Friday, December 19, 2008

Parais j'te aime

Been in Paris for nearly a week now, and as I told a friend earlier, I am not getting tired of it...but I am ready to stop being a tourist and start a new life as a Parisian. The city is absolutely beautiful and full of life. I've found the people here to be really friendly, even in spite of the fact that I don't speak their language. I couldn't imagine if I were a foreigner coming to the US and half-expecting/hoping that Americans would speak my native language. I can't picture the expression of the check out clerk at my local grocery store if someone asked, "parle vous Francais? Je nes parle pas anglais." We are lucky bastards, is all I've gotta say.

Over the last few days, I've hit the usual spots -- Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, etc. I preferred the Musee d'Orsay over the Louvre, primarily because of a wonderful exhibit they have on Picasso/Manet, and the inspiration that Picasso got from Manet's famous Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe.

After first seeing Manet's painting, Picasso interpreted and reinterpreted the painting in various forms. The exhibit takes you from the original Manet painting, and walks you through Picasso's various interpretations including: sketches, paintings, cardboard cutouts, and sculptures.

Both the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay have extraordinary collections and it's hard to believe that the paintings and sculptures in front of me were the real thing; world famous original works of art. There was such a sense of familiarity, yet only from the pages of books, prints, or the internet. Experiencing the original, actual pieces of art in plain view was something else.

Speaking of Picasso, I visited the Picasso museum yesterday and it stands out as my favorite in the city thus far. Not only is it literally around the corner from my Marias apartment, but it is very intimate and feels like a small gallery -- a nice respite from the Louvre! The building used to be an old hotel, and it was there that I had a little fun with my camera and played around with the distorted mirror they have on the grounds facing the museum.

Between museums and tourist sites, I decided to visit a different type of place -- a Fromagerie! At the recommendation of my guidebook (and my waiter at the Louvre's cafe), I trekked to Quatrehommes, a cheese store on Rue de Sevres. It was there that I truly discovered that cheeses are world of their own -- with different textures, flavors, ages, colors, and smells. There must have been about 200 types of cheeses there! Appartently, France has over 500 varieties of cheese from cow, goat, and ewe's milk. That said, there are only five types of cheese: fromage a pate demi-dure (semi hard cheese), fromage a pate dure (hard cheese), fromage a pate molle (soft cheese), fromage a pate parsillee (marbled/blue), and fromage d'chevre (goats milk). Anyhow, the women behind the counter weren't particularly interesed in chatting, but recommended two cheeses (I think in an effort to get me out of her store as quickly as possible) -- a Mont d'Or and a Fougerus. So I took her advice and have been enjoying the two in the few hours that I've spent at my apartment.

Moving along...the weather has been pretty lousy the entire time, which you can probably judge from the photos. However, today there was beautiful sushine and I chose to avoid any indoor activity and romp around the city taking more photos. I made a valliant effort to make it to the Eiffel Tower for the sunset, but was about twenty minutes shy and caught the tail end of daylight.

Frustrated as I was that my only sunset of the trip was quickly fading away, sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower at dusk did make for a lovely evening.

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