Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Un musée, un jardin et un opéra sans un fantôme

The difference was, instead of mariachi music he played an accordion. The sound immediately Parisian, reminding me of Woody Allan's soundtrack to Midnight in Paris. Somehow, even though it was a morning commute, the sound of the accordion was less irritating than the sound of the mariachi music I so often encounter on the subway in New York City. Of course, observing the faces of the locals, I might conclude that the sound of an accordion in Paris is viewed much the same as the mariachi band that interrupts what might otherwise be a quiet commute in NYC. 

After yesterday's lovely, wandering, stroll of an experience, today begged for a visit to the Louvre. Two days was long enough to wait to say hello to Mona and the Venus de Milo.

The line was long to buy tickets but seemed to move quickly. I'm a New Yorker. I hate waiting in line, but I'm used to it. Today's fun fact about lines is: know what line you're waiting in. I thought I was in the line to buy tickets. I didn't ask anyone, but observed those waiting in the line and made the decision that I had made the correct choice. When I finally got to the stanchions I began to second guess myself. Turns out, I was in the right line. But having abandoned my position to ask if I was in the right line, I had to find myself back at the end of a line that had tripled in length since I first joined it. The lesson here is: either ask first or trust yourself. 

Before actually buying my ticket and entering the famous Musée du Louvre, I had to have coffee. My head was already beginning to pound. I knew I wouldn't enjoy my first time with Mona if I didn't have the coffee to ward off the caffeine headache. Damn caffeine! Throwing all dietary and personal training restrictions aside I had another Pain au chocolat. Remember yesterday? I'm in Paris. I might as well indulge. My trainer wants me too. Of course, he knows he's going to get paid to help me work it off when I get back to the States. Then the Pain won't be chocolat as much as just "pain."

The hum of the milling crowd filled the cavernous space like the sound of worker bees in their hive. All the different languages rising together to blend into one human-made vibration. 

Let me talk about that word cavernous. Has there ever been a truer truth spoken? Especially when referring to the Louvre? I was lost, wandering around in the wrong direction, looping back on myself for the first 15 minutes. If I'd been dropping bread crumbs I would have been seeing them over and over, albeit trampled to flatness by the throng of people wandering about just like I. 

Finally I did what I had to do: ask. I was in the wrong wing of the Musée...completely. I was never going to find Mona in that wing no matter how much I stared at my map and tried to figure out where she was compared to where I was. We would have been two ships that never passed in the night. Once I was in the correct wing it wasn't difficult to find her. There were signs posted with arrows pointing me in her direction. She is pretty popular for a relatively plain girl. I saw the crowds before I actually saw her. I walked past them then turned to join them in their direction of vision. You can't really get close to her. And admiring up close is not really an option. I'll admire my photographs up close. I had been told she would be smaller than I thought. Honestly, she was bigger than I had imagined her smallness to be. She probably would have been exactly the size I imagined if I hadn't expected a tiny portrait that made one question the hype. All of that said, no matter her size, her beauty or plainness, there's something exhilarating about seeing her in person. She doesn't quite breathe, but you get the sense that she was once alive, captured in a moment that countless people, for nearly five centuries have admired. I have always questioned why this piece is so renowned, but really the why doesn't matter. She is and now I've seen her smile. 

Venus de Milo was a little easier to find after I'd gotten acquainted with the signs that pointed attendees in the direction of the most popular pieces of art in the Musée. She was a little more breathtaking. On par with the Eiffel Tower. I turned the corner and there she was. Yes, I gasped! The crowds formed a semi-circle in front of her, but I had no trouble seeing Aphrodite -- who she is believed to be -- in her statuesque, armless beauty. I found myself much more interested in the sculptures than the paintings. Perfect specimen's captured forever in marble. The male statutes were so chiseled: perfect pecs, flat stomach's (some with abs), bubble butts. If there was a Grindr in Ancient Greece, some of these men would have been the belle's of the ball. Seriously. And beautiful, to get back on track. 

Just when I thought I'd actually figured it out, I actually had. I navigated myself straight to the wing that held the Egyptian sarcophagi. With a little patience and little bit a putting myself inside the map (à la Joey on Friends in London) I found what I was looking for all by myself.  

Continuing to walk forward I stumbled upon a treasure trove of histoire magnifique. The objets d'art De Louis XIV à Louis XVI. The furniture, the tapestries, the chandeliers, the harpsichord, the harp, the porcelain, the silver service. The colors and designs opulent and grand. These objets also included pieces of porcelain service, as well as personal effects (like the travel kit), belonging to Queen Marie Antoinette. Marie figgin' Antoinette. Her actual stuff. What? Yo!

My stroll through Le jardin des Tuileries reminded me of strolling the Mall in Central Park: the water sellers were there, the sellers of art (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe drawings anyone) and selfie sticks. One could even buy a miniature of the Eiffel Tower. There was no tree canopy like the Mall, though. The sun shown down from the blue, nearly cloudless, sky as I walked down the, what shall I call it, pedestrian thoroughfare?, gritty with pummeled rocks and finely milled dirt(?) and sand(?) that left my shoes covered in a layer of dust. It was flanked on either side by lush green lawns and trees with topiary and flowers thrown in the design for color, artistry, and beauty. One could see the tops of what I assume were immeubles d'appartements on either side much like in Central Park. It's that reminder that you're in a large city even though you're surrounded by nature. There was a fountain in the center surrounded by those seeking a respite to enjoy the sunshine. I myself took a small respite after walking around the Louvre for three hours and sat down on an empty chair in the shade of a tree and read about half a chapter in The Phantom Of the Opera. Seems apropos doesn't it? I mean I am in Paris. Oddly enough, I started reading the novel before I even booked my trip; before the trip was even a thought. I've had it since 1993 so I figured it was about time I read the real story instead of allowing Andrew Lloyd Webber's version be the only version I know.   

My visit to Musée de l'Orangerie was a non entry. It seems that the rooms housing Monet's Water Lilies is closed from 31 August through 12 September. I leave on the 13th. Ah well. I guess I'll just have to return to Paris for a peek at the Water Lilies that Monet captured at various times of day and remain his most well known artistic creations. 

Remember the musical Urinetown? The song "It's a Privilege to Pee"? Art imitates life imitates art. At the end of Le jardin des Tuileries there was a toilette. I hadn't had more than my coffee from my pre Louvre entry, but I did need to pee. That'll be ,70€ and the first time I've ever paid for the privilege. It was totally worth it. 

Picture it. Paris. 2015. I'm sitting on the steps of the Palaise Garnier (AKA the Paris Opera House that is the setting for The Phantom of the Opera), reading The Phantom of the Opera. I finished that chapter I started back in the Tuileries. Then...I went inside. That was an unqualified surreal moment. How do I even begin to describe the splendid grandeur? I was speechless. It was C'est magnifique! Regardless of the fictional Phantom of Gaston Leroux's story, one knows that all theatres have their ghosts and I can imagine the Palaise Garnier is no different. If only these walls could talk imagine the stories they could tell. 

I took a 7pm stroll to the Seine. I just sat, observed, and absorbed. There's beauty all around. Of course, I wonder if you live here if you still see it. I find myself, after 18 years, still discovering beauty amidst the mundane in New York City. It's around every corner you don't visit every day. The trick is finding it around those corners too.

Mona wanted to say hi, but all she could do was smile from behind the glass. Aphrodite desperately wanted to wave, but, well, you know how that goes when you have no arms. The walls couldn't talk but thankfully I can type so you get to hear my story. 

Le voyage se poursuit!