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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Filling in some blanks

Never did catch up before we got home. I don't think I ever do. No matter how much I write, which is probably too much, I always feel there are things I neglected to detail.

So now, back ensconsed on my sofa and my regular life at home, I will try to at least fill in some of the details that I have missed.

Loring and I spent two days together in Paris, after my five days there on my own. It was actually more like a day and a half.  I tried not to cram in  too many events, or even plan anything definite. But I had seen a brochure about a summer festival, with events throughout the summer months. One was a tightwire artist who was going to walk a distance from Sacre Coeur, the impressive church in Montmarte, to someplace down the steep hill.  We decided to go, and to walk part of the way, until we(me) got tired. Turned out we walked the entire way.  It was about three miles.  We walked around the very touristed  top of the hill, where zillions of artists do charcoal portraits of visitors.  We actually have a a very nice one of Carolina when she was small, so I shouldn't be too disparaging.

We looked for a cafe, there were plenty, but I wanted one that made citron presse.  It's basically just lemonade - a lot of lemon juice, served with sugar and a pitcher of water.  But they press so many lemons, and I ask for extra water and ice, so I usually get about four glasses from one serving.  Or maybe it tastes good just because it's Paris. Should I start calling my own version,  which I make at home with soda water, citron presse?  Or citron presse gazeuse, to be even more pretentious?   I have to confess I just use bottled lemon juice for mine.

Okay, back from that tangent, we found a cafe with the citron presse, and a good view of the throngs passing by. Perfect, to do the Parisian thing of sitting in a cafe passing time. (It was a while before the tightrope performance.)  Perfect, that is, until a  musician with a speaker, a guitar, and terrible taste in music,  (think Barry Manilow.)  planted himself right in front of us. He sang, and the speaker blasted at a pretty intolerable level ,and we cringed and tried to ignore him. When he came around to ask for donations after at least 15 minutes  of excruciating loud music,  I said, as politely as I could, that the music was a bit too loud.  Escusez-moi, he said, and I couldn't tell if he was being genuine or sarcastic.  But he did move the speaker further away, and faced it away from us.  And then, obviously realizing that we were American, played When the Saints go Marching in.  At least that's a decent song, and the decibels were much reduced.

Found spots on the sloping lawn  and steps that lead  down Montmarte from Sacre Coeur.  There were plenty of people around but it wasn't mobbed and the atmosphere was festive. When I looked up and saw the height and length of the tightwire, I felt slightly sick and wondered if I really wanted to be there.

She began at the bottom of the hill, and went up towards the church.  The lower part was the highest above the ground, and we were near the top. Her walk took about a half hour. There was live orchestra music, and she stopped and turned and hung and balanced frequently along the way.  There was no safety rope or net.  About halfway through I finally relaxed somewhat. I was beginning to convince myself that she might survive and not slip and  plummet to the ground, as I kept envisioning.

It was an impressive performance, no doubt.  And I applauded with everyone else when she reached the top, just beyond us, and bowed, along with her four assistants(they helped the volunteers who were holding side ropes along the way to steady her rope.)  and the orchestra.   But I wonder what it is that makes us want to watch performances like this.  It's partly, of course, being impressed with the performer's incredible skill. But isn't part of it also the dark  thrill of knowing that it's possible that it will end in tragedy?  I find myself both drawn to and repelled by the event. But there's no doubt that it was an incredible performance, in an incredible setting.

Anyway, we made our way back to the bottom of the hill, and the metro, and went back home to watch the Tower glow and flash its lights for the first five minutes of each hour.

The second, and last day of our Paris time together, we walked at length again, this time through a corner of the Bois de Bologne, to a museum that is relatively new, and to which I had never been.  I don't believe, that in all the times I've spent in Paris, that I've ever been to the Bois de Bologne. If I remember right, during the time I lived there, it was famous as a gay pick up spot. But places change, Times Square is now family friendly, and the former Combat Zone in Boston is now the quite the proper theater zone.

  There's a children's park in the Bois, which we walked through, with all kind of  rides, the usual amusement part kind, and camel rides, which was kind of startling to see. The saddles held a couple of children on each side, sideways. Which is exactly how I remember riding at the Bronx Zoo when I was small.  I think that was on an elephant, but now I'm not sure, maybe it was a camel. Bizarre in either case. I don't think you'd see that at the Bronx Zoo these days, and I was kind of surprised to see it there. The children's park is old, from the 1890's, but they just renovated it a few years ago. There are elements of the old architecture, but I wish I would have seen it before. Although that would probably have made it sadder. One nice touch - they had water spouts( know there's a name for them) embedded  at intervals in the pavement, which would periodically shoot up, and then, after a few minutes, die down.   quite the treat on a blistering hot day, and not just for kids.  (Loring, where's my "Marilyn" picture?)  Also startling, when you didn't expect it.

The museum is the Fondation Vuitton, funded by the haute couture luggage company, if you can call luggage couture.  I think it opened in 2014.  The building is spectacular, designed by Frank Gehry, and is truly worth visiting for that reason alone.  The exhibits were great, too, and we wound up spending a few hours there. I would definitely recommend it if you are spending more than a couple of days and have already seen some of the old standbys.

That night, we ate at a restaurant just a couple of blocks from our apartment, recommended by our host. She said they eat there often. It was an excellent suggestion, and a great way to end the Paris part of our travels.


The next morning,we flew from Paris to Pula, Croatia. We spent the next two weeks driving thru Croatia and into Bosnia-Herzogovina, and back again to Croatia, where we ended our travels in Split. If you have been confused by the chronology and itinerary, I am not surprised, so am I. We stayed in 6 different places, and it's hard for me to sort them all out now. A couple were wonderful, and all were interesting.  I am not sure I would recommend Croatia in the summertime, it is replete with tourists. The crowds made it difficult, at times, to enjoy the places.  But the less traveled places, in small towns we chose partly for the location between other stops, were the real treasures of the trip. I suppose that is often the case in any travels, the hidden treasures you discover mostly by chance are some of the most memorable experiences

Still worried about losing entries before  I can post them, I will stop here, then pick up again with another, hopefully(for you and me both)   last post...







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