rivoli) to dance. We descended a flight of stone steps to get to the ticket booth and then down another flight of stone steps to arrive at a large, low-ceiling'd, cellar. The several rooms are
|separated by stone
arches. One room has a bar, a few small tables, and some dance
space; another a small platform for musicians and, of course, dance
space; yet another with some tables and dance space and perhaps more.
The playlist was the familiar classics of US Blues, Rock 'n' Roll,
and pop. They were fine but not exceptional in that famous club where
the greats of the post-war jazz world have performed.
NNNNNEach of us danced with several others but they were doing their own dance, Rock and Roll, that, although similar to, is different from any of the dances that we do.
NNNNNNear the end of the evening we danced to a song with several breaks. We had the good luck to hit them all, each differently. The French dance through the breaks; their wide eyes and dropt jaws indicated that they'd never seen a dance such as they were witnessing. It was perhaps the best dance my girlfriend and I had ever done in spite of my fever and pneumonia and her being so tired from the day's activities.
The next day we walked pretty-much the length of rue St. Germaine, window shopping, occasionally entering a shop, and just plain admiring whatever it was that we saw including some very formally dressed military types hanging around l'Assem- blée National. Crossed Pont de la Concorde to the enormous Place with the Arc de Triomphe looming in the near distance. In spite of rumors to the contrary, l'ORANGERIE was closed and will remain so for the rest of the year.
May 9-23, 2000 TWO WEEKS IN PARIS Screen 2 of 5
[T-shirt: Baroque – adv. When you're out of Monet.]NNNNN
Sent the night at home because of the weakness caused by my body's battle with the bugs and being “too hot to touch” explaining her sleeping on the far side of the bed.
NNNNNHad we known it was a Sunday, we'd've not climbed up to the Basilique du SACRÉ-COEUR de Montmartre running into throngs of Roman Catholics and tourists. The unique exterior was brilliant against the bright blue background of the very warm sky. The interior was closed to the public thus explaining why the ceremony we “attended” was celebrated outdoors from a temporary platform constructed over the grand stairway.
NNNNNOn the way down the MONTMARTRE, we stopped for a bite on rue Lepic (we have a restaurant so named here) and then strolled it to rue Caulaincourt to Boulevard de Clichy and its places Clichy, Blanche, and Pigalle turning into Boulevard Rochechouart. Of course we passed the MOULIN ROUGE.
NNNNNI think it was at Place Pigalle that we found one of the three public water fountains we encountered in Paris. My girlfriend is heavily addicted to water else I'd've not noticed. I did resent, however, having to pay a dollar a glass for water to drink. In 1872, the British Richard wallace gave a hundred
|such fountains to Paris. Have 97 of
them disappeared? Or did we just not notice them? Also missing are the
pissoirs that, my last visit, seemed to be everywhere.
After a long nap, we wandered around some more getting to the POMPIDOU CENTER around Midnight and settling into a nearby res- taurant for dinner about an hour later. Two tables away were two English girls one of whom had ordered the frequently-available Steak Tartare. It was all we could do to keep from guffawing as she kept sending it back complaining that it was “too rare”.
Paid our first visit to MUSÉE du LOUVRE for a painfully brief four hours. Although I'd paid a brief visit the first time I was in Paris, I was again absolutely overwhelmed with the palace's magnificence and grandeur. Of course we went to see the highlights of Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and La Giaconda and glimpsed hundreds, if not thousands, of paintings. We tried to restrict ourselves to just looking at the palace and sculptures. It was very difficult. I was surprised that I.M. Pei's pyramid did not offend me. In fact, I liked it.
NNNNNOur second visit was a more leisurely, but still too short, one of perhaps six hours during which we were able to pause before the works that most insistently demanded our attention.
Screen 3 of 5 TWO WEEKS IN PARIS May 9-23, 2000
at our neighborhood fish restaurant and went to bed early. She seemed
to be more affected by my grave illness than I.
ANOTHER DAY OF JUST wandering around with a visit to the ARC de TRIOMPHE de l'ETOILE where we witnessed a ceremony probably in honor of the unknown soldier. Although it's extremely unlikely that we saw all of Paris's bridges, I think we saw the most beautiful one, the century-old PONT ALEXANDRE III with its elaborate light standards and sculptures layered with gold.
Shortly before leaving home, I had a laundry disaster and needed a new dress shirt, “un chemise de tres grand soirée”. Whither we went, we were shown virtually the same business shirt, a beautiful one indeed, for US$70. That search is why we found ourselves in Galeries Lafayette, a multi-building'd department store that appears to compare favorably with Harrod's. Its main room is quite beautiful with a wonderful dome that one can also see from the roof where there's a nice little place to eat and equally nice views over the expanse of Paris.
Went to Bastille where we dropt in to an Argentine restaurant for some octopus and eggplant and then to Badajo to dance
|but encountered a concert by a
quintette with two outstanding musicians, a vibraharpist and a
conguero. The conguero, Orlando something from Venezuela, played a very
long solo without a weak moment in it. Wow!
WE HAD A HAM and cheese sandwich for breakfast. The ham was with a scrambled egg inside the bun and the Mozzarella was melted across the top. Scrumptious!
