lundi 22 août 2011

week VIII, scouting lesser-known sights

So we began this week, actually midweek, with a visit to the Musee des Arts et Metiers.  People know this museum best from the Dan Brown novel, also another novel by Umberto Eco.  Science museums are usually chock full of stuff, but we found this one enjoyable and not so overwhelming.  Explanations are only in French, however.  Highlights were a recreation of Lavoisier's labratory and the Foucault pendulum.  Poor Lavoisier was guillotined - not for his science but for his day job as a tax collector.  In fact, this museum dates back to the revolution.  We were unlucky in finding the entrance from the metro stop and wound up walking nearly all the way around this very large building.

Superb marquetry on display cabinet

early flying machine, grand staircase
The next day Carolee went to school and I have no record of doing anything other than lolling around.  Was this the day I walked to Place de la Nation and back?  The big discovery in that case was a bistro with one-euro coffee (at the bar).  Some of these walks are a bit hard but I find most of the local streets to be a real joy simply to savor the ambiance.
     The next day we were ready for ready for museum-going again, so it was over to the 5th arrondissement and the Cluny Museum, famous for the unicorn tapestries.  Loved 'em, although it was a little perilous for me because they keep the lights very dim to prevent further fading of the colors.  One painting depicted an impossible musical trio - harp, lute and shawm!  We left and moved past the ruins of the Roman baths on our way to Shakespeare & Company, but we discovered a much better English-language bookshop nearby.  Abbey Books is a real hole-in-the-wall with so many books crammed into it that you generally have to move around sideways.

King David & friends

Abbey Books
I think I am up to Saturday, when our adventure was a boat cruise out along the Ourcq Canal and back.  The cost for the 1.5 to 2 hour trip was one euro each way, obviously heavily subsidized,  There was a lot of  zazzy new apartment construction at the start - clearly a chic place to live.  Then we passed through Parc de la Villette, which, with its modern architecture, seemed worth a visit.  But then we passed through a heavily-graffitied industrial area with even a shantytown along the banks.  We eventually found ourselves being carried through suburbia, where we were deposited.  We'd hoped to stop for a meal at this point, but the 'burb was barren of anything but houses.  So we took the first fast boat back and had our meal near the Stalingrad metro stop.  We didn't get away from the boring end station, though, without having to fill out that modern curse, the customer satisfaction survey.

Ourcq canal, chic apartments

Geode, Parc de la Villette

Ourcq Canal, Aulnay sous Bois suburb
     First Sunday of the month museums are free.  We picked the Pantheon as likely to be less congested.  Surprise, not free!  It wasn't worth the 8 euros each to us, so we admired the monumental building from the outside, and also its setting in a monumental square,  On one side an old-looking church, St-Etienne du Mont, but we weren't allowed in during mass.  So down the Rue Soufflot to the Luxembourg garden and all the way along its panhandle to the north, where we found a few wonders: a remarkable 1920s building and a heroic fountain.  By foot then back to St-Germain des Pres and the #86 bus back home.

St-Etienne du Mont, by the Pantheon

Rue Soufflot, Sorbonne area

Luxembourg Garden, rented sailboats

Yoga class in Luxembourg Garden

Inst, of Art & Archaeology, U. Paris

Luxembourg panhandle, Observatory Fountain
     Next day, a Monday with Carolee at school, I went on a private adventure and went
around Paris on the two semicircular lines, #6 and #2.  The southern line, #6, is largely elevated, so I took it for the view.  The two passages over the Seine were rather good, if brief, but the views along most of the line were of uninteresting apartment buildings.  Walked from the Etoile to Parc Monceau and enjoyed a longish ramble there, then went down to the #2 line.  Alas, the only elevated section was by the Stalingrad stop, which I'd already seen a couple of days earlier.
     Tuesday Carolee was again at school but I wanted a rest and hoped to hear from Wendy Greene, who would arrive sometime that day (an air controller strike at Munich didn't stop her flight, as it turned out).  I must have read the John Irving novel I bought at Abbey Books.

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