I wandered off to my usual café, just around the corner from a Starbucks which occupies a former shop for artesian products. I’ve been eating breakfast here every day of every vacation in Paris for the past decade or so (except for the never-repeated day where I tried the hotel breakfast), and have been served by the same people, every time.
They seem to remember me but only in alternating years. This was a down year, but I still managed to get a cappuchino by mouthing «un crème» across the busy bar. The croissants from the bakery across the street were being brought back just as I had started looking for them. Lucky me. €3.30 for all this, which was pretty reasonable. In the US, one normally hands money to a waiter, who hands back the change. Here it’s a bit more impersonal: le serveur tells me €3.30, I put €5 on the counter, he takes it from the counter and puts the change in a small dish which he pushes towards me. I take it all, since service is included.
But I was still hungry, so I ambled across the street to the bakery, and was confronted with the usual dilemma of too many choices. Finally, I settled on «un droop» or «un tresse de chocolat». The former looked soft and … droopy … while the latter looked twisted and flaky. Both had chocolate and looked delicious. I asked for help, and the nice young lady behind the counter replied, «moi, je préfère un droop,» and smiled. How could I refuse? One droop, to go. Verify the amount by looking at the register; put the money on the tray, wait for the change to appear on the tray… and I’m off.
The weather was chilly but warmth was expected, so I was without jacket – and shivering – while I made a beeline to Nôtre Dame to have some peaceful time to meander before the crowds showed up. Sadly, the armies of tourists following their flag- and pink-umbrella waving generals were hot on my heels, and started storming the cathedral moments after my arrival. It’s tough to find interesting pictures to take on my 10th or 15th visit to Nôtre Dame, and while my new sigma 10-20mm gave some wide-angle fun, it’s not quite as fast as the rest of my lenses: f/4 vs. f/2.8 or f/1.4. I noticed this mostly in lower light shots: fisheyes came out fine, while the sigma shots had some movement blur (well, more my fault than the lens).
There are a whole bunch of prohibited actions posted at the entrance: no video, no flash, no tripod, etc., and sometimes there’s a single, monolingual guard telling people to put away their prohibited equipment. Once inside however, equipment comes out again, and flashes flash everywhere as “auto redeye reduction” tries to make sense of a dimly-lit medieval wood carving.
I left the masses and continued down the Seine to the Louvre. It’s gigantic, and I’m surprised they don’t have hotel rooms inside for the people willing to spend a week or three to see it all. The glass pyramids were as impressive as the zig-zagging line of people seeking entry. Nearby, machine-gun armed guards in camo keeping people out of a large vacant area of the plaza. I have no no idea what they were trying to protect.
Then I was off to the Musée d’Orsay, across the Seine and down a bit further. There was a quick line to get to … security. Like at any airport, pockets were dutifully emptied and belts removed. The fellow ahead of me tossed a used tissue in the little basked with his keys, wallet, watch and change, but the guard just smiled and wagged a finger, «ce n’est pas necessaire». My turn: the guard asked that I open my bag (the slingshot), which I did, noting «appareil photographique». He glanced at the back of the camera (the only thing visible), shrugged, and waved me on.
After waiting in another line, I paid the €7.50 «plein tarif» and went in. The main exhibition hall is impressively long and filled with art on several open levels and also has more stuff (to be precise) in rooms along the side. I must admit I went more to take photos than to look at art (I’d been there before), and in that regard it was a successful visit.
The legs were getting tired, but I decided to return on foot. I’d gone mostly straight up to Nôtre Dame and then a 90º left to Musée d’Orsay, so the task was a 45º turn left and down to get back to my hotel, through the 7th and 6th arrondisements. It was a fairly pleasant walk, though the temperature had increased to the low 70s F/ 20s C. I arrived at the Luxembourg gardens, made my way across and back to the Pantheon, down rue Mouffetard, and back to the hotel where I spent several hours processing 350 or so photos, of which about 50 made it to flickr. Just as I was going out to eat, heavy rain started, so I decided to stay in. Hunger and tiredness vied for greater attention; I finally caved into the latter, so it’s now time for another créme et croissant before wandering around some more.