Paris: Sunday

[NB: All these posts were written on the train on the way back. I'm spacing out the posting to keep you all suitably entertained without overwhelming you with my brilliant prose, and so that Google likes my blog again.]

Sunday was another day of culture and enlightenment. During the 3 years we lived in Paris, I never knew that entry to museums in Paris is free on the first Sunday of the month. If you live in Paris, you should take advantage of this, to make up for me not doing so. Partly as a result of this lack of knowledge, and the fact that Sunday follows Saturday night, we never went to museums when we lived there, and so had never been to the Louvre.

Sunday was the day we remedied this appalling cultural barbarism. Sadly, so did most of the world, so it was packed. I suppose it always is. There is, I noticed, a bizarre and, frankly, disturbing tendency for tourists to treat museum exhibits as tourist sites. Tourists, paintings and sculptures in museums are for looking at, not for taking photos of your children/spouse/friend/random stranger in front of. Really. Putting your C/S/F/RS in front of the pictures just distracts other people who would like to look at the paintings – the bits your C/S/F/RS are blocking out with their body are usually quite interesting to people who have ever studied any sort of art history. These painters are some of the best in the world across history. Your C/S/F/RS is not. Get out of the way. And don’t fucking tut at me when I walk across your carefully lined up photo that doesn’t need to be taken there because museum exhibits are not photo opportunities, generally speaking.

I will grant you, albeit grudgingly, two exhibits to take all the photos you want – god knows, you’re going to anyway, if Sunday was at all representative: Venus de Milo (Aphrodite, because we’re all about the Greek classical mythology on this blog) and La Gioconda (because I don’t like the name Mona Lisa, and I’m not sure why we don’t use the original name for the painting. And I don’t care enough to look it up on Wikipedia. Because we’re all about standards of accuracy on this blog. Please note the disclaimer a few posts ago.) These are, indeed, nice enough works; the smile on the Leonardo painting particularly is very well done – not that you can see much of it, since it’s behind glass and surrounded by a million billion tourists and their cameras. (Yes, I counted. See above re accuracy.) Venus de Milo, I’m prepared to be called a cultural philistine here (though if you’re thinking about this, I’m keeping a little list...) but I just don’t see the appeal. There are sculptures at least as good throughout the Louvre, by lots of different artists. She’s not that old. Anyone want to explain it to me?

One of the things I did really like was the exhibition of Merotian art (is that the word in English? Art from Meroe, anyway.) 2500 years old, sculptures, jewellery, pottery, awesome stuff. We weren’t allowed to take photos, so you’ll have to do your own Googling. And if you’re in Paris while the exhibition is still on, it’s worth paying it a visit if you’re in the Louvre anyway. It’s not very big, and it’s beautiful.

Similarly beautiful, though the complete opposite in terms of ostentatiousness are the Crown Jewels exhibition in the Salon Apollinaire, and the apartments of Napoleon III. Luxury, gold and velvet and sparkle everywhere. Photos to follow, obviously, since we were allowed to photograph these rooms. You can imagine how intimidating it would be to be summoned here for an audience or state dinner. Ah, for the days of Empire; sucked for the normal people involved obviously, but the pageantry and spectacle it left for future generations is unsurpassed. We don’t have anything similar now – the Millennium Dome is not going to make people in 200 years marvel at our creative genius and civilisation. Guarantee it.

After all that culture, my brain was feeling rather full. We retired to the Bombadier for Sunday lunch (roast beef, yorkshire pudding, all the bits – those of you even thinking that this doesn’t sound very French, hush. There were lots of French people in there, so it must be legitimate and a culturally valid experience.) Dinner was spent in another bastion of cultural integrity, as we went to the Frog at Bercy Village. Bercy Village is well worth going to at some point if you’ve got spare time (even if you feel like skipping the Frog pub part – though they do provide free wifi, should you want to check email, all the Frog pubs do. As does another pub which must be new since we left, since I don’t remember it at all, called Wide Open Spaces. Free wifi, friendly staff, I liked WOS – hi guys, if you’re googling yourselves...).

The shops and restaurants there are nothing special, but Bercy Village is prettily decorated, in the middle of green things, and you get to ride line 14 and pretend to be a metro driver. Plus drinks at the end of it. What more could one want? Oh and also, Bercy Village is the only place I’ve ever seen what can surely be a concept that can only flourish, of a Monoprix Restaurant. I didn’t dare go in, but I imagine a “kitchen” full of microwaves and a line of freezers and fridges. Sort of self-service par excellence. It must be nicer than that, of course. If anyone ever goes there, do let me know about it!

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