Monday, November 2, 2009

Paris : First looks

Friday, October 30, 2009
My first full day in Paris was spent walking for miles with Thea and Arnaud in the vicinity of Sacre Coeur Cathedral and learning about the Paris metro system. We walked to the Bastille and grabbed a train to the Barbes Rochchourt station at one end of the Blvd de Rochechourt and strolled through the Montmartre district as the day wore on into night. The subways and streets were jammed with people; drifters, kids, worker bees, tourists, rabble and assorted other characters. We ate in a little cafe where we had a fairly nice, if expensive, meal of mussels ala Roquefort with Belgian beer. The food was good as was the beer. A large draft cost a shocking 8 euros (€), while the total tab was 82 €, or about $120. Ouch! Paris isn't nearly as cheap a place to visit as Fiji.

We got to the cathedral at around dusk. It's an impressive building on a small hill that commands a panoramic view of Paris. We entered along with a dozen other people and as there was a mass in progress we walked quietly around the interior with our necks craned to see the artwork that was literally covering every surface. It was fairly dark outside and the interior not well lit. Arnaud took me aside to tell me that what I was looking at weren't paintings as I had assumed but mosaics. Upon closer inspection their exquisite details were revealed. Their beauty and the realization that people had worked for decades, maybe centuries, on these panels and this church brought tears to my eyes.

We will head to the Louvre tomorrow for First Sunday (free admission) knowing full well that it will be impossible to see all of it in one day. We will take along a picnic lunch of quiche, fruit, baguette and, once again, some of that wonderful $6 a bottle Bordeaux. Might try to squeeze in Notre Dame, maybe.