I was asked today, "Why do you want to go there?" Meaning Paris. As opposed to London, maybe, or Hawaii. I guess it goes back to high school. I learned French for four years (and am trying to put it into practice here) and always wanted to visit. I had a teacher in my fourth year who did lots of French things with us - we had a Bastille Day dinner, for instance. Then, when I was travelling in my early 20s, I ended up whizzing through France in a day. I could've been anywhere! (And it put me off travelling with other people for many, many years.)
So maybe France has always been "the thing I have to do".
Anyway, I'm here now, and am still having to tell myself every day, "I am in Paris, I am in Paris". Because I can't quite believe it. All the same, I have come home at the end of every day with very sore feet, and am usually asleep by 9pm. Restoring energy for the next day. Of course, one of the things on my Visit List was the Catacombs (hence the photo above of skulls and bones). What I didn't realise was that they are also part of the vast underground quarries from the 1800s, and you have to walk many hundreds of metres underground, through narrow tunnels with low roofs, to get to the actual Catacombs. Not an experience for the claustrophobic.
Suffice to say, when I emerged above ground again, I was two Metro stations away from where I started! I've also been to the Picasso museum (somehow ended up going around it backwards - chronologically that is - which gave me a whole new perspective on how his styles and subjects developed). The Museum of the Middle Ages was fantastic, and gave me lots of material for my new book, as well as ideas and images.
Today was Louvre Day. I started at the bottom end of the Tuileries garden and called in to the L'Orangerie, mainly because there were Monets there. Little did I know that there was actually an amazing exhibition of eight huge panels, in two oval rooms. The largest painting was around 20 metres long, the smallest about 8. The rest of the paintings on the floor below were a mix of Cezanne, Gaugin, Renoir and a few others. An excellent collection.
Then the Louvre. It took me half an hour to finally orient myself so I could work out where the things were that I wanted to see. This photo above is the Mona Lisa. Yes, that's her in the background somewhere. I thought it was more fascinating to watch the crowd pushing to get close and take "their own photo", even if it was with a mobile phone. The mythology around this painting is fascinating, and Dan Brown had added to it a thousand-fold. It's a painting. One among many, many paintings, just in the Louvre, let alone the rest of the world.
The Louvre itself was almost more interesting to me than the artworks. Many of the rooms have been restored to their original decor (or whatever you want to call it), which was stunning in many cases. I couldn't help thinking about today's architecture - the corners, clean lines, spare design, the total minimalism we think is style. And comparing it to, for example, Napoleon's quarters, where every surface is covered in paintings, gilt, carving, fabric wallpaper, more paintings, more gilt and ornamentation. And then there are the chandeliers!! I am writing in my journal, writing poems, soaking it all in - adding to what I feel has been a rather depleted imagination recently. We'll see what comes out at the other end.