Désolé, Les Égouts de Paris sont fermé

Our first full day in Paris began early. We slept reasonably well for first night in a changed time zone but a bit more than 9 hours was enough and we were moving soon after 6:00 am. Soon after 7:00 am we wandered into the local streets and had breakfast of coffee and croissants at the Royal Cambronne cafe nearby.

Back in our room we prepared for the day and were out by 8:30 am to catch the Metro and an RER to Musée d’Orsay which we knew opened at 9:30 am. When we arrived there before 9:00 am, the queue for tickets was already forming. We took a short walk along the river but soon came back to wait in line. There were multiple lines and we found the one for those with prepaid passes including the museum passes we have as part of the Paris pass. Fortunately the rain that was thretatening did not arrive while we waited.

Once the doors opened at 9:30 am, security at entry was quick and we were soon inside and headed for the Portraits de Cézanne special exhibition. Cézanne is better known for other subjects but he did paint a substantial number of portraits in varying styles. Many of them were of himself or his wife.

DSC_3657From there we moved into the long hall showing work by the Impressionists. There was a very good representation including work by Cézanne, Monet, Rodin and others. We enjoyed the landscapes more than most of the portraits but Majella was taken by the Whistler portrait at the end of the gallery.

In the gallery of decorative arts, the workmanship was stunning with examples in timber inlay, ceramics and other materials. Many of the objects were much more decorative than practical. In the time we had left we explored a series of side galleries with work from early last century. We enjoyed some but wondered what qualified others as art.

Our next scheduled activity was 2 stops back along the Metro. Some might think it a strange choice but it came highly recommended by Nick who had discovered it on his first trip to Paris in 1994 and returned in 2003 with Simone as a prelude to his proposal. Musée Les Égouts de Paris offers tours of the old Paris sewers. Unfortunately for us, the tour was closed as a result of flooding earlier in the year. It is due to reopen on Saturday, 15 July but we have to be away to Trébry early on Saturday so we will miss it.

We walked across the Pont de l’Alma to catch the bus to the Louvre, which was on our agenda for later in the day. Majella decided that we could move that up and then see what else we might do. At the bus stop Majella chatted in French to a woman who was helpful with getting on the bus and highly recommended the Christian Dior exhibition which we understood to be at the Louvre.

DSC_3668Our previous visit to the Louvre was with Sam in 2009 when we had seen the Mona Lisa and other items in that section. Our passes got us in reasonably quickly and we had no clear plan of what we wanted to see so we found ourselves wandering into the Pavillon de l’Horloge at the bottom level where we were in the excavated foundations of the orginal fortress. We walked around the moat and wondered at the scale of the masonry construction. By the time that was done we were hungry and Majella wanted to locate and view the Christian Dior exhibition before our next scheduled activity.

Finding an exit from the Louvre was a challenge. There was no apparent way out via the entrance. Instead the signs directed us through the shopping precinct, including the Apple Store. We eventually got out, found a food van toward the Tuillerie gardens, and bought pizza du Provence which we ate in the shade nearby before heading off to check out the Christian Dior exhibition which was not in the main Louvre building but at one extreme with its entrance from the street outside the Louvre precinct.

The queue was helpfully marked with the estimated waiting time which appeared to be 45 minutes. That was longer than we were prepared to wait at that time so we pressed on for our 1:30 pm activity at Les Caves du Louvre. Majella had selected and booked that from the Paris Pass offerings because it looked like it might be fun to taste some wine but it turned out to be even more interesting. The building was built by the suppliers of wine to the royal occupants of the Louvre palace so that they could maintain a supply close at hand. It even had a tunnel linking it to the Louvre for easy delivery. The tour offered an iPhone app guide and a series of activities identifying smells and tastes associated wth wine before we got to taste our series of 3 wines – a sauvignon blanc, a rosé, and a cabernet sauvignon blended with pinot noir. We enjoyed all 3 and walked away with 2 bottles of blended whites as part of the deal.

DSC_3669From there we walked back to the Christian Dior exhibition where we discovered that our Paris Passes did not give us entry but did allow us to jump the long queue before paying to enter. I was not enthusiastic about the exhibition and saw little throughout to change my mind. There were some beautiful outfits, especially toward the end of the visit, but many were impractical and some were just plain ugly. My understanding of design is that form should support function and the idea of clothing that is uncomfortable or awkward to wear seems to contradict that basic principle. Majella was more than delighted by the display and agreed with her bus stop acquaintance who had proclaimed it as the best exhibition that had ever been in town.

We took the Metro back to our hotel where we made a small excursion to a local supermarket for supplies and then rested for an hour or so before dressing to go to Moulin Rouge. Our 3 kids got together at Mothers’ Day to give it as a gift for that and for our birthdays and Fathers’ Day, but we think it could cover Christmas as well. We selected the Soirée Toulouse-Lautrec with meal and champagne included. The Metro from our nearest station took us, with one change, to within 100 metres of the Moulin Rouge where we waited in line for 30 minutes or so before being seated at table on the second balcony with a great view of the stage.

Dinner was excellent and served with great efficiency. The kitchen and wait staff bustled to get everybody served before the performance. The band and singers who performed during dinner were good but struggled to get attention until after dinner was eaten and some of those closest to the front made it onto the dance floor. Once dinner was over the main performance had no such difficulty with gaining and holding attention. The cast included women and men but equal opportunity does not seem to have a strong presence – the costumes for women went to great lengths to minimise coverage where the men seemed to be mostly, but not always, well covered. The dancers, acrobats, and ventriloquist were all excellent. The costumes and choreography were spectacular. It was a great night out despite Majella having the beginnings of a sore throat.

Once the show was done we hastened back to the Metro and made our way home. We were in bed a little before midnight. It was a long day and one to be remembered with pleasure.

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