Monday, 14 July 2008

C'est Paris!

S played hookey today so that we could all go to Paris together. We went to see my friend at the train station (who was pleased that I had enjoyed Versailles) and she sold us tickets and gave me a little map with highlighted stations so I wouldn't get lost. We had to change trains a few times you see. And I conducted the whole transaction in french. C'est Incroyable!
The trains here are very good and in no time we were on our way to a nearby regional centre (Massey Palaiseau) where after a bit of head scratching we located our next train and we headed into Paris. We were going to change trains and hop on the metro to get to the Musee de l'Orangerie but we decided to get off at Chatelet Les Halles and walk. We walked along the rue di Rivoli to the Seine soaking up that Parisian ambience (phew - there must be a lot of stray tom cats in Paris) till we got to the Louvre. The sheer size of Louvre is overwhelming. I think when I explained to S how all the buildings were all part of the one gallery he got museum fatigue just thinking about it. After some photos we strolled into the Tuileries so Jack could free range. S was concerned that the grass was fenced off but Jack is happy if he's got a gravel path to run on (!!) and he had that in abundance so he was fine. There was also a rather nice pond with people sunning themselves around it which Jack thought looked very inviting but we managed to persuade him (picked him up) to come away. Luckily french people seem happy to sunbake without taking their shirts off like the english.
The Musee l'Orangerie is at the end of the Tuileries but when we got there we discovered that they had a strictly no pram policy (as well as many other things such as no laptops, no dogs, no suitcases etc that they didn't want in their unfriendly gallery) so we opted for the Musee d'Orsay instead. This was close by and we had been planning on visiting there anyway, just not today. The Musee d'Orsay is a converted train station, which sounds unattractive but is a beautiful building with high, arched ceilings and it contains lots of wonderful artworks. There's a lot of impressionist and post impressionist works there but we found that most people were loitering in the Van Gogh room. Which left more room for us when we were looking at the Manet, Degas, Renoir, Monet and Pissaro. There were lots of Americans everywhere. Some of them were in matching ensembles of baseball caps, sweatshirts and shorts with cameras around their necks. One family walked past us looking particularly gormless and S said, "Look out it's the Griswalds!"
We heard a woman going crook at her husband because he and the kids had wandered off without her ("Pay attention Chuck!") but it's funny because they were fine and she seemed to be the only one who was lost so maybe she should've been paying more attention.
We also saw an exhibition of the Chat Noir Shadow Theatre which was a shadow theatre in a Paris nightclub in the 1890s. There were some of the cutouts on display including a rather good one of Napoleon.After all that art we went in search of some food and decided to find a boulangerie so we could get a sandwich. There were bistros everywhere but the proximity of the tables to the road and the car fumes did not seem very inviting. Again I ordered everything in french and the people serving me were very nice and it was quite easy. I know that sounds daft but I realised that every other time I've been to Paris I have usually relied on someone else to do the talking and so it feels satisfying to be able to communicate in french (albeit not of a very high standard) and to be understood.
S had spotted a smallish chocolate cake called a financier so I ordered one of those. I remember years ago at Level 41 having a 'blood plum financier' and how we all thought the name was so funny and was poking fun at that restaurant's main clientele (and yes the bathrooms do have an amazing view).I think I must look into this financier business. It seems quite like a large round friand but I wouldn't know what this one tasted like. Between S and Jack of course having to sample it but the verdict was positive.
After our lunch (how can a simple ham baguette be so delicious? And mine looked much better than the one I saw being served up at a bistro) we strolled back through the Tuileries to the Louvre courtyard then through Les Halles (only getting a little lost) to our train station and so back to Jouy. Today was warm again and after another dinner of good french bread, cheese, ham and tomatoes and very good beer from Flanders (hidelly hodelly neighbour!) we are opting for an early night.
Tomorrow we'll show S the sights of Versailles.

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