Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paris Day 2

So, as previously mentioned, one must hit the attractions either really early, or really late. Attack it like a theme park, reader.

At 1pm, you can wait over an hour in line, then get hearded around Notre Dame Cathedral like a sheep. At 9am, you can stroll in and have the place pretty much to yourself.
Then go get a pain au chocolat, because the Towers of Notre Dame, (which you really want to do, believe me) don't open 'til 10, and you will have to queue for a few minutes. DO NOT come back at lunchtime unless you have nothing else you want to do that day.
The thing I love about this Gothic religious building is it's darkness. There's just something, well, wrong about it.
Check out these poor peasants bearing the weight of saints,
or the demonic stare on this little creature, having stolen a bible.
Inside, the stained glass windows are huge and magnificent,
and in places the bright paint on the pillars is still intact.

Building began on Notre Dame in 1163, but was not completed until almost 200 years later!

Once you begin climbing the 422 steps in the spiral staircase up to the top of one of the 69metre-high towers, you begin to realise what inspired Vitor Hugo to give the hero of his novel (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, first published 1831) Quasimodo a home as well as the job of Bell-Ringer here.

At 46 metres above the ground, you get a break from climbing stairs round and round in a circle, as you reach the Chimera gallery. This is an outdoor gallery walkway (very worn) that it's easy to imagine Quasi walking around, hanging out with the chimera or statues here.

These guys aren't to be confused with gargoyles, which are specifically designed as protruding features designed to drain water. So now you know.

Also up here are cool grimacing heads and the afforementioned gargoyles, but I couldn't get a good shot of any.

These are Stryga, or 'birds of night'. In eastern legend they're seen as a nocturnal and evil spirit. And this one appears to be eating a falafel.

Up once more, you get to the South Tower belfry. This is Emmanuel, the 17th Century bell. It weighs over 13 tonnes, and it's clapper over 500 kilos.
The structure surrounding it is wooden (and if you ask me, could do with some refurb. Good job it's only rung on major Catholic feast days.)
One more long set of steps, 422 in total, gets you up to the top of the South Tower.
Here, after taking a few shots of Paris
the moment got the better of Eric.

After all those steps, we grabbed a Velib to the Park de Luxembourg, bought some charcuterie, took up a couple of metal chairs they leave lying around for you (again, NOBODY steals them! I'd give it 2 weeks in London) made like the locals do at lunchtime and ate in the park.
We found this lovely water feature,
and these sculptures. They spelled out 'TOLERANCE'.
At this point we dropped by a cafe, to try an early evening aperitif, a Pastis. It's cold, wet and tastes strongly of licquorice. I'd highly recommend you don't try it.

I had to go to Victor Hugo's apartment.
Here, at the former Hotel de Rohan-Guemenee, Place des Vosges (there's accents over e's here) Hugo rented a 280 square-metre apartment on the 2nd floor for 16 years. A WRITER rented a massive HOTEL ROOM for 16 years! See what I mean about luxury?
The walls in this room are the same fabric as in our hotel room, funnily enough, and for me this standing writing table is the best item in the apartment. Victor Hugo wrote so much he even wrote standing up.
Here's a picture of him, doing just that.

It was getting a little late in the day, but by hopping another Velib, we made it to Rue Scribe and the Fragonard Perfume museum about 10 minutes before closing!
Anyone who's read Perfume by Partick Suskind HAS to visit this place. Or just anyone who loves perfume.
The book is true: they really did trap the essence of a flower by layering it in goose fat!
They also have plenty of vintage perfume decanters.

and this one which is specifically designed to be placed in your car. Yes, in c1920, you had to look and smell presentable if you were going out driving.
This is a an explanation of a perfume organ.
And this is Eric, becoming a 'Nose'.

We took what ended up being a long walk home along the Seine, in a great deal of heat, and slept a while.
The fish restaurant we went to for dinner, the Dome in Montparnasse, was amazing and had the best oysters and bouillabaise I ever tasted, but I was too scared to take a picture in there! Just go if you like seafood.

The bar we wanted to go to however, was closed. Actually, lots of Parisians leave the city in July and go on holiday elsewhere to escape the city heat.

After being told we'd have to pay the full price of 8euros each in another bar to see the last 10 minutes of a jazz set, we headed back to our home-quartier, the Latin Quarter and found another jazz cave.

This one, the Caveau des Oubliettes, has different jam nights every night.

Eric was first out, borrowing a bass!
Wanna see him closer? That's my man, that is.

The place was a little more forboding than the other jazz cave. A Caveau des Oubliettes roughly translates as a prison for the forgotten. There's a message carved out on one of the walls that reads in French: '1421 I will be hanged'.

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