Fezzik In Paris

Two Americans, three cats, and too many places named "de Gaulle"

We found ourselves grounded this weekend due to illness on my part (I maintain that the Purrito passed it to me; she maintains otherwise), so here’s an opportunity to post the pictures from last Saturday’s jaunt to the recently-reopened (uh, April) roof of the grande arche.

There are also pictures of the district in general, because why the hell not.

Le musée d’air france is tucked away in the bottom level of gare des invalides, and was so well hidden that we wound up asking a random security guy who was diligently protecting the interior ministry’s cafeteria where the hell the entry was.

As it turns out, the museum’s well-hidden nature is such that it apparently does not attract that many people and thus does not open when it’s supposed to open. It was indeed (last) Friday, it was indeed between the hours of 1300 and 1700, and the door was firmly bolted.

No matter; it’s been literal years since we’ve been to musée Rodin, and while neither I nor the Purrito like the guy that much, the garden is nice and I figured that I would be able to take a picture of Marco in the garden.

As that turned out, the garden was largely blocked off due to the construction of a temporary building that will apparently host an exhibit on Niki de Saint Phalle, so the sightline on which I intended to photograph our adventuresome lion was entirely blocked by a barrier.

On the positive side, the café in the garden was open, and they make a hell of a vegetable quiche.

We learned very quickly that les journées européennes du patrimoine, while conceptually pretty cool, invariably means that whatever point of interest you’re going to will have one hell of a line, owing to the fact that you can now see the basement, the back room, or even the inside of the école militaire, which I continue to avoid on these annual events due to my intense loathing of guided tours.

All of which is an indirect way of saying that even had we known that the weather would prove to be as nice as it was on Saturday, Fontainebleau was off the table. The Purrito, having been in the vicinity of Châtelet earlier in the week, said that the Lego store there was sizable and worth a visit; our objective decided, we departed.

Exiting the métro at Concorde in favor of an approach on foot, we found an unexpected benefit to it being the weekend of the aforementioned journées du patrimoine; while it was indeed the case that the palais royal allowed access to the actual building as opposed to only the courtyard (and the line for which served as confirmation that we were right to avoid things on this weekend in general), many of the churches that are normally shut were open for the weekend. Our promenade up rue saint-honoré thus saw us duck into a random Polish church, the église saint-Roch, an old but hastily-exited protestant church (while the catholic churches on the list simply stuck patrimoine signs outside and opened the doors, the reformers played to stereotype and tediously insisted on evangelizing). I don’t believe that it was in any way due to the patrimoine activities, but the église saint-Eustache was open as well; simply walking in the door prompted an accidental “holy shit” (I admit, in retrospect it’s sacrilicious) , and provides further evidence that the revolutionaries were right to use Nôtre-dame as a warehouse, because it is possible to walk into more-or-less any pre XIXe century religious building in Paris and find something more impressive (further evidence: église saint-Roch).

Did we make it to the Lego store? Yes, yes we did. Am I going to rememeber anything about it (solely rthetorical question, because I’m an endless font of useless memories)? No.

Posters work.

Header images, which are the spiritual successors to posters, work as well.

I fully admit that our trip to the petit palais was prompted entirely by a header image that I saw while skimming through a blog that I read. I acknowledge that I had been psychologically primed by the title, “Les 5 expositions incontournables de la rentrée,” but their header image for L’art du pastel de Degas à Redon, which was a photo of one of the paintings featured in the exhibit, resulted in said exhibit being placed in the floating section of The Calendar. It was at the floating category that my gaze was cast after the Purrito asked me what I wanted to do on my (unscheduled; the joy of having to burn PTO lest one lose it) day off.

It was thus to the petit palais that we marched on Friday, somewhat surprised by the cool but sunny weather that was supposed to have been torrential rain (our rule of thumb regarding Paris weather is that if there is any chance whatsoever of rain, it’s going to rain). It was in the palace, being configured a bit differently due to an ongoing internal renovation, that I saw the poster for the second exhibit, a retrospective of the Swedish artist Anders Zorn), and asked the Purrito if she had any interest. She glanced at the poster, said yes, and we purchased combination tickets (a new addition to the petit palais).

As it turned out, Zorn was better than pastels, but both were enjoyable; a happy surprise.

In a continuation of what appears to be a months-long trend, our plans last Saturday went awry when we found out that le musée du parfum Fragonard and le grand musée du parfum are not, in fact, the same thing, and that entering musée du parfum into ones phone is entirely insufficient.

In absolute terms, it was not as if the grand musée was too far away, but we had other plans that required us to be in the general vicinity of Opéra. Having decided “eh, what the hell,” we decided that we would go back to opéra Garnier, as we knew there was an unknown exhibit (we’d seen the posters, but could not remember the name) of potential interest. Most important, however, was the fact that the opéra was right there.

The rain that made us alter our first plan for the day (which was supposed to be a visit to Fontainebleau) broke (though, per the weather, it still poured down there, so it was ultimately a legitimate decision), which allowed me to take better pictures than the last time we were there. As for the temporary exhibit, it did indeed prove to be of interest; it was a fiarly rigorous history of Paris’ initial apathy towards and subsequent posthumous embrace of Mozart’s operas.

