12 days, 12 days of rain. We woke up this morning and it was grey and England looking outside (dreary that is). But by the time we went for breakfast the sun was out and it was looking like a nice day. So back to Plan A which was to take the open top bus tour around Paris today. We eventually found the collection stop and made it onto a bus. It gave a good overview of Paris with sparse English commentary – most the “commentary” was just music as we spent a lot of time stuck in traffic especially driving up and down the Champs–Élysées. When the sun was out it was bearable on the top but when it went behind the clouds it was freezing cold especially with the wind-chill factor. We did get to see all the major sights of Paris in one go though including some really good views of the Eiffel Tower.
The incredible thing about the Eiffel Tower is that they were going to tear it down. However, the height made it excellent to have a telegraph aerial on top of it and then the radio was invented and there was no better place to put the aerial for that and now it has a TV aerial on top of it. However, I suspect the tourism value alone is worth keeping it for Paris now. Imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower – it would be like Cape Town without Table Mountain; Pretoria without the Voortrekker Monument or London without Big Ben.
They told us on the tour that 2.8 million people visit Paris each year. Helen leaned over and said “And 2 million of them are here today”. They have 1850 hotels in Paris and I bet they are all full or close to full at the moment. Who said anything about a recession in Europe? Having said that, most of the people in Paris, I don’t think, are from Paris. You hear more English being spoken on the streets than you do French. After the bus trip we set off looking for a sandwich (which we failed at bitterly and ended up eating hamburgers). The streets are teaming with people. But the worst part are the American & Asian tour groups who just stand on the pavement in a group talking. Parisian pavements aren’t large and you don’t want to step out into the road (Helen did it once and I almost had to fetch her from the hospital) to pass or get around people. Do people not realise that if 50 of you stand in a group on the pavement other people can’t get around you?! They need to introduce a course at schools – “manners while traveling” or maybe even better “common sense of traveling”.
The plan was also to go to the Louvre today. Walking to the bus stop we saw hardly anyone around so we thought maybe we should go rather in the morning. But when we walked past the Louvre the line was ridiculously long already and we went back to Plan A which was to go this afternoon (or early evening to be more precise). That gave everyone time to have some R&R this afternoon. And it seems that 5 people took that up by examining the insides of their eyelids. I (on the other hand) did the usual thing I do – some work and caught up on correspondence et al.
We headed to the Louvre at about 6pm after obtaining ‘Fast Track’ tickets (just like Disneyworld Paul) from the Concierge and we went in through the entrance in the underground Mall. There was no queue at all – not even on the standard line. How ridiculous people are to queue (probably most of the morning) when you can just get right in later in the day. We decided to head directly for the most famous of all items in the Louvre – the Mona Lisa. In the process we passed sculptures which were 1000s of years old, other famous paintings but what’s the point when you’re heading to see the Mona Lisa.
We then started ambling through the other Renaissance works. What struck me was (a) they liked painting Biblical scenes (though in their own way – one painting showed David beating up Goliath) and (b) nudity was a must somewhere in the painting even if painting a Biblical scene. Some of the sculptures in the African section I had to simply shield from the eyes of Chloe and Lara. Sorry Bryan and Sharon – I didn’t think a stroll around the Louvre would be so explicit.
At one point Lara looked really disturbed and so we all huddled around to hear what her problem was. It turned out she had just spotted a celebrity from one of Sharon’s recent ‘Hello’ magazines and couldn’t remember her name. I suggested taking a photo but was shot down (not sure why I thought it a good idea). The rest of the evening was then trying to figure out who she was and eventually the mystery was solved after Helen found her on the internet. Jeri Ryan was her name. Google her if you want to know what she looks like. She was there with her husband and children. I am reliably told that she acts in “Body of Proof” currently and before that in Shark, Boston Public and even Star Wars. I would have posted a photo if I had been allowed to take one by the family.
We did spend about an hour and a half wandering around the Louvre making distasteful comments about the art. Helen pointed out a Roman statue (the guy had his hand in the air holding something) and said “Look – he’s battling to get a cellphone signal”. Now that is the problem with our family – absolutely no idea of art whatsoever. But we went to the Louvre nonetheless as it is important to improve your knowledge and widen your thought. Not sure it worked though today. We got to one section and it contained pencil sketches. Some of them were so bad we wondered how on earth they made it into the Louvre to be on display. The picture on the right is one such example. It isn’t out of focus. That is what it looked like. There is a prize for anyone who can tell us (a) what it is and (b) why anyone sane would believe this should be hung in the Louvre.
It was quite late by the time we exited the Louvre and so we headed for dinner immediately which we enjoyed at a French Bistro. Nothing special. Drinks 50% of the bill as usual. That is partly because we have discovered that in France it is legal for children to drink alcohol so long as they are with their parents. But in fact the cooldrinks are the same price as the beers and cidres (not a spelling mistake or typo) and usually smaller in quantity. And then for desert we headed for Häagen–Dazs for desert. However, when I saw the price I limited everyone to one scoop only. They must import it from the USA and fly it in daily at that price! But it was a good way to end the day. Right now though I REALLY want coffee and Starbucks is closed and the hotel wants to charge €8 for a coffee. They must be kidding. My withdrawal symptoms will have to wait until the morning for their fix.