Monday, May 15, 2006

Balitang Paris (March 2006)

Parisian landscapeI have never been to Paris on a cold winter month. It was on a summer when I visited the City of Lights for the first time and I remember it was hot, muggy, bustling and chaotic. The scene is the exact opposite this time of the year, tranquil, which makes the sirens from the city streets seem irritatingly loud. The trees are bare, the air frosty and everyone dressed in layers and mostly in black. The temperature is nearing 0 degree celsius which probably matches the Parisians' attitude toward outsiders in general (of course I'm only joking!).

Eventhough it is too cold outside, we were lucky that it didn't rain throughout our stay in the city. Our hotel on Strasbourg Ave in the 2e Arrondissement is peppered with beauty shops that it can very well be the 'hair care' capital of Paris. ha! It is interesting how I've associated classic French songs to Parisian neighborhoods that I kept playing the same tunes in my head again and again while walking along the busy 'rue' and avenues. Names like Montmartre, Les Halles, Pigalle and others that I had encountered from my previous trip now make more sense. I noticed the square marble fountain in Les Halles does not spurt water during winter.

The only thing in my list for this trip was to go to the Musée du Louvre and the Musée D'Orsay since I've already been to the more recognizable symbols of Paris. I purposely skipped both museums five years ago with the thought of coming here again with J.

The Louvre is huge and the collections are so extensive I probably won't see all of them in my lifetime. I am amazed how the museum is so popular that it probably made the Guiness book already for being able to accommodate a large number of visitors. Just like in other museums that house what I call 'superstar' paintings, the visitors at the Louvre, including myself, marched directly to the 'Monna Lisa' which overshadows the rest of the equally important works or art. It is unfortunate I don't have one more day to indulge looking at the other popular collections. D'Orsay is smaller and less intimidating. Just like at the Louvre, J and I skipped the entire collection and went straight to the works of Manet, Monet, Van Gogh and Gaughin. We skipped the Pompidou because we were already maxed-out on museums after two days. There are at least fifty museums in Paris.

Dining in Paris is expensive. A substantial sit down lunch can already buy you a meal for three with wine at a hole-in-a-wall type restaurant in SF. The Frenchman JP did warn us about this so we were not shocked at all. Locals say that the prices have gone up since they started using the Euro. It is annoying to see that Champs-Élysée is dotted with McDonald's. I still don't know the difference between a boulangerie from a patisserie; and a brasserie from a restaurant. :)

A friend in highschool E who just moved to Paris met us for coffee and then hosted a late dinner for J and I later in the evening. E and I were classmates in elementary but he got transferred to a different section in highschool. We used to seat next to each other during Industrial Arts class because we were alphabetically arranged by last names. He summed up the last 15 years over dinner including the ordeal he went through before coming to Europe. I felt there was no need to tell my story. He hosted another dinner on our last night in Paris. I told him I am jealous (in a good way) that he lives in Paris and urged him not to take the Eiffel Tower for granted. He lives just two blocks from 'La Tour Eiffel' in 16E Arrondissement .

I am amazed how my Parisian plan had worked out perfectly well, in fact, too perfect that is seemed like we were following a script from a cheesy movie with a lot of walking and small talks (think of 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset'). I must have been planning out the details unconsciously over the years. ha!

My Parisian Top 3 would be: walking around 5e Arrondissement or the Latin Quarter, the cafés around the Marais neighborhood and the Impressionist paintings at the Musée D'Orsay.

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