3 days in Paris, four (rather randomly)

Four for three days? Yes. We did a lot, and I hope to get a few more things down before I forget them.


We walked a lot. A lot. We think that on our only full day there (Wednesday) we walked 18-20 km. It was an incredible city to be a pedestrian in. And what a city for confusing me! I’ve never had myself turned around so frequently, so easily. I was lost.


About one-half of the streets and side walks were lined with metal fencing, like a marathon was about to start. Is this normal for Paris?


Later on the second day we were surrounded by police – cars, trucks, motorcycles, rollerbladers, on foot. Police everywhere we went for about 2 hours. And they shut down half of the Champs Elysees and made it even more likely I was about to get lost as we tried to find our way around the blockades. Turn left? Yes, but there’s another blockade so left again should mean that…nope, ok, map out again, what?! How can we be heading away from the river? We’ve only turned twice!


The arrival of these well-armed fellows was very surreal. They were so well protected (ankle, shin, and knee gaurds, among much else) and yet totally calm and unintimidating. We wondered: were we in fact on the set of The Fifth Element, II? The crazy cops, the touch of festive atmosphere, the citizens settling in to satisfy their curiousity…


Given the news about the presence of the Chinese prime minister (or president, or both?), and the lamp posts gaily fluttering with French and Chinese flags, we sadly decided that the reworking of The Fifth Element was not about to play out before our eyes.


For a city renowned for cafes and coffee, we found both lacking. The coffees were tiny and expensive. The cafes, well, we couldn’t put our finger on it for a while, but Rainer realized that we had been hoping for (expecting) a downtown like Budapest or the German downtowns with their pedestrian zones. We wanted to sit under trees or umbrellas, sip coffees to warm up, and watch the life of the city.


The Orangerie, with its two oval rooms with gigantic water lily paintings by Monet, was extraordinary. Huge paintings wrapping around you, inviting you to think beyond the spaces. The water lilies floated on the surface of reflections. What caused the reflections? What made that dark shadow? That patch of yellow? How tall were those trees to cast that shade?

This is part of my ongoing series of pictures of my kids looking at art. I’m not certain what draws me, but I love freezing the moment of my family looking at art. (This is also Tias just about to tell me I’m not allowed to photograph in the room.)


Budget tip: find a Metro station. The food and coffee there are really tasty and cheap.


You can, of course, carry them back into the sunlight and eat them while bemusedly watching one of the hundreds of cops argue with a jogger about his choice to run too close to where the Chinese have apparently marked their no-go zone.


Also, the salty crepes (think cheese and ham), are much more filling than the sweet ones, so are good value for money.


(If you can bring yourself to order something salty when you’re cold and the scent of melting chocolate is wafting around the cart promising to fill you and sustain you. I couldn’t resist the chocolate-banana crepes, but mooched some gloriously cheesy crepe from Matthias and have regretted my order ever since.)


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