Paris: A Bastion of Friendliness and Good Deeds!

Trip Start Jul 23, 2012
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Trip End Aug 15, 2012

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wow, Paris!  You have surprised and delighted us on our return to you, from the first moments we arrived and parked in the underground garage near the apartment we are renting.  We were definitely frazzled and a bit discombobulated, but the clerk at the parking garage offered us the use of his phone to call our rental agent.  No dealing with payphones or Skype-ing in a McDonald's.  That was the first 10 minutes of our visit!  Then, meeting our delightful proprietess, Corrine, did not disappoint.  She was a spry old lady who helped us lug our suitcases up the last set of steps to the tiny studio that we're renting for a few days until we leave.  She was all smiles, and showed up around the room as if it were the Royal  Palace.  Plus, she had a small bottle of champagne and chocolates as a welcome gift!  2 for 2, Paris!  Later in the evening, after wandering around our neighborhood and finding a laundromat to wash the last-ditch clothes we needed for the rest of our trip, I witnessed another selfless act.  A homeless woman was camped out under a small tree on a busy boulevard in front of several small crepe/panini stands.  She was clearly having a rough day, but one of the staff of a restaurant brought her a warm crepe and it brought the biggest smile to her face.  Tears in my eyes just remembering it.  :) 
So, we love Paris!  Yesterday we got the lay of the land around us, which includes the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens one block away and the fantastic Pantheon 3 blocks away.  This morning, we rallied ourselves for a little exercise and did a jog around the gardens (and Mark went as far as the Pantheon).  After that we definitely earned our coffee and pastries.  After getting ready in the world's smallest shower/bathroom (with enough hot water for 1 shower...), we hit the streets.  We marched our way to the Pantheon, which was the most interesting burial site you can imagine.  Voltaire, Braille, the Curies, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Emile Zola, and some math nerd named LaGrange are all buried in the Pantheon's crypt.  Fascinating!  Sunday mornings are pretty quite there, so we bought our 2 day Museum Passes before heading to the more crazy sites (coming up).  Next, we wandered across the Seine to the Notre Dame.  Apparently Sunday mornings at a Catholic church are all the rage, so we didn't go in, but we did visit the Archaeological Crypts underneath that house the Roman ruins upon which Paris was originally built.  We went back above ground and walked through a bird market that puts the Ramblas in Barcelona to shame, then grabbed a quick panini lunch near the Louvre
Taking our Museums Passes through the gate of the Louvre and not waiting in any lines is pretty epic.  We decided to say, "Diplomatic Immunity" every time  every time we showed them at a museum.  I'm sure the employees will think us hilarious!  Right?  The Louvre is pretty overwhelming, and jam-packed every day that it's open.  We decided to focus on sculptures and Dutch/Flemish artists, and lightly cover the rest of the galleries.  Yes, we saw the Mona Lisa.  It was more funny seeing the throngs of people pushing and shoving to get a picture of her on their iPhones, but I did get a couple of distant shots.  Really, not sure what the big deal is.  It's a pretty tiny painting and it's behind the thickest bulletproof glass.  It is still exciting to see for a moment, but then a tour group from Korea pushes you out of the way and it's over.  I've decided that I love the work of Dutch painters because it's a bit darker, more eerie, and way less dramatic than the Italian and French Romantics, where everyone is always fainting! 
After 3 hours, we were toasted on the Louvre.  We walked across the Tuileries Garden to the Orangerie, where Monet's Water Lilies are housed.  Such a lovely small museum and the way the paintings are displayed, in oval shaped rooms, is perfect.  A special treat was the exhibit downstairs, which featured works by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Sisley, Derain, and Soutine (my new fave!).  The paintings were all originally owned by Paul Guillaume, a swanky French art dealer.  His apartment must have been better than any museum in its time!
After packing in so much to our first day, we made our way back to the apartment, rested up a bit and went out for a delicious fondue dinner.  Coming up: Emily gets crabby! 
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