Soon after arriving at our hotel it was realized that we were situated directly in the center of the gay village in the heart of Paris. On our walk to dinner we saw some really great bars that Amy and I are going to grab a drink at tomorrow night.
As soon as I got into my room I shaved off my 12 day old beard and it felt great. We then headed to a very gay restaurant and were seated with a stark naked Greek male statue above our heads. An interesting gentlemen seemed to stare at me for the majority of our meal I presume he was laughing at how we defiantly did not fit in. We looked like sore thumbed tourists for sure. I had a Heineken and Crepes with cheese and ham. I felt like my body was infused with warm buttery goodness. After dinner we walked towards the river and past the Hotel De ville. The streets were packed at 11pm along the gay strip with people eating their dinners and being merry. The luminous hotel de ville is beautiful at night and there was a special function there tonight as police sirens and escorts were following several large buses of well dressed individuals. We could see the top of Notre Dame from the river and the lights beaming from the Eiffel Tower…a hint of many good things to come.
The first day in Paris was spent for the first time without parents. My first art gallery experience was at the Musse Picasso. An amazing collection of his personal art work inherited by his family upon his passing. He painted so much and the symbolism and meaning of his works became more clear to me. His long time lover and photographer friend is the center of almost every portrait or female personality. He also loved mythology and portrayed himself as a manetor and his Dora Marr as a phoenix. An entire floor of 6 rooms was dedicated to his famed Guernica of World War II era. It became clear that he was very disturbed by these events and took a lot of time to develop each character in the scene. An entire room alone was devoted to his sketches and paintings of the infamous screaming horse.
After a short walk we arrived at the Centre National D’art Et De Culture Georges Pompidou, a spectacular modern art gallery. The actual building is an art spectacle in itself looking like a crazy construction site with pipes of all colours and sizes scaling the building. The museum is set up as a long hall with different audio visual displays and oddities to sit and watch. My favorite film was of a man trying to write with his calligraphy pen as he is drenched by a hose. He continues to write even though the ink doesn’t even make an impression on the page. All of the famous modern artists from Duchamp to Kandinsky to Warhol were represented along with several fine modern sculptures. The oddest room of all was the area completely dedicated to weird phallic art, strange indeed. Amy was feeling a bit faint so we walked to a lovely outdoor cafe looking out onto the Pompidou. I had a cold hazelnut latte and a croque madame. We walked south over the river and took a few minutes to enjoy Notre Dame. Amy and I both agreed that it was beautiful but we have seen so many churches on this trip they have really lost their grand effect on us, desensitized to churches who would have ever thought. I finally found a copy of GQ and was pleased to snatch that up for later moments of boredom. There are people all over the city screaming and cheering, they are from Barcelona it seems there must be a footy match today.
Amy went back to the room for a rest and I strolled the streets solo and ended up buying two really nice scarves. The two of us then walked along the river to the Grand Louvre Art Gallery. It is so so so huge. We chose to spend today at the French and Italian Renaissance art and sculpture floors. So many famous works were encountered my favorites being several Caravaggio and Titans in one room and a ton of famous gigantic masterpieces by Jean Louis David. Just staring and gaping at these things excited me for my Italian Renaissance Art History course in the fall. There is this boring strict rule against photography so I taught Amy my technique of pressing the camera against your chest and shooting in the right direction, an excellent method and proved to be fruitful. It was exciting to finally see the Mona Lisa, it is practically behind an arsenal of cops and huge glass windows, all they were missing were the needed hand guns and grenade launchers to protect the smiling diva. I asked if I could rub the painting seeing that I traveled all this way and they said no which really put me off. I offered to even slip them 20 euros and I got laughed at. For the first time I can say the French truly are rude at times, tis tis. We then took the walk back to the village and had a great inexpensive dinner at an Italian cafe on the street. I had a cocktail avec pomplamousse and a plate of veal cutlet with spaghetti and a lime cream sauce. The insides of my legs experienced serious chaffing today and I need to get some new jeans badly. In the evening we went to a cafe in the area and I had an intense lemon tart with a bitter to bite cappuccino. There was lightening in the sky and Amy and I chatted while watching the rain come down.
The following morning we made the trek to Printemps the Holt Renfrew of France. We got a bit lost on the way but saw the grand opera house which was beautiful as the sun was a blazing. Printemps was Dior, DG, Channel and more Hugo Boss than you can imagine. I tried on 2000 euro jeans and felt dandy. I died when I saw an amazing DG belt buckle the size of a frying pan for 400 euro, I wanted it badly but obviously postponed the purchase until I win the lottery next week. I left Amy and did my own little walk all the way down rue de Rivoli the famous shopping street. I found lots of neat deals and bought an H&M Paris shirt for 9 euros. I found a sweet men’s jean store that had pants that were embroidered jeans at the top and ripped into army cargos at the bottom, very cool but 100 euros and didn’t fit me like I would have liked them to.
I keep seeing the posters for The Davinci Code and Volver the new Spanish film by Almondovar staring Penelope Cruz, I hope to see it in Spain next week. I was to meet Amy and her friend Tanya from high school at Musee Dorsay and on the way stumbled upon this expensive little street that sells antiques and sculptures. It was hilarious because the actual stores roll out moss and sod lawn to make the sidewalk prettier. Roll away grass was never so easy it seems. Once we met up with Tanya we took the walk to the Eiffel tower and stopped at a Cafe for lunch. It was so hot and the sun was bleating into my eyes. We finally made it to the tower and lay down on the grass for about 20 minutes to take some pictures and put up our feet. It was a perfect sunny day with a nice wind and great view. I then left the group and walked to the Rodin Museum and had a great time strolling through the gardens with the sun on my face and wind in my hair. I sat on a bench and stared at The Thinker, Eve and The Kiss. Rodin liked big chunky people, good guy he was but not so nice to poor Camille Claudel; drove her crazy. Love is funny that way. Inside the gallery are many more of his half finished works. It is amazing to see life evolve and erect itself from stone. I then walked to the Dorsay Museum, a huge beautiful building with a giant ornate clock at the front. So many great Impressionists. Manets Piper, Degas dancers, Van Goghs self portrait, Monets gardens, Cezannes Provence and many many Renoirs. By this point my feet were throbbing and I walked all the way back to the hotel when I really should have taken the metro. This is the lesson I have learned, for the rest of my trip, NO more walking, I’m going to try and slide along the street and take as much transportation as I possibly can. Lazy me.
