Sunday, 1 June 2014

Paris, France

From Scotland, there was a brief, 48-hour stopover in London to wash clothes, go to work and other not-so-interesting things, and then – bang, off to Paris for the following 48 hours, as bro and his fam were there from California for a few days before heading down to the Dordogne. It was their first time in the French capital and not knowing when – or even if – they'd make it back, were keen to hit as many spots as poss. Thanksfully, they'd already been to quite a few before we arrived.

This first pic is the view from our room in the Hotel Beaumarais (, which was in the Bastille district and, working out even better than I'd imagined, around the corner from the apartment my brother had rented for their stay. Of course, I knew we'd be near, but not that near.

For the record, our hotel was absolutely fine: clean enough, great location (ie, around the corner from my brother's and, also, a perfectly reasonable walk to the centre of town or about a 2-minute walk from a Metro station). There's a bar downstairs, so if you leave your window open you can hear a fair amount of late-night chatter, etc, but this wasn't unbearable and we were tired enough to fall asleep anyway. Best thing about the hotel is the desk staff, who couldn't be more helpful. While it's true my bank card went walkabout during our stay, I can't hand-on-heart say it was taken from our room, though I didn't take it out with me either. Best guess is a cleaner, but I don't like to accuse without proof, so will continue to call it a mystery. But I digress...

We did a lot of walking, which is a lovely way to see this city. There are so many beautiful buildings and quiet corners, like an institute (pictured), whose courtyard was open to the public. Or the 13th century monastery, within a (slightly) more modern building. An artist had installed his piece that I think was called 'String' (also pictured). He was very friendly and spoke perfect English, telling us he spent many years in San Francisco and inviting us back for the evening festivities (music and a talk, and a sort of 'tying up' of things with the installation). It all coincided with Museum Night, when – as the name implies – the city's museums are open until midnight or even later, with free admission from the evening on. It sounded great at the time, but come that evening, we were quite happy to eat the local patisserie's quiche and bread with a salad and some nice wine in the rented apartment, and just talk.
When I was last in Paris, maybe three years ago, there were a number of so-called 'love locks' on the Pont de l'Archeveche, over the Seine near Notre Dame. Now on this bridge, there are locks on locks, locks on the lampposts, locks on the statues. In fact, there is so much metal that my sister-in-law, who knows about these things, said it must be reaching the point where the bridge could collapse under the excess weight. However, there were no gendarmes warning people off from adding their own love locks, as there were three years ago, so perhaps they've given up now.

We went to my (and 80 bizillion other people's) favourite Parisian museum, the Musée d'Orsay (, in the old train station opposite the Tuileries on the Seine. As well as admiring all the paintings, and the wonderful view of the city from the roof terrace, I got to pay a visit to Polar Bear, by François Pompon, who alone makes a visit to Paris worthwhile. It's always a good trip when I've been to see him.

The other 'big' thing we did this time round was go to Père Lachaise, the atmospheric cemetery in western Paris. Well, we did have two young things with us and they were keen, as it seems many young things are, to go see where dead famous people are buried. And this cemetery has more than its share of celebs: Chopin, Proust, Colette, Bizet and, my favourite, Oscar Wilde. Our young ones were especially taken by the idea of seeing Jim Morrison's plot, as he has made this cemetery a bit of a must-see for a certain sort of tourist. At least, so I confidently told everyone: "There will be goths dressed all in black standing about and his grave has its own guard to stop it being defiled."

How wrong I was. Now, it is crowded by daytrippers who have made a 'gum tree': wads of chewed gum stuck to the trunk of the nearest tree. Truly revolting. And everyone snapping away (moi included). Somehow, the spectactors have become the spectacle and I only wish Wilde were here in person, because I'm sure he'd have something pithy and clever to say about that.

Lastly, we were all taken by this haughty lion (not in the cemetery, but outside an official building) , who looks disdainfully at all who pass.

Paris, you are always a delight, even stuffed full of tourists. How the Parisians stand us all I don't know, but thank god they do.

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