Paris je t’aime

Even when you rain on me.

Brrrr – we arrived to cold and grey. After 12 hours on a plane, watching the entire series of ‘Extant’ starring Halle Berry, I now know why there was never a second season.

Landing at Charles De Gaulle was an unenlightening experience. It may have been wildly avant garde in its time, but it is definitely showing its age now. The taxi system is almost worse than the one at Sydney – only 4 taxis have room to pull up at a time, and we wait a while before we get our turn. At one point, W starts to direct the traffic.. 12 hours in a tin can will do that to you.

Our hotel is old and central, with a security system that prevents the lifts from going down to ground without a key. We need to check in first, and then the elevator is sent down for our bags.

The room is slightly less intimate than the one in Hong Kong; there are two accessible sides of the bed, three chairs, a small desk and a luggage rack – luxury. The wallpaper is florid Louis something or other, with an ancient oil portrait of a young woman who looks a little concerned when she sees the tablets and mobile phones arrive. What she must have seen!

We find we are a stones’ throw from Hotel de Ville, the Seine and Ile de la Cite. My only interest is to be horizontal for at least as long as the flight lasted. Werner goes out to explore and have his first drink in Paris. I’m in the land of nod before even the sheep.

When I come to, I try to make some arrangements for our visit. Quel horreur! There is no possibility of ascending the Tour Eiffel – the first available date is after we have left. No time machine, no chance.

So we just mooch about, taking in the sights. Our hotel in the Marais (means marsh, though there’s no sign of one here in the concrete) is close to everything, and the streets in the area sometimes reflect medieval times.

We go to the Picasso museum in the mansion in which he used to live – an interesting exposition on how his art developed from realist to abstract. He started in Spain as a portrait painter. Hm.

We sojourn out to Ile de la Cite, and pass the famed Notre Dame; and the gazillion people trying to get in. We forgo the experience, and head off to the Quartier Latin, where we are almost fatally seduced by a beautiful 1950’s standing lamp, all polished brass and wavy palm frond form – 2500 euros, plus 500 postage. Small change. But sense prevails – we are into our first day, and it’s too early to stock up on souvenirs. Besides, E3000 buys an awful lot.

W can’t find anywhere he would put it, so that’s the clincher.

On our way out of le metro to yearn at the base of the Tour Eiffel, we are accosted by a couple of Segway Touts. Yay – our favourite way of gadding about a city. So we’re in! Our delightful guide, Natalie, is German/Russian, and speaks English but loves German and French. So cosmopolitan…

She’s a delight and we are zipping around at high speed in no time at all. Seine, Orsay Museum, Louvre, Champs Elysee, Eiffel Tower all zip by in a wink, interspersed by the few seconds it takes to take a photo. An hour and a half just whisks by, and we are back where we started. In my case, I have some bruises – having lost a lens cap off my camera as a jogger went by, and realising that it had fallen onto the Segway platform, I made the mistake of thinking I could bend down and pick it up while still on said Segway. Big mistake, for which I was rewarded with a massive bruise as my remedial action to step off the by now out of control machine resulted in it reversing into my shin bone. Hubris bites again.

Dining in Paris is a treat. Fine wine, fine food and fine company as we reconnect with some old friends, or should that be long-standing? Mind you, we had a table booked for dinner with friends and arrived no more than 10 minutes late, to be told that our table had been given away. We hung about for a while, and then decided we would grace another establishment with our hard cash, and left. The new place was wayyyy cooler, boasting fun graffiti on the walls, a black ceiling and a bustling ambiance. And it was just around the corner from our hotel.

Galeries Lafayette is a must – you will never experience a more lavish shopping experience- the entire place is a monument to spending. Yes, I did – half price cashmere.

Oh and last but not least, the Moulin Rouge – Paris’ homage to ‘over the top’ tack. Feathers, boas – real ones too, and unhappy at that, miniature ponies, also not happy. And of course breasts; male and female in abundance. I was surprised to see that not all the lovelies were bare – which made me wonder if there is some rule for the breasts to be bared? Maybe some secret dimension, or purity? Or perhaps one gets to a stage of expertise in dance that they don’t wiggle distractingly.

Anyway – we organised dinner for the evening, which is a set 3-course menu with complimentary 1/2 bottle of champagne. We arrived early, so ended up at the end of the communal dining table, imminently about to have our noses pressed to the side of the dance floor. At one point I nearly had to move my head to avoid the flying feet. I also got to smell the ponies up close – fortunately I don’t mind the smell of horse, but I was worried about the whites of the eyes.

And here – spoiler alert – we were perfectly situated to see the stage roll back and the dance floor disappear to reveal a huge perspex pool containing copious litres of water and four very big pythons. I was distressed to see they had their bums taped up to protect the nearly naked lovely who plunged in with them. At least one python had its snout taped shut too – even using clear tape it was obvious. I was alarmed on behalf of the snakes – they seemed to be making concerted efforts to get out of the pool, and weren’t in the least bit interested in being draped around previously mentioned lovely, who proceeded to writhe about much like a serpent herself.

Synchronised swimming it wasn’t – I feel like reporting them to the RSPCA, but I don’t think the French have one of those.

I must confess, the show itself is quite spectacular for costumes and stage. The dancing choreography is not perfect – one Tripadvisor wag suggested their local high school musicals could do better than that. I wouldn’t know – to my inexperienced eye, they did just fine, though the smiles pasted on most of their faces were definitely fake. Well so would yours be if you had to do that twice or three times a night for six days a week.

After our five days enjoying the sampling of temptations of gay Paree, we packed our bags and made our way to Gare de Lyon where we took out first class coach seat to Barcelona.. And hopefully more clement weather than 14 deg C with rain.

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