Paris, France (Part Two)
I didn't know Paris had a Statue of Liberty but on our third day I came across it. It took me roughly 45 minutes to figure out how to get down to the foot of the statue, then one minute to take photos before leaving. Not worth it.
What was worth seeing was the Marmotten-Monet museum. It was set up in a small mansion (if there is such a thing), with a whole level dedicated to Monet paintings and the story of his life. It was fascinating, and at least a billion times better than the Lourve. Impresssionism is far more interesting to me than the Renaissance/Baroque/Neoclassical style of painting - basically anything before 1850 I am happy to skip over.
Then it was over to the big one: the Eiffel Tower. The photos started from the Palais de Chaillot, continued down to the tower and underneath the structure itself, before ending at the Ecole Militaire. I'm surprised my camera lasted the journey. I'm not sure why a huge chunk of metal holds such fascination but it sucked me right in. I didn't know the background to the structure or why it was of significance, but there was still a feeling that I was looking up at greatness (that required a photo from every angle imaginable).
After I could finally draw myself away from the tower and my camera, I met up with Danny to walk through the Hotel des Invalides. The building was originally set up for wounded soldiers but now houses a war museum and church. The museum, being all from the French point of view, was quite boring (I'm sure Danny would disagree with me here). The church was pretty cool though and held Napoleon's tomb, a massive, blood-red vault that took pride of place in the centre of the room.
We thought about going up the Eiffel Tower but the weather was lousy. Instead we visited the Petit Palais, which contained a free art gallery. For a "petit" palace it was reasonably large and took us a lot longer to explore than expected. It turned out to be quite high quality for a free museum, even containing some Impressionist paintings, much to be delight. The photo exhibit of different cultures was also a highlight.
I went to buy a drink from a local store and didn't recognise anything except Coke. I spotted a drink called "Panaché" and asked Danny what that meant in French. He replied "mixture". I presumed it would be a tropical/mixed fruit carbonated beverage. So, so wrong. It turned out that Panaché was a mixture, but not of juices. It was a mixture of lemonade and beer. The look on my face when I took a large swig told Danny exactly how I felt about it. One sip was enough for me - Danny drank the rest. Like Asia, I guess you can buy alcohol everywhere (including McDonald's, which Danny was stoked to discover).
There are so many homeless people in France, which is really surprising. Every tourist attraction has beggars outside asking for money or lying on the ground with a cup next to them. Many of them have dogs. However they are also quite polite and not in your face, in contrast to Asia.
Danny cooked dinner for us again, a mixed vegetable omelette. To keep with tradition, this was followed by Camembert and bread. I don't know if I will ever get sick of this dessert.
On the fourth day I spent 12 hours walking around Paris, only sitting down for about half an hour. My feet were in agony by the end.
First off I hit the Musee d'Orsay, which contained artworks that were a little more recent that the Lourve so I was happy. It was set inside an old train station and still retained the original domed shape and huge clock at one end. The paintings were fantastic, featuring many of my favourite artists. Plus it wasn't stupidly big, another win over the Lourve.
Next was the Orangerie, another museum containing paintings around the same time period as the Musee d'Orsay (20th century). There was whole level dedicated to eight of Monet's water lilies panoramic paintings, split over two oval-shaped rooms. They were mesmerising; I think I spent 45 minutes in just those two rooms. The lower level was tiny and I finished it in about 20 minutes. It was really all about Monet for me.
Outside the Orangerie I almost fell into a trap with a local girl. She pretended to find a ring on the road and asked if it was mine. I replied that it wasn't but she then asked if I wanted it, that it was "very valuable". She basically forced the thing into my hand and I was just about to walk away with it when she told me I needed to pay for it. I quickly gave the ring back and even more quickly got out of there.
Then I walked up to Montmarte, via a couple of churches and the Opera House. I didn't realise Montmarte was up a huge hill and it took me a long, long, long time to reach the top. I saw the Moulin Rouge on the way – not as impressive as I was expecting. The Sacre Couer in Montmarte was gigantic and pretty cool, especially with the sweeping views over Paris. Montmarte was full of artists and souvenir shops and it appeared to be the slightly cheaper side of town (although anything would be cheaper than most of Paris).
I walked all the way down from Montmarte to meet up with Danny (after he had visited the Pompidou museum) oustide Hotel De Ville, a huge hotel with an open air ice rink out the front. We skipped over the skating session and instead walked up the Champs Elysees (in the rain) to the Arc de Triomphe, which we were going to visit but decided the rain would make it a waste of time. Instead we stopped at a bar to get a drink. I had my first French Sauvignon Blanc since being in France and it was amazing. The downside was the toilet: squat. In the middle of Paris. Why??
Once it became dark and the rain had stopped, I elected to climb the 276 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Danny chose to sit in McDonald's and have a beer (not a sentence I have ever uttered before).The view of the city at night was breathtaking – unfortunately my cheap camera didn't do it justice.
Afterwards I picked up Danny from his McBeer fest and we walked back down Champs Elysees, window shopping and taking photos of famous sights lit up at night. We arrived back at the van later than expected and ended up having dinner (toasted sandwiches) at 10:30 p.m. Luckily those cheap baguettes we eat during the day keep us going.