Day 14: Paris

My hotel for last night was horrible. The neighborhood was a bad one, and I was a bit scared of getting mugged walking the block from the metro station to the hotel, luckily it wasn’t far and I could see it once I left the station. The room was cramped of course, what you get for 32 euros. It had a shower but the curtain was so short that it didn’t do much other than to keep the water that hit the floor closer to the shower. Its no wonder there was so much water damage. The bedspread had stains on it, and there were crumbs in between the sheets, like they didn’t bother washing them between guests. I decided it best to sleep in my street clothes. I really don’t want to know what the place would look like lit by a UV light. Also there seemed to be no soundproofing what so ever, so the teenagers on vacation in the rooms next to me were driving me crazy yelling and talking at late hours… I woke up this morning tired. I decided I needed a new hotel for tonight, so I went looking for Hotel Eldorado which comes well recommended in Lonely Planet. Its in a district called Clichy, which is a lot nicer than my first hotel in Paris. Its still urban, but it has a more quiet suburban feel. The food around is more catered to people leaving for work who live in the district, which suits me well, and there is a place I was able to do my laundry at barely a block away. Laundry in Paris is damn expensive, it cost me 5.50 euros to wash and dry just 1 load! I made sure with the hotel manager that was common in Paris… I remember in French Polynesia it was expensive too, I wonder if its a French deal. At my apt it costs me $1.50 to do a load wash and dry… Anyways so Eldorado however didn’t have any single rooms open, so I sat down in the lobby and started looking for alternatives when the manager let out a sigh like she felt sorry for me, and said she had a triple room she hasn’t been able to fill, and she could give it to me for 47 euros. In Paris the very cheapest hotel you can find period is what I had the previous night at 32, and its almost impossible to find a nice room for under 50 (go ahead and check priceline europe if you don’t believe), so I took the room. I mean I could look around Paris for hours and maybe save 7-10 euros max, but if I took too long I wouldn’t have time to see the sights, and would end up needing another day in Paris. With that little bit of risk analysis out of the way I took the room, dropped off my stuff and went to go do my laundry before heading out to see Paris.

My first stop was the Louvre. I really didn’t have any idea how large the place was, its mammoth. If you had the audio guide it would be easy to spend a day or even 2 just wandering the Louvre. Instead I didn’t want to shell out the 7 euros, especially with life being so damn expensive here in Paris and already having paid the reduced entrance fee of 9 euros. I decided to say screw it to the map, and just wander the halls starting out with pre-classical Greece.

I had just taken a course with my friend Caroline last quarter on ancient Greece, so it was really cool to see objects starting from 2200 BC Greece all the way through to the end of the Hellenistic Age. I was also very in the sculpture collection as a whole, I haven’t seen a museum with so many. It was particularly interesting to me in that you could see the hair style and armor worn during the time through the eyes of someone who was seeing it for themselves. Some of the detail on the sculptures was amazing, you the folds in the cloth were amazingly detailed, and I was surprised they survived all this time. I also saw the Venus Demilo[sp?], but I was really not so impressed as the throngs of tourists snapping photos. I took a few to not feel left out.

The museum also had a collection of mosaics from the Byzantine empire, which were in a room with a mosaic floor. I took a photo of one for my mother because that seems like something she would be interested in, but it will have to be seen in the full res area or the little tiles wont show up.

The building itself is the most ornately decorated building there probably is, every ceiling is painted in a gaudy post-Renaissance style with gold leaf everywhere. Some of the paintings on the ceiling are as beautiful as the ones hanging on the walls.

The museum is also host to a number of interesting trinkets from all different civilizations as well as sections dedicated to Egyptian and Islamic art. I found it somewhat amusing that they had a section of the Egyptian art that was being said from the Ptolemaic dynasty, but ironically the Ptolemy blood line were following Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s Macedonian(Greek) generals. The Ptolemy family never really until Cleopatra had never really been a part of or even supported culture that was not from their homeland. Of course the reason it was called from the Ptolemaic dynasty is because of the period in which it was created.. but its still amusing to me. The Louvre as I’m sure everyone is aware… has a huge collection of international paintings, with most of the French artist’s work being held in the Musée d’Orsay. I found a number of paintings interesting, and unlike in other museums, the Louvre only discourages photography in some areas, and I don’t think they would bother me if they saw me take a photo and I wasn’t using flash. I hate flash.. It gives everything a different color than the natural ambient light, and only things close by are lit by it, so it just doesn’t look the same as it is in real life, I would much rather use a longer exposure if possible(though its hard to control that directly with my camera). Flash should in my opinion only be used when you need to catch something thats moving in low light conditions.

