The Louvre is never a bad idea. Really. Even I can not fuck up the Louvre. You just can not walk out of that place thinking "Well that was not worthwhile."
I decided to start off my Louvre adventure with the Medieval Louvre, the original foundation of the building is exposed and one can walk around those huge pieces of masonry and although it is lit by light bulbs it is done to give the effect of torches. It is dim and cool. There was a small arch and I simply wanted to sit in that dark arch for a bit and write. I couldn't translate the panels which told the history of the foundation but I didn't really need. I looked at those large hunks of rock-uneven and rough hewn and wondered, how is it that when man had very little technology he was able to build such impressive buildings? When did we lose this capacity? Does it have anything to do with Ikea?
Afterwards I went up to the Cour Marly and the Cour Puget where the 17th to 18th century French sculpture is kept. ( I am not posting this from my computer, tomorrow I will add some photos to accentuate this post.) Sculpture is one of my favorite forms. I wandered through the marble sculptures wondering how does one do this? How does one look at a big hunk of rock and see a girl up on her toes whispering to another girl, an angel about to take flight, a god abducting a nymph? How does one take rock and make it look like a flimsy gown caught by the window, blooming flowers, a ripe garland of grapes on the vine? How can one make this stone look so human and real that you wait to hear the breathe of an exhaled secret, the wail of the abducted, the laugh of the satyr? How does one do that? How is it even possible?
I went up the Napoleon the Third apartments. The grand salon is definitely worth a view as is the private dining room and the grand dining room. I think my favorite part of the grand dining room were the paintings of dogs ripping apart deer and eagles attacking hawks. Because that's exactly what I want to look at when I'm eating. Finally I went up to the French painting wing again. By then my legs had the dull pain of fatigue. I had been wandering for four hours. It was time for food and rest.
Nothing Up My Sleeve
I picked another restaurant at random and although the food was good, it was not at the same level as my last trip to Paris. I had enjoyed the day, but the winter missed that manic energy that I had enjoyed in the summer. I began realizing just how unique and special my trip in the summer had been. Pulling off a magic trick once takes a great deal of effort and focus, but getting to a point where you can repeat the trick easily and at will takes true talent. Despite this, my trip was much improved from the disappointments of the night before. I walked out into the night window shopping and heading towards my hotel room and a phone.
(Apologies for the wait on this post and the shortness of it-as bakerina can tell you, I am quite sick. But I am trying my best to keep my readers satisfied.)
Bad Bunni posted at 1/27/2005 04:55:00 PM
When I first went to Paris, I had very few expectations and so there was very little way for me to screw up. But now I had been there. The last time I had gone, my plan was to do the things I wanted to do and to sacrifice the company of others. Certainly I met people who invited me along, the nice canandian couple at la musee du moyen age for example, but I was unwilling to compromise in order to have company. As I said before traveling often reveals who you really are, and here I finally saw that part of the reason for my loneliness is that often I prefer solitude to compromise. But this time I decided if I had to, I would sacrifice sightseeing for companionship.
I woke up late and instead of going to the Musee de Rodin, I decided on the Louvre. Part of the reason was my knee was bothering me, but the other reason was that I was feeling tired and not really up to the task of facing the Paris metro just yet, when I could just leisurely amble to the Louvre. I meandered casually down the Rue De L'Opera, bought my mother perfume at the perfume store where the female clerk recognized me and proclaimed how nice I was to the other clerks. She gave me a discount and threw in samples of Eau Sauvage and Gucci's Envy Me. I continued down and had breakfast, but there was something nagging me.
I tried to go to Nicolas for the cheese plate, but it wasn't open yet. Another disappontment. I finally found a nice cafe for a coffee and criossant. As I ate my breakfast at a cafe I couldn't figure out why I wasn't feeling better. Here I was in Paris, yet the thrill I had felt in the summer was gone. Was it the winter cold? The deadened sun? I was seeking the familiar, but why had I come to Paris to seek out the familiar? If I wanted comfort, why not stay at home? Why come here and be thwarted? Where had my sense of adventure gone?
