July 11: Paris Does Dour

I have to say, today was a rather dour day. Paris somehow seems to have a distinct personality (or Shambhalians might call it– a drala) and when it’s not happy, it’s obvious. I got up late and ended getting to the Musee D’Orsay, where the Impressionists are housed, with only an hour to peruse the art. Didn’t figure out where the impressionists were (up on the fifth floor — or top of the building) until 1/2 hour before closing time.

Then walking and walking and walking from there to the Hotel d’Ville — now one of my favorite reference points — through a rather depressingly poor jewish district to the Place de la Republique and on to Ana Fuch’s house for a viewing of the Sakyong’s DVD.

It all began relatively cheerfully on my second day on the Batobus pass. I decided to take some pics of the bateaus (boats) on the rive. This one to the left is relatively cheerfully named the Brigantine. I think people live on a number of these boats, though I bet it’s pricey to dock quite right here. There aren’t too many, and Parisiens seem to be quite particular about what lines the Seine.

This next one, on the right, more suited the day. This black ship looks to me like something Captain Nemo, or Dr. No might use whilst in Paris. This pic has a bit of a reflection from the window of the Batobus, which I mentioned last time had a thick plastic shield around it. Might be better without it, but you get what you get.

Then we passed the Pont (bridge) d’Iena that connects the Trocodero (where the royals lived and viewed events) to the Eiffel Tower. It has very grand golden warriors on golden horses on pillars — two per end of the pont— and lots of gold leaf on the details along the sides.

Heading back we motored under the Pont L’Alma which has these very had nice furies on the sides where the pont touches the rive.

I de-boarded when we arrived at the Musee d’Orsay, opposite the Tuileries Gardens (which I’ve yet to see). It was built as a gare, or rail station for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, during the height of what’s called the Belle Epoch.

The photo I took at the time is a bit to dark to do it justice, so I’m using the one I took at sunset on 14th July, while I was waiting for the fireworks to begin. It still fits the theme of endings with a bright bit of golden flash left of the day.

They’ve torn up the tracks and turned the bays into galleries, leaving a wonderful sense of space. As said, I’ll have to go back and check out the rest of the exhibit. Below is the buffed up golden clock inside.

This is a really good website to look at, if you want to read more of the history, or see pics of the collections:


I seem to be appreciating sculpture more than I ever have in the past. It’s incredible to me how the sculptor can get hard stone to look so fluid and evocative.

Below s a sculpture that had a title, like Desolee (or desolate), rather how I can feel from time to time here when I miss my friends, or being able to chat freely about nothing too much. Though there is also a kind of wonderful free feeling in not being able to really understand anything around me, nor feel I have to focus on the details and history and get a headache, but can just absorb it as it’s been lived and as I live it now.

One weird thing I noticed here at D’Orsay and at the Louvre was that people seem to have a real need to take their pics next to famous artwork, or against a backdrop of some scene celebre (hmm, now called “selfies”). It’s as if they need to prove they exist, because “see, I’m next to this timeless wonder.” Interestingly, people also seem to turn off their beguiling smile right after the shutter clicks.

In the D’Orsay, there was a definite rule against using a flash, especially in rooms with delicate work. One woman was quite adamant and argumentative with a guard about it. I wanted to intervene and say “don’t you know how much this is like flashing the sun on a curtain, or a photo again and again? Haven’t you seen how it fades?” But, I restrained myself and decided not to use my flash again on artwork, no matter what the sign says.

I did buy a really wonderful reproduction pen and ink set in the museum store. The two pens are made of glass with the nibs formed by swirling the ends, which I guess hold the ink. There are six little bottles of ink — indigo, auburn, bordeaux, sienna, tourquoise, and verte (green). I almost hesitate to use them (how would I replace the ink?), but if I didn’t use them what’s the point? Use it or lose it (have definitely used it since).

This is a good lead-in to one of my favorite photos so far. This is a photo of Notre Dame under a louring sky — a living painting. Even the reflections work. I took it from inside the Batobus  (hence the reflection, note: someone said that it looked like a “back to the future” pic — you can see Notre Dame imagining Marie Antoinette walking down the path on her way to prison). When I took it I was thinking about the Musee D’Orsai and all the dramatic skies the French seemed to paint, thinking maybe they were over-dramatizing.  Seeing this, I decided somewhat to my chagrin, “no, they just looked out the window”).

On the way, I passed this wonderful residential building. The banner says soir d’ete, or evenings of summer. I just thought it was the kind of place maybe I’d like to live in, if I lived in Paris.

The sky was still a bit gloomy and deepened as I wound my way down Rue de Temple, home of the Jewish community. Lots of closed-up stores selling jewelry (bijou), dust bins, and rubbish. Maybe there’s a better part somewhere, since my journeying is a bit narrow.

I’m actually quite proud of myself in that I found my way to Ana’s house with minimal directions, mainly using my map. As I said before, it’s interesting that “rues” look so much like alleys — but that’s my inherent western arrogance speaking, since they were built way before the automobile and a big need for two-way traffic, though that doesn’t seem to hinder the motor scooters and velot (bicycles) that whiz by with gay carefree abandon and no helmets. I’ve been tempted to try one, as I found out my Metro pass allows me to use the bus system as well as “rent” the bicycles that are to be found in racks by the side of the rue. You bump your card against something or other (I haven’t done it yet, just know there is a “something or other”), and the bicycle comes loose from the lock and you can ride it free for half an hour,at which time you must park it at the next cycle stop, or you have to pay. Bikes are provided by the government (Halifax? are you listening?)

This is another photo taken at the Place de Publique I quite like as being evocative of the French revolution and the way the city can express itself. It’s of the Republicque personified as woman.

I finally found Ana’s house — not without knocking on the wrong door — though I was not alone in that. There were ten counting me and Ana. They were all very kind to me and did the practice in English, though at the end, they read the letters in French, which I mostly understood. We had a bit of a social with the now ubiquitous champagne. I made a toast to thank them for the chaud bienvenue — and had to be told that might not mean what I think it did (i.e., “hot” welcome). There’s another word “chaleur” (if I got that right).

I was exceedingly grateful to Franc (the director of the Paris centre) and his companion (as she defined herself), Elizabeth, for giving me a ride back to VIncenne though a huge wave of roller-bladers –evidently a common sight on Friday nights in Paris. Elizabeth pointed out a few rather fit, foxy-looking policemen roller blading in the midst of the pack.

Franc and Elizabeth didn’t know as much English as I thought they did, nor I quite enough French, and I’d never been to Vincenne overland, so to speak, just via the underground Metro. But, with actually no mishaps, we were able to find the Rue de Montreuil, which I had found under difficult getting-lost circumstances earlier in the week. I was able to direct the a droit (ah, “adroit”, now I know where that came from) turn onto — hmmm — it starts with an “F” — Fontennay? and go for what seemed like a long way (giving me a good idea of how long it is to walk) and let me off at my corner at about 0015 h.

I rested the next two days and can tell you more tales tomorrow about Bastille Day, or Catorze Juillet as they say in France.