Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Paris 2013

ne·glect (n-glkt)
tr.v. ne·glect·ed, ne·glect·ing, ne·glects
1. To pay little or no attention to; fail to heed; disregard: neglected their warnings.
2. To fail to care for or attend to properly: neglects her appearance.
3. To fail to do or carry out, as through carelessness or oversight: neglected to return the call.

1. The act or an instance of neglecting something.
2. The state of being neglected.
3. Habitual lack of care.
guilt·y (glt)
adj. guilt·i·er, guilt·i·est
a. Responsible for a reprehensible act; culpable.
b. Law Found to have violated a criminal law by a jury or judge.
c. Deserving blame, as for an error: guilty of misjudgment.
2. Suffering from or prompted by a sense of guilt: a guilty conscience.
3. Suggesting or entailing guilt: a guilty smirk; a guilty secret. See Synonyms at blameworthy.
Both of the above, and my apologies to my faithful followers for neglecting my blog.  I will try harder...
I spent the better part of March, April and May going back and forth to Europe (France, Spain, Morocco) and ended up back in Mexico.  One must pay the bills.  I will be working in Mexico the rest of the year, though I get to go home and work on my boat for a few weeks in July.  That said, here are some pictorial highlights of the last three months:

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Trocadero

Yes, I returned to the City of Lights a second and again a third time and again a fourth time.  Its just that great!  I made the effort to learn the metro system and practice my French.  I frequented the Louvre several times and toured all of the great galleries and museums. Having spent nearly a month there, I have my top ten list of Must-Dos and also one Don't-Dos:

Top Ten Must Dos (In no particular order!):
Buy a bottle of wine (Don't forget your swiss army cork screw!), a baguette, some fresh salmon and some cream cheese, a red onion and a bottle of capers... and then go have a picnic on the banks of the River Seine. Unforgettable!  I prefer the left bank but the right bank or the point of land at the down river end of the Isle (Parc de Pont Neuf) is just as good.  If you go at sundown or later, expect scores of university age kids to be drinking champagne, beer or wine, playing guitars, drums and/or saxophones and dancing in groups. If you are lucky, one of the french girls will ask you to use your cork screw.
The Louvre:  Definitely one of my top threes.  No sane person tries to see all of the Louvre in one day.  Good thing I'm not sane!  I have tried this on at least three occasions and failed miserably, though I think I have seen it all now. My favourites:  Italian Sculptures, though the paintings are growing on me.
Midnight and you can't sleep what with all the lights still on, countless people making noise out on the street and the jet lag (which lasts for 3 - 4 nights!)... get up, get dressed and take a taxi to the Trocadéro. (See above pic).  From there, walk straight towards the unmissable Eiffel Tower past the gardens and fountains, and across the Pont D'lena and right to the tower.  This is also a great time to pull out a bottle of wine and sit on the lawn around the tower.  (You'll likely be accompanied by groups sitting around playing guitars, singing and dancing!)

Visit Montmarte:  Take the Metro to Blanche or Pigalle and walk up to Sacre Coeur. Enjoy the artists drawing the tourists (Its very very difficult not to get your portrait done by the pushy artists walking around with pads and pencils!)  Enjoy a walk through Sacre Coeur and especially the view from the highest hill in Paris!
Sacre Coeur on top of the hill
If you take a little stroll across the Pont Neuf you are bound to have a good wander among the Flower Market (Bird Market on Sundays only!), Shakespeare and Company Bookstore and among many other things, Notre Dame, not only the most beautiful gothic cathedral in the world, but the setting of Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame... One almost expects to see Quasimodo scale one of the towers, forefinger to brow as he looks for the beautiful dancing Gypsy girl Esmeralda.
Notre Dame
Marché aux Fleurs
You don't have to google very far and you will discover lists of Markets throughout Paris.  It is worth a day to hop on and off the metro (I buy 7 day passes) and discover the best of antiques, flowers, and my personal favourite: Food! My top two recommendations are Place de Monge  and Marche Moufetard.  The former is a fresh fish and produce market located at the top of the Monge metro (Open on Wednesdays amd Sundays only!). The latter is a street which runs for 6 or 7 blocks (yea like the French know what a block is... think odd geometry like rectangular triangles!) but it is a smorgasboard of seafood, baguettes, wines, cheeses,  patés and patisseries. Definitely a must see!

