April in Paris 1990 - part 3 -Sunday
We had guessed correctly about the noise from the nightclub which kept us awake quite a lot of the night by coming and goings and loud popular music. But we had no need to be up early so slept in and made our way to breakfast just before the 10 a.m. deadline. We had asked the desk attendant before if we were entitled to breakfast, and she indicated we were welcome and it would be charged to our bill. So we went to the breakfast area and the man in charge said something about where were our tickets? We of course had none, so went back to the desk and asked again, and were told again that of course we could have breakfast. So we went back to the first man, who realized then that we hadn't got the system worked out at all, and told us in perfectly good English we must ask the man at the desk for tickets. So we did and come back the third time tickets duly presented and were allowed to pick up our trays and go through the cafeteria line for our meal.
Because we were late, many of the options were no longer there, but we did have a choice of croissants, small baguettes, hard toast, orange juice, plain yogurt, Camembert or cheddar cheese, prunes or fruit salad and coffee, tea or cocoa. Since I never eat a big breakfast, I filled my bag each morning with a baguette or chocolate chip croissant and a hunk of cheese to eat for my morning snack or lunch. Even though I did this very discreetly Philip was very embarrassed. But I collected my bits and pieces anyway. I like to be prepared for the odd emergency.
Philip and I took our maps after breakfast and decided to do a reconnoiter of the middle of the city by foot. We reckoned that by walking straight ahead on the road by our hotel. we would get to the Seine after a mile or so, and then could wander up or down to see the various historic things on
both sides of the river. Sunday morning traffic was very light. The roads were often cobbled but the cobbles were patterned in a sort of wave shape, which was attractive. The usual passers-by were obviously native Parisians, walking their French poodles while clutching their fresh twice daily baguettes, unwrapped, under their arms. There was a definite lack of litter - Paris seemed very clean by English standards. And the atmosphere was relaxed. Nobody was frantic to get somewhere in a big hurry.
The first large building we encountered was part of the UNESCO building - a rather ordinary looking modern building except for the curved wings on either side. The front of the building was full of concrete flag poles which it too me sometime to identity as none of the flags were flying at the time.
Then just across the road and up a bit, we came to the military academy and then a bit farther up to Les Invallides Hotel. The prominent feature of this complex is an enormous dome of the church which was newly gold-leafed as were all the public decorations for the bicentennial of the French revolution last July. We were confused momentarily by the notion of a hotel, but realized that in French that means Hospital, and this indeed was the church for the injured soldiers. Behind that was the military hospital itself - built for Napoleon's injured troops. His ashes are buried in that Church. We could have toured the building, but decided w e would only be doing a walk-around tour on this occasion. There were lots of tourists there, however doing the full bit, we went slightly
to our left to walk around the side of Les Invallides and walked by the Rodin Museum. If we had realized it we could have given each other a piggy back to see over the wall of the museum, because just outside the house was the famous statue, The Thinker. I saw it the next day from our higher perch on the bus.
We had reached by now the central part of Paris with the river running from east to west and dividing the city in the left bank, noted for business and education and art, and on the right bank, the city is more noted for government, shopping, the opera and theatres. We decided to cross the river on the Pont Alexander, a very ornate structure, built again for the 1900's World Fair. Here are about 20 bridges across the Seine about 1-2 blocks distance from each other so it is very easy to get from one part of the city to another.
Having crossed the Seine we went to view the most famous avenue in the world - the Champs Elysee. The road from the Arc de Triumph to the Louvre Museum which was originally the home of the royalty, is about three miles of very straight road. so when we aligned ourselves correctly we could see both landmarks. The trees are horse chestnuts, which have been chopped off to be exactly level on top. I felt it all looked a bit too precise and military.
We had heard that Paris traffic was dreadful and that drivers were very reckless. One of the worst spots for traffic was just where we were standing which was a sort of central interchange for all these famous streets and areas. But pedestrian crossings were conveniently placed and traffic lights
allowed for frequent reasonably long periods for crossing, and for the most part the traffic seemed very disciplined. On minor roads there were pedestrian crossing hatcings marked but no traffic lights, one needed to be brave to cross if a car was coming. Most Parisians were willing to take the risk, but we were much more cautious.
In this central spot in Paris, there were many fountains and statues, This was actually the place where all the famous beheadings had taken place during the French Revolution, but in hope for better things to come it is now called Place de la Concorde. One prominent item is an obelisk of
Egyptian origin, given to the French government a few hundred years ago. One one side of the obelisk were the original carved hieroglyphics. One the other side was a carved pictorial
representation of how the obelisk was lowered, shipped and raised again when it was re-sited. After we had our fill of this area we started along the right bank of the river.
The first area you go into is called The Tuilleries. Originally there was a palace there as well, but it burned down about a hundred years ago. The gardens with ponds and ornamental trees were pleasant. There was still standing the Orangery of The Tuilleries, which housed among other things the famous Monet's painting of the Water Lilies, but we didn't go in to see it. As we were walking along, a photographer with an Instamatic camera, motioned for us to stand closer together and then took a picture. He then pulled out the print, and handed it to me and asked Philip for 100 Francs. Philip was having none of that. But the man was so insistent and eventually when he got the price down to 45 Francs, Philip agreed. Then the man had us pose again and took another picture, which he gave to Philip, taking the original one which had obviously been a sham, back from me. he told Philip to hold it under his jacked for three mintutes. When we eventually looked as it, it was a terrible picture - blurred and crooked - and we knew we had been well and truly conned.
One of the things that the souvenir sellers were hawking was a toy bird that whirred around.
One of these birds had fallen into an ornamental lake, and all the large goldfish in the lake had come up to investigate.
When we got to the Louvre itself, it certainly wasn't at its best. Vast amounts of construction work were in progress with scaffolding all up the outside of the main walls. The ground was being excavated to make an underground car park. The centerpiece of the area is the pyramid of glass which is now the official opening of the building. The people queuing up to go into the museum stretched for about a four block square. When we actually got into the museum the next day and saw the pyramid from underneath, it was indeed an impressive and beautiful
piece of architecture.
From the Louvre we crossed back over to the left bank en route back to our hotel. We walked through the area called the Latin Quarter, because it was originally inhabited by the Romans. Apparently the right bank was marshy in those early days, so most early building was on the left
bank. We walked through St. Germain, by the Medical school of the University and countless bookshops and antique shops, all closed because it was Sunday. Some of the little bread shops were open but that was about all.
We were so tired and our feet hurt and re reckoned we had walked at least five miles that morning. We were too tired to try to find someplace for lunch, so we had a little nap before we set off for our meeting with the others at the Museum deL'Homme where the conference was being held. But hunger pangs eventually decided us to stop for a snack en route. Snacks are not a Parisian thing, unless you descend to getting a Burger King, which Philip was determined not to do. So we went back to our beer place of the previous night and had the meal of the day which turned out to be roast beef, hash browns and string beans. But the beef was at least 1/3 inch thick and so tender and juicy and covered 3/4 of the plate. What a meal for only £5. So we were late for meeting with our friends.