We went to Paris!!!
The trip was a first for both of us, and we happily hit all the cliched highlights. But even cliches can strike us each differently. We visited the Eiffel Tower on our first evening, but instead of standing in the hour-long line to go to the top, we kissed beneath it, and decided to summit Paris’ thumbsore skyscraper, Montparnasse Tower.
Ever logical, Aaron reasoned that any views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower would omit the very structure we wanted to see, because we’d be standing on it. Instead, we should put ourselves atop something we didn’t want to see and admire the Eiffel Tower to our hearts’ content.
We spent hours at the Louvre, guided by my friend Bice, the art historian. We dropped in on Mona Lisa. Because everyone I’ve ever known who’s visited her has reported back to me that she’s smaller than they thought, the painting surprised me by being bigger than I expected. I’ve always pictured a postage stamp, but she’s a totally normal-sized portrait.
So many people cram in to see the Mona Lisa that we change the air quality of the room. You can’t see her from the door, but you know you’re in the right place because suddenly the air is sticky and warm in contrast to the cool climate control of the rest of the Louvre. I felt bad for the other masterpieces sharing Mona Lisa’s room. Not only must they suffer the oppressive humidity of Lisa’s fans, but not a single person so much as glanced at any of them. We circled the lonely perimeter, cooing in encouraging admiration. Just outside Mona Lisa’s room, another da Vinci hangs, which no one takes special notice of. But we elected it our favorite da Vinci.
The Louvre really does have everything. We saw a sculpture by Michelangelo, the Venus de Milo, Hammurabi’s original law code carved into a stern black rock twice my height. Hidden away in the new Oceanic Wing, we even found a head from Easter Island. And all this art is situated in Louis XVI’s palace, converted after the revolution into a space for we of the Third Estate to enjoy.
Before our trip, I dreaded rude treatment from the notorious Parisians. But everyone treated us as sweetly as a Crepe Suzette. We got by with only “I would like,” a pointer finger, and a smile. But we kept using German words. “Ja” instead of “oui,” “danke” instead of “merci.” We concluded that all this time we’ve thought we were learning German, actually our brains have been storing up generic Foreign Language.
We visited the modern art museum, the Pompidou, where we enjoyed the building more than the art. The building itself is built inside out, with the pipes and structural elements displayed on the outside. We explored the special exhibit on France’s greatest living artist, Pierre Soulages, who spent his whole career investigating the color black. His works resemble nothing so much as buttered baking sheets.
On Sunday morning, Bice took us to the open air market at the site of the Bastille. We bought ingredients for fish chowder, lots of new cheeses to try, and my very first oysters. We were very French that evening, munching on our baguettes and cheese, sipping our wine, and slurping our raw oysters. Though I don’t think the Parisians munch.