Friday I revisited my old friends, the Louvre and the Orsay Museums. Virtually across the Seine River from each other, the Orsay is a newer museum that houses recent Impressionism and Art Deco collections and more modern sculpture. It was built by renovating an old train station and the building itself, with its cast iron structure and deco details, is something to see all by itself (see photos).
The Louvre is always a treat and I always stop in to see the large-scale 19th century works of Gericault and Delacroix. On my first trip to the Louvre I learned about the secondary entrances where there are rarely lines and each time I visit it again I try to find Americans in the long main entrance line (which can be hours long) and point out the secondary entrance. However, there was virtually no line at all so there was no need to share the "secret" this year. I did take a few pictures of couples (with their camera), another good deed I try to do each day.
Things do change and I was disappointed to find that Soufflot Cafe, one of my favorites near my hotel, has changed management and the menu. Quel horror – no more escargot! They changed the menu enough that I decided not to eat there at all last night and just settled for wine and a view of the passing sidewalk scene.
Today (Saturday) was a bus- and subway-riding extravaganza. These two mass transit systems are so good here. I started by bus with a visit to the Paris Harley Davidson dealership where I indulged myself by buying an HD Paris tee shirt. The folks were nice and we chatted a bit; it was interesting to see how a dealership can be wedged into several city storefronts. Next I hopped the subway to the famous department store Printemps for some gift shopping and then had lunch up under their nifty art deco, cast iron and stained glass dome on the top floor (the menu has changed here too but lunch was good anyway and the service was great). I took a post-lunch walk a few blocks down to the Paris Opera House to see how the cleaning and renovation of the front facade (which took a year or so) turned out and it was beautiful (see photos). Next, a subway ride to the Rodin Museum and some of my favorite scupltures. You may know his The Thinker but my favorites are The Danaid and The Kiss – very sensual stuff for hunks of marble.
I spent some time today at the Luxembourg Gardens which the citizens here use as their front porch. Metal chairs and wooden benches abound and couples often meet here for romance, families come to run the kids, and students to do their studying. When the weather is good, this is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Best of all: it’s free.
Odds and Ends: I miss the more complete Italian smoking ban; too bad the practice is alive and well in most places here, especially among kids. We must be in between the Spring Break and Summer tourist hordes as crowds are low and there are no lines for anything. Hour-long U.S. TV shows are shown here (not the current season, of course) with just one commercial break; so the show starts on the hour and ends (with break) at :40 after. This makes it much more obvious just how much of a viewing hour is show and how much commercials.
Caution – Free Press At Work: Here’s some verbatim reporting from Sky News about the recent terrorist arrest in London, about six hours after the event:
Cecil (at Scotland Yard): "John, we’ve had no report yet from the police whether or not a bomb device was found and that’s something you would think they would have revealed by now."
John (at the studio): "Thank you, Cecil. So the latest from London is that no bomb device was found."
Sky News also reported at different times throughout the day that 150, 200, 250, and 300 officers were involved.
My tourist pocket is overflowing as access to everything now is via plastic or cardboard card with a magnetic stripe. For example, in my pocket right now I have a hotel key card, credit cards, ATM card, Museum Pass, Bus/Subway Pass, and an Internet Cafe card. I have no pickpocket worries though as I have troubled yanking that wad of cards out of my pocket myself.
Au revior, mes amis. This is my last report from Paris; tomorrow I’ll fly over to London for a few days before coming home on Tuesday. Paris has been very pleasant and I’m glad I put it in my itinerary.