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Friday, August 14, 2015

More music in the Jardins, Tombs of the famous, Monet's face in the lilies, Heminway's haunt, Polidor restaurant, and much more.


Loring arrived. His arrival as I imagined it did not happen.  He’d said his flight left Boston one and a half hours late. I had arrived, or almost arrived, at Rue Gay Lussac, after 11AM. I remember specifically, probably minutes before falling down the up escalator, worrying because I’d kept Pierre waiting over a half hour. Then again, shouldn’t he have known better than I how long it should take from the airport to the apartment? But, I digress.  Because of the above factors, I didn’t start looking from the balcony for Loring until 11 am. I was sitting just inside, at the window, and writing this blog, I believe.

I stood up to go to the bathroom, took a peek out from the balcony, and there he was, and had been waiting, for five or ten minutes already. I guess the pilot made up for lost time.
So what I’d envisioned for days, waiting at the balcony and seeing him emerge from the metro, never happened. Oh, well.

The first day, after a brief rest for Loring at the apartment, we set out on my potential planned itinerary for day one, the easy one, as I told him.  And we actually wound up doing everything I had tentatively planned. First, a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens, to Rue Fluerus, to pay tribute to Gertrude and Alice and entourage.   We’d heard music at the bandstand from the apartments, just as I had a week or two before,  and wound up listening to the group for a while before crossing the park. It was a Hungarian band, three brothers, a cousin, and one unrelated guy. I recognized one tune, something I had danced to in folk dances groups years before. Their website described them as reviving and playing traditional music that had been collected by Bela Bartok. But what they played sounded like a mix of traditional, jazz, and almost a klezmer sound. They were terrific. They had three tiny stringed instruments that we didn’t hear them play, but that I read were at the crux of their music.

We moved along, and across the gardens, to chez Gertrude.  Then back around the edge of the gardens to the Pantheon. It is a beautiful building with an impressive dome. The dome is currently under renovation, and is entirely covered with scaffolding, an impressive sight in itself. In all my many times in Paris, I had never before been there.  It  is right in my neighborhood,  and I  had walked by it, or at least seen the dome,  pretty much every day this trip. The Pantheon is famous for the many people whose tombs are in the crypt there, including Victor Hugo, Marie and Pierre Curie, Voltaire, and many many others.  We spent some time in the main area of the Pantheon, and then headed down to the many corridors of the tombs. I recognized many names, some were people I knew of, many other names that I recognized from street names or metro stops.

We headed on, down the Boul Mich and across the Seine, passing by Notre Dame, and headed over to Paris Plage. I still find it quite whimsical, and love the fact that Parisians enjoy it so much.  Unfortunately, we got to the stage where they do tai chi in the mornings and have dancing at night, too late. I don’t understand why the music and dancing end at 8pm, when everything in Paris seems to go late, and it doesn’t get dark until after 10 pm.

Next day, we walked quite a bit and eventually headed over to the Arts and Metiers museum, which I thought that Loring would really appreciate, and where I’d tried to meet Matthew,  but where we’d somehow missed each other.  Loring did like it, to an extent, and I was happy to pay another visit, not having seen everything on the first time around. They have everything from models of old weaving machines to early flying machines to early tv sets to computers. But, as Loring pointed out, the tech displays, touch screens, etc. don’t seem very well designed, and don’t work well. Some of them don’t work at all. Ironic, to say the least, for a museum of technology. But I still like the old timey feel of the place, the beautiful wood and glass cases, highlighting the technology of the19th century when the museum was built, and of times before that.  And all the beautiful models, works of art themselves. 

I tried to be good and not schedule or suggest too many museums for Loring’s three days. Not the Louvre, nor the Orsay, nor many others, but did suggest the Pompidou and the Carnavalet (history of Paris) as well as the ones above.

I’d scouted around for restaurants that were authentic but not expensive. Neither of us likes stuffy gourmet restaurants, we both prefer little hole in the wall places.  There’s a plethora of sushi, Mexican,  you name it ethnic restaurants as well as the pretty decent food in the neighborhood cafes, where I’d had several meals.  I found one place listed as inexpensive that was not far from the apartment, and then walked right past it one day without having been looking for it.

So that seemed like the place,  atmospheric, old, not expensive, nearby. On Loring’s first day, we happened to walk by, and I pointed it out, saying we should go there our last evening. And we did. The name of the place is Polidor. It’s been there since 1845. I’d say little has changed in that time period. Most remarkable is the only toilet, a Turkish style. ceramic hole in the floor kind.

When I pointed out the restaurant to Loring, I noticed a photo of Woody Allen in the window. A a young American man standing outside the restaurant said to us, “Have you seen Midnight in Paris?”  And added, “this is where they filmed the scene where Owen Wilson meets Hemingway. He also told us that Hemingway had been a regular at the place, as well as other luminaries. I debated asking him if he’d paid homage  chez Gertrude and Alice, and now am sorry I didn’t mention it. Perhaps he already knew.

