Thursday, September 6, 2012

Paris: Day Four (Thursday)

After a full day of walking on Day Three, we were all pretty tired, so we slept in and got a rather late start--ar. 11 am--but the day was warm and sunny and beautiful, so as soon as we had the energy, we set off to see the Louvre for the first time.  That's right, I have two trips planned to the Grande Musee, one for sculpture and one for paintings.  The goal this time was to see the ancient Egyptian and classical Greek sculptures, but it wasn't as simple as taking the Metro to the Louvre and diving in.  Rather, I wanted to introduce Maddie to the Tuilleries as an approach to it.  After all, this is how I first came to the Museum, and it was a perfect day for it.

We took the metro to the Place de la Concorde (with the Egyptian Obelisk in the center) and, thanks to my fabulous sense of direction, walked about halfway up the Champs before I realized we were walking the wrong way.  This is such a frequent occurrence that Valery and Maddie are now inclined to walk in the opposite direction that I suggest on emerging from the Metro.  Nonetheless, it was such a nice day that no complaining ensued, and we made our (correct) way toward the Tuilleries.

It is the 'rentree' here in Paris, which means 'the re-entry' or 'return' after the traditional French congee, or vacation that for many lasts the entire month of August.  The first week of September, however, means school for the kids and work for the parents.  it also means that many of the shops that were shuttered for a month while their owners bronzed themselves on the beaches of Spain or Greece are just re-opening, and the attitude is one of renewal, not resignation at having to return.  There are squeals of the children from the schoolyard down the street filling the air, and the streets are full of people.

The Tuileries, however, were not nearly so crowded as they must have been a month ago, the hordes of American, German, Italians and Japanese tourists have gone home, and just a smattering of languages other than French can be heard.  We stopped at a cafe to have some lunch, and although we did sit next to four American women (who made no attempt to speak even a word of French-not even 'merci') the rest of the folks seated around us were obviously Parisians, happy to have their city back while the weather is still nice enough to enjoy it.

This is the general feeling around this week, relaxed and yet energetic.  Lunch was delicious--a charcuterie plate for Valery and me, while Maddie enjoyed a lovely club sandwich--and not entirely inexpensive, but this is what we saved our money for.  After all, when I lived here (both times), I could never even dreamed of sitting down in one of those cafes--the bill would have been equivalent to month's rent at the time (or nearly so!).

After lunch, we headed into the Louvre.  Here we encountered crowds of tourists once again, as well as the African vendors who walk around selling Eiffel Tower keychains and spinning, flying light-up mechanical birds, hats, scarves and lots of other identical useless goodies.  Walking by one fellow with hats spread out on the ground, I decided to add a new head-topper to my collection.  At 10 Euros (12.50), it seemed cheap enough, although I found another hat the next day for half that.

Inside, we toured the Egyptian and Classical Greek sculpture galleries, where I gave a condensed and much abbreviated version of the lectures Francesca had delivered in those same places now forty years ago.  Valery's heard it all of course, but Maddie was both attentive and interested.  She listened and asked lots of question, which was supremely satisfying, I have to admit, because I was not sure if she would even be interested enough to enjoy it as I had.  She was and I took great pleasure and pride in sharing it with her.

The Louvre is nothing if not exhausting, however, and after just about three hours, we were beat up pretty good and headed for the exit.  A brief Metro ride home, we took our usual naps, and then went out to shop for dinner.  We bought a couple of steaks and a bottle of wine, and Valery prepared a delightful meal, in spite of the limited ingredients and the tiny space in which to prepare them.

After dinner we went for a brief walk and returned home at dusk, so tired we could do nothing more than collapse in our beds.  A day well spent!

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