It is always difficult to tell if one's expectations are too demanding or too lax. I often feel that I am a total slacker, giving myself permission for escaping work I have no excuse for shirking, but then I am often taken to task by others for having too many expectations. I was a disabled girl alone in a city where I barely spoke the language. Was it forgivable to seek the places I had enjoyed in August? Was I being too hard on myself? Was I not being hard enough? Should I push myself to go to the Musee de Rodin, even though my knee hurt?
I decided to go to Louvre, because really can going to the Louvre ever be considered a bad decision?
Bad Bunni posted at 1/25/2005 03:50:00 PM
Doing the French Mistake
The waiter was handsome in a kind of younger, thinner, more vulnerable Dave Foley kind of way ( he reminded me a bit of Said, the Algerian with the awful BO, but beautiful cheekbones from my day at the musee D'orsay). In the past my system of merely picking places at random had served me well, and so I put my faith in Paris. The waiter understood from my shyness that I spoke English and ushered me to a seat.
Although I took for years of high school French in which they dutifully instructed me in the difference between a croque madame and a croque monsieur and I had a French phrase book with a special section on menus, I could not decipher this particular menu very well. If it had been written in Cyrillic by a blind dyslexic with poor penmanship, it could not have been more indecipherable to me. I simply wanted steak au poivre or coq au vin or au citron, but the menu resisted all attempts at translation.
Now when the waiter came over and asked if I needed help with the menu, I suppose I could have said yes. That would have been the simple thing to do, and of course I have an almost monomaniacal phobia of doing anything simply. I must find the most difficult pain in the ass way possible, so that I suppose I can feel like I have really accomplished something. This may be why instead of availing myself to services like fresh direct, I prefer to huff and puff my way home pulling a granny cart of groceries like I am one of the Budweiser clydesdales.
Intead I ordered one of the few things on the menu I could understand, sausage with a mustard sauce. A t first the waiter thought I was asking about it, but in an amused voice I said, "No, no I can read the menu. I wanted to order it." And he went to fetch it and a glass of red wine.
Now I don't know what you think of when you think of sausage, but in a country like France I expected, maybe something a kin to bratwurst, or more Germany fair. What I did not expect was the presented with something that was a kin to several thin slices of ham wrapped up like a Cuban cigar.
"Sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I wouldn't know because I would never eat the filthy mother fucker." Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction
Even before I tasted it, I knew that I suddenly could barely eat. The stress and fatigue of the day hit me, and the smell of the food my stomach constricted, but I cut off an inch hoping that my appetite might return. Between the rubbery texture similar to chewing on an inflatable squid, and the taste, the overwhelming saltiness of HAM, I could barely swallow one bite. Although I love sausage and bacon, I can not, can not, abide ham. I can not explain it, but it is something I live with.
Luckily the mustard sauce was quite nice and I managed to eat quite a few frites with the sauce. But I couldn't even finish all the frites. To be sure my lovely French Dave Foley kept coming by and asking if I was alright, and I had to explain that I simply wasn't hungry. I knew he didn't believe me, if I wasn't hungry, why then was I in a restaurant ordering food? No, he thought I was conceited, too proud to admit that I had order the wrong thing, that I couldn't even translate a menu.
I finished my wine and wandered back to the hotel feeling defeated. Well, I would go to the Musee de Rodin tomorrow. I would go look at sculpture and art and even if I was unhappy in Paris, I would be back in New York soon where at least I could order food without incident. I was thinking these thoughts as I walked dispirited and slightly tipsy back to my hotel room.
As I walk into the hotel, the concierge tells me in very excited French a MAN has been looking for me and left this message. It is Henri's handwriting, with simply his name and phone number. I am too tired, too completely overwhelmed with the defeat of this day to be able to call him, I decide I will go to my room, figure out my root to the musee and go to sleep, and call him tomorrow when I will be fresh.
