So it's my last night in Paris and I thought I would jot down some more thoughts after another two days in the place. Tomorrow I head to London and no doubt that will again swamp me with a different experience, so I want to get this down. I always knew 5 days in Paris would not be enough to really do the place justice and this evening I am definitely feeling that is so. However, I feel I have made the best of my time here and given it a jolly good go.
Since my last post I have visited the Musee D'Orsay, the Galeries Lafayette, Bastille, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. I have been busy,
Musee D'Orsay is far more manageable than the Louvre and can be done in a day. I also found the atmosphere in the place very relaxing and a great environment for viewing art. The collections are stunning, with the Rodin sculptures and the impressive Impressionist collection of particular note. The also have a very impressive Van Gogh collection and I was stunned to view this up close. Van Gogh is probably my favourite artist. I find the raw emotion in this brush and palette work impressive and I get a real kick out of seeing his up close. Also, they had a very interesting exhibition called Masculin which was dedicated to the male nude through history. It took in painting, sculpture and photography. It was interesting, at times confronting and often amusing. There were a lot of cocks in that place.
If you have been to Paris and not been to the Galeries Lafayette, you are definitely missing something. This is a serious shopping precinct. It takes in 3 buildings (as far as I could work out) and the most impressive of these has an amazing dome in it. Every label in fashion, perfume and anything else you can think of is there. The place was bloody humming on a Saturday too. It was almost too much, but I enjoyed wandering around taking it all in. A small but of shopping was done and then I had lunch at a cool little wonton place on the roof where you could also look out over Paris.
I finally made it up the Eiffel Tower this morning. This was my only tour of the trip. It seemed the easiest way to get in quickly and it certainly was that. The passage up to the first level was very quick as we bypassed the throngs of people waiting. Jesus it was bitterly cold up there though. Outside, in the wind was just miserable, yet hundreds of people were clambering to get up the tower come hell or high water. The guide was interesting, funny, a bit of a raconteur and he has plenty of interesting stuff about the tower of the city of Paris. I will admit though, it was so cold at height, that I was actually glad to get out of it all and down. Still what a view, what an amazing piece of architecture and what a city.
I don't really have words to describe Montmartre, it's a really interesting, vibrant and weird place. Probably also one of the coolest I have been. I emerged from the Metro, to see a squabble between a woman and one of the gypsy men who were doing the gambling games in the alleys. I moved with the throngs past the stores, gambling, food and general craziness and made my way up towards Sacre Ceour.
At this point I would like to thank all the people who briefed me about Paris and what to watch out for. I had a great technique in place for moving about Paris unhassled and it has worked perfectly. It certainly was useful at Montmartre.
I have good and bad to say about Sacre Ceour, and more really how it is. Let's start with the good. Oh what a church. Boy it is a stunning building, full of lovely atmosphere. It's very similar to Notre Dame in the mix of sightseers with little regard for sanctity and the devoted having deep religious experiences. I actually think it is a better church to be inside than Notre Dame. It felt more personal. The dome is beautiful.
After being inside I went up the Dome. This was an amazing experience, because hardly anyone goes up the 300 steps and so for the first time in Montmartre and Sacre Ceour I was not surrounded by people. I found myself picking my way across steps on the open roof of the church and then up into the dome. Boy what a view! Stunning and every bit as moving as inside. The views over Paris were amazing. After that I went down into the Crypt. Again, hardly anyone was there. There is basically another whole church underneath with numerous chapels and alters. Again, a moving testament to religion and how people are affected by it.
Now the bad, it's not Sacre Ceour itself, but they way people treat it. There are many steps up to Scare Ceour and all along the way people are trying to plait bracelets onto your arm. I used my patented, frown, hands in the pockets, French sounding "Non" to great effect. Then there is the bad souvenirs, topped by the guy playing very loud covers of Tracey Chapman and the like on the steps while the masses sit around the listen. This to me removes some of the sacred nature of the place. Yes it's all very Montmartre, but I think it's a bit distasteful in this place. A whole industry as risen around the masses going to see the church and it kind of detracts from the journey up to the church. I am conscious that I am sounding like an old fuddy duddy and I am not even religious, so I am going to move on.
After I left Montmartre I made my way by Metro to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. This place is famous for being the resting place of many great figures like Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. But actually, it's just a bloody stunning cemetery full of amazing tombs and crypts. It's also huge. I loved wandering around in this history, these amazing tombs and crypts. Of course I visited Jim Morrison (quite a small and unassuming grave) and Oscar Wilde's (anything but small and unassuming grave). WIlde's grave had been so graffitied by people that it had to be restored and is now protected by glass. There are still some actually quite lovely kiss marks on it from some adoring fans)
So, as my time comes to an end in Paris, I am feeling satisfied, in awe and quite fond of the place. I will definitely come back as I need to give this place more time. As a non French speaking person I have in the end found the place ok. Most French I encountered when you said 'Anglaise' will happily work with you in some form of English. In fact, most of them are just a bit worried about the fact that they won't know the words. It's hard speaking in someone else's language, I think they have a right to want you to speak at least a little of there's. I have had enough to get by and at least get going. The ability to say hello, please, thank you and goodbye gets you a long way.
And with that Au revior ...