We're getting quite skillful at Paris Metro, which is good, because virtually all our trips involve two or more different lines. This morning we ended up at Sentier station, and then we began to walk. We walked down Rue des Petits Carreaux and Rue Montorgueil. The latter is a very upscale gourmet food shopping district, complete with a new cobblestone street and well-to-do clientele. Fancy butchers displayed pigeon, rabbit, foie gras, etc. Fancy greengrocers constructed piles of figs and peaches. Fancy shoppers bought the same, frequently walking fancy dogs, the Parisians' beloved pet. High-end grocery Unfortunately, there are few fancy pooper-scoopers in Paris, and the tourist is well-advised to walk warily.
At the foot of Rue Montorgueil we popped into L'Eglise St. - Eustache, a neat large parish church with an 8000-pipe organ. Lots of these churches have weekly music concerts, but today the organ was silent. The organist's console was right on the floor, however, and we took the opportunity to educate Dan about manuals and stops and pedals and pipes.
Then, along one side of the nave, we found an enormous work of art. It was a sculpture honoring the ancient and grubby produce market at Les Halles. This famous outdoor market had been selling produce for 800 years, until the French Enarques peremptorily closed it for health reasons and replaced it with a somewhat soulless modern shopping center. Most Parisians bemoaned the loss, and the sculpture depicted all the individual fruits and vegetables leaving Paris. Indeed the sculpture described the political situation correctly, and the vigorous street market of Paris gave way to supermarkets. It's not a fair trade, because the Parisian supermarket is generally a small store with a very limited variety of food for sale. Of course Market wagon sculpture the French do have enormous modern supermarkets, but they generally are located out of the city, where sufficient vacant land was available for construction. If you drive a car you can shop at them, but the Parisians have to use the markets available within the city limits, as far as the Metro goes. So the locals have no large produce market any more, and must use the small markets and supermarkets, paying higher prices.
"Enarques," mentioned above, is a nickname for the graduates of the Ecole Normale d'Administration, a graduate school in public administration and management with highly selective admissions. The Enarques, through an old boy network (there are few old girls here) are virtually assured of a career with a high-ranking and highly paid civil service position, perhaps followed by an appointment to manage or direct one of the large nationalized corporations. Most of the postwar presidents, prime ministers, and business leaders have been Enarques. They represent both right- and left-wing political parties. The problem of a privileged elite has often been chronicled in French periodicals, but nothing has been done to change the system, which originated almost 200 years ago with Napoleon, who created a highly educated elite corps of public administrators. As is always the case with an oligarchy, the oligarchs sometimes forget the needs of the ordinary folks, which was evidently the case in the closing of the produce market at Les Halles. So the presence of this sculpture in the parish church for the Les Halles district was certainly more of a political statement than an artistic one.
To cement this object lesson in modern French politics, and to follow the path suggested by our guide book, we walked through the modern Les Halles shopping center. Partially underground, Les Halles was hot and stuffy, as air conditioning was evidently not in the budget. The typical clothing and Place des Vosges jewelry stores did not grab our attention, and Les Halles was less busy than Rue Montorgueil.
We walked by the Centre Pompidou, with a long line of people waiting for admission to the modern art museum, and a phalanx of street artists selling their drawings, including a number who were sketching the people standing around.
Our path happened to make us follow a pair of interviewers: the man had a shoulder cam, the woman a microphone, and they were stopping to talk to people on the street for a minute or so at a time. We dawdled along and watched the interviews; then as they were talking to one person, a passing man ran up to the trio and started screaming political sentiments, drowning out the questions and answers of the interview. Mission accomplished, he stalked off, muttering loudly. The interviewers were not terribly bothered by it, but that particular interview was lost. They continued down one street while we walked to another.
On Rue de Temple we found the Musee d'art et d'histoire du Judaisme, which had been given a good write-up in the guidebook. We found the museum outstanding -- perhaps the best exhibits of Jewish art and artifacts that we've seen. Housed in a modern building, with careful security inspections on entering and leaving, the museum displays Torah scrolls, arks, menorahs, etc., while explaining the Jewish holy days and celebrations in clear detail.
The special exhibit on disply in the Museum of Jewish Art and History was a retrospective of the art of Louis Mitelberg, who used the name TIM (first three letters of his last name, reversed). An art student in Paris when the war broke out, Tim lost his parents who lived near Warsaw. He joined the Polish forces in France, was captured by the Germans, escaped, was captured by the Russians and detained, was exchanged to England when the Russians joined the Allies, and joined the Free French. He is best known as a political cartoonist, but towards the end of his life (he died in 2002) he produced two large pieces of civic sculpture, which we visited later in our Parisian stay.
The Marais was a highly esteemed residential district in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, centered around the Place des Vosges with its Illuminated Eiffel Towerlarge private homes -- called hotels in French. Carriageways on each side of the square led to the area behind the mansions, where horses and servants had less elegant lodging. Surrounding streets had similar residences, and "all the best people" lived there.
Today the Marais, or at least its western reaches, is known as a Jewish district and a gay and lesbian district. From appearances, it is more of a gay and lesbian district. We walked along the route given in Rick Steve's Paris, and came to J. Goldenberg's delicatessen.
On the plus side J. Goldenberg's delicatessen had real rye bread, deli meats and halvah. On the minus side, there were few customers, many of them older, and the food couldn't hold a candle to either (a) Jewish deli fare in the U.S. or (b) French cuisine. Our guess would be that it is only a matter of time before the Marais becomes entirely a gay and lesbian district and the Jewish community moves elsewhere.
We were starting to get tired, and found the Metro station at Place de la Bastille, where a tall column is placed in remembrance of the revolution of 1830. Paris had revolutionary activity in 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1870, each of which led to some concessions to the lower classes, but there are those in France today who seriously question the validity of some or even all of those uprisings, contending that there is nothing to honour in acts of lawlessness. It would probably take a lifetime to understand the nuances of French political opinion, but we're trying.
After a good long rest at our apartment, we thought about an evening excursion. Only five days after the summer solstice, and near the western edge of its time zone, Paris was still bathed in daylight when we set out at 9:00 p.m. Families were strolling along the sidewalks and sitting at cafes. We decided to see the lights on the Eiffel Tower.
We hadn't bothered to consult a schedule, but with good luck our timing was about perfect. As dusk came on, the lights on the tower grew more and more pronounced, and then unexpectedly, at ten o'clock, a special light show began. The Tour Eiffel has been covered from head to toe with thousands of white strobe lights, and when the power is turned on, for ten minutes at the beginning of each night time hour in the summertime, it seems to twinkle and sparkle like a giant piece of fireworks. We stood mesmerized, and took a great many photographs, which of course fail to capture the sparkling effect. At least they show the myriad of lights up the tower. The Red Mill
Our spirits were considerably raised by this display, and we decided to show Dan the famous Moulin Rouge, about three blocks from our apartment. Here Toulouse Lautrec would sit for hours, sketching the cancan girls and the habituees of the nightclub. Here today the street must provide parking for a dozen tour buses, disgorging their passengers crowded in long lines to visit the club, and enjoy one of the modern lavish chorus line spectacles. As our readers might imagine, we were appalled by the mindlessness of tourists flocking like lemmings, when all they might see, these days, are other tourists!! Dan, on the other hand, might have had other visions in mind, and no doubt will be able to embellish a good Moulin Rouge story for his friends on his return to the United States. We photographed the scene to impress it on our memories and returned happily to our apartment, where the ear plugs and eyeshades made sleeping through the night easier. And to think that the nightlife continues until we wake up in the morning!