Friday, 13 April 2012

Paris Day the Eiffel Tour, alone

Today my plan was quite sedate: Eiffel Tower in the morning, Musee Rodin in the afternoon. I took the metro to near the tower and followed the people flocking towards the tower, cameras poised and guidebooks clutched expectantly. Upon arrival, they saw what I saw: 1 working lift and a queue of over 2 hours by the estimation of the helpful board nearby. I went for a walk around under the tower to suss out the queues, remembering from experience that you could walk up two floors ('No!!!' Scremed my calf muscles) but the stairs queue and the lift queue were in two different places so, just to make sure I had a look around. And when I was done having a look around, I walked towards the Champs Du Mars and sat on a bench to write my postcards and decide on a plan of action. Obviously I didn't want to stand around for two hours, and, it struck me, I didn't really want to go up the tower alone. Two things had suddenly occurred to me: that I didn't want to ascend alone and that I wanted to go up it at night to see the city at its romantic best (being the sort who enjoys stars and lights seen in the dark, nighttime immediately feels more romantic to me). Don't misunderstand my use of the word 'romantic', I don't mean big red hearts and slushy poems, I mean the feeling you get from seeing somewhere or something at its very best; in the case of the Eiffel Tower, this is a lot to live up to, so one might as well help it along.

I sat in the grass by the Eiffel Tower (humming an ABBA tune to myself as I did so) and wrote my postcards and, after an hour or so, got up and headed away from the great monument. One interesting fact before I move on geographically, did you know it was built to be a temporary structure? I didn't, and as I stared up at its enormous iron girders and complicated criss-crossing I think I understood why they didn't want to take it down...

I walked along the Champs du Mars and turned left, intending to check out the Rue Cler, recommended to me by a friend to be a good place for foodie types like myself. Unfortunately, given my slightly lonesome mood, I'm not sure I enjoyed it as much as I could have done but the smell of the fruit stalls and the pong of fromagerie were nice to breathe in, even in my melancholy state.

I was aiming, after Rue Cler, to go to the Musee Rodin to stroll around the garden and take in the sculptures. I also had a less artistic reason for wanting to visit it, and that was because I remembered an amusing scene from Woody Allen's latest film Midnight in Paris (have you seen it? Oh, you should! Its fantastic, I plan on renting it again when we get back...) where a know-it-all type is sprouting facts at his friends, some of whom are nodding appreciatively and one of whom, the protagonist, decides he's had enough and starts an argument with him next to The Thinker.  This museum is another that is free to the under 25s, I discovered with a smile upon arrival, so I entered my 4th complimentary tourist attraction of the week.

The garden is made up of a few tree lined alleys and a large central lawn of lush green grass with a round pond at the end. All around the garden, hiding under trees, in the middle of the pool, between hedges, are Rodin's bronze sculptures. Something that I have always liked about Rodin is that his figures seem particularly human. Obviously they are of humans but when you look at them you get the feeling of their muscles moving and the emotions that might be going through their minds. My favourite sculpture had to be the Fallen Caryatid Holding Her Stone, which shows, logically enough, a Caryatid whose building has collapsed and all that is left of it is one stone above her head which is now crushing her into an uncomfortable position as she struggles to hold it up. You can see the effort on her face and I felt that if it were possible for me to take the stone for her, I would; she looks as if the stone is the weight of a huge worry on her shoulders that nothing will ever release.

Inside the museum is just starting a refurbishment programme and will be showing the works in a different way to usual until 2014. The collection doesn't suffer for it  and I was pleasantly surprised to find among its rooms 3 Van Gogh paintings that Rodin had purchased just after the artist's death. There were also some amazing sculptures by Rodin's pupil and lover Camille Claudel including one of a wave sculpted out of semi-precious stone with 3 bronze women playing in its wake.

I went back out to the garden to do some sketching of the Caryatid and, while I sat, the sun came out in full skin-warming glory and created an environment so nice that I stayed for a couple of hours, reading and generally enjoying Rodin's garden.

I started walking back to the hotel and came accross, completely by accident, the Bon Marche which I had read in the guidebook had an incredible food hall. I am not one to ignore an incredible food hall when its nearby (or far for that matter) so I went in. Or at least I thought I had. I accidentally went into the door to the department store (not realising that the food hall was housed in a separate buliding) and spent an embarassing 20 minutes wandering with a backpack and guidebook around Paris' first, and apparently most chic, department store looking and feeling completely out of place.

Once I realised my mistake and found the food hall in the building next door I saw what the guidebook was talking about. It was a foodie's palace of bizzare and beautiful delights from around the world. It was somewhat like Fortnum and Mason's (and, indeed, sold their jam) but slightly less touristy and slightly more accepting. The best thing I found was bright blue syrup in a bottle calling itself 'Guimauve'. It seemed to be a base syrup for a cocktail...odd but wonderful (I have just looked it up and apparently its 'Marshmallow' flavoured...why is it blue?).

Back at the ranch now and off out for supper on the Rue Mouffetard once again...yum!

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