Art imitates life
The ancient Romans, with uncanny foresight, sculpted this apt masterpiece, the Dying Gaul, which depicts a soldier quite literally dying of boredom looking up at the Palace of Versailles; the mere thought of being shuffled through its tight passageways behind ropes, amid throngs of iPad-wielding, audio-tour-adhering tourists bringing him hopelessly to his knees. By far the best part of Versailles is its immense gardens, specifically the corner dedicated to an entire English-style hamlet custom-built at the behest of Marie Antoinette. The cheerlessly circumscribed tour through the interior of the Palace itself is maudlin, horribly congested, and confined to only a fraction of what is in fact an astonishing feat of architecture.
Life imitates art
Everywhere in the Louvre, cheesy tourists take cheesy pictures in postures imitating the works behind them. Not to be outdone, Meg — with no props whatsoever — blends in with these ancient Egyptian water-vessel-on-the-head-carrying sculptures in an almost chameleon-like fashion. (She is second from the left in this picture.)
Art imitates art
Elsewhere in the Louvre, people who have not yet discovered the ‘sketch’ and ‘oil paint’ features in the picture apps on their smart phones wile away the hours doing things the hard way.
Life dictates art, or is it the other way around?
Why the Mona Lisa? I don’t know. They don’t know. But someone told them so — so this happens. If only they’d turn around and see the arguably more impressive, undoubtedly more interesting Wedding of Cana by Veronese.
There’s a great view of the Champ de Mars, from the view at the Champ de Mars
Moments before taking this picture,we were two of the small dots on the green lawn.
A sudden downpour
A waitress at a crêperie in the Marais district ponders where her next sale will come from. Five minutes before this, the night was calm and warm — then a sudden downpour of Old Testament proportions descended. Diners everywhere scrambled to find tables indoors, and pedestrians fashioned makeshift helmets out of used shopping bags to preserve the integrity of their super French coiffures. We were dining across the street, fortunately under the shelter of an outstretched awning, with only the faintest of ricocheted raindrops tickling our ankles.
The Latin Quarter, not as quaint a quarter as it was in 1967
Cutesy cafes, higgledy-piggledy buildings, and narrow, winding alleyways notwithstanding, the streets of the St Michel section of the Latin Quarter were cobbled as recently as 1967. A student rebellion in 1968 saw rioting youngsters fashioning handheld ballistics from anything they could find to throw at police, including cobblestones. Subsequently, the city replaced the cobblestones with the gravel you see Meg standing on here. To this day, the Place St Michel remains the center of dissent in Paris, and all manner of demonstrations, protests, and marches invariably originate here. In fact, on our first evening in Paris, we were invited (by a complete stranger on the street) to attend a demonstration in support of a young left-wing activist who had been killed in a fight with skinheads on a busy street of Paris the night before.
Podcasts, the best free tour guide in town
Requisite coffee in hand, we’re off to the see the sights of Paris with our pocket tour guide: a free podcast downloaded to our phones, directing us on a guided walk around some of the more interesting areas of historic Paris and pointing out interesting facts and artifacts along the way. Notice the earphones. (What’s a podcast, you ask? I hope that’s not a dumb question, because I asked it too.) It’s simply a digital file that one can download from the Internet onto a portable device. In our case, these digital files were pre-recorded audio walking guides of Paris.) The best part is, the guide doesn’t get offended when you pause him, make him repeat something three times, or just plain get rid of him for a while. Oh, and you don’t have to tip him.