Fragments of France and Italy
3 days in Paris, 2 days in Venice (Venezio), 1 hour in Naples (Napoli), 1.5 days in Capri, 3 days in Rome (Roma).
TONS of walking, especially in Paris. Feet felt like they were gonna explode. But a good antidote to our eating habits.
Eiffel Tower – beautiful when lit up. Amazing view from the top, but very scary, because the ground is sloped for water to drain off (yikes!). Way too many Africans and Indians walking around peddling tourist-y goods. The tower was built on the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution…fortunately, designs for the Tower beat out designs for a super-sized guillotine.
Arc de Triomphe – never heard of it before…but bigger than life. Beautiful scultpting, some of the figures, especially the archangel on the west side look really scary when you stare into their eyes. In Rome, I found out that this arch was inspired by on of the victory arches in the Forum.
Versailles – as gaudy as it is enormous. Beautiful artistic work throughout this hunting cabin-turned-palace. The backyard is…well, it stretches as far as the eye can see with fountains and canals and trees. In the backyard, there is a pool that is the clear inspiration of the same in D.C. Unfortunately, the designs for this kingly estate were not entirely original. King Louis-the-whatever found himself inflamed with jealousy at one of his statesmen’s estate. He banished him, stole his architect and all his artwork and furniture for himself.
Musee de Louvre – can I say art-lover’s paradise?? Way too big for my uninformed tastes, though. I only found a few paintings by my boy Caravaggio . But he’s Italian, not French. Saw the famous Mona Lisa. It was the only item with a crowd around it. It had its own wall. It really is a beautiful piece of art. It was incredibly small…apparently, it has been stolen way too many times…each time, the thief would simply cut the canvas around the inside of the frame, eventually, to the point where if you cut any more, you’re gonna cut off Mona Lisa’s shoulders! Also saw the famous painting of Jesus as the wedding in Cana, with the dogs, midgets, etc., (massive!) and Napoleon’s coronation.
Notre Dame – kinda scary from the outside…a bit too gothic for my tastes, but otherwise quite beautiful. They had candles everywhere inside, so it was really gorgeous. Unfortunately, with all the people and much of the church closed off, we were unable to see too much. However, closeby was a smaller cathedral whose upper walls were completely made of stained glass. It was amazing. It told much of the story of the Bible, including some then-current church happenings. The number of stained-glass scenes was daunting…there must have been over one hundred. You had to be there.
Shopping – boring.
Train system – very easy to use and a good way to get around. The stations are also relatively well decorated. Unfortunately, many of the halls smell of urine and you will occasionally be chased down by some beggars. Otherwise, it is much nicer than our functional underground train stations.
Food – hehehe…there’s really only three notable foods that I had in Paris, especially since I didn’t opt for the $300 haute cuisine with Alan Ducasse. #1 Cafe au lait – it’s just better there. #2 Croissants – oooh…staple of French breakfast. The best was at Laduree…one of the top bakeries in all of France. #3 Steak tartar – raw beef with hot sauce, lemon juice, capers, onions…sounds gross, but it was amazing, especially with the hot mustard. They laid before me what looked like at least half a pound of minced beef, but I ate it all with no problem…yum…
I’ll write about Italy another day…