Thursday, October 31, 2013

postcard from paris

yes, I’ve been away from Paris since Friday. but that’s how long postcards take, isn’t it? ;)

I landed in Paris with distinct ideas about what I should do—I’d had advice that spanned “see all the museums!” to “you don’t have time for museums, just walk around and eat and look and sit in cafes.” Add in that I landed there on my birthday, and was going to spend the night in Versailles the first day, and all kinds of other travel realities (for instance: I landed at 9am…).

John the beloved. check out his curly golden locks.

medieval choir stalls with little benches on the folded up seats, so monks could rest discreetly while standing. lol.

a cell at the Conciergerie


honestly, I don't even remember now what this was. I'm sure it's important though.

So, day 1, I dropped my luggage at what may be the best place ever: City Locker. I love the people of City Locker, though I’ve never interacted with any of them. What a fantastic idea, to create video surveilled locker spaces in different parts of the city, accessed with a code sent to you when you reserve—and you can reserve in advance on the web or from your phone while standing outside. So great. I dropped my luggage off in locker number 1 and headed out for an unencumbered day of sightseeing.
I wandered a bit, visited the Cluny (the Museum of the Middle Ages) (because I’m a dork and I like that stuff), but the unicorn tapestries are away on tour while the room is renovated. Good thing I saw them (or were they replicas?) at the Met’s Cloister a few years ago. I wandered some more, grabbed lunch from a tiny crepe-and-panini place, (3.50!), and found my way to the Conciergerie—the prison where 2,800 people (including Marie Antoinette) were held and beheaded during the Revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror. And yet they don’t even have a guillotine on display. Really? What an opportunity! But alas…no. Just cells and exhibits and a whole floor of really weird art. Like wax-statues-of-old-men-in-automated-wheelchairs-rolling-randomly-around-the-space weird.
Next door is St. Chappelle, a chapel with some of the most gorgeous stained glass, and tons of it. The whole place is filled with color, because the windows are practically floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Nice.
After some more wandering about, it seemed like time to get the train to Versailles. Where, it turned out, I was staying basically in a palace with a view of the palace. seriously. And I had dinner in the restaurant there (not the original plan, but it had started to rain so I got over the idea that I would walk around and find something…). I have this to say about my birthday dinner and specially ordered (in advance) birthday dessert:


it's a meringue outside with three flavors of ice cream inside. with little bits of edible gold leaf. seriously. #versailles

not only were the staff incredible, bringing me all kinds of things and wishing me a happy birthday about every five minutes, the atmosphere was beautiful and the food was incredible. Seriously, so much goodness. Roasted, braised, mashed…every bite was amazing.

Almost immediately on entering the room I knew I should have stayed two nights. Not only because the place was so amazing, but because there’s something about the first stop on a long trip being for only one night that was exhausting to think about. So note to self: always try to stay two nights at the first place.

My day at the Chateau de Versailles was pretty incredible. There’s art, gilding, decadence, beauty, and bizarreness practically in the air. I took a guided tour of some parts of the palace you can’t see without a tour, and also wandered the public areas, the gardens, and the two Trianon palaces and their gardens. Because, you know, every queen needs two extra palace (“Grand” and “Petite”—hahahahha) in addition to the palace she actually lives in. Think of it as a way to keep the locals employed. Or something.

this whole place is covered in gold leaf. not paint, not some replica: actual gold. all over, inside and out.

I can just picture Marie Antoinette: "I'm tired of the gold leaf palace...I want another one, in pink marble."

Back in Paris for two days, I made judicious use of 10 metro tickets: visited the Basilica of St. Denis (where the kings of France are buried)—that’s right, I’m practically stalking Stuff You Missed in History Class, and I got to see the tomb of Catherine d’Medici. Because, as previously noted, I’m a dork. Went to the Monet museum, where I saw 45 paintings that were the collection of Monet’s youngest son—he left them all to the museum when he died in the 60s. Yes, the 1960s. They were AMAZING. I know that sophisticated people are supposed to think impressionism is lame. But seriously, I love it. So I guess I’m not a sophisticated art viewer. Oh well. Give me Monet any day. I went to the Pantheon and saw the tomb of Madame Curie (and a bunch of men who were important, like Victor Hugo and revolutionaries and blah blah blah). The lantern is being worked on so Foucault’s pendulum is down until 2015 or 2016. sigh. I used the stairs to climb the Eiffel tower (well, to the second floor), then went to the top and had champagne while watching sunset. I visited Notre Dame but the towers were closed that day (sad). I tried to visit Eglise St. Etienne du Mont, with the only surviving rood screen in Paris (again—dork), but it was inexplicably closed. I looked at the Louvre and the Pompidou from the outside. I ate cheese. I drank wine. I ate chocolate. And ice cream. I bought scarves. I wandered neighborhoods. I looked around old churches and took pictures of stained glass. I ate crepes! I saw adorable city parks. I got told I’m beautiful by people not related to me and who were not selling anything. I practiced my French (which is in a terrible state).

eglise st. eustache

this one's a little hard to see...that would be the graves of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI (or what's left of them...)

Catherine d'Medici in front, Henri II next to her...

I may have a little bit of a d'Medici obsession.

at Places des Vosges

my one (accidental) nod to what's in the background of my whole trip (life)...

do you hear the people sing? 
I saw a fashion photo shoot. When you see this chick in a magazine, you saw it here first...


this was every bit as amazingly delicious as it looks...

and this was even more delicious than it looks. Crepe with salted caramel sauce and pears. omg.

I enjoyed Paris. I’d love to go back. But I wouldn’t say it captured my heart or imagination the way Glasgow or Edinburgh do. The spirit of Paris is different…something about those Scottish cities just…I don’t know. I can’t even describe it (in fact, I’m tempted to say something like “Paris is just missing something…some little je ne sais quoi.”) It could be because I didn’t have much time, or because I’m traveling alone, or because I didn’t speak the language well enough. Or maybe my expectations were too romantic or idealized. Whatever the case—it was nice, but…
So, next time, Paris, I’ll be practicing my French before I go, taking a friend, and spending more time. We’ll see. :-)

1 comment:

  1. O my. Versailles. And those desserts. My mouth started watering at the icecream meringue and then the salted caramel crepe and... oh. My. So glad you're having a lovely time!