dimanche 7 août 2011

Week VII, halfway

Were we slowing down at this point?  Not right away!  Museum visits take a certain amount of gumption, and we opted for an all-walking day to the Carnavalet Museum maybe a bit more than a kilometer from home.  The museum, which is free, has collections of the history of the city of Paris.  These run from prehistoric times to maybe the end of the 19th century.  The emphasis is on the 18th and 19th centuries.  The ancien regime is represented amply with numerous rooms, walls and furniture of the wealthy.  But enough was enough and we moved on to the most interesting period, the revolution and the couple of decades following its first year.  There was plenty of representations of the political ferment of the time, including guillotining.  Scientific activity was hot at the time, and we saw the introduction for practicality of decimal measures, including some which didn't survive, like decimal hours.  The building plus its gardens was a big hit as well.  The trip out and back included stops in our favorite Place des Vosges.
Jazz dudes at Bastille

Power washing a fountain at Place des Vosges

Musee de Carnavelet garden
     The next day, with Carolee in school, I explored, letting the #87 bus take me to the Champ de Mars.  It was familiar ground by now, but I wanted to walk under the Eiffel Tower again through the throngs of tourists and over the bridge and up along the grand paths that lead to the Trocadero.  There were plenty of us sharing what I think is the world's most impressive view, of the tower across the river.  Come to think of it, Paris has a great number of really impressive views, and not by accident.  Feeling up to it, I left the impressive view and walked up the not-so-impressive Avenue Kleber to the (impressive) Arc de Triomphe, Napoleon's greatest monument to himself.  Not done yet, I walked down the length of the Champs Elysees to the Concorde.  Legs now wearing out, I made a cursory inspection of the Place de la Concorde, then ducked down to the #8 Metro and home.
     The next day, a Friday, we decided was the day for the Sainte Chapelle.  The Metro took us almost to the entrance, and we decided to see the Conciergerie as well on a double ticket to avoid a long line.  Actually, it was my cane that brought us in ahead of a medium line.  The lower chapel has really beautiful gothic stonework, all painted in primary colors.  A spiral stone staircase took us up to the main chapel with its gorgeous stained glass.  Now Rick Steves' book recommended an overcast day to see the stained glass at its best.  This we had, but both Carolee and I had been there before on bright days, and it was way better.  Another failure for Rick Steves.  Instead of an altar there was an Italian harpsichord all bundled up, waiting for a high-priced evening concert of the Four Seasons.
Lower St Chapelle, painted columns

Lower St Chapelle, painted ceiling

Upper St Chapelle, stained glass

Upper St-Chapelle, harpsichord as altar
The Conciergerie gave a good impression of the early days of justice on the island.  Maybe you had to read French - I can't remember.  Highlights were again focused on the victims of the revolution, including a reconstruction of Marie Antoinette's cell.  She seems to have been an earlier Lady Di - there was a chapel dedicated to her built by a later King Louis
Conciergerie, 4-nave medieval hall
     Once again we walked back.  Our path took us along the Quai des Orfevres across to the left bank, where we had a Lebanese lunch and visited Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company, outside

Shakespeare & Company, inside
   At the St-Martin Canal, a fully duded-up Honda.
Parked Honda by St-Martin Canal.
     After a few days of hard slogging, we opted for a short, easy outing to our favorite Place des Vosges and a free visit to the Victor Hugo house.  Not exactly a house, it was a large flat in one of the fine pavilions surrounding the square.  My cane bought us entree to an elevator up to the third floor.  My God, was that place awful.  The memorabilia on the walls were interesting, but the rooms, in the finest 19th century taste, were oppressively dark and over-ornate, and the furniture, all authentic, had the same deadly character.  One room was ornamented in Chinese style, and this was at least a bit lighter and more amusing.  On the walk back we spotted a woman who had stepped out from a beauty salon treatment for a smoke and a telephone call.  Some nerve.
Victor Hugo's flat, two floors up

Beauty, cigarette and cell phone
     Again opting for an easy day, we took a bus to the Rodin Museum and paid one euro each for entry into the garden,  This is a large and fine French garden with plenty of Rodin's statues.  We had the relaxed time we had sought, smelling the roses and reposing at the end of the garden.  The house itself was quite beautiful, and modest by the standards of the 18th century aristocracy.  We hadn't been happy with the bus ride (#69, recommended by Rick Steves, but crowded and jerky) so on leaving we crossed over the front of the Hotel des Invalides to the Metro at the tiny Place Salvador Allende, and home.

Rodin's house and garden

Rodin's garden, shrubbery and roses

Eiffel Tower from near the Invalides

Entrance to Hospital des Invalides, more pointy shrubs
     The next day, with Carolee gone off to school, I decided to explore the one direction from home I hadn't tried, so I walked to Place de la Nation and back,  noting how similar small-scale commerce was all along it.  I have, however, found other areas which are empty of this small-scale commerce, so the gimp's utopia that I have found Paris to be is not the case everywhere.  In general, the commerce is found on busy roads through the less-wealthy parts of town.  Picking up a baguette on the way back I had to reflect that Carolee and I have become addicted to this French bread.  We've bought from five local bakeries and have our favorites now.  The worst I've had was the pricey baguette I picked up on the Avenue Kleber near the Arc de Triomphe.  We're told the French don't eat their bread with butter, but that's another addiction for us.
     The last day in this reporting period was a day of rest.  Went out only for groceries.

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