Thursday, April 26, 2007

post-paris post: part2; ballsacks to strip clubs

so i got to notre dame, which was worth the pain of my pulled groin trekking the 422 spiralling steps, and all decorated with what appear to be large stone ballsacks. the exterior detailing is all 3d fleurs-de-lis; here's grims' post with photos of me licking ancient stone ballsack (you know i'm faking it though; germaphobe that i am, all i could think was "birdshit!"). notre dame was massively beautiful and so was the view from the top- we went all the way up to the bell-tower, and i got to be a gargoyle in a window and touch some gargoyle ass on the roof. very cool.
one of our favourite meals was @ this ordinary little cafe en route to the picasso museum- epices et delices on rue de vieille du temple has a fabulous pork with pineapple thing (it was the plat du jour) and rabbit terrine and duck confit and an old chinee waiter who claims his name is "magique" and wears cool pumas. grims was looking for somewhere with available outdoor sunny-side seating and we'd walked long enough without something fulfilling his requirements that i was getting ready to settle, and then we saw its empty table for 2. the food was so rich and so good and so satisfying that i had to finish it all, even though it took until it was cold and i ate way too much. i couldn't bear to send back a bite, and wasn't about to carry it all evening. the picasso museum itself was also great- the collection is wonderful and bigger than i expected and the building it's housed in is lovely. and we got art books, which i'm always excited about.
i mentioned previously (abovelinked) that we went to pompidou too- the permanent collection was, sadly, put away in favour of a special exhibit, but the exhibit was excellent- chronological post-impressionism through the roots of cubism and surrealism to modern art- loved it. and since the louvre is a lifetime project anyway, when we go back we can revisit pompidou for their permanent collection and anything else we missed. we also saw a shitload of impressionism @ musee d'orsay (which we saw all of), so between d'orsay, pompidou and the louvre we saw some of any kind of visual art one could hope for, plus the erotique, dali and picasso-dedicated musee's.
@ the louvre, mona lisa was as unattractive as every replica'd led me to believe. and i don't care what they say, i don't find her smile mysterious or engaging in the least; undeserving of the word enigmatic. i'm almost more inclined to believe the self portrait theory- that bitch look like a man. venus de milo was alright, but disappointing- her appeal is simply that @ the time of discovery people weren't doing work of that quality, but centuries later, the quality of work seems virtually commonplace so it's hard to find her that spectacular. maybe if she were exhibited alongside other pieces from her time i'd be more impressed. i did love winged victory, though. it was my favourite of the famous louvre pieces and its placement at the top of the staircase is brilliant. we saw amazing art, but what stuck in my mind is something by (i think) delacroix- huge room filled with massive paintings, the 1 that struck me was some dudes @ war. now i don't usually go for war imagery (i like dark, not brutal) but this shit was crazy- these dudes were dressed for war in strappy leather sandals (period, not girly) and plumed helmets with shields on their arms, and not a damn stitch else. who the fuck goes to fight in sandals and helmets with their junk hanging out? they obviously grasp the clothing-as-protection concept, but only see fit to extend it to their heads and feet and not their balls+dicks. i don't know, man. i'm guessing those dudes lost the war. or at least, the future of their people. and a side note: the dutch masters can paint like nobody's business, but they loved portraits, and they painted some ugly-ass people. when i looked at their work, i thought- what skill, what talent, but holy shit, who could live with that face hanging around? how could one eat with that on a wall facing you? and what's with their fascination with dead rabbits? ugly people and dead rabbits...
the louvre was stupendous, though. each room's as ornate (and sometimes more so) than the art in it. some of them are so overly-decorated with gold-leafing, painted ceilings and wallpapers of varying patterns all @ once that they surpassed overdone and arrived @ ugly- just taking it all in is exhausting and some of the rooms almost made me want to throw up, even without dutch masters' work in them (and at the same time, way too many of those rooms were empty). combined with the unnecessary replenishing of bread @ restaurants (they'd take away a basket we'd only eaten a 3rd of and bring back a full, fresh basket even if we said we didn't need more) and everything else we saw, it made me feel the french maintain a culture of gestures of excess. i don't know that they're excessive in daily life, but there were so many symbols of grandeur, oddly combined with rampant inefficiency (see abovelinked paris post)- @ the louvre, too many exhibits and rooms were closed for no apparent reason, bathrooms were virutally inaccessible due to some being in a locked-off area while others were being cleaned (and some bitch insisted that although she could only clean 1 stall @ a time, i couldn't use one of the empty ones), exits closed before the building did so there was a ridiculous crush through some minimal number of doors when they had so many others, plus they forcibly kicked us out @ 9.30pm instead of 10pm when they're supposed to close- i know it must take time to get everybody out of a place that big so they wanna start early, but if you say you close @ 10pm, then @ 9.30pm you could at least let us finish the room we're currently in before you bitch us out of your musee.