I was also impressed by the tapestries that were held here, with some very stunning, detail examples from Asia Minor. The collection of Bronze and Iron armor from antiquity was also interesting to see. I hope that one day if I write a game set in a middle ages or classical sort of period I can draw on what I saw.

Interestingly Napoleon III used the Louvre as his personal house, and the directors of the museum have left a portion decorated as it was in his reign, everything is truly opulent.

I then got lost in he museum, couldn’t find my way out or to an exhibit I was interested in, but finally found my way towards to Italian painters section, which because of its location as the birth of the Renaissance was especially large with the centerpiece being the Mona Lisa. The crowd to get close to the Mona Lisa was incredible. I wasn’t even all too impressed with the painting, I’ve seen photos of it before, and really its still just a woman who may or may not be representative of de Vinci, smiling.

I then felt I had seen all there was to see, or at the very least all I was interested in at the Louvre, so I moved out to the next destination, Notre Dame. The Ill-de-Cité is only a few blocks away from from the Louvre, and was the first settlement in Paris, situated on an island in the middle of the Seine. On the far east end is the Notre Dame Cathedral well known for its role as the cathedral in the hunchback of Notre Dame story, as well as the for its classic Gothic architecture with its flying buttresses and gargoyles. The square in front of the Cathedral covers a large area, but is still positively packed with people. Entrance is free, though there is a long line, luckily the line moves fairly quickly. I first had a look around the outside of the building after a bit of a rest in the square. The building’s exterior has so many little details, more than could be captured with a camera. Inside the church is dark, lit by a few candles and the light coming in through the stain glass windows, though there is a whole lot of ambiance, helped by the organ player playing in minor. There are a number of little alcoves along the outside, each dedicated to a particular saint. Photos were not allowed, but I saw a flash go off every few seconds. I took a few photos without flash, but the exposure rate was a bit long and I had most of them turn out in a blur.

I was then hoping to go to the musée d’Orsay, however it was closed on Mondays… I’ll have to hit it up tomorrow. Its one of the museums that is a should not miss because it houses France’s national collection, especially with so many influential artists coming from France. So instead I headed off to the Eiffel Tower.

The tower is a bit of a walk from the metro station, but when you exit station its the first thing you see, which is a bit striking. Arriving at the foot of the tower and there is a mass of people all trying to get tickets to go up the tower. To climb the stairs to the second floor is 4 euros, to take the lift to the very top 11. Already totally breaking the bank for the day, and with the line being a whole lot smaller for the stairs, I decided it was time to kill my feet some more. Standing in line I met a couple of Brazilians. Its amazing how different the Brazilian version of Portuguese sounds to that spoke in Portugal, not only do they use different words for things like thank you, sorry, excuse me etc. but they also pronounce words differently, without the sh sound of words ending in a vowel and s, nor the nasal sound for words like não. They also spoke English fairly well and according to one of them, English is pretty common in Brazil. He said anyone wanting to work in business in Brazil would learn to speak English. They turned out to be very good company, we walked together up to the second floor and chatted while in line. Its one of the few nice things about traveling alone, though you don’t have anyone to talk to on the trains, you aren’t as likely to sit there talking amongst yourselves, so you meet people you wouldn’t normally. The view from the tower is very nice, you can see pretty much all of urban Paris with the Seine winding its way through the center. After a bit of a rest we came back down, and went our separate ways, them to Notre Dame, and me to the Arc de Triumph. It began raining lightly on our way down.

On the metro ride to the Arc, I read that there is a 6 euro charge to climb to the viewing platform. I decided I didn’t really care to see the streets from any higher, and besides, it couldn’t compare to the Eiffel tower in terms of view. Instead I just took a look around the outside. The tower is covered in the names of battles Napoleon won, but according to my book it wasn’t completed until after he had begun loosing battles and even entire wars. There is also a grave for an unknown soldier from WWI buried there to pay respect to the many other soldiers buried in unmarked graves following such a senseless war.

I then returned to my room, tired and sore, grabbing a sandwich for dinner along the way. I had asked for mustard, but that was a bit of a shock, the mustard was incredibly spicy. I’ve grown to like spicy foods, which couldn’t be further for how I was as a kid, but this was over the top, it pretty much ruined the sandwich for me.

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