Bad Bunni posted at 1/25/2005 10:07:00 AM
I brought Hemingway's A Movable Feast for my plane reading thus breaking a near 15 year Hemingway ban. (I read Hemingway only when required by my classes after I was 13. I did read "Hills Like White Elephants" for my undergrad and grad courses, but not for pleasure.) My hatred of Hemingway started when I was thirteen. At the end of my freshmen year, our required core readings left us with two "free days" before the exam. Other classes watched movies or wrote satiric short stories. Our class, however, had a "serious teacher" who decided we would take those two days and read "Old Man and the Sea." What made this exercise particularly painful was the class next to ours was watching, for no reason I have ever been able to discern, Disney's The Little Mermaid. So while we are being lectured about the epic struggle between an aging fisher man and a shark carcass, strains of "Under the Sea" kept interrupting our teacher.
I read two more novels by Hemingway voluntarily. At that time I gave all the "great" authors three novels in which to impress me. A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls didn't do it for me either and thus began my aversion to Hemingway.
However, A Movable Feast commences with descriptions of Paris in winter and I thought it would get me in the proper mood. Of course, twenty minutes into reading I was reminded of exactly why I hate Hemingway and quickly abandoned his descriptions of afternoons with Gertrude Stein for the inflight entertainment.
Air France had a plethora of cinema choices so I started off with something appropriately mindless to match my sleep deprived state Cellular and then moved onto The World Is Not Enough and concluded with the very appropriate A Very Long Engagement the tale of a girl attempting to find her fiance whom she is convinced did not die in WW I despite reports to the contrary. The romance of the girl's quest, which (SPOILER WARNING) is rewarded in the end, put in the mind that perhaps I was not on such a fool's errand after all. But by then I had only slept for fours hours the preceding night and things were beginning to take on that hazy surreal quality that sleep deprivation can cause.
When I landed, I felt frazzled. I managed to get onto the RER, which was crowded, and find my hotel. But unlike the last time, there was no rush. Oh there was anxiety and I did manage to get myself slightly lost in the Gare du Nord, but it only took me an hour to get my hotel, which was in the heart of the Opera district. I checked in and was disappointed. My window had only a small postage stamp of Parisian sky, the rest being taken up with the back of the hotel. I was not, as before, facing street side and so the sounds of Paris could not reach me, even with the window left open. I became nostalgic for my last hotel on Notre Dame de Lorette where I could sit up in bed and see belle epoque houses and hear the mopeds go by.
The original plan had been to nap for an hour or so, get up, shower off my travel sweat, and go shopping on rue de l'opera then return to the hotel and call Henri, but I ended up sleeping for five hours. I woke up and dug Henri's number out of my bag. "I'll call him after I shower" I thought. So I showered. "I'll call him after I get dressed" I thought. So I got dressed. "I'll call him after I do my make up" I thought. And I did my make up. "Maybe I should call him tomorrow" I thought. And I sat and looked at his number, and I sat and looked, and sat and looked. I'm not sure what I was afraid of , but I was definately afraid. Finally I thought to myself "Listen, you did not come all this way only to pussy out now. If he doesn't come, he doesn't come, but it will not IT WILL NOT be because you didn't have the balls to call."
Je Suis Une Idiote.
So I called. At first he didn't know who I was. But then he recognized me and asked my hotel's address. I repeated it and the number of my room. And then he said "I'll see you later" in French. So I thought he would call me later. This is of course the fundamental problem of having an affair without a common language. Simple things like arranging a meeting are nearly impossible. I thought, honestly, he was blowing me off. He didn't sound very excited to see me. So fine, fine. I decided to take myself to dinner.
After the bustle of the day, I wanted something familiar. I didn't want to have to deal with wading through a new menu and acquainting myself with new waiters. So I headed to the Tiger hoping to have some wine and that divine apple tarte.
But the Tiger had closed and become a creperie. The No Stress Cafe, home of a fabulous steak bearnaise, was also closed. The only other restaurant I knew really well was near St. Michel and I was too hungry by then to take a cab all the way to the Clou de Paris. So finally I meandered in somewhere, starving and exhausted and feeling that perhaps this whole journey was a mistake.
Bad Bunni posted at 1/24/2005 09:44:00 AM