A generally uneventful journey over to Paris from Normandy and the only even of note (or weary recognition) was the insufferable traffic jam which greeted us as soon as we hit the city proper.
The hotel in the B&B chain is basic, very basic. There are no cupboards and the shower is miniscule – but it is a bed and it is en suite and that, basically is all we need.
The breakfast is served (if that is the word) by an uncaring woman who lives up to the stereotype of resentful summer servitors in Paris and ostentatiously refills machines and leaves component parts blocking others in a way which shows that she is highly trained in customer disengagement! And there was no egg. When I asked about it I was told simply that there was none. It was left to the receptionist to explain that the delivery was late but that everything should be wonderful tomorrow.
As far as I can work out we are nowhere near either the centre of the city or the airport so we have, thanks to the kindness of the northern French allowed ourselves to be situated in the most inconvenient of places for everything we want and need to do. Though there is parking - which I fear we are going to pay through the nose for!
Today will mark the first time that Irene has visited the Louvre. I think that her inclinations are more towards the paintings in the D’Orsay but I am sure that we can do both. There is some sort of museum pass which should see us through our time in the city.
We had to pay to go to the toilet in the underground commercial opportunity that is the vast space under the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre! Robbery!
Our culture ticket is bought and that gives us the inestimable advantage of being able to short-circuit the queues which are a characteristic of culture in the city.
The Louvre was, as always wonderful and vast and undoable. No sooner have you seen the delights in one room than another is calling you and there is room after room that demands attention.
From J. L. David to the School of Avignon old friends were waiting to be revisited and chattering my enthusiasm to Irene (long suffering Irene!) I became quite light headed with gobbling up one masterpiece after another.
As with all my gallery visits there was An Encounter. This time with a German lady who joined in with my gibbering to Irene and delivered a diatribe on the Modern Attitude Towards Art and Things Cultural. She maintained that we grew up in a Golden Age of respect towards Art and that social networking and the lack of attention paid by young people to their heritage was the end of everything. All of this was apropos of nothing of course she just seamlessly entered our conversation and continued for some time trading artists’ names with me and extolling the decency with which we appreciated them! What would a gallery visit be without a strange intervention!
Exhaustion forced us to stop, but not before we had visited one of Irene’s favourite Murillos of the Little Beggar Boy. This is obviously a painting which the artist wanted to paint and there is a freedom and urgency in the brushstrokes which is missing from his more famous and presumably commissioned devotional paintings.
Our meal in the subterranean complex was taken in the restaurant area where you can choose from a variety of outlets. We chose Lebanese and had a selection of five non-meat salads which turned out to be tasty and filling.
Out into the rain and on the Pont Royal a woman appeared to find a wedding ring and readily agreed to hand it in to the police. The key word in that sentence is “appeared” as we were involved in a scam where she asked for money for her kids as we took the ring away to find a policeman. It was simple theft really and the bored policemen told us when we tried to present the ring to them. They shook their heads when they heard that we had given the woman money, thank god it was not too much! Anyone want to buy a “gold” wedding ring? Going cheap!
When we got into the Musee D’Orsay, slightly damp, but undaunted we immediately faced the cultural challenge by having a cup of coffee. This is a much more civilized way of appreciating culture than actually traipsing round looking at pictures!
By the time we were ready to set off on our active looking we barely made it past the Barbizon School before a multi-lingual announcement told us that the place was closing. Although we are going back tomorrow we found ourselves caught up in the panic which attends any announcement of closure in a major public art gallery: the frantic looking at paintings on the way out to convince yourself that you have seen as much as possible and had value for the cost of your admission! I am sure that any observer must have seen the Brownian Motion of seemingly randomly motivated spectators make when The Voice tells you that closing time is immanent!
As our lunch was salad light we feel perfectly justified in going back to the excellent restaurant that we found last night. It had a good fixed price menu, served until late and has the sort of atmosphere that you expect, but rarely find in Paris.
We will find out shortly if our assessment was correct. Bon appetite!