Friday, February 26, 2016

Thoughts on a Week in Paris

I'm sitting at the gate at Charles de Gaulle airport waiting for the plane to take me back to Seattle. I have had a delightful week with my daughter and her husband and son. She lives just south of the Seine in the 7e Arrondissement, so we were well positioned to enjoy all the pleasures of the city of lights.

We are taught to think of Paris in terms of the Muslim terrorism, but of course you don't get a lick of that, except that there is a lot of security around. What you do notice is that the Uber drivers tend to be North African, while the taxi drivers are white.

But every moment you are reminded what a delightful place Paris is for the educated and the well-provisioned. It is amazing how many little boutique stores line the streets, and every corner has its restaurant. You wonder, how many fashionable women does it take to keep all these boutiques in business with their upscale clothing and furnishings and antiques? And how do all these little restaurants manage to make a go of it?

There are Monoprix supermarkets spreading out in the basement from a doorway onto the street, and there are plenty of McDonalds and Subways around. But the old Paris is still there, including the haute-couture brands and the fancy hotels south of the Champs Elysées. We had afternoon tea at the King George V Hotel and watched the world go by.

Paris is like every big city: it is home to the world, and if you didn't know that there were Muslims no-go areas, you'd think that Paris didn't have a care in the world. Of course, maybe it doesn't. Maybe all the Muslim fuss is just the ruling class needing a reason to tax us and spend us, and the need of Islamia to record its rage and frustration.

We went to the Louvre; it's a good idea to buy your tickets on-line before you go, because it allows you to skip the big security line and get into a shorter ticket-holders line. And then you get to sample just a little of the western colonialist loot that the curator class has accumulated and displayed. We went into the Richelieu wing and saw their huge Dutch collection, including what seemed like a roomful of Rembrandt self-portraits. There were a number of effigies of 13th century nobles, lying in magnificent carved stone on top of their mortal remains. The men were shown in their armor with a lion, for courage, at their feet, and their wives were shown with a dog, for fidelity, at their feet. They each held a pouch on their bellies, to carry their viscera. In stone, of course.

And that's to say nothing of the Egyptian, Persian, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek, and Roman collections. It is interesting to note that most statuary shows men in their fighting trim. But not the Egyptians, and not the toga-clad Romans. And hey, you may not be able to read hieroglyphic, but you can read the numbers off the wall, because the Egyptians have a glyph for one, for ten, for a hundred, and a thousand. One is a simple stroke, and nine is nine strokes. La Wik has the details.

No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to the Tombe de Napoléon at Les Invalides. Considering that Napoléon got the French in a bit of a pickle, it is a little surprising to see what an amazing, over-the-top memorial they have built for him. His remains sit in a huge sarcophagus in the middle of a huge rotunda, and in the wings are other French military heroes, such as Turenne and Foch. Alongside the tomb is the Musée de l'Armée, with tons of swords and muskets and uniforms from 500 years of French military campaigning.

Next to the Musée de l'Armée is the Rodin museum, but we didn't have time to visit before it was time to go to the King George V Hotel for tea. Oh well, next time.

And now it's time for the ten hour flight back to Seattle. Hey, what is ten hours compared to the 13 hour flight to Oz?

No comments:

Post a Comment