Sunday, August 18, 2013

From the archives: my long-ago trip to Paris, part four

Time for brevity.  (You’re probably thinking we’re past that, right?)  Well, brevity for me still isn't so brief.  Sorry.  But here are some highlights, stories and photos.  I promise, this is the last installment…

May 5, 2000:  First up, the Musee d’Orsay.  What a gorgeous space and perfect for viewing art.  It’s very cool to see so many Renoirs in person, plus “Whistler’s Mother.”  Lovely.  Next, Les Invalides to see Napolean’s Tomb.  Check.  Then to the Musee Rodin.  Now, this is a museum I could live in.  Stunning space, beautiful art.  We had lunch in the gorgeous garden café in back.  A jambon blanc is always appreciated, and it’s just a picture perfect afternoon – birds singing, sun shining, a breeze and a string quartet.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

From there, we took the Rue Cler walk as recommended by the d*mn guidebook.  It was nice.  I’m stubbornly not enjoying as much as I should because I’m just DONE with the d*mn guidebook and its evangelical followers (aka GFFMO).  We then saunter over to the Eiffel Tower, which was so monumentally crowded, we actually agree on taking our leave.  I did get some nice shots, though.  Since the weather was warm, we got on a Bateau Mouche instead.  Of course, a certain someone gets sunburned because he doesn’t take my advice about sunscreen.  I guess sunscreen wasn’t mentioned in the d*mn guidebook. 

After a nap, we head to yet another café that’s recommended in the d*mn guidebook.  Sigh.  On the way there, we pass the theater where Donald Margulies’ Dinner With Friends is playing.  I wish we could’ve seen it.  Oh well.  Once we’re at the restaurant, we’re seated next to another couple and the gal is holding the d*mn guidebook!  NOOOO!  GFFMO sits next to her, so they can wax rhapsodic about their guru, I sit across, next to her husband, who is ALSO completely over following every rule listed in that stupid tome.  So, that was nice.  But wouldn’t it have been even nicer to actually sit next to FRENCH people?!?!?!  Moving on.  The meal IS delicious, though, I have to admit.  A beautiful chopped salad to start, rabbit in a mustard sauce, and chocolate mousse for dessert (I have no idea why I took NO photos of food while in Paris.  Crazy, I guess).   Very yummy.  After a quiet stroll back to the hotel, sleep for me, nightlife for GFFMO.  You know, I don’t think I ever asked him if he was enjoying his nightlife…

May 6, 2000:  At last, the day trip I’ve been waiting for:  FONTAINEBLEAU!  Quick backstory: when GFFMO and I were first talking about taking this trip, we went to the French tourism office in NYC.  When we got off the elevator in the tourist office building, there was an enormous photograph of the most beautiful place I’d ever seen!  I said to GFFMO that I had to go there!  He agreed (since he didn’t have the d*mn guidebook with him at that early date).  The gal at the front desk told me it was Fontainebleau and I had been looking forward to seeing it for months.
Of course, we get tremendously lost in the train station.  The d*mn guidebook was no help, since it didn’t deem Fontainebleau a worthy enough attraction to write about, which meant GFFMO had little to no enthusiasm for going.  I rather forced him.  But it was nice to see him as clueless as I was, since he couldn’t refer to his travel guru for any answers.  Finally, we found the right train.  The chateau is about 50 miles from Paris, so it was a pleasant enough ride, then you take a bus the rest of the way.  Literally, you get off the bus across the street from the chateau!  It was surreal to get off this rickety bus, turn around, and see a glorious chateau.

I found Fontainebleau to be exquisite.  It is airier than Versailles and doesn’t have nearly as many tourists.  In fact, there are very few tourists at all.  With all the wood paneling, it also seems very homey.  Since there’s no walking tour from the d*mn guidebook, I’m free to wander around as I please, and look at whatever grabs my interest.  The forest and the gardens are also spectacular!  I’m loving being here, and could easily have spent more time exploring, but GFFMO was getting tired, probably from staying out so late looking for nightlife.  He starts to rush me and I get annoyed.  I believe I’m still holding a grudge.
Funny story, though:  we’re sitting at the bus stop to take the rickety bus back to the train station.  An elderly local is sitting at the bus stop as well.  GFFMO carries on a respectable conversation with her in French, then she pokes me with her cane and wants to know why I’m not talking, too!  After I explain to her, in my terrible French, that my French is terrible, she sighs, leans back and closes her eyes.  I’m such a disappointment.

After a lovely nap, we head to Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, and a stupid walking tour from the d*mn guidebook.  Though I did get a photo of the Lapin Agile and thought of Steve Martin.  When we return to our neighborhood, all of the acceptable (according to the d*mn guidebook) cafes are full – of American tourists, I might add – and since GFFMO refuses to eat anywhere else, we stop at a recommended market and get some gourmet takeout.  Again, it was delicious and terrific, but still.  When watching French tv in the room that night, I see a show that makes me laugh, “Dancez Maintenant.”  The host is French pop star, Dave (I now have some Dave tunes on my iPod.  I love them), and his guest is Marc Anthony.  Hysterical.  GFFMO goes out for nightlife and I watch a replay of the Millennium Concert, performed earlier in the week at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.  It was lovely.

May 7, 2000:  Last Day.  I’m sad to be leaving Paris, but I’m happy at the thought of being without GFFMO and the d*mn guidebook.  We head to the Cluny, to see the glorious Unicorn Tapestries and some original sculptures from Notre Dame.  Then we head to the Carnavalet, to study the history of France.  Fascinating.  A walk through the Luxembourg Gardens, and quick looks at Saint Germain and Sainte Sulpice.  I was hoping to hear some music, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We do a little souvenir shopping in the Louvre shopping concourse, then we split up.  I wish I had had the nerve to do some solo exploring before, but I am determined to get some alone time today.  I want to see the Monet Museum (the Marmottan), and GFFMO doesn’t.  I’m ever so glad I screw my courage to the sticking place and go to see it. 

I adore this museum and I also adore looking through it without a walking tour from the d*mn guidebook.  I love all the paintings from Giverny and I see a few iterations of Water Lilies that I’ve never seen before.  One of them, done in primary colors, is just spectacular.  I would’ve bought a print from the museum store, but they were out of that particular print.  I just can’t catch a break.  Oh, and I loved seeing an exhibit of Berthe Morisot’s work – she was another artist I talked about in The Heidi Chronicles.  I wish I had more hours to wander this incredible place.

I wish I had also tried to find the Musee Jacquemart-Andre while I was out alone, but I didn’t feel like I had the time to do it justice.  Next time.  I make it back to the hotel in one piece and GFFMO seems surprised I didn’t screw up.  Whatever.  After watching a bit of French tv, we head out to the restaurant on the roof of the Musee Pompidou and enjoy a delicious dinner.  My first goat cheese ravioli.  It won’t be the last.  After dinner, I head back to the hotel to pack and GFFMO enjoys (I guess) one more night of nightlife.

May 8, 2000:  Au revoir, Paris.  And good riddance, GFFMO and the d*mn guidebook.  There are several squabbles before we get back to NYC.  But, after all the heartaches and annoyances, I am appreciative of the wonder of Europe and hope to go back again someday.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself and how I would like to travel and how I deserve to be treated.  So, I guess, it was all worth it!  To quote one my favorite guilty-pleasure movies, “Paris is always a good idea.”


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