Sunday, August 1, 2010

Paris In Shades of Gray

Okay, so this post will comprise last Wednesday and Thursday. And then perhaps tomorrow I will write about last Friday and then at some point I will write about the weekend. I am seriously falling behind, but will remedy this as soon as possible. I'm busy, you see. Busy having fun! Woot.

Okay so last Wednesday night after work, I came back to the Foyer and got ready to go to dinner with Akash uncle, my dad's friend who also invited me over to his place for Spain-Germany semi. I met him at La Defense, which is basically as far west in Paris as you can go. I initially got off at the wrong metro, sent several confused text messages, got back on the metro and then finally found him inside the huge train station that is La Defense (Grande Arche).

The station itself is basically a huge shopping mall. Upon exiting, you enter into a huge courtyard of large business buildings, shopping malls, a cinema. And of course, this being Paris, all the beautiful business buildings surround a garden with a fountain and you have a straight path to the Champs Elysees and L'Arc de Triomphe. One of the business buildings is built like a picture frame (quite literally) which frames L'Arc de Triomphe if viewed from far away. It's extraordinary. Unfortunately, I did not take my camera that day. Oh well.

So then we took the Metro to some random place closer to the center of Paris and walked to a Spicy Asian cuisine restaurant that he and his family frequent. Surprisingly, it was filled with French people as opposed to tourists. The food was just delicious. Thankfully, he ordered for both of us, and got plates that were very tasty and only the absolute perfect amount of spicy (not too much, not little). We had some kind of cooked cabbage, a mushroom entree, and a main plate of fish in some kind of spicy sauce. Yes, my descriptions are fabulous. In any case, it was amazing. We talked about traveling and school and Paris and all that. He told me that I need to come back and experience Paris sans touristes because all the real Parisians are around then, and the atmosphere is absolutely changed. Maybe I will.

After dinner, we went our separate ways and that was that. Now on to Thursday. I had already decided beforehand that I wanted to leave the Foyer early and see if I could get a bit of early morning shopping done (I needed to hit the Body Shop for some shampoo and body wash..I hear it's cheaper here, really!!) and walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg. I set out a bit before nine (eating only a tiny bit of breakfast, as the bread was terrible that morning) and began my walk toward Bld. St Michel. Found the Body Shop easily but it turns out it only opens at 10:30. So I decided to grab a delicious viennoise au chocolat at the nearest patisserie and walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Wow. Was this place gorgeous. It was early yet, so it was quiet, calm, serene. A few people running, some people running, a couple with their grandchildren. Untouched practically. So, I sat down on a bench, enjoyed my very chocolaty pastry and watched the scenery. And then of course I took pictures. Paris is basically a city of photo ops. It's difficult to walk four steps without wanting to take a picture.

I took a few pictures, asked the grandparents to take a few pictures of me (soo nice!! the man took it from several directions and one even included a duck!) and then asked a nice resting runner to take another (he had a bit of trouble and had to try several times before he figured out how the camera worked...). At that point, the sun was shining brightly and it was time for me to get to work. (Also the building is the Palais du Luxembourg, right next to the gardens. No, I don't know what it does. Look it up.)

During lunchtime, I made the most of my two hours and went out to do some shopping. I grabbed a demi-baguette for an on-the-go lunch from my favorite bakery (they really must know me by now) and ate it on the way to the Body Shop. I spent literally an hour there trying to decide what to buy, looking for the best deals, weighing what I wanted versus what I needed versus what I was willing to pay for. At one point, I was the only one in the store and I am positive the saleswomen were giving me looks. Finally, I bought a pack of body wash/shampoo for a really good deal and peaced. I thought the cashier would kill me with her death glare. Whatever.

I started on my way back to work, thinking I would stop at the Monoprix for some other necessary items, when I ran across a crazy book sale. A secondhand book/DVD/music store had tons of books displayed outside for 20 centimes. So of course, I looked through them but, as to be expected, they were all pretty ridiculous titles. So I went inside the store and looked there. I wanted to buy it all! They had a ton of English language books that I wanted and then so many French classics, all for 8 Euros! I got some Moliere plays, a Maupassant book, a Voltaire book, and the original Thank You For Smoking. Very excited to read them all. Don't know what I'm going to do about fitting them into my carry-on/suitcase. Oh well. Totally worth it.

At this point, I was pushing my break, so I speed-walked (Lord knows I am an expert speed-walker) back to work with my bags. After work that day, it was time to go the Musee D'Orsay as it is open late on Thursdays. I took the metro and took an awesome connecting bridge (very strange bridge, industrial-looking, with flat steps that turn into steeper steps, and are made of metal rungs as opposed to concrete...interesting. anyway) to a main street. I had no idea what the Musee looked like, so I was lost for a few seconds until I followed a group of people to a building that looked kind of like a museum (but don't all buildings in Paris, really?). I saw a big poster outside that said "MO" which I assumed meant Musee d'Orsay. I went on, got my ticket and then decided to spring for a guided visit. This was my first guided visit in Paris and I figured I was going to need to do one eventually. I also wanted a quick overview of the museum and this was only supposed to be 1.5 hours long.

Big mistake. I learned a ton about the painters and works we discussed, but we only saw four (maybe five). And then I had about an hour to see the rest of what I wanted to see. I did see a good number of things though. Degas sculptures of dancers, Manet's controversial art, Ingres, Delacroix, Rodin sculptures, Van Gogh's awkward childlike (really, they are) way of painting) and my personal favorite: Monet. Wow. I decided right then and there that I had to go to Giverny, where Monet lived and the subject of his breathtaking landscapes. The place looks like heaven. Can't wait to see it with my own two eyes.

After the tour, I went through some of the paintings I wanted to see, some more Monet, the Van Gogh, a ton of Renoir and then a collection of photographs on the second floor, displayed in special exposition. This was, of course, my favorite part. I'm a sucker for good photography. Love it. And then, I was hungry and sick of paintings and decided to peace. (These are random people painting outside the museum...)

I got on the nearest bus and tried to use a ticket. The bus driver took it playfully, then handed it back in jest, informing me that the bus was only a shuttle and that it was free. Stupid me. He shuttled all of the other tourists and myself to the nearest metro, which happened to be another perfect photo op. Really, what is wrong with Paris? The metros provide photo ops???

And then, it was back to my isle, a straight shot to my creperie where I got a very tasty crepe au beurre et sucre (cheap and mmm mmm good) and went back to the Foyer. Satisfying night. Like most nights in Paris, en faite.

Until tomorrow, dear readers!

1 comment:

  1. so i totally missed all your august posts til now so now i have a ton of reading to catch up on.
    why does everyone in paris sound so flirty? :P
    anyway, paris sounds great. come back soon! (a week right?)