Parigi

The title of this post is a tribute to my friend, the late Paris Mannion. She once told me that in Italian, her first name translated to Parigi. I called her that off and on until she died.

I visited Paris (the town) last week, so here are some photos and my usual random comments.

Notre Dame, looking across the Seine.

This was the third time I’d been, the first with my friend Paris/Parigi. As I walked through the cathedral, I was struck anew by her kindness. Years ago, we’d gone overseas to take photos for one of her books. Notre Dame had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of her book, but she went out of her way to take me there and some other places she thought I should see.

This time I went with my family. My husband and I wanted to share Paris, at least a small section of it, with our son before he’s grown and having most of his adventures away from us. We need to do more of that. The clock is ticking away. The first year of a child’s life feels as though it lasts ten or twenty years, then the years abruptly speed up and begin zooming by.

 

Wood model of Notre Dame, inside Notre Dame. One wonders if there’s another microscopic model inside the model, making the whole thing self-similar. The fractal nature of Notre Dame, if you will.

 

There was a mass in progress when we visited. It sounded far more pleasant than the roaring and bloviating of the religious leaders of my youth. Perhaps the fact that it was said in French helped.

 

The famous rose glass window, or at least one of them.

 

Currency deposited in a collection box by the faithful. I thought it made an interesting shot. It must be costly to make repairs on a medieval pile of stone, a more-or-less constant process.

 

I adore gargoyles. I live in a very bland, suburban neighborhood. I  wonder if it would be improved by hanging gargoyles off some of the houses. They wouldn’t have to be the same style as the ones at Notre Dame. We could make effigies of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, which would be appropriate for Silicon Valley.

 

The angels are looking on as though to say “Dude. That has to hurt.”

 

Now we’re in another cathedral, Sainte-Chapelle. It’s a short walk from Notre Dame, also on the Ile de la Cité, and well worth visiting for the sake of its stained glass.

 

“Here is a Bible with which to cover your shameful nakedness. Go forth and keep your privates covered.”

I could probably think of a title for this if I worked at it, but perhaps it’s best that I don’t. The balcony just outside Sainte-Chapelle was covered with relief sculpture depicting stories and parables.

 

The lesson I take away: if you have difficulty nursing, try substituting peasant-grade gruel for mother’s milk.

 

Basement or undercroft of the Conciergie.  That’s a lovely-sounding name for a place where people were tossed in dank cells before being hauled off to the guillotine. Marie Antoinette was there for a time before being taken before a tribunal and having her hair and then her head lopped off.

There were some fascinating informational displays about the Revolution. I confess that I wasn’t as horrified as I could have been at the notion of citizens rising up and ridding themselves of vain, bloated rulers who cared little about their welfare. Not that there’s anyone in the U.S. I want dead – just gone.

 

There was an art installation inside the Conciergie. It involved diverting water from the Seine and having it flow through a channel in the undercroft.

This sign amused me. Evidently the water is so questionable it’s worthy of a warning sign. Don’t touch it, don’t make coffee with it, and for heaven’s sakes, don’t float little paper boats in it.

 

Sacre-Couer. It sits atop a hill and can be reached via a countless number of steps or via a funicular. The last time my husband and I visited, we climbed the steps. I complained viciously the whole way. Guess what we did this time?

 

The Pigalle, with a McDonald’s sign nestled up against a sign with a topless woman. That tickled me.

 

The Sexodrome. I love that name. It has something of a Mad Max sound. I have no idea what goes on in there, but I imagine it involves people riding motorcycles while waving artificial phalluses.

 

Tilework on the sidewalk in front of the Moulin Rouge. I thought the little windmills were charming.

 

Butt crack of Venus de Milo, on view at the Louvre. Everyone was queued up in front of the statue, but I thought the back was equally interesting. It’s a view one doesn’t see every day.

 

“How big do you think the Mona Lisa will be?” I asked my son.

“Big!”

“Can you show me with your arms?”

“Well, no. But I think it’ll be at least as large as the other paintings.”

Yeah, it was a shock to him. It was a surprise to me the first time as well. Somehow we expect the Mona Lisa to be monumental in size, not a foot or two on a side. Who knows; if da Vinci had known the painting would be so wildly popular, perhaps he would have made it larger.

 

Evidently France didn’t get rid of all of its rats during the Revolution.

 

Fontaine de l’Observatoire. I’ve always liked these creatures, although I wonder what they eat. Definitely not hay. Perhaps seaweed?

 

Medici Fountain. Some of these photos make me sad. This is one of the fountains I visited and photographed with my friend before she died.

Paris/Parigi had a dream of retiring overseas, in one of the places she’d lived during her youth. She became ill and passed away before that could happen.

 

An architectural element on, I think, Rue Monge near the Arenes du Lutece. How cool would it be to look out the window of your apartment and see something like that?

 

Down in the catacombs, an incredible underground repository with the bones of more than six million people. We’d never been, but we thought the boy might like it. Glad we went. It’s good to try something a little different each trip, and it was fascinating and thought-provoking.

I’m very glad we bought tickets in advance, though. The line for walk-up tickets extended down the block!

 

Another tasteful arrangement of bones down in the catacombs. Who knew there were so many artful ways to display them?

I guess that’s a bit tacky of me. There were once people surrounding those bones. Some reverence is in order. Someday I’ll be reduced to bone or ashes or goo myself.

 

Another tasteful sign. It seems that people have to be warned to not eat burgers or hit the bottle when they’re in the catacombs.

 

On our final evening, we visited the Eiffel Tower. Going there is something of a tourist cliche, but we had to take our kid. Otherwise, he’d have conversations with his classmates like

“Did you go up the Eiffel Tower?”

“No. My parents wouldn’t take me.”

There are just certain places you have to go if you’ve never visited a town before.

That said, I was heartbroken by the anti-terrorism measures. The area around the tower used to be a big, green open space with people strolling and lazing. Now it’s fenced off, there are deep gulches, and one must go through a security inspection to enter. I suppose one of the goals is to make it hard to roll a truck full of explosives in and take down the tower.

 

Anti-terrorism measures were visible everywhere we went, as part of Operation Sentinel. From the moment we landed at Charles de Gaulle, we saw roving bands of soldiers carrying assault rifles and convoys of similarly armed police officers. It startled my son, who said it made him feel as though he was in a video game.

Oddly enough, it didn’t make me feel unsafe the way I do when people in the U.S. are enthusiastically exercising their right to carry guns and, presumably, form militias for the purpose of quelling slave rebellions. Perhaps that’s because when people in the U.S. openly carry guns, frequently their goal is to intimidate. By contrast, the police and the soldiers in France were trained and conducting anti-terrorism activities. We were merely fat American tourists, spreading around money and mangling the pronunciation of French words. We weren’t particularly interesting to them.

 

The Statue of Liberty, seen from the Eiffel Tower. Or, as my son put it, “the real Statue of Liberty”.

 

We arrived at the tower at dusk. As the sun went down, lights in the surrounding town began to sparkle. The bright object at the upper lefthand corner of the photo is the Arc de Triomphe.

 

All too soon, it was time to head home. There were intermittent rail and airline strikes around the time of our stay, but we made it out okay, flying out over Iceland (above) and the Atlantic while covertly ogling the extremely handsome male flight attendants. Some of them may have even been straight.

The flight home was like being on a flying restaurant, with champagne and liqueur and other goodies shoveled down our throats at frequent intervals.

I could live in Paris, at least for a short time. It was blissful getting away from some of the garbage here in the U.S., exercising and eating healthily while avoiding Facebook and reports of current political horrors.

We’ve only been home a week. I already want to escape again.

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