Orientalism, chiens mignons and dressing ‘like a French woman’

Steve and I, breaking the law.
At the Musée d’Orsay, where you’re not supposed to take pictures.

Anything we may have done previously to today was just a warmup. Today was the big guns: Musée d’Orsay, déjeuner avec beaucoup des Americans, le Tour Eiffel, Rue Cler, shopping along Rue Saint-Dominique, Napoleon’s tomb, part of the Rodin Museum, le Métro and finally, shopping for dinner in our neighborhood. I’m tired just thinking about it.

First, I know it may seem obnoxious that I keep veering into French. But I’m not just being pretentious, although that may have something to do with it. I studied French for eight years, and being in France has dislodged some long-dormant remnants. I’ll be walking down the street, see a dog and think “chien mignon!” Steve will say something to me and I’ll reply “d’accord.” I know it’s annoying but I’m sure I’ll stop doing it once we land at Sea-Tac.

By the way, the Musée d’Orsay was amazing. Why don’t we have museums like that on the West Coast?  The Seattle Art Museum will get, like, one van Gogh and plaster bus shelters with advertisements about it. At the d’Orsay, it’s wall-to-wall awesome. Though the Impressionist room and the Cézanne room are jammed with humanity. I stumbled into the Orientalism room and it knocked my socks off. I particularly loved the “Evening Prayer in the Sahara” by Gustave Guillaumet.

OK, so then we had an unremarkable lunch near the museum surrounded by other Americans. There was a very loud group behind us and I was prepared to hate them with French disdain but then they started talking about how stupid the Republicans were that had shut down the government. And yes, the shutdown made the news here. I just couldn’t understand what they were saying.

Paris: Pigeon poop and drama at the brasserie

First day in Paris. Well, technically, it’s our second day. But we spent yesterday, after landing an hour early at CDG, stumbling around and trying to stay awake. I nearly plunged to my death outside the door of our flat, where the stairs start about three inches from the door.  But we managed to stay alive and even feed ourselves. Steve and I took a three-hour nap in the middle of the day, in the not-king-sized bed. (Bernard, the flat owner, promised it was king sized. It could have been a futon for all we cared, after flying all night in coach.)

But after a nearly full night’s sleep, we felt much revived and ready to actually walk places. There was no coffee anywhere in the otherwise well-stocked pantry (four types of olive oil and coffee filters, but no coffee), so Steve went in search. What he found: Starbucks. It was the only thing open at 8:00 a.m. Meanwhile, I had managed to make him scrambled eggs in a saucepan (again, they have a standing mixer and a washer/dryer, but no frying pan). We felt very European.

Our Excel spreadsheet agenda called for only the Notre Dame and the Île Saint-Louis, so we did both. I was prepared to go through the motions at the Notre Dame but when I walked through the doors, I actually felt some old Catholic stirrings. Maybe it was the incense – