Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day 31: The 3 P’s of Paris:

The title popped into my head the very first thing this morning. I had a rough night, the romantically sounding loft bedroom in a Paris apartment kicked off my allergies in the most notable way, I got The Cough back. So sleep was difficult and I ended up with only 4hours of sleep because on a Saturday morning at 7am, someone decides THAT is the perfect time to start working on renovations in their apartment. Or something because I was awakened by the sounds of crashing and booming.

I sleep with ear plugs, anyone who’s stayed in a hostel knows to bring earplugs. Yet despite them firmly lodged so deeply in my ear canals, I risked losing them, I could still hear the pounding. Oddly, the minute I removed them, the pounding stopped, at 739am. Maybe it was the sound of my brain exploding, I don’t know, but I know, I didn’t get enough sleep. But I promised myself I would be at the door of the Louvre at 9am when it opened and dragging myself out of bed and finally being ready at 830am meant, I could not stop and have a long leisurely breakfast at one of those Parisian cafes. Instead, I quick stepped it over to the Louvre.

I had the gps on my phone, but for some reason, the street names on my phone don’t match the street names on the streets, so I straggled through the streets, aiming for someplace that would take me to the Seine where I knew if I could just get there, the Louvre would be hard to miss.

I saw, at almost 9am, a group of 20-somethings buying a late dinner. I’m sure of it because one of the guys still had blood drying on his head in bright streaks down his face. Ah, the perils of youth.

Then I spotted two young men sitting dejectedly on the sidewalk and saw a glance exchanged, one stood up and tried to speak to me, I said nothing and pointed to my ear, he assumed I was deaf and left me alone. The Louvre was waiting for me.

It was in that walk that I noticed something about Paris that I noticed yesterday but this being a new morning, I thought would change. No, my opinion didn’t change, Paris smells like pee. I don’t know what it is, I had been warned that dog poop was everywhere so watch where I walked, but I hadn’t noticed anything, yet. But I do smell the pee. That’s the first P.

I got to the Louvre just a bit after 9am, the lines weren’t bad and I had the Paris pass so I got through the long line of people who still had to buy their tickets. It’s odd, you line up outside by the glass pyramid, put your bag through a scanner, go downstairs, and get in line for tickets. Then get in line to go into one of the three galleries, which all have their own check in but are also connected so…?

My immediate priority was the Mona Lisa, I had heard the crowds were insane, and I wanted to see her so then I could take my time looking through everything else. The Louvre is a nightmare to navigate. I paid and extra €5 for the audio guide, a Nintendo DS that had an interactive map and a gps on the user so it can guide you to whatever object you wanted to see. The only thing is, when I used a map, up usually means north, or in the current direction you are facing. I don’t know what Nintendo was doing, but it sure was good to wait about 5 minutes after I ‘wandered away from the tour’ to tell me I was lost.

Luckily, the Mona Lisa had many black and white photocopied sheets hanging on every doorway directing you to where you had to go. Except, in dealing with crowds, they directed you through the longest way around when, you can get there very quickly, since you actually walk past the back entrance of her gallery.

Luckily, before I reach her, I had to go up an elevator, up some stairs, go down some stairs only to go back up again and at that top middle landing was the Winged Victory statue. The first time I my expectations were met on a piece of art. She stands tall and imposing in the middle of a staircase set up so you can see her from several galleries away. It was kind of like the Vegas strip, you swear it was just right there, so close, then the stairs drop on  you.

I got to the Mona Lisa gallery, she has an entire wall to herself, she is the single most famous painting in the history of man but she looks like a postage stamp next to the wall sized painting covering the rest of the room. What were they trying to do? Hide her in plain sight? The single rope barrier is about 6 feet away from her so I can’t say I actually got a good photo of her. There was a lot of pushing and I’ve figured out that a new American tourist is the one who gets annoyed and actually says things like “that’s rude!” when they get shoved out of the way. I was like that once, now I do the pushing because it’s the only way to get anything accomplished.

When you are amidst a mass of people, the only way to get anywhere is to use your elbows and shoulders and let me tell you, I got some broad shoulders.

Then I loitered, big mistake. The Louvre seems like the size of three football stadiums. I understand three galleries, but what’s with the crazy stairs? Wasn’t this a palace at some point? Where they trying to avoid the rest of the household?

I went through Napolean’s rooms, his gigantic dinner table, Marie Antoinette’s travel kit, a ton of snuff boxes and jewelry, when I noticed the crowds had grown louder and thicker. It was not 1130am and I had just blown 2hours walking around and I still hadn’t found the Venus de Milo!

I assumed that like other museums, you place the displays in a way that is conducive to moving people through all the galleries. So since the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory were in the Denon gallery, I assumed that Venus was in another gallery, maybe with the other sculptures. I found some tremendous sculptures that had my mouth hanging open on the ground floor of the Richelieu gallery or pavilion, but the Venus de Milo was actually back in the Denon building.

Again, twisted around, I couldn’t find it and had to be directed back out to the middle of the pyramid and back to the Denon gallery.

The Venus Di Milo is beautiful, she didn't disappoint and I was overjoyed.

At which point it was 1:30pm and I had not had anything to eat. So I headed out, thought I’d stop and get some postcards. That’s when I saw the Odalisque on a postcard. She a painting by a Frenchman and she was the first painting I studied when I had a class on art history. She’s an impossibly long waisted woman who looks over her shoulder at you. She was a fantasy painted because she has about 5 vertebrae too many for an actual female spine.

