Sunday I managed to awaken without hurting any wild fowl, which was a good sign.
We started sort of late, maybe around noon, after experimenting with European
bath-showers. It should be noted that on the first day, we had no
bath mat. That night, when we came home, the puddle was gone and
a bath mat had been deliberately laid on the floor. The next day,
that mat and the new puddles were gone, replaced by a really large mat.
Hmmm. We spent most of Sunday at the Louvre. Our Museum Passes
came in handy again. The main entrance (for the clueless masses)
is the big pyramid, but notice the line stretching out of the field of
view in this picture and running for several blocks down the street.
With the Museum Pass you get to take a secret escalator with no line, although
it might lack some of the drama of the Pyramid. (Can you tell we found the museum
pass to be a good thing?)
Inside is perhaps even more daunting than the outside. There are literally
hundreds of galleries and deciding where to go is difficult enough.
Actually following the map to where you decided is even worse. We
saw the 'famous' things right away to get them over with. The Venus
de Milo failed to impress us, but then, it's really only famous because
it took so long to find it. The Mona Lisa was okay, but surrounded
by about a million people trying to take flash pictures of it through darkened
glass designed to protect it from flash pictures. The ironic thing
was that right around the corner in the next gallery were two more Da Vinci
paintings that looked like slightly larger versions of the Mona Lisa, except
with no crowd of people around them. This picture shows "Winged Victory"
which is probably the most impressive of the big attractions.
Here we have the hall of Italian Renaissance sculpture. The two statues in
the foreground are both by Michelangelo, way off in the distance, with
people standing in front of it is Cupid and Psyche, a fairly famous sculpture
that you would probably recognize if there weren't people standing in the way.
The main Renaissance Hall was closed (boo), but the Medieval Hall was open
so we saw some tapestries and chalices and such. Also of some interest,
an entire medieval fortress was moved inside one wing stone by stone and
reconstructed. We probably spent three hours or so inside there before
we had to leave or suffer some sort of art overload syndrome.
Incidentally, we didn't take any pictures for the rest of the day, so you'll have to
deal with more Louvre pictures as the story progresses. After that
we ate at the cafe that serves the skimpiest sandwiches in all of France,
but we won't dwell on that. Then we took the train back to the airport
to get the rental car and dealt with -FRENCH TRANSPORTATION STRIKES!
It had to happen sooner or later.
Because of the strike, we all had to get off a train at the Gare du Nord,
go up several flights of stairs, and then stand around waiting for another
train, which refused to stop at about half of its stops because of strikes.
Luckily the airport stops were open, plus we never had to pay for the train
because of the strike. Renting the car was surprisingly easy, as
was finding the car. Getting out of the airport was also fairly easy,
and driving into Paris wasn't so bad, except it required a lot of concentration
on my part driving, and Melanie's part navigating, trying to keep us out
of circles and squares and other bad shapes. I quickly learned not
to pull up very far at lights because then you can't see the light since
there are no overhead ones. We arrived back at the hotel without
incident and parked easily enough (free on Sundays). Luckily, I parked
uphill, because it would turn out we couldn't put the car in reverse for
two days. I thought there was some miraculous trick to it, and Melanie
was just convinced it was broken. Luckily, the car only weighed a
few pounds so we alternated pushing it out of parking spaces until we finally
figured it out somewhere in Belgium.
Back at the hotel we rested for a bit and then went searching for a restaurant.
After walking nearly the entire left bank in the rain, we stopped at a
restaurant that didn't even serve food. Since we were there, I had
a coffee and Melanie had a kir. It was a nice place, but we were
hungry, so we metro'd back to the hotel and ate at the brasserie next door.
(Not the same as last night, the other side of next door). I had a
salad with chevre and croutons which was translated into English as "salad
with hot cheeses of goats and toasts". Melanie had one of the ubiquitous
"croque madames" which turned out to be a fried egg and ham on toast.
She also had ice cream liegois. Liegois is apparently translated
as "big and chocolatey".