apart from the art, we saw lots of people- paris in spring is the most crowded i've ever felt except for summer @ rehoboth and carnival- and we walked more than i should've prob'ly, but if you get all the way to paris you can't let your groin stop you, right? besides the walk from le jardin de tuileries through place de la concorde to the champs elysees and arc de triomphe, the catacombs, strolling through pigalle and the latin quarter, we also walked to+from just about every musee and restaurant we went to. the only times we really used public transport was to get to+from montmartre and the catacombs, and back from pigalle- so by the time we got back i was so sick of people that i dreaded returning to rehearsals with edward3's cast of 25 (thankfully, the cast is so cool that i ended up not hating or feeling so crowded after all). but all the people-watching made me realise that contrary to popular belief, parisians are not particularly stylish- unless only rich parisians who don't walk around with regular people can afford to be stylish, so i just didn't see them. but i saw nothing in paris that i hadn't already seen on the streets of d.c., london, australia, or even trinbago, and not one person impressed me. on the cool side, though, 3quarters of the people we saw were wearing chuck taylors, so i felt right @ home. for real, i've literally never seen so many chucks in the same place @ the same time, and it was age-indifferent, babies to old ladies. the closest parisians came to "stylish" was leather chucks like will smith wore in i, robot (and i fully admit to shoe-envy) and balancing the leather chucks were entirely too many people in hideous 3musketeers' boots. but between my chucks and peeing not once, but twice in the street on the way back from too much late-night wine-drinking, grims says i'm a true parisian now, and i better be, having used 8pages of my invaluable notebook to facilitate pissing in parisian alleys.
i like that their train doors open while the still train's moving even though traincar and platform aren't the same height and the difference differs @ each metro stop- very fun. you know they'd never allow that in d.c. because all of usa must be idiotproofed. but they also have bigger doors to better facilitate rush hour, and they're smart doors that you touch to open so if nobody's getting on or off the doors stay closed. in spite of these intelligent choices however, their train stations have too fucking many stairs. espcially when one has luggage. but then they make up for it by having durex dispensers in metro stations, which cracked my shit up- again, you'd never see that in the usa.
speaking of metro stops, the catacombs are so huge that when you walk through them you emerge on the other end on a completely different rue, 2 metro stops away from where you entered. we came out and were lost for a minute until we found a map. the catacombs themselves are unbelievable until you see them yourself- you walk down 83 (i think) stairs then through dank underground tunnel for about 15minutes before you even see the 1st bone. but once you get to the bones, it's miles of thousands of millions of them- walls of stacked vertebrae with skulls, femurs, et al used to create decorative patterns- and until you see it, you forget that most skulls look like children because they're so small without flesh and hair and bodies attached- it's overwhelming and sad and amazing and brilliant all at once.
i don't really even know what to say about the catacombs without getting all fucked up in the head, so i'ma move on to strip clubs.
paris was so shockingly disappointing for strip clubs that i'm embarrassed for them. they fail miserably. you can pay a shitload of money and see a show @ le lido or moulin rouge, but that's showgirl shit. so we went to pigalle for strip clubs, and when we saw the multiple-floor sexodrome and all the smaller places lining both sides of the street we thought we'd hit jackpot. but apparently in paris you can pay about 80euros for a private show @ somewhere like the sexodrome (which, we learned the hard way, was the better deal) or you can pay a 20euro cover to enter a club where girls dance very badly without actually getting naked for 1song every 10minutes. not 1 set, just 1 song. every 10 minutes. and for those 10minute intermissions you're expected to buy drinks and chat with the marginally attractive girls. now, we expected the 1drink we bought for sarah to be expensive, but in my mind, expensive is 30euros rather than 10-20euros; we got fleeced. 1st time ever for me, and i'm as embarrassed for myself as i am for paris to admit that the drink cost 80euros (after the 20euro cover). needless to say, i felt no qualms about making it clear i wasn't impressed with the dancing, and we left without giving any of the girls $, after seeing 2 (maybe 3) dances so poor that all together they didn't add up to 1 satisfactory performance. fuck that. or not, i guess. had we known, i woulda got the private show back @ the sexodrome instead- value for $, right? if you're in pigalle though, the erotique supermarche was good, with pleasant and helpful advice offered and a nice array of toys, clothing, etc. i recommend it if you're shopping for paraphernalia rather than performance. we wished we'd talked to the erotique supermarche dude before dropping $ @ the club, because he explained there's nothing like a real strip club, except this 1 place in a different neighbourhood that'd be closing by the time we got there.
