I woke up several times in the night, people coming home at 1am are in a chatty mood apparently, but went back to sleep quickly. I got up at 7:30, dressed in my conquer Paris best, and ventured forth. The first person I saw, a young man leaving the building, glanced behind himself as he exited, saw me at the end of the long corridor and waited, holding the door for me. That turned out to be an omen.
I didn’t walk two blocks before I turned around and went back to ditch my light raincoat, gloves, and hat. Though the weather.com temperature was 56, it felt much warmer. At the wonderful boulangerie/patisserie on the corner, and I grabbed a noisette, (espresso with a tablespoon of steamed milk and a dot of foam), walked to the Metro, bought a ticket from the machine. It was happy to take my 5 euro note and give me a ticket and change. There was an Australian woman and a Japanese man at the machines beside me, and I felt right at home. Using my baby pigeon French, I asked the janitor which train to take and he directed me. Again, everyone on the train was on their iphone, except for one old woman reading a book. I turned on my iPod Paris mix and counted stations to the Louvre. Maybe six minutes. Everyone was clean and nicely dressed; scarves tied and draped with panache and jackets that fitted precisely. Lots of high-heeled boots and Converse sneakers in various colors. A few beautifully embellished ballet flats.
I jumped off at the Louvre to Pharell’s ‘Get Lucky,’ and metaphorically danced my way down the tunnel made from the walls of the moat. As I entered the Louvre, the playlist switched to ‘Happy’. Seriously. I had a big, stupid grin on my face. Walked past the long snaking line to a guard to ask where I should go, showing my Des Ami de Louvre card, and he pulled aside the barrier and waved me through. I was in a line of none. Joy! Walked to the security and they gestured me to the head of that line, then waved me through. Yes!
I headed like a homing pigeon to the Flemish and Dutch paintings on the second floor of the Richelieu wing. Didn’t make it past the escalator. Turned right into the vast, airy, light-filled atrium with sculpture on multiple levels. Started drawing this wonderful cast bronze nude man, and that was it for an hour or so. I noticed his hands, which appear bound, aren’t. He’s holding the rope behind his back, it isn’t knotted or tied anywhere.
Afterward I headed on to the Northern painters. Ducked through a hall that turned out to be a darkened room lined with small portraits. Very Holbein-esque. Glorious frames and gorgeous detail. Time stopped again, and so did I. Finally got to the Netherlands and Germany rooms and I knew they would be good but it’s a banquet! A feast! It took me two hours to get through 21 rooms. That may sound like a lot, but on the second floor of this Richelieu wing there are 116 rooms.
What does that mean for my daily plan? I started laughing around noon. It’s confetti, that’s what. All those – I’ll see the Dutch then go to the Napoleon apartments, then tour the Middle ages section blah blahblah.
Um, no. No, I won’t. If I get through the Dutch in two days, it will be a miracle. And I want to go back to see some of the pieces many times. There’s a Brueghal that has a teeming landscape filled with people I can barely see, they are so small – maybe the size of half of my little fingernail, but perfectly proportioned and exquisitely detailed. How did he do that? With a microscope? And the subtle expressions on the portraits, and the freaking detail of embroidery and the luminosity of the skin. I’m dizzy with admiration and envy.
I tore myself away at noon because I’d skipped breakfast. Ate a Croque Monsieur – grilled ham and cheese dipped in egg and fried- with a side salad (15E), followed by a Viennese café; espresso covered in whipped cream (7E.) I showed my card thinking ya never know, and sure enough, got a price break. Remembered service was comprise, so no tip. It’s still pricey but well worth it. I particularly enjoyed the view of the famous glass pyramid in the courtyard that came with my meal. Successfully ordered a carafe d’eau (free pitcher of water) and drank the whole thing. Back to the Flemish world and by 3:30 crossed over to the Dutch section to find it’s closed on Thursdays. A good thing, as by then, my feet hurt and I was flat worn out. I went back to the great sculpture hall. This time I sat behind the marble runner who brought word of the victory at marathon. Drew until 4.
et out and walked to St. Sulpice. Saw many interesting shops en route. My favorite was a clock maker. I asked permission to take photos of his windows. He turned out to be a national treasure, an acknowleged master of the clockworkery with a certificate to that effect. I was mesmerized by the pieces and parts. We bonded over gears. Very tired by 6, so grabbed a taxi waiting at a stand. The driver had gray hair in a ponytail, was listening to Led Zeppelin, and introduced himself as a old hippie. He visited San Francisco in ’72, lived in the Haight, and was a follower of Jimi Hendrix. We had a grand time reminiscing – Country Joe and the Fish! Oui! Le Grace Slick! Oui! Grateful Dead! Bien sur!
I’m flat on my back on my comfortable queen bed, with the 15C beams overhead. Dinner was tomato and brie on Baguette, Earl Grey tea, and a warmed slice of tart tatin. I finally figured out how to make the weird induction cooktop work.
Here’s what happened today to belie the Parisians reputation for rudeness. 1. That guy who held the door for me 2. The janitor who pointed me in the right train direction. 3 A lady who caught my eye and to let me know my scarf was trailing on the ground. 4. The man who stopped his cell phone chat to give me directions to the right exit. 5. I did a spectacularly clumsy semi-fall, tripping over a low curb I failed to see, pinwheeling my arms and staggering, before breaking my fall by grabbing on the edge of a stone bench before I hit the stone walkway. I didn’t hurt myself, but two people who were briskly walking by stopped to make sure I was okay.
Figured out I need to carry my battery pack – my iphone was down to 13% by 3pm. Not nearly as paranoid about the scammers/beggars. No eye contact and purposeful walking does the trick. I’m using my backpack as a desk for my drawing instead of putting it down anywhere. This is not the Paris I dimly remember from 1971. This is the Paris of my dreams.