Murphy in Paris – September 2022

The policeman retraced my steps with me through the airport. Could it be in the shop where I had purchased the diet beverage. It was. Resting insouciantly at the till.

Thanking the policeman, I sprinted to the gate.

‘Your flight is closed’ announced the hatchet-faced airline staff

I pretended to get teary-eyed. This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo though- until the plane door is closed the flight is not really closed. They’d just finished boarding. A quick call to the plane and I was allowed to board.

Gardens of Versailles

Upon arrival at Orly in Paris there was no ground staff available, so we were not allowed to disembark for 45 minutes. I took the OrlyBus to the Place d’Italie where our grim, little boarding house was situated. We immediately headed out to a local cafe where we celebrated the coming weekend with a bottle of Sancerre.

Paris is a massive city. As a result, it is foolhardy to expect to see all the sights on a single visit. For this weekend my chosen destinations were the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre museum – neither of which I had previously been. My friend’s choice was the summit of the Eiffel Tower – which would be another first for me.

Palace of Versailles

We had not possessed the foresight to prebook tickets for anything. Now that all Covid restrictions had been lifted the tourist crowds seemed back to pre-pandemic levels. Paris has always attracted massive crowds. Upon entrance to the Versailles complex the security guard pointed us in the direction of a gargantuan queue. I am not a queue-jumper, but neither am I British, so I claim complete innocence when I accidentally inserted myself halfway down the queue. We waited an hour to be told at the ticket desk that our entrance time was 2.30pm. We repaired to a bistro for a salmon lunch. When we arrived at the entrance of the museum it was 2.15pm. They were still only admitting people with 1.30pm tickets. To the back of the queue, we went. We repaid our earlier queue-dodging shenanigans by letting a mother and daughter who had been behind us in our first queue of the day jump ahead of us.

A ceiling at Versailles

Built by the Sun King Louis XIV, the palace of Versailles is a sumptuous building – elaborate, extravagant, grand and imposing. What I’d been expecting really but happy to finally have visited.

That evening we went to Le Marais in the centre of town. This is a Jewish and gay district. We dined in a simple restaurant and headed for a drink to Le RAIDD bar. The prices were eye-watering in that establishment, so a decision was taken to return to our less touristy neighbourhood for a nightcap in Le Gob bar – a fairly grungy but achingly hip joint favoured by girls with nose-rings and boys in manbuns. When in Paris…

Louvre

After our coffee and croissant on Sunday morning we hopped on a bus to the Louvre, where the queues were once again horrific. Upon entrance we acquired a map. In theory the gallery is so vast you could spend a week within its walls and not take it all in. I can endure two hours of a museum at which point I need to get into the fresh air. I get overwhelmed. I had a list of pieces I wanted to see. The Mona Lisa was on the list – well of course she was. I don’t particularly like the painting, but I could hardly go the Louvre and not see the world’s most famous picture. It was underwhelming – a small, dull piece. The queue to view her was arranged like an airport security check with winding barriers and security guards screaming at you to keep moving after you reach the viewing point. We also saw Leonardo’s other paintings, Michelangelo’s statues of slaves, the Venus de Milo and the Egyptian section. I know that the Louvre is one of the world’s grandest art galleries, but I left it unmoved. The vast crowds and the way you are herded through is understandable, but unappealing. I would like to revisit it at 11am some Tuesday morning in February when the throngs are more manageable.

Champs Elysees

After a quick lunch we went to the Eiffel Tower where once again we joined a queue. We booked a lift to the summit. I wasn’t expecting much thinking that this folly – which was built purely as ornamentation would look better from the ground, and there’d be no need to see the view from the summit. I was wrong – the views were spectacular. We shared our appreciation with a retired Italian-American lady from Brooklyn, who was visiting Paris with her sister – who had no interest in the view from the top either.

We took a bus over to the Arc de Triomphe and had a pleasant stroll down the streets of the Champs-Elysees. That Sunday was pedestrian and cyclist appreciation day so motorised traffic was banned from the grand boulevard – a wonderful way to see it.

Our evening meal was in a cafe-bar where the waitress asked us where we were from when delivering our food. ‘Oh thank god’ she gasped when we told her of our provenance, ‘I was worried you were American’. That struck us as odd. I thought Americans were well liked in France? Maybe it was just her? After the meal we returned to Le Gob for a final refreshment. My flight was at lunchtime on Monday.

Leonardo DaVinci at the Louvre

Paris is an amazing city which I want to visit again. I must remember to visit it midweek when I return. Being a person with an aversion to crowded spaces it is fairly full on at the weekends. Then again when you consider its beauty, why wouldn’t it be?

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