Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Paris Day 3: The life of the fabulous, and why bike shares ruined our feet.

On our Tuesday in Paris, we did manage to get out of bed at a decent hour and set about our scheduled activities.  We decided to purchase a museum pass because we are giant museum nerds, and it's quite the bang for your buck in terms of money and time.  With a pass, we get unlimited entrances to almost every museum in Paris (except the dome climb at Sacre Cour, the Eiffel Tower, and a few other small museums) for six days! *insert angels singing here* Plus, just like the Eiffel Tower, we get to skip to the fronts of the lines.  Boom! We grabbed some coffee and a croissant (yum!) on our way to our first stop: The Pantheon.  Here, we toured the former church, seeing its art...

(One of my favorites of Joan of Arc)
...and its sculptures...
 (A plaster of a scene from the French Revolution.  Can you hear the people sing?)
...and the crypt!
(Isn't it the sweetest thing that Louis Braille is the only one whose name is stained from people touching it?  I thought it was very moving.)
The crypt was truly the most interesting part of the museum whose other claim to fame, Focault's Pendulum (and my MAIN REASON for wanting to go), was not on display. Boo! The tomb is home to many famous Frenchmen including Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Curie and many other I've forgotten already.  Plus, the space is just really neat - it reminded me of an old monastery with it's stone walls, and low vaulted ceilings. Apparently it also has a wonderful dome that you can climb, but it was closed for renovations.  Sad. We purchased our museum passes at the Pantheon, so for the next 6 days of blogging you're going to see a lot of priceless art.  You're welcome.  ;) 
This is me in front of the Pantheon.  Do you like how my eyes are open? Me too ;)
We decided to head off to the museum that we missed the day prior ( because we were ZZzzzzz....), the Jaquemart Andre.  This is a lesser known museum, but it was seriously worth what turned out to be a 5 mile walk to get there.  Oh, and on the way we walked through a street market, which was a nice mix of amazing food and touristy kitch.  Balance is everything, right?  I thought I might die of happiness when I saw this...

Too bad I'd just had a croissant, somehow olives didn't seem to jive with that, but on any other day...

We also happened to walk past the residence of the French President Francois Hollande.  We saw someone doing photo ops on the steps, but no one can be sure who it was.  But maybe it was the French pres?  Not that I would know what he looks like. I'm just proud of myself for knowing his name. Thanks, NPR!

We also passed a few flower shops - how lovely are these?  Lavender is coming into bloom!


OK, back to our impending museum visit...  The Jaquemart-Andre Museum is basically a throwback to 1800's French opulence with some amazing art thrown in.  The building was the home of Nellie Jaquemart and (insert obviously unmemorable husband's name here) Andre.  The couple never had any children, but they definitely had the nicest home on the block.  Some of the features include paintings that they eventually requested by the Louvre, frescos from Venetian villas (disassembled and brought back to France - how?!), and walls that sank into the floor so they could throw parties for guests numbering in the thousands.  Basically once a month everyone in Paris who wasn't in the cast of Les Miserables would be driven here in their coach for a party. They were visited by royalty many times and their home is incredible.

This wall with the giant marble fireplace would simply sink into the parquet wood floor when parties were given, adjoining the two rooms.  Seriously impressive.


I can't even remember the name of this painting's subject, but I think it might have been my favorite painting in the whole house.  Perhaps because she looks so dreamy and angelic?  Also her dress is blue and green, and those are the two best colors ever.  Her canvas is about 3 feet long and 4 feet high and there were about 7 of these on this wall in the...... BATHROOM.  One of them.  Seriously, these people were loaded.

How do you like the tapestry?  If you were Nellie Jaquemart on one of your semi-annual two-month stints in Italy, and you fell in love with it, you simply wrote a check and purchased it.  Oh, you don't have the right size wall to hang it on?  Simply have the whole bottom floor of the house torn up, reworked and build a new wall to fit the tapestry.  That's obviously the best choice.  ;)
It was an incredible home and I wish I had more pictures to do it justice - guess you'll have to wait for the slide show. ;) It was also really nice to hear a story about a French couple in this time period who really loved one another and remained faithful.  Since adultery was accepted, even in fashion (what?!) at this time, every museum that chronicles someone's life reads like a script from General Hospital.  This love story was refreshing, much more "Home Improvement," than, "The Bachelor."
At this point, we have walked about 6 miles and our feet were threatening their own French Revolution. We had spotted several spots around town where you can bike share and return it at another station.  We knew we had one about 50m from our front door, and we saw one right in front of the museum.  Score!  We would ride bikes home and try not to be killed by traffic - much better than walking.  So, we leave the museum and head over to the kiosk which is all automated.  We choose bikes, we choose a security code, we create a 4 digit code, we jump through 3 consecutive hoops of fire, (one of these never happened, your guess which), and when we go to pay.... REJECTED.  Try again with a different card (more hoops of fire). DOUBLE REJECTED (locals now sniggering nearby, enjoying our helplessness on their smoke break).  Turns out they only take AMEX.  Gah!  I KNEW we should have gone for that Costco AmEx ages ago! The savings on fuel and taquitos alone would have been worth it, but this cut deep.  We thought about our options:
1. Get a taxi.  Except that it's rush hour and traffic is a nightmare.  If we're going to shell out 70euro it's going to be for lobster, not a car ride.
2. Metro.  At this point we hadn't yet tried the metro (remedied that the next day), and didn't fancy being assaulted by gypsies while unable to run on our destroyed feet. In other words, we were too tired and chicken to try something new. **Notice here that this was a perfectly reasonable option.  It is now clear that foot pain has begun to inhibit our brain function**
3. Bus.  We check the maps at the nearby stop and discover that it takes us in the right direction, but only about halfway, plus it probably costs a fortune (no, it doesn't).  We decided yet again that this is more work than it's worth. **Note the increased inhibition of brain functionality. A bus costs around 1.5e, and who cares if you only go halfway, it's half you don't have to walk!**
4. Hoof it, the obvious choice.  **The WORST choice. Brain function levels reaching an all-time low**
So, we walk, and walk and walk some more.  And when we got tired we kept walking.  All in all, when we returned to the room and literally collapsed into chairs, we had walked 13 miles that day, not including the time we spent standing in museums. I'd like to say we at least felt proud of ourselves for going so far, but as soon as we grabbed some pizza (brain food!), we realized how DUMB we had been not to take the bus or the metro.  For real. Needless to say, we slept pretty well. 
Tomorrow you'll hear about the best rain shoes ever (Sarcastic or not? You'll have to wait and see!), why all the French kings are named Louis (Nope, not really. But wouldn't that be fun if I did know?), and how we learned to ride a train and took one all the way to Versailles.  100 life points to us! Au revoir for now! 

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