Place Monge

Rue d'Mouffetard

One doesn't have to walk to far a field to end up at Luxembourg Gardens, a large green expance with a round pond surrounded by kids pushing off their toy sailboats.  Royal sculptures abound along with several fountains.  My favourite by far (only second to the incredible ones in Rome!) is the Medici Fountain.

Fountain of the Observatory (Luxembourg)
The original Statue of Liberty

The Medici Fountain
The one-eyed giant Polyphemus Surprising the Lovers Acis and Galatea, by sculptor Auguste Ottin

The Sights...  Ah yes.. places to go, things to see... 24 hour action and no time to sleep!  I will list the top attractions, though my faithful readers need only go to Google or Wikipedia to find out more.  The thing is, yes you must see the sights... go to the Pantheon (Yes do!), walk through the Louvre,  see the Theremes de Cluny (Roman Baths - now renamed Musée national du Moyen Âge; so-so), La Musee Rodin (Yes!), Musee d'Orsay (Yes! Some of the best of Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh!) and of course Les Invalides (Absolutely!)...  and see the sights you will.  But the beauty of Paris is not contained in the walls of it's sights...  Every path you take, you will stumble across beautiful sights that Google will never understand: Beautiful French women in their long stockinged legs, matching heels, purse, belt, choker, and red berets (And always a cigarette at hand!), The men with thir jeans, T-shirt and dinner blazers, Lovers walking hand in hand, Kissers doing what they do best at street corners (Kiss!), Groups of people babbling at sidewalk cafes, Buskers singing American tunes, Hawkers trying to sell you junk you don't need, taxis, crowds, boutiques, eateries and on and on and on it goes...

Tower of St. Jaques

...And then there is the food. Tis true.  One can not wander the streets of Paris for long without coming face to face with the food. It's literally on the streets and sidewalks so enjoy a fresh steaming hot crepe, sit down at the sidewalk cafes, and enjoy. Life is not long enough to try all the delights of Paris but do your best!

And I can not write an Ode to Paris without mentioning the shopping.  One has only to walk in any direction to come across endless specialty boutiques filled to the rafters with fashion, fashion and more fashion. I'm not even a woman and I came away with colourful lycra tops with wild designs and sequins.  Allow at least a month to see it all! 

 Oh and of course there are the big high end department stores on Blvd Hausman:
Galeries Lafayette and Pritemps are a smorgasboard of VERY expensive high high high end name brand stores. Expect to find jewellery, perfumes, purses, and clothing, clothing, clothing.  Oh and of course chocolate too.  Good restaurants at both and if you go to Pritemps, make sure you bring your camera and catch the view from the roof.
And for those of modest means (Don't go to Paris!), there is always Les Halles, an underground mall where the great unwashed masses buy their jeans and hair dye. (And if it's a K-Mart you are looking for, find the old Hotel D'Ville, which is basically a Walmart type store... great for bargains!)

My one Don't Do:  Versailles. In my humble opinion, it is over crowded, grossly overpriced and though probably worth doing once in your life just to see (Marie Antoinette's little farm and village was my only highlight)... you would be better off to google it up, learn all about it and then spend a day in Paris spoiling yourself lavishly with all the money you save by not going to the royal palace.
And to conclude my loving Ode to Paris, I will mention the lovelocks covering many of the bridges across the Seine.  Tradition has it that if you bring your sweetheart, you must bring a padlock with your names engraved on it, lock it on a bridge and throw the key in the river... Apparently it guarantees your love forever, and I for one, believe it. 
Join in next week when I tell you about Morocco!

PS.  For the record:  Next trip to Paris; Tour Notre Dame, Visit the Catacombs, Place des Vosges, Père Lachaise Cemetery and Quai de Valmy.  :)