The revamped CENTRE GEORGES POMPIDOU is all that one expects. We returned to visit its galleries. It's also a major library that includes a great many computers with access to the 'Net but there's no time limit on their use. We noted one woman who had occupied the same machine for no fewer than four hours even though she was aware that there were many people waiting.
NNNNNThere are also many television sets where one can sit and watch, apparently, any station in the world. I don't know that to be correct but we saw people watching programs in English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and many other languages.
NNNNNWhat had been a gritty LES HALLES has been sanitized into a subterranean shopping center. It ain't what it
used t'be and I don't know whether that's good.
NNNNNThe home of VICTOR HUGO is at the lovely Place Voges. Unless you're a fan or have some special reason to visit
May 9-23, 2000 TWO WEEKS IN PARIS Screen 4 of 5
there, you might choose to not do so. However, we thought the tres gauche faux Chinese décor was a blast.
The FRANÇOISE MITTERAND BIBLIOTHEQUE NATIONAL de FRANCE, dedicated in December of '96, is a complex of four D. Perrault buildings devoid of architectural interest. It's poorly located, difficult to access, and apparently the object of some derisive, and deserved, controversy. It appears that it's where it is as an attempt to “improve the neighborhood”. So far it hasn't.
A friend of mine has a fantastically-located apartment near the Eiffel Tower. On her return from the Cannes film festival, the four of us went to dinner. Four? My girlfriend and I, my friend and her small dog who quietly sat in her own chair. She was served a bowl of water and some nibblies. Uh, the dawg, not my friend. The dog was quite a hit with virtually all of the patrons many of whom came by to present a pat and commend the dog's excellent behaviour.
NNNNNWe visited her apartment that wasn't significantly different from ours with its small rooms and tiny kitchen.
LES INVALIDES is not exactly a museum. It was built by King Louis XIV as a military hospital and still functions thus but
| it's also where Napoleon's
tomb is. Reverence is demanded!
NNNNNNearby is the MUSÉE de l'ORDRE et de la LIBERATION that contains models of various towns and forts. They were constructed to plan military campaigns. I found them to be wonderful and fascinating.
NNNNNIn our strollings about we came across the lovely 1857 twin-69-metre-spired neo-Gothic Basilica Sts. Clotilde et Valère. On its stairs, in the street, and in the small park were many children playing. It was a lovely scene.
NNNNNSomewhere along the line we passed an irresistibly good-looking roast chicken. We got some carrot salad to accompany it and went home. The chicken tasted even better than it had looked before we'd torn it apart.
NNNNNWe also got to watch most of a Luís Buñuel movie (no, not Le Chein Andaluz) that I don't know what was. We didn't see it all because we got kicked out (they were agonna close). I can't count the museums out of which I've been kikt!
The MUSÉE PICASSO is housed in a particularly lovely building that's worthy of close examination. It contains many of his major works, including a few sculptures, and is a Paris don't-miss. The nearby MUSÉE et PARC RODIN was closed. when we tried to visit it. Contrary to information
Screen 5 of 5 TWO WEEKS IN PARIS May 9-23, 2000
|provided to us, L'ORANGERIE is
closed and will be through the year 2000.
NNNNNWe also visited NOTRE-DAME de PARIS, a visit that was quite unlike my previous one. This one was accompanied by hundreds, if not thousands, of other visitors inside and out with their non-stop chatter, laughter, ooos, aaaahs, and squeals. My previous visit was one of peaceful silence. There might have been a score of us in and around the building, some of them doing their Catholic thing. Its glory, however, was not diminished by the teeming throngs.
Our last Saturday evening we went to a special dance at the EQUINOXE, a huge and apparent entertainment complex near the end of the Balard line. It appeared as if it had previously been a warehouse that now might house a gymnasium, electronic games, a cinema or two, a pool hall, bowling alley, and much else. What we did see was a stairway entrance lined with a tropical mural leading to an enormous room with no fewer than two waterfalls and a tile-lined creek meandering to the outside where there was a large swim pool. Inside were many trees and flowers, Indo-Chinese-style statues, and numerous small rooms facing the large one, possibly larger than 200 by 150 feet with its perhaps eighty-foot ceiling.
NNNNNThere were many hundreds of dancers there, per-
| haps a thousand of all ages in that
enormous facility. Although the level of dancing
was quite low, certainly below intermediate (i.e., the norm found
in the dance centers in the USA), we saw some very good dancing and
even enjoyed a few with some of the better dancers.
NNNNNThe band was very good, comparable to the one at the Slow-Club. The fascinating part was the intermission music that was the same at each break: It was always in the same sequence and included a Waltz, Rumba, ChaCha, Swing, Bolero, Tango, another or two, and a Paso Doble. I had never before seen Paso Doble danced socially and was greatly impressed by the loveliness of the dance as well as the quality of the dancing and the great fun they were having doing it.
The MUSÉE CARNAVALET was a thorough delight and, if ever again I visit Paris, I'll revisit it. It's kinda sorta the Museum of Paris. On display is a model of one of the pillars at Place de la Nation. I was quite excited to see it hoping to learn something of them. Fortunately, a US expatriate who knew all about them was standing near: They flanked one of the gates in the wall that, I gather, once surrounded Paris.
NNNNN For longer than a week, we watched the final preparations being made to a corner restaurant. When it finally opened for business, we were among its first customers.