Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Paris - Day Three

Some of you know my strange and colorful history with squirrels.  Well, we didn't see any actual squirrels in Paris.  But this was the wallpaper in our room.

Look at his little ears! How they are kind of spiky?  Now that's a stylish squirrel.  Apparently this is a pretty close representation of the real thing.  They are red and do have little tufted ears.  And it's quite a blessing if you see one in person as they are quite shy and not at all inclined to scold you from the trees.  Just another example of polite French society.

Day Three started out with breakfast.  This time we were early enough to get croissant - a fine, flaky, buttery thing that melted on the tongue - and of course coffee.  A word about the coffee here.  I've always been a coffee with cream person.  I love the smell of coffee, but the taste of it has always been bitter to me and the acidity does a number on my stomach.  So I have my one little cup with cream or milk each day when at home.  But in Paris...the coffee was so tasty!  No bitter after taste.  And NO MILK FOR ME!  A little cube of sugar and I could drink it all day.  Not nearly so hard on my tummy either!

Today's journey is to Montmartre, that well known home to starving artists and writers.  And to my daughter's doppelganger - Amelie.
It was everything I wanted it to be.  I think if I could live anywhere in Paris, it would be here - although today it's not nearly so affordable as it once was.  But just picture the beautiful apartment buildings with the wrought iron window boxes overflowing with geranium and sweet flowers.  The narrow winding streets that twist and turn and take you higher and higher above the city.  The beautiful views every way you turn.  And the people doing their shopping, drinking their coffee or wine, sitting and drawing or writing, living simply and fully and beautifully.

This is the Metro stop at Abbesses in Montmarte.  It's one of 3 remaining glass canopied Art Nouveau Metro signs.  Apparently, when the Metro was first built in 1900, Parisians didn't want to use it. So Hector Guimard designed the external signs to attract the public into the stations.  Inside the stations there is a great deal of attention to detail as well.  Some are as they were originally built and some are being renovated.  But they all retain an attention to detail and aesthetic that is rarely seen in public works .  And it's not just "art", it actually assists you - helps you visually know the line you are on, the station you are entering, if that station has transfers to other lines or not.  So form and function working together...huh...what a concept!

Now we begin our walk up the hill.  Bear with me here, I'm just taking pictures of all the places I want to live. 

Yeah, it's pretty great.

Now along the way, we picked up some school children going about their day.

Bridgete decided she could have children if they were raised in Paris.  I assured her I would have no problem being a French grand-mère.

Is there a budding Renoir or Van Gogh here?  Probably. 

Speaking of Van Gogh, this is where he lived with his brother Theo...before he went a little mad. 

And Renoir lived here....

How could you not paint beautiful things when you live in such a place? 

I mean, even the drinking fountains are works of art.   (These used to have little copper drinking cups on chains, but you can still fill your water bottles here.  Paris drinking water is quite good.)

Now a little history test.  Do you know the literary significance of this place?

La Maison Rose 

(notice the steepness of the street.   That's not me taking the picture at a bad angle.)

Once a favored place of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, now just a pleasant little restaurant where you can pretend that your great American Novel is about to be birthed...

I almost got hit by a bus taking this picture.  The corner I'm standing on is a very tight one.  Thank goodness those bus drivers know how to handle the narrow, winding streets.  Wouldn't that just be the irony of all ironies?  I go all the way to Paris to get hit by a bus when I work for the transit district here at home.

So we're nearly to the top now, just a few more corners and...
Basilique du Sacre-Coeur

Construction began in 1876 with dedication occuring in 1919 after the first World War.  Thus the basilica is dedicated to those who lost their lives in that great war.  Parisians are very superstitious about Sacre-Coeur, a superstition that really took hold when bombs were dropped in the area in the Second World War and all 13 of them missed the church entirely. 

Equally lovely as the church itself is the view of Paris that one has from the steps.  My poor little camera cannot do it justice.

After making this mighty trek to the highest point in Paris, we needed lunch.  We found a delightful little cafe called La Mere Catherine.  Sounded perfect to us!  So we sat and nibbled on cheese and bread and wine and watched the artists at work.

Then we ate gelato and browsed and shopped until it was time to catch the metro back to town and the Musee D'Orsay.

The D'Orsay is home to the finest collection of impressionist art in the world.  But we didn't get to see it.  The Musee is under renovation and most of the major works are in Chicago and San Fransisco.  Oh well.  Instead, we got to see some lovely works by Van Gogh and Renior and Monet and Manet and Gauguin that are rarely on display.  And the museum itself is a beautiful thing.  If you go, don't miss the upper floors like we did where apparently there are lovely pieces of Art Nouveu furnishings.  Next time.  (It's only my second full day in Paris and I'm already making a list of "next time" to see)

At this point, Bridgete was in need of a pharmacy.  Nothing major.  Just a bug bite that wouldn't stop itching.  We found a pharmacy (just look for the big green cross) and we went in.  After looking on all the shelves and not seeing anything that looked like cortaid - she asked "parlez-vous anglais? When the girl said yes, Bridgete held up her elbow saying, "I have an itch!"  and from behind the counter a cortisone cream was obtained.  Seems that in this socialized medical country, the pharmacy is the first place you go when you aren't sure what's up and they handle things very nicely, merci.  

Itch solved, we then took a stroll through some very fancy shopping areas.  Bon Marche makes Nordies mother ship look like The Rack.  Absolutely stunning.  And no one looked at us like we didn't belong.  I don't know where people got the idea that the French are rude.  They were lovely to us - everywhere we went.  Not even the beggars are aggressive.  They just sit in the Metro or in the park with their hand open or a hat in front of them.  They don't try to catch your eye or shame you into anything.  And they say Merci when a coin is dropped. 

With aching feet we returned to our little room, looked at all our little purchases, and I took a little nap.  Then we walked around the corner for dinner - the best we would have all week.  (at least in my opinion)  A beautiful little trout fried in a light crispy batter and a tarte tatin that made me weak in the knees.  Warm and delicate apples, not too sweet, a light flaky crust on the bottom and a dollop of crème fraise.  A beautiful red wine and whiskey to top it all off.  A perfect day.   Now to sleep and dream of that tarte tatin. 


Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

The squirrel is classic, fate brought you together! A perfect little spot to come home to after such a wonderful day & yummy meal :-)

I love the history of the 13 bombs, that is divine intervention if there ever was such a thing huh?!

Charlotte said...

Montmartre is awesome! Our hotel was in the neighborhood and we went up the Sacre Coeur a few times. The cute litte shops and restaurants were adorable!