Sunday, December 02, 2007
Another shot from our splendid little calendar. (D'you think I'd earn more money if I made as much effort to sell my books as I do to sell this calendar, on which I earn nothing?)
Anyway, this gives me a chance to talk about Paris, which is one of my two favorite European cities.
Paris in 2000 was rather un-Parisian, partly because of the millennial celebrations that were going on. I mean, here they stuck this enormous Ferris wheel in front of the Louvre, for heaven's sake. And the Eiffel Tower was hung with millions of computer-guided Christmas-tree lights that went off every evening at ten o'clock. And we were at this businessman's hotel near the Louvre that had a buffet breakfast that featured things like hard-boiled eggs and Nutella, which is a pretty un-French thing to do.
(Another thing about that hotel was that it had rooms so tiny that in order to gain full access to the beds at night, we had to shift one of our suitcases to the balcony. Which, it must be said, was large enough only for a suitcase. I put the hotel, complete with its Nutella, in "The Green Leopard Plague.")
The first time I visited the Louvre, during the early 1970s, only part of it was a museum. The rest was government offices, and there were always these Citroens going in and out, the sardine-can-shaped DS model that was preferred by government bureaucrats.
2000 was the first time I'd seen the newly-removeled Louvre, complete with the Pei Pyramid. Now the entire vast complex of palaces is an art and archaeological museum. Although this means there's a lot more to see, it also means that a lot of what you see isn't really choice. The Louvre is now full of mediocre art that you have to tramp past in order to see the good stuff. For instance, there seemed to be a whole wing devoted to pictures of French royalty dressed as Romans, a fashion that was probably as inexplicable at the time as it is now.
We found some excellent restaurants, including "La Rose de France" on the Ile de la Cite, which also found its way into "Green Leopard." It serves Norman cuisine, which often features Calvados, and I also recommend the house cognac. They are also very accommodating to foreigners who want to eat at what, to the French, are odd times of the day.
People complain about how badly the French treat Americans, and I have to say that for me this has always been the exception rather than the rule. I think we encountered one snooty waiter (at a mediocre cafe) during the entire trip, and everyone else was helpful and pleasant.
And I got an award-winning novella out of the trip, so long live Paris!