Sunday, 3 February 2013

The day of rest

Yea, right. I can understand taking a day off if you've created a universe and everything in it from scratch in six days but since I haven't, I've been busy today. I got up early enough to go for a run, have breakfast and walk up to my student's house. The hill was less surprising today, but on the other hand I probably shouldn't have run before hand. Rookie mistake.

I took my camera because, as I said, I had planned to go museum-hunting. I left my card at home because I have a curious love of souvenirs, a remainder from a childhood desire to buy the cheap rubbers and pencils on offer at Hever Castle. We always went to Hever Castle.

In any case, that meant I had only the cash from my tutoring that morning to last me through the day. After that I would be stranded, and the walk home is a long one, so the first thing I did was buy my all day ticket. Young people - thank you, French state, for still believing in my youth - can get a three-zone day pass, valid on all forms of transport, for 3.65€ on the weekends and on bank holidays (jours fériés). During the week it's a lot pricier.

So I headed in, armed with my camera and 3.65€ lighter. In Paris you can pretty much throw a stone and hit a museum, and although I'd planned certain locations, I threw that plan to the winds and picked the first one I walked past. It was the Musée Guimet (site in French only), and good lord, was it beautiful.

Nearly completely Asian sculpture with heavy emphasis on religious icons, the heavy mass of stone really reflecting the solidity of the Buddha. Christianity has a frail icon, and that's the point - Christ broken and reborn is the root of Christianity. Buddha, on the other hand, is the solid antithesis of all that's bad in the world - he attained enlightenment through meditation and a middle path between self-indulgence and self-mortification. He seems kind of a solid dude.

There were also plenty of Hindu deities, with their many heads and arms, cast in bronze or gold. Unlike the Buddha they had sustained some damage over time, but the carving is still exquisite - though still nowhere near the utter mastery attained by Michelangelo. I mean, look at this:


Look at the folds of cloth, at the ribs, at the freaking veins. Two years. I couldn't do that in two lifetimes.

But I digress. There were two floors of incredible art and I highly recommend it. There are no pictures, because it felt strangely disrespectful. There was also a Cambodian Buddha who looked frighteningly human, despite being cast in bronze. Very unsettling.

I was heading towards Notre Dame when another museum caught my eye. The quai Branly is a very different sort of museum to the Guiment, very darkly lit, but also more interactive. I have to say that the at first the lack of light irritated me, but once my eyes adjusted to the gloom I found it really helped focus on the exhibits. It also highlighted the arrogant people who read the "no flash" sign in three languages, with a symbol, and decided it didn't apply to them. I have no time for that sort of person and so I shall move swiftly on.

There were artifacts from every ancient culture in the building, and after a while I started getting museum fatigue, All of this information wore me down, and the knowledge that we wiped out most of these civilisations because at the time we thought it the right thing to do got me down. I took a couple of photos, and I wanted to share this one with you.

Because he scared the bejeesus out of me, and I like to share. Look into his eyes.
 Deeper.


Oh yes. There are eyes there. There's a cross on the crown, but it's like the light of the angler fish. Luring you in before gobbling you up. Once you've looked, it's all over. Helpless. Drowning.

I tore my eyes away at the last moment. It may just have been one of the French cub scouts - boy, is it weird that they have cub scouts - but I'm sure I heard a scream of rage and frustration. Suddenly revitalised by my brush with Satan up there, I quit the building and my stomach growled - I always get hungry after brushing with Satan - so I turned my feet towards a friendly looking ristorante. 

The first impression was not good. I sat down and asked for a coffee and the waitress looked at me very cooly. 

"We're not a café, you know. We only do food."
I was astonished. I was astonished because the couple sitting next to me were drinking coffee.
"I am going to order something later," I said. "I just need a coffee for the moment."
Clearly my good looks and easy charm convinced her, as she gave me a sunny grin and whisked herself away to get my coffee. The menu looked inviting and reasonably priced for the area in which I found myself and, having been without an oven for four months now, saw pizza and craved it immediately. Calzone is one of my favourites, and I ordered it without hesitation. I also got a carafe (50cl) of red wine to go with it.

My calzone arrived. Nice dough, tasty cheese and ham and WOAH, WHAT THE WHAT.

Orange goo had started leaking from my delicious calzone. An egg yolk had been popped into my calzone before it had been sealed. Why? Why would anyone add egg to a calzone? I like eggs, don't get me wrong. I was planning on having some for breakfast tomorrow. But on a pizza?

So did I complain? Did I stand up, throw down my napkin and roar "This is unacceptable! Eggs do not belong in calzones! Scramble this guy, poach his brother and fry his sister and I shall munch them all the live-long day but in my calzone? You go too far, sir!"

Of course I didn't. I'm English. I'm polite and besides, like I said: I like eggs. It wasn't bad. My dessert, however, was on another plane. Aside from the pronunciation issue - why did I assume anyone but us would read c-o-l-o-n-e-l  as kernel? Very awkward two minutes, but it arrived. A delicious, light and refreshing lime sorbet that had then been liberally doused with vodka.

We're talking pretty much equal volumes here.

I also got a straw, because that way it's easier to suck up the melted sorbet/vodka mix at the end.

I'm pretty sure there are nightclubs in the UK where sucking 30ml of ice cold vodka through a straw is considered an end-of-night-thing. I was having lunch. 

The reason why the French don't do much after lunch is becoming clearer.

With the bill paid I made my way homeward, my jollity increased by my excellent lunch. The whole meal came in at 28.50€ and so I recommend Dell Angelo, 6 avenue Rapp, as somewhere to take a date or have lunch. Fantastic. Have a Colonel.

Just one, though.

If you'd like to see the rest of the pictures from today's jaunt, click here.

Oh. I also saw two policemen on inline skates. Weirdly intimidating.