Today’s adventure is brought to you by too much gelato and 18.85 euro worth of Navigo Pass credit. I paid for my week of public transit on Monday, but having been sick this week, I wasn’t running around as much as usual. So today, I decided to go to the American library for some new reads. I was hungry when I got off the train, and my stomach said, “Hey, there’s an ice cream place on Rue de la Bourdonnais!” There certainly is, less than a block from the library. So I picked out my books (A Tale of Two Cities–about time!–and a Brother Cadfael mystery, for something light) and sauntered over to the gelato place, where 3.50 buys you an amount of gelato that doesn’t even fit in the cup. To my credit, I didn’t quite finish it.
Anyway. My original intention had been to just go home, but I was feeling a little calorie guilt, so I decided to walk instead. A woman asked me if I knew where the Avenue de Tourville was; I successfully told her that I didn’t know, but that there was a map across the street outside the métro where she could look for it. Ten minutes of swift walking later, and completely by accident:
Ha! And Avenue de Tourville also happens to be the home of the Hôtel des Invalides, which is now a military museum, I believe. It’s one of those buildings that is so stunning that every time I catch a glimpse of it somewhere I want to get closer.
Also, I felt very chic today–almost authentic! Chouette!
So then I walked a little more, in search of public transportation. I had taken a bus past Les Invalides before, and I had changed trains there earlier in the day, but I didn’t really know where the entrance was. I finally found a train stop at St. François Xavier–the light blue line–and when I looked at the line map, I realized that if I took that to Place de Clichy, I could hop on the dark blue line–#2–and go to Montmartre, which I had been meaning to revisit ever since that very late night a few weeks ago. So I did.
Montmartre is not really my cup of tea. Everything is very close together and the streets are narrow, not to mention completely packed at all times with tourists, artists, people just hanging out. A lot of the side streets are cobbled, and then of course everything is uphill or upstairs to get to Sacre Coeur. (Of course, you can take the funiculaire, which is like an elevator, up to the top, but I had calories to burn!) It’s supposed to be–or maybe, it’s supposed to have been–a very artsy area of town, but I think things like Moulin Rouge and La Bohème, not to mention the church, make it unbelievably touristy.
But you can’t deny the beauty of the ascent.
Or the view, which I imagine is even more spectacular from the top of the dome.
On the way up the stairs, a young man from Senegal stopped me, looped some string around my finger and made me a woven bracelet, chattering the whole time (of course, I was so surprised to be waylaid like that that my French completely failed. Oops!). Apparently he was getting seven or ten euros from the tourists for this, but all I had was a euro in change, not to mention that ten euro for something I used to make myself at summer camp is completely absurd, and he seemed like a nice enough fellow. I always like to help out the little guy–like buying fruit from the guys set up outside the métro instead of at the supermarket. Unfortunately, having given away the last of my bigger coins, I had nothing for the Edith Piaf impersonator singing “Padam, Padam” outside a café on the way down, or the cellist playing “La Vie en Rose.” Tant pis.
The nice thing about Montmartre as opposed to other areas of Paris, in my experience, is that the only way out is down. It doesn’t really matter how you get down–whether you take the steps in front of Sacre Coeur, or whether you take the side streets like I did, walking past the cafés and artists doing portraits of tourists. You can’t get lost, not really, if you just keep taking the path down. I made it to the bottom, found the Pigalle stop on the métro, and got on.
It took me a few tries to get on the train, though. I’m finding that in Paris you have to push, and that’s okay. Today I missed two trains (on different lines) because so many people had pushed past me that there wasn’t any more room on the train car! The best, of course, is when you’re standing close-ish to the door in anticipation of getting off at the next stop, and a huge annoying crowd of Dutch teenagers (at least, I decided they were Dutch–maybe they were Scandinavian, since I didn’t even recognize the sound of the language) push their sweaty way onto the train and shunt you right to the other side, away from the door you need to get out. Kids these days…
Anyway, I finally made it home, where I uploaded all of my pictures, fell asleep for an hour, then made myself some whole wheat pasta with zucchini (courgette!) and tomatoes (which are completely amazing–they have that kind of peppery smell and taste that people talk about tomatoes having, but which is rarely experienced in the States, at least with supermarket tomatoes).
Which just about brings us up to date, and now my life is an open book…except for my Schola audition tomorrow. I only have one thing to say about that.