so the strip club was the biggest disappointment of the trip, but charles de gaulle airport, the stupidest airport ever, wins the most frustrating award. heathrow might be slow+crowded but charles de gaulle has an even worse layout, no signage, and even toilet access is ridiculously difficult. and it started right away with the escalator with a divider @ the base, before baggage check. why the fuck would you make it harder for people you know are carrying luggage to get on your escalator? bags bigger than ours would have to be lifted over the divider onto the escalator. and the whole airport's under construction so the shuttle dropped us in the middle of nowhere, where there's nothing to indicate that you need to go to another terminal because the one you're at doesn't function @ all, or how to get there once you figure that out. and they run trains that don't pick up passengers so if you happen to just miss one, you assume you should wait for the next one and waste 10minutes only to discover that they aren't really in use when it speeds by without stopping. once you finally find your way with only minutes to check in, there's a tiny holding area with no amenities (not even a vending machine) and to go to the bathroom you have to go to security and get a pass to go around the corner (although it'll feel further as the complete lack of signage means it takes forever to find) then go back through full security to return. and when i say no signage, i don't mean that they didn't cater for non-french-speakers, because we know enough french- i mean no signage at all. thank god we flew lufthansa to frankfurt, to help lift the mood charles de gaulle airport induced. it is the shittiest airport i've ever been in, and as the child of a flight attendant, i've seen plenty- charles de gaulle was worse than caribbean airports with so few amenities that you check in @ the edge of the tarmac. then, of course, after we flew the lovely lufthansa i was manhandled by frankfurt security (this bitch actually pulled my waistband out and looked down into my pants without permission) then had documents checked 4 times during a single transfer, only to end up in a more miniscule holding area, to fly united back to d.c., whose service is poor as american (aka "stank-ass fat ho airlines" who i've said i'll never fly with again).
all in all, we did and saw wonderful things but the beginning+end of the trip and the faux strip clubs were the pits. plus, i think i ate better in oz (although i admit that french is not my favourite cuisine- i thought eating both traditional+modern @ the source might change my mind, but i'd still rather eat anything asian/indian- not that i didn't enjoy the food, but i guess i had higher expectations). but it was totally worth it, and we'll go back so i can hopefully experience it without a pulled groin and freezing hotel room- besides, we have to revisit the louvre and pompidou and do the loire valley, versailles, chartre, etc.
i'm looking forward to it.
walk good.
ps: i know a few people who may be reading for the 1st time, so if you wanna find the australia posts (which i've been told are quite entertaining since the strip clubs and food were more enjoyable for me) we got back to d.c. on january 14, the posts are in my archives for the latter half of january-february 2006.
pps: why is vittel water grammatically incorrect? the label prints both "eau" and "bouteille" without the article- i'd never seen that before but haven't studied french since high school and am curious about whether it's now ok to omit the gender-matched "the" that precedes every french noun, and if so, when is it ok?

2 Comments:

Blogger Peong said...

A couple of additions/side notes...

The other cool thing about the metro was that all the seats just inside the door and at the ends of the car were folding so when it was crowded, people put up the seats and make more standing room.

When I was discussing the difference between american and french strip clubs with the manager(?) while settling our fleecing he made sure I knew that american strip clubs were crude and classless. Its driving me crazy that I can't remember the specific word he used, but the disdain was clear, all while we paid 120 euros for three drinks. Crude and classless indeed.

And in reference to paris post number one, the waiter at chez angelina was nice enough to serve me the petit dejeuner even though they were supposed to be finished (because it took us a couple of days to realize that the clock in out hotel room was off by about 45 minutes to an hour). And yes that IS why breakfast was created, and while there's is a brilliant example, the country bread with butter and raspberry preserves, croissant, cafe and freshed squeezed juice is something that just is france to me. I don't know that any other culture in the world appreciates and perfects such a simple meal as well.

8:17 pm  
Blogger angel said...

very cool post trini!
those museums sound spectacular- and i have personally never been a huge fan of the "mona lisa", i always thought she just looked tired of sitting still! but at least you can say you've seen it...

5:08 pm  

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