It was not, then, a terrible way to spend a day.

Thursday evening’s early departure from work was intended to spare us the worst of the crowds at le musée des arts décoratifs de Paris. We were partially successful; having been thwarted last weekend by the lack of pre-purchased tickets and the incredibly long line, we managed to catch what we would find was the leading edge of the after-work crowd, a somewhat surprising response to the exhibition entitled Christian Dior, couturier du rêve.

As to the actual quality of the exhibit, I remain unsure. Having escaped the bizarrely-hot first few rooms, I found myself with a bit of an odd feeling when presented with walls of Dior, um, stuff, presented as a color spectrum. My initial thought was that the curation was a bit lacking; the breathless descriptions insisted that the “New Look” was revolutionary and important, but as someone who is not an octogenarian, a woman, or French, I found the insistence a bit strange, particularly when it would not have been difficult to show off a few of these supposedly horrible post-war jumpsuits (I’m well aware that said garments were not actually jump suits; the word “utilitarian” was tossed around quite a bit though). My feeling that this was more of an advertisement for Dior as opposed to a meaningful exhibition was confirmed as we proceeded through the remainder of that half of the exhibit, wherein we watched various Dior ad campaigns and saw bottles of Dior perfume accompanied by Dior’s assertion regarding perfume being an essential component of a dress.

The second half of the exhibit was marginally more educational; collections by each of the head designers were presented, though essentially no mention was made of the entry an exit conditions of a given designer (per Wikipedia, these were largely drama-filled and, on more than one occasion, not indicative of a sane corporation). There was no mention, either, of the multiple bankruptcies that almost killed the brand at various points.

All that aside, I suppose that it wasn’t terrible; the museum does have quite the bookshop.

In the things-that-make-you-feel-somewhat-old category, we can place twenty-year-anniversaries-of-events-that-occurred-while-you-were-in-high-school.

I am referring, of course, to the twenty-year anniversary of Diana’s death, which occurred on Thursday.

We happened to be wandering that particular evening, so I have photographic evidence.

In complete honesty, I had written a post about last weekend complaining, as usual, about what turned into a weekend of mediocrity: a mediocre movie (Valerian), mediocre duck (always a tragedy), and a mediocre exhibit (Dragonland).

After being distracted for days of watching a hurricane do its very best to drown Houston and its environs (including the house that we still own), however, that particular line of complaint feels, dare I say, petty.

So here’s some week-late pictures of some really lame dragons.

Oh hey, it’s evidence that I’ve been negligent.

No, really, this is entirely unexpected; I had zero clue that I have been lacking in the motivation department, and I certainly didn’t realize that we had gone to Strasbourg the weekend before last, not when this past weekend was spent on such amusements as sitting in an emergency department for several hours on Saturday (the positive side of a universe ambivalent to all of our existences: sometimes things turn out well enough), but hey, what can I say?

Oh, right. Strasbourg.

A pleasant two-hour-high-speed-train-ride-in-an-easterly-direction away, Strasbourg originally earned a place on our to-visit list after a visit to canal saint-Martin, in which we interacted with a shopkeeper with a strangely clear, later-to-be-identified-as-Alsatian, accent. True to our expectations, listening and understanding French in Strasbourg is an oddly clear experience, owing to the crisp German influence on the normally compressed French pronunciation. That said, I had no occasion to try out my likely-abominably-decayed German (not that being told in college that I had managed to pick up a farmer-quality accent has made me eager to speak again in the first place), though I did manage to confuse the hell out of myself after zoning out at lunch and wondering why the weather in Italy was so cool at this time of year (in my defense, we were in a pretty authentic pizza place, and Strasbourg is apparently a popular stop for Italian tourists, because there were inordinate numbers of them).

The highlight of the trip was probably our first meal in town; acting otherwise irrationally and following the advice of a schlubby Youtube personality whose other videos on Malta made us laugh (they’re awful, but the guy has a genuine enthusiasm that’s almost infectious), we ate at Maison des Tanneurs and were introduced to the utter magic that is Alsatian choucroute (sauerkraut cooked in Riesling) with magret de canard (featuring a cinnamon sauce, which is, in my mind, desperately fucked-up but was ultimately tasty). Ka being a wheel, we later suffered food-related lowlights such as a different but supposedly-good Alsatian restaurant being inedibly awful and then an almost-complete inability to find anywhere to eat Sunday evening, owing to the fact that eating out on Sunday is impossible without a reservation (though I will admit that this led us to eating at an unexpectedly-good Italian restaurant with decent pizza, a good vegetable soup, and a bottle of the elusive Lambrusco [sparkling red wine]).

Food aside (paragraphs about food aren’t normally what I would consider my oeuvre), there were a large number of now-indistinguishable churches, museums, pigeons, tourists, random crap emblazoned with storks (the stork as a fertility symbol is apparently of Alsatian origin, and they’re judgy fuckers, even in modern times; no roosting on the house of divorcés allowed), and a nice red sandstone cathedral, which I did not climb and thus am unlikely to remember.

Perhaps when I feel less petulant, I will revisit the gallery and add captions. Perhaps not.