Such a different and beautiful city
04.05.2012 - 25.05.2012 10 °C
Using the green Musee D'Orsay pass kindly supplied by Renee, I again skipped the snaky queue of approx half a kilometer and went straight in .The Musee D'Orsay building started life as a railway station . Many clues still exist to disclose its origins - the beautiful internal sandstone engravings indicating rural destinations and the huge high transparent ceiling flooding light into the main atrium. The Impressionists gallery is on the 5th level, which is what I was most interested in seeing. The layout of the museum I found challenging. Where was level 4? I never did find it. Level 0 was the ground floor with a corner of the building solely devoted to a stairwell leading only to levels 2 and 5. Just as I was leaving, I met Kathy and Owen from Brisbane who were also on the same battlefield tour as me. They also found the museum layout " tricky" but assured me I had seen every level!!! Of course, Monet' waterlillies and the Japanese bridge at Giverny were displayed and the Girl Sewing by Mary Casatt, the original of the reproduction I have at home in the lounge room!
Lunchtime ... There were two restaurants and a cafe resembling the queue to the ladies toilet. The restaurant queue was shorter and the absolute opulence of the internal space and reasonable price drew me in. I truly felt I was in Paris.
The waiters and waitresses in this restaurant were entertaining to watch while waiting for my lunch. One waiter was so fast at everything he did. No sooner had a table been vacated, he had cleared it and set it for the next group. Another waiter cleared a table of glasses and crockery, piling his tray high with cups, saucers, glasses, plates and then proceeded to add more from an adjoining table, carrying the whole thing in the palm of one hand back to the kitchen without dropping anything ....and walking quickly to boot.
There were more paintings, furniture and sculptures to absorb and a display of "Le Chat Noir" and its origins was very enlightening as this traditional French icon I encounter everywhere. It was my intention to also visit Musee L'Orangarie with the same ticket but time ran out unfortunately. It was 5:30pm by the time I arrived there - it's in a totally separate building and a good and distracting walk from the Musee d'Orsay. Maybe able to get there on Sunday after the Louvre visit. The bridge across the Seine that I walked over had hundreds of locks attached to the wire of the railings and hawkers selling locks and keys. The idea is that couples can lock their love on the bridge and throw the key into the Seine. I didn't see anyone participating but thousands had. The Place de la Concorde with the Egyptian Oblisk, fountains with mermaids and mermen sprouting water from the mouths of fish and the ornate bridges took my eye. Unfortunately, at the end of the Tuileries gardens the area has become very tourist-oriented and a bit kitch. There are hawkers, people with rickshaw-type vehicles, recumbent cycles with passenger space where a cyclist can cycle you anywhere in Paris and gypsies who pretend to pick up a gold ring off the pavement and ask if it's yours.. the intention is to distract you while someone else pickpockets you. The gold ring incident happened twice yesterday. Ignore them is the key although that does not come naturally for me, but it is the safer option.
Turning into Avenue Winston Churchill, on the right is the Grand Palais and the right Le petite Palais .... however, the sheer size of the buildings, it's difficult to say one is grande and the other petite. Both are opulent.
Crossing the 112 year old Pont Alexandre and forcing myself now to use the manual camera settings due to fading light, I finally dialed in some reasonable settings so I could take photos of the beautiful spring flowers and the immaculately mowed lawns! I have a photo of a pink rose ... the first rose bloom I have seen here .... with rain drops on it too. Dodging rain on the lens has been another challenge here ... except for two days, it has rained everyday. Turning back towards where I'd just been, and turning left into the famous Champs Élysées. The Champs Élysées commences here so I just kept walking towards The Arc de Triumph stopping to check out the stores (window shopping mostly) and taking photos of the iron balustrades. I have loads of photos of these .... they would be gorgeous designs for quilting and they are all so different. Arcade de Champs Elysées was very ornate and the fragrance emanating from Claridges was overwhelming. MonoPrix has a store here as does Marks and Spencer. Finally bought the soap Marilynnn old us about .... it IS beautiful.
By the time I reached the Arc de Triumph it was dark so I walked up the stairs to see Paris by night and in enough time to see the Eiffel Tower light display. It only lasts 5 minutes, so I consider myself fortunate to have caught it. I'm not proficient at night photos but took a couple that are satisfactory. Without the tripod or long lens, it's tricky.
The eternal flame atop the tomb of the unknown soldier was very moving .... placed at one of the busiest roundabouts in the world.
This was the second late night in a row. The Arc closes at 10pm so it was time to head back to 16 rue Henri Bocquillon.
The little fold down seated in the portico of the metro trains are difficult to sit on when you are wearing a backpack .... especially if the pack is full!! Three inches of bum cheek is barely enough for stability!
It costs .50€ to go to the toilet in the railway stations. The toilets are co-Ed. Males and females line up, paying their .50€ to a Woopi Goldberg look alike (no joke) who directs you to the next available cubicle through a turn style. If you have luggage and can't fit through the turn style, you get to use the disabled toilet which has easy access.
Turnstyles and access gates are big here on the metro, though many youths jump the turnstiles and a blind eye is turned to that behavior. My backpack got caught in the exit door flaps at Gare Montparnasse and I was trapped like a beetle on its back ..... an attendant had to come and unlock me. Note to self ..... Walk backwards through the gate if you have luggage.
Stairs are EVERYWHERE in the Metro. For stations that have stairs and that lead to large main stations, some have ramps for wheeled luggage, lifts or escalators. However, at Boucicaut which is my closest metro stop, there are no ramps or lifts and one set of escalators that do not reach to street level. It's a case of wheeling my luggage downstairs or dragging it or carrying it upstairs.
You HAVE to have a metro map to know which direction to catch the train. The colours and numbers are a great system but you have to check which direction the train starts and finishes at to know you are going to end up where you intend. There are maps on the walls everywhere and it's well signed. There is a sign on the platform where the front of the train will be so you know which direction the train will come from. That's a great clue for a boofhead like me who is direction-challenged.
Everyone wears scarves (even the males) and coats. Oh, and the dogs here are so spoilt .... they wear coats, have prams, bags to be carried in and taken to places you wouldn't think of at home.
On the metro some nights, the passengers are entertained by accordianists non-stop, with "Greensleeves" and other random old tunes running into each other. Again, the idea is to obtain money from passengers.
More news soon, love Lyn xxx