I was not aware she was at the Louvre, for it to be a French painting, I was surprised it wasn’t listed on any of the ‘must see works’. So I went back into the Louvre to look for it. I went to the big information desk in the center of the pyramid and asked where the Odalisque was. And the woman had no idea what I was talking about. How do you work at the Louvre and a French painter exceeds your knowledge. I explained it was a painting. Then she waved her hand and said all the paintings are on the 1st floor of the Denon. I wonder if she was from Madrid.

So everything I had wanted to see was in the Denon gallery, great, so why did I end up going through the Sully and Richelieu if that were the case? Now the crowds were even thicker, by the time I got to the Grand Odalisque(her full title), a group of Asians were covering the painting taking pictures. I snuck to the side, looked to see if they were all done taking pictures and stood as close to dead center as I could. And because I’m a nice person, I took one picture and it’s not perfect, there’s a bleeping glare of light on her forehead, but I saw her in person. Done.

Then I practically ran out of the Louvre, not before I got stuck on the Louvre Carousel and ended up where I had begun, then I paid attention to the exit signs.

I exited at the Tuileries, blinding light scorched my weak, ailing eyes and I had to sit down under a tree to get my bearings. Of course, I walked the wrong way over estimating the direction of my next stop. The Big Bus office to get my ticket to take the hop on/off bus ride. Don’t get it, compared to the other hop on/off buses I’ve been on in other cities, this was a bit of a waste, expecially when with my Paris Pass, I get a 5 day metro card! But I enjoyed sitting the whole time since my ankle wasn’t loving the cobblestone streets.

I went around and around, they drove distractingly slow, I understand it’s to give us time to take that photo op, but really? Add the traffic and the ride of a mere 10 stops was aggravatingly long. I stepped off at the Eiffel Tower, but then I saw the lines and I remembered I don’t like heights and the Eiffel Tower is nothing but steel girders and bolts, I may have to pass on going up. I can go up the Montparnasse Tower too for a view.

I returned to the bus and took it back to the Louvre so I can take a leisurely walk back to my apartment. But for some reason, when I’m sweaty, hungry and tired, I walk like my feet are on fire, my feet barely touch the ground and I dodge and dip pass the other tourist.

Who are the second P of Paris, people. Lots and lots of them, some who don’t know the meaning of deodorant.

As I walked back to Rue St. Michel, I noticed that it had been blocked off and there was a big commotion because there were a lot of people crowding on the street. Rue St. Michel is a major artery, with lots of traffic and a big wide street. And now it was filled with people. Then that’s when I noticed the rainbow get ups, the wigs, the capes, the flags. I had stumbled on to the Paris Pride parade!

What unbelievable joy filled me! The last time I went to Chicago pride, I was stuck standing on a lawn chair trying to see. Halsted street is a smaller street and the crowds were at times 10 deep. I walked to the corner of St. Michel and Blvd St. Germain and there was very distinct police presence and the corner was cordoned off. But I found my way to the front of the line and watched the parade. In Chicago, it’s maybe an hour long, I didn’t expect Paris’ to be much different. Besides when I walked up, it had already started.

But Paris has a reputation and living up to it is her destiny. The parade lasted for another 3-1/2hrs when I started watching it. It looked like anyone could join in between the floats(they use trucks instead of actual floats, which is what we use in the US). But everyone was so joyful, dancing, singing, drinking, it had all the best elements of a parade.

I looked around at the crowd gathered to watch, and the demographics were all over the place. Like the participants who ranged from young to old, males and females, the crowd was just as diverse. Yet they too head bopped to the music. There was a couple next to me, both looked like they were in their late 50s, early 60s, the wife was bopping her head swaying to the music an wanted to get the flags they were giving away. Some of the Chicago floats throw beads, a la New Orleans Mardi Gras or candy. I was disappointed there was none of that.

But the enthusiasm, the joy evince by the people on the streets today put a lump in my throat. The US was widely celebrating the passage of marriage equality and to see the words “Love wins” or “Love is Love” written on placards today reminded me how far we had come. And I saw old gay couples and I got teary eyed because in the US, they can finally marry, announce to the world their commitment to love.

There was a moment of silence for those who had succumbed to AIDS and to get that many people to shut up for a few seconds was amazing. (The guards at the Sistine Chapel couldn't get a bunch of us quiet!)

Then when the moment ended, a surge of cheers slowly gathers into a roar and it looked around and everyone was clapping.

This was the 3rd Paris P: Pride

Then at the heels of the last float and participants, the green street cleaners were all lined up to begin the street cleaning immediately. It was an amazing end to an amazing day.

Thank you Paris, you have been surprising me every day.

Update: Here is the video I took of this great day and the wonderful Parisiens who shared it with me.
Paris Pride 2015 Video


  1. Hello my friend. If u can what has been ur most favorite day so far? Please be safe and know that I look forward everyday to hear about a new adventure.

    1. This day was good, the day in Greece before I got sick was amazing as well. Then, I did nothing. This day, every thing seemed to happen.

  2. Hello my friend. If u can what has been ur most favorite day so far? Please be safe and know that I look forward everyday to hear about a new adventure.