So I guess I can say I used the same toilet that Hemingway did. I think that might even be more exciting than seeing the bathroom at his house in Cuba, which I could only peer in at. It was beautiful, though,

The food at Polidor was perfect, just what I’d hoped, real old home style food. I’d planned on having the lamb, the special every Sat. and Sunday, but they were out of it. We’d come too late, said the waitress, who was also perfectly suited to the environment. So I had a turkey leg cooked with cabbage in a kind of stew, which was delicious. They somehow kept the skin crisp, I wish I knew how. It was too much to eat, so I asked her to package up the rest for me to take home. But she didn’t understand me, and tossed it. I was desolate. Next trip, I guess.

They had made a few concessions to modernity, although not with the toilet. There was a sign that said, No credit cards taken, since 1845. The modernity was not that they took credit cards, but that they had a modern funny sign, although they made it out to look old.

One day, as we walked along the Seine, Loring noticed a police boat rushing down the river. We leaned over the wall, between the booksellers’ stalls, to see. Within minutes another boat, this one filled with firefighters, pulled up. We watched for a bit, not seeing anyone in danger. Then we noticed, first a young woman in a bikini, then, a few minutes later, a young man also in a swimsuit,  at the edge of the water. The couple, and the officers, huddled there for five or ten minutes as we watched, trying to figure out what had occurred. Neither seemed terribly distressed, but they didn’t seem too happy either. As we were ready to continue on, officers brought over aluminum wraps for the two, the kind they give runners after a marathon. It seemed odd that after  ten or so minutes they were finally concerned about the couple being chilled.

 Our guess, finally, was that they had dove into the Seine, probably not allowed or a good idea, and then couldn’t  climb out. They also happened to be right at the stop for the tourist boat, which of course came along right then, although the tourists seemed only slightly interested.  We never did find out. I forgot to look at the paper the next day, just as I had forgotten to look for info on the demonstration I’d watched from my little balcony.
Later in the day were hot and tired after a lot of walking. We didn’t dive into the Seine, though.   We weren’t far from the Canal St. Martin, so headed there, thinking we’d find a shady spot to sit, But the shady side of the canal was already crammed with folks, and the sunny side was too hot, so we decided to move on.

 I thought of the Buttes Chaumont,  a park I’d been to once before when  I was with my mosaic group. So we headed there, our first and perhaps only time in the metro together. I hadn’t been using it much, unlike on other trips, and after mishap #2, when my hand got caught in the door, I wasn’t much fond of either metro cars or escalators.  But the Buttes are in one of the further out arrondissements, and at least I was tired of walking. We emerged on  one of the longest escalators  in the city. The Buttes were under extensive renovation, and were pretty crowded on this hot sunny day. We did find a shady spot, and both took naps. While lying half asleep, I heard an odd tinkling sound I couldn’t place. After a while looking, I realized it was vendors walking through the park, sellilng bottled drinks, and tapping their openers against the bottles. They did it in a restrained way, not when they were too near people, and not too loudly. The sound was in fact kind of pleasant. After seeing several, I realized that the men were not selling bottled water, as vendors do near all the big monuments and museums. They were selling bottles of wine and beer.  One more cultural difference.

We did go to another museum, the Orangerie in the Tuileries that is home to Monet’s expansive water lily panels, which the space was designed to hold.  They are definitely worth viewing every few years. Too bad my Museum pass was no longer valid, it was one of the places where the pass let you jump the line. Last time I was there I was on my own, and saw a very distinct image of Monet himself in one of the panels. I was curious to see if I’d have the same reaction now, several years later.  I sure did, as distinct as before.  I could envision  others too, but they required more imagination and were not as precise and didn’t look especially like Monet. I had previously convinced myself that this was Monet’s intentional doing, his little joke on viewers. But now I wasn’t quite as sure.

We went into the second room of paintings, and then returned through the first. I asked Loring to take my picture with Monet. Just as he did, another visitor gestured precisely outlining the place where I saw Monet’s face.   Loring is certain that the man saw the same image I see in the painting.  And just as I had convinced myself that I was the only one in on Monet’s little joke.  I have looked but never found any reference to Monet’s self portrait in the water lilies.

On the day we saw the rescued   stranded swimmers we walked through the Ile St. Louis, a beautiful little island in the Seine. I knew from various guidebooks that the supposed best ice cream in Paris, Berthillion, was there, but had never sampled it. Now it seems that every corner on the Ile, and other places too, serve Berthillon ice cream. I wonder if the original place still has the long lines that the guidebooks always described. So, even though it was still morning, it seemed that the time to sample Berthillon had come. We shared a two flavor cone, chocolate and mocha. It was good, but I have to say that the ice cream I had at Paris Plage was even better. Sorry Berthillon.

And that concludes the last stage of my Paris soujourn, three days with Loring to end the month. And we did watch the Tower sparkle, all three nights.         


Next, on to London…

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