Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Paris 15/4/2006 

A day of shopping, art and rain. We went to Les Halles to do some shopping. Les Halles is a large underground shopping centre. It isn’t huge but big enough.

We bought each other Easter Eggs and I bought some shirts as well as a bar of chocolate that is 75% cocoa. In recent years I have grown to like dark chocolate more and more. Milk chocolate seems to have a disagreeable aftertaste and white chocolate is like eating soap.

I have begun making very good use of the phrase “Je ne parle pas français” to cover up my lack of interaction with cashiers. I used it in the supermarché last night and in the chocolatier today. I have also begun ordering my own meals, rather than relying on David. I even asked about the soap of the day: “Qu’est ce que le potage du moment?

That was at a rather pleasant café just off the Rue de Rivoli where we sat outside despite the risk of rain. It was a lovely place to sit and eat and watch the gays go by.

There seemed to be a great many people with surveys on the streets. I fended off one last night only to find David in stitches behind me. Apparently the researcher had asked me if I were in a good mood to which I had replied that I was English.

We visited three “museums” today. I put them term in quotes because I don’t really think of them as museums. The first was the Pompidou Centre, the famous inside-out building housing collections of modern art. We found the building difficult to navigate and the art incomprehensible. There was some awful exhibition where the artist had had some fixation with shop dummies that he assembled with two bottom halves one on top of the other with added lady’s bits. This exhibition was arranged in a sort of labyrinth from which we had trouble escaping.

I wanted to visit the Pompidou Centre because I went there when I was 15 for our art trip. I remembered nothing of that visit other than we bought crepes from a café outside. I can understand why now. Our teacher, Mr Carlyle, had been very keen for us to visit there. Thanks.

From there we went to L’Arc de Triomphe and went up to the top. Lots of spiral staircase. Joy. At least this time the stairs weren’t enclosed, which made a great deal of difference, although the journey was knackering. This obviously isn’t a museum, however it, and the Pompidou before it, gave us free access on production of our Cartes, bypassing the long queues waiting for tickets. The view from the top was a little disappointing as there was rain but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The final museum was the closest to what I think of as a museum and that was the Louvre. Given its size, our plan was to go in, see a selection of artefacts that we wanted to see and then leave. I am glad we decided that. The place was heaving. As I said to David, I have seen quieter airports. Obviously people had gone there knowing that it was the place to go and were looking at everything with the same bored expression.

We saw the Mona Lisa (La Jaconde), naturally, as well as the Venus de Milo and the Raft of the Medusa by Géricault. We saw a lot of other Renaissance works but none really grabbed my attention. It was difficult to see much of the Mona Lisa, to be honest due to the large crowd in front of it. Despite notices to the contrary, a girl in front of us tried to take a photo and a guard got very cross. He took his job exceedingly seriously.

I’m curious to know why the Mona Lisa is so highly regarded. Why did history single that painting out of so many others for fame?

By the way, I changed my mind today about taking photographs of sculptures. We had just seen Ms de Milo and were on our way to see Mona when we stopped for a moment near another statue, an ancient funereal maid, I think. David had a sit down while I admired it for a few moments. The detail on the face was incredible and captured a great sadness. I was captivated. When I moved away, a Japanese tourist swooped in behind me and snapped a picture. He hadn’t taken any time to admire the piece. He just saw it and started snapping. Someone spent a significant part of their life creating that thing. Surely it demands more than a cursory glance setting up a shot for a picture that is unlikely to be looked at?

Hmm, I am running out of things to photograph. I am left with architecture, landscapes, people, plants and animals. That will have to do.

I didn’t really enjoy the Louvre. I am glad we went and I am glad I have seen two of the most renowned works of art in the world yet the experience has soured me. The place is too big and there are too many people wanting to see it. It has become production-line Art, something for visitors to Paris to shamble around and not appreciate what they are seeing. It is as if the Louvre is trying to shovel as many people though its doors as possible and not teach them anything. They could learn something from the Musée D’Orsay.

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Did you mean 'Soap Of The Day'? I know the french are a funny lot.
And do you lick duck...
Bah! Well spotted. I've written this, read this and David has read this, yet "soap of the day" didn't leap out.
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