After having spent five days in Paris, I'm still rather full of thoughts of the fine city. Maybe updating the blog will help clear my mind...
We stayed in the Marais, at Hôtel Jeanne d'Arc le Marais. It was in a fabulous location and offered all we could want in terms of the Metro and walking. Our room had a charming view and the common rooms of the hotel were decorated in a mix of fun and funk. Our room was not yet redecorated, so it still had a very old school French hotel vibe to it, but we were content.
On our first day in town (Wednesday), we went to the Musée Carnavalet. This museum covering the history of Paris was a good one to get us going. I was especially taken with the drums used to call the revolutionaries into action. Bailey enjoyed the small-scale models of Paris through the years.
We also went to the Galerie des bibliothèques-Ville de Paris to see the Paris inondé 1910 show. Here we learned about the flood of Paris in 1910, and saw photographs of the aftermath.
That night, thanks to pre-booked tickets, we headed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Pre-booked tickets are where it's at; no queues, no fuss. Fab fab fab.
Thursday 18 February:
First thing we headed to the Catacombes de Paris. Although I had been before, Simon and Bailey hadn't so we thought it would be a good family excursion. It's one of those fascinating/frightening kind of places, but once the fright subsides, the beauty of the bones is quite moving. I also think this kind of place is a great way to keep it all in perspective...
We also visited the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson at 2, Impasse Lebouis in the 14th. This small museum tucked behind a lively primary school offered a brief look into the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson (I'm glad I saw a much larger show of his almost two years ago at the National Media Museum in Bradford ) and had a current exhibit of the other side of Parisian life according to Robert Doisneau.
That evening we hit the Centre Pompidou, to see the elles@centrepompidou show. The all-female artists gave me a sense of pride, as a woman and a momma. The mix of ideas and themes kept me going, and kept me on my toes as a parent, as Simon and I both vetted the pieces on the spot to judge their appropriateness for a curious 6 year old.
Friday 19 February:
We headed to the Grand Palais Paris to see Christian Boltanski'a exhibit, Personnes. The message of this exhibit was strong and clear; all the care and selection we put into our clothing and eventually the items end up discarded. Food for thought.
We used our time near the Champs-Elysees to take a lovely stroll along the avenue. We made a few shopping stops along the way. Our favourite by far was at Sephora. Bailey was offered a bit of make-up application (under the close supervision of me!) and I got to smell all the fragrances.
In the evening Bailey and I went ice skating at de l'Hôtel de Ville. We stuck to the kiddie rink and Bailey had a fun time making two new friends. Everyone we saw was having a really good time, which made for a good feel to the place. People were chatting with each other, and even the staff were cheery.
Saturday 20 February:
On the last day of my 39th year, we headed to the churches. We visited Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, Sainte Chapelle, and Notre Dame.
We used the evening to take a Seine cruise from the Pont Neuf, and finished off the night with a walk along the Rive Gauche. We stopped in at Shakespeare and Company, for old time's sake, and found it full of lovely books and young poseurs; not much changes.
Sunday 21 February:
I turned 40 and we also had to return home, so we didn't have all the time I would've liked (alas, is there ever enough time in Paris?). We stayed in the Marais and returned to the Musée Carnavalet, to see a few things we missed on Wednesday, including their ballroom and the exhibit of photographs taken in prison, Les prisons se dévoilent.
Our Eurostar from Gare du Nord left just after lunch, and the journey was calm. Thankfully we were not part of this Eurostar drama; I suspect I wouldn't have been able to cope.
Overall, the good...
Just being in Paris, walking the streets and seeing a mix of art, life, and aesthetics.
Being there with Bailey and Simon. We make an entertaining travelling trio but the best part is seeing Bailey walk all over Paris like it's all hers, then use her simple and very limited French to speak with people.
The food is Paris is as delightful as ever. Even stopping for a coffee is an enjoyable experience for the senses (and, yes, my 40th year begins with a serious diet).
Musee Picasso is closed for rennovation work. I was disappointed because I really wanted to go again and because it was so very close to our hotel.
Mona Lisa is so well protected, it's impossible to get the feel for the beauty of the portrait. Bailey asked more than once if that was the real Mona Lisa, certainly because even a small child has doubt when you can't get within 10 feet of it..
I had possibly the most disgusting moment of my life on this trip. We were walking along the Prefecture du police of the 4th arrondissement building at the other side of Notre Dame and someone vomited on me from several floors above. I wasn't the only one splatted; the other person who took the brunt of the load was French and he went on a complete rant to the two police officers who saw the entire episode. I was shocked, I think, and it took me a few moments to ask the police for help. One of them took me into the police washroom, but strongly advised me to return to my hotel and take a shower. Due to the need to return to the hotel, wash all my clothing by hand (including my winter coat) using shower gel, shower with very hot water and loads of soap, then find a suitable outfit for warmth for the rest of the day, I lost a decent part of my early afternoon. I also looked like a complete dork walking around in Paris wearing Simon's fleece pull-over instead of a coat, but no amount of vomit could keep me from returning to the Parisian streets.
In 15 years of travelling to Paris, I've witnessed some gross things and have seen some surreal interactions, but I've never been involved. I guess those odds aren't bad.