Getting to dinner was a chore to say the least. We booked a unique dining experience for dads birthday that was suggested by The Man Who Ate Everythings Vogue food critic. Thirty minutes on the metro and 2 changes later we arrived in the right district and found the correct street. We were at address 2 and had to get to 181, darn it, to say the least. It seemed like we had to run for 100 blocks such a pain after a long day on our feet. We arrived to a very interesting French communal meal. The menu price is fixed and you eat with other strangers at big tables. Passing big pans of beef with red wine and green onions, shredded cabbage, baguette, gherkins, plates and plates of French cheese and a large self serve dessert table. The restaurant was basically a little hall carved out of the street but it was bustling with people and along the hall were bottles and bottles of wine that you could grab and pay for to drink with your meal. The experience was very unique and I most enjoyed the sharing that was an inherent part of the meal. We sat with three Parisian men who were with a large group of over 15 individuals. We discovered that they meet as a group every month or so and met each other on line. Friendship on line sounds sort of romantic yet potentially sketchy. We chatted with these three gents all night asking about their driving rules, or lack their of. Other topics discussed were politics, history of the city, food habits and healthy active living as well as travel in Europe and abroad. The guys were great and I really felt like I had truly had a Parisian experience and connected with the locals, perfect.
The last day in Paris was freezing. Cloudy, windy, just cold. Amy and I walked the Rivoli for the last time to the Louvre and spent a few hours there in the German and Flemish art floors. Reubens and Poussin are the most memorable. Catherine de Medici really worked Reubens to the bone. Staring at Flemish landscapes makes me want to just walk inside of them. They appear to be so real, almost like a window that can be opened. We also strolled down to the Egyptian and Greek artifact floors and took several pictures around the tombs and neat little statues.
A quick metro north and we were at the Arc de Triomphe, gigantic. We walked down the Champs Elysees and I melted. I can never go back there again its just like self torture. Seeing the most amazing shops on earth and having no money to my name to spend made jealousy and anger fester in my fingertips and lower back. Charleze Theron is everywhere in this city right now as she is the new face of Dior J’adore perfume. We went into the HUGE perfume shop, the largest perfume store on earth surely. The place was packed with every scent you can imagine and the employees were dressed in corresponding attire. The hot men working the Dior booth were wearing all Dior Homme and the girls at Prada were wearing Prada. I had to stop in my tracks and just blink, I was in heaven on earth for one moment. The best area of the Champs is an indoor designer mall. An entire block of just DG jeans and Roberto Cavalli. The Cavalli outfit I saw would have looked so good on me I tell you, you all would have cried with excitement. We also saw a designer baby and youth store which made me ill. 300 euro baby Prada pants, 200 euro DG skirts for your 5 year old and the best was the 600 euro nightgown by Versace for your 7 year old. The height of excessive spending all in one room. PS who spends money on their kids, they don’t know the cloths are nice, buy them walmart cloths and splurge on yourself for a few years jeez!
We had lunch at a great little Italian spot just before the lunch rush. I could see the Arc from my window seat as I sipped the most amazing French Onion Soup of my life. I felt a hot soup would be fitting on such a cold blustery day. I also had a nice bowl of beef tortellini in a black truffle cream sauce, also fantastical. Another metro to Sacre Couer and the Montmartre area. The church is pretty huge and we walked to the top to get a great picture of Paris. I felt like I was right here with Amelie Pouline. On the left and right walkways to the top there are African Banditos who force you to put your finger into a little loop knot. I had no clue what was going on and was terrified he was going to rip my finger off if I didn’t give him money. The guy was hilarious though, he said he was from Africa and it was one of the traditions there. The best tourist trap I have seen yet goes like this: they force you to put your finger in a loop, they perform the African tradition of making a bracelet! So hilarious I saw so many tourists get sucked into doing it, it takes them about 10 minutes to do it and so many ladies were rolling their eyes and moaning that they had to get somewhere soon, all with a little thread on their fingers. I told the guy I had no money and he was really nice and just asked me where I was from in Canada. I then asked him where he was from in Africa and he said PARIS! So much for African traditions, I gave him 10 points for working it. The area is so scuzzy. The main street is full of XXX live shows so grungy. Alas we found The Moulin Rouge and got a snap of that. The best experience I had up on the hill was my first shoe purchase of the summer. I have seen Oasics all over the city, people love them here. In all the main stores they were selling at 100 euros plus. However, in Montmartre there are several HUGE shoe dealers. Its pretty low key but they have boxes and boxes of shoes with the style of the shoe sitting on each box tower. They had a huge selection of Oasics for 50 euro each so I got a pair of bright yellow and black stripes.
Packed my bags and then joined the family for a celebratory fini to our trip with a bottle of Moet and Chandon. We went to a great restaurant tonight and had a petite chablis and more veal cutlet with a lemon gargonzola sauce on tagliatelle. Our evening wrapped itself with the quintessential Seine River cruise through Paris in the pitch black. The buildings were all lit up and the Eiffel tower looked radiant. Tomorrow I leave for Barcelona at 7am.