19 May 2013

European Vacation Six - A Day in Three Parts

Yours truly waiting for a car to take me to the 1920s'

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris -- which I watched for the 6th time the day we left Berkeley -- has steadily climbed the list of my favorite Allen films and currently ranks third. So it should come as no surprise that I had to visit “the steps.” I refer to the steps where Owen Wilson’s character Gil is picked up at midnight and taken by car to the 1920’s. I know I should have been there at midnight to see if I could get a ride back to visit with the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway and Josephine Baker and Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau and Man Ray and Pablo Picasso and T.S. Eliot. But I settled for having my picture taken there and taking a photo of the street the car drove up and realizing I was standing on hallowed ground where once stood Woody Allen himself. There were others who came to the steps in front of church of st etienne du mont. And I’m sure there will be for years to come.
From there the missus and I strolled around purposely and aimlessly at the same time. We had places to go but were in no rush to get there and a circuitous route was just as good as any other. In a foreign city I am always happy to not know exactly where I am and to just wander about. Paris is made for such meanderings. At one point we found ourselves in the Luxembourg Gardens which is a gorgeous and clean park that feels relaxed and content. I couldn’t help but notice the building there that housed Nazi headquarters during the occupation. I contemplated Nazis stomping around the area and what a horrible affrontery it had to have been to Parisians. History is everywhere.

Our next journey was to the Cinematheque Francais. Somehow I hadn’t thought to go during our last stay in Paris. We bought very reasonably priced tickets for the museum. For a cinemaphile this is a must visit. The French played a crucial role in the early advancement of cinema both from strictly artistic and technological standpoints. The museum pays tribute to the early pioneers of film. There are original cameras and projectors and clips from early films. There is tribute paid to early British and American cinema photographers as well. The collection includes more recent items too such as “mother’s” head from Hitchcock’s Psycho the robot regalia from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis  and a self portrait drawn by Charlie Chaplin. Upstairs there was an exhibition dedicated to the great French director Marcel Carne whose Port of Shadows in a personal favorite.

We returned home for a rest before heading out to dinner and a museum. We found a nice little restaurant over near Hemingway’s former abode. Our nearest dinner companions were studies in contrast. At one table there was an American couple and my heart bleeds for the poor husband. What a scene his wife made about the dessert. She called the waitress over to complain who then called the manager. It had no taste she insisted and went into great detail about all that was wrong with it. The manager took it away after explaining where the ingrediants came from and assuring madame that they served it daily with no complaint. The manager returned later stating politely that neither she nor the chef could find anything wrong with it. The woman was determined that she admit there was something off about it. She went on and on about the dessert to her poor husband who seemed to get smaller and smaller and quieter and quieter and more and more embarrassed by his not so darling wife. When the bill came she complained about that though her husband pointed out that the issue at hand only amounted to three euros. The woman asked for a menu probably to check the prices again. I felt like hissing her when she left.
At the other table in our vicinity sat four Finns. It looked like mom and her three grown children. They were having a great often laughing once to the point of tears from two sets of eyes. I could only pick up bits and pieces of their conversation but were so proud of them in contrast to the ugly american. Mom returned from a trip to the bathroom to sympathize with the manager about the rude guest. I swelled with Finnish pride. Our people would never do such a thing. But our people are also very shy and while we will stare and watch it wouldn’t have done for me to reveal myself to the Finns. Oh it would have been okay if I’d spoken to them but as a Finn I could’t bring myself to interrupt their evening.
After our enjoyable meal (no problems with our desserts) we made for the D’Orsay Museum. It was a special night in Paris with free admission to all museums. Their website said that they would be open until 1:00 but when we got their at 11:00 they were closing. Damn! We had gotten our evening off to a late start because someone had taken a very long nap (guilty). No museum but more strolling about Paris much of it along the Seine. Then back to the Metro and home. Today we had several “long” waits for the Metro by which I mean three minutes. Three minutes as in 180 seconds. Oh Paris Metro you’ve spoiled me.

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