Saturday, December 18, 2010

let it snow...

It is, anyway.

I have walked in sneakers in Paris in snow. Last night it was coming down hard--Here's a great one of Jaime in front of Notre Dame!

In case the look on his face isn't enough, I will tell you, he's freezin' his butt off!

In the background, there, is Notre Dame with a blue-lit Christmas tree. We were heading from Shakespeare & Co., an American bookstore at "kilometer 0"--I think, technically, that this is the center of Paris--to Rue de Rivoli.

We are not brave enough souls. We made it as far as about 100 feet from that photo, then turned our tails right around and found the nearest metro.

This is actually the very same metro entrance we took the other day after Jaime asked me to be his pain in the ass--and that's a picture from then. I was not stopping to photograph in the snow.

In fact, the photo above was at Jaime's request; my general rule for precipitation being that cameras and wet things do not match.

Today, we again started out with grand plans and high hopes. We wanted to take a nice walk--do not come to Paris unless you plan to walk a lot--and perhaps do a little shopping.

The shopping only happened because the best coffee we've had in Paris is at the Galleries Lafayette. Imagine a moderately sized American Mall. Then add two buildings, make the main one 7 floors and the others 3 each. Finally, add a gorgeous stained glass dome to the top:

Oh, yeah, and it's just one department store. If you can't find it here, well, it's probably at Walmart.

The store itself is beautiful. We had lunch there this week, at Lafayette Gourmet. The lunch, particularly considering our previous coffee adventure, was rather disappointing. We had Chinese which was ok, and then we had what I can only call Pasties. I have no idea what the French call them but they're pastry filled with meats, vegetables, all different manner of savory foods. The pasties were slightly less impressive. In all, for a place that has little "gourmet" shops where one can buy any food one likes, we were left with the general impression that coffee and maybe croissants were the limit.

We tested that limit this morning. I prefer the little Brasserie at which we'd been having our morning coffee and croissant--had it not been closed, we'd have had it there.

Regardless, we were happy to do a little shopping and then march down to the Rue de Rivoli, which we had walked part of earlier in the week. Rue de Rivoli comes off the Champs Elysses. It's a bunch of lovely shops across from the royal gardens. It's not worth a mile-long walk in the snow.

I'm not sure the Arc de Triomphe would have been worth that walk, and it's probably my favorite Paris sight (parasite?). The Arc is immense. Immense is the only word I can think of that sounds adult and appropriate. I prefer hugeumongous. Jaime says, "BIG-ASS." I'll let you decide.

This is the Arc from across the street. Look at the scale as compared to the cars.

I leaned backwards under one of the four archways to get this picture. Jaime worried--loudly.

That's Jaime in the middle. I took the picture of the whole pillar because it lists Spanish cities that were "conquered" by Napoleon.

But for me, the top was the best. This shot's obviously the Tour Eiffel from the roof of the Arc. We didn't climb the stairs (though we have managed three of the major stairmasters of Paris (the catacombs, the Pantheon, and the subway), there's an elevator for arthritic, broken, pathetic people like me who think that several hundred stairs for this grand view is untenable.

The view was worth it, but the inside exhibits of the history of the Arc, the history of War, in general, and the design of the Arc were even more worth it.

These two screens, show scenes of war (in red on the left) and peace (in blue on the right), switching famous photos every second (possibly faster) and as you can see with the words War and Peace in different languages popping up on occasion.

It kept me mesmerized.

Tomorrow, I will write about the catacombs, the obsession with death, and the connections to the Arc de Triomphe. For now, I leave you with this: Why build such an immense monument to the triumph of the armies of France in its wars and then attempt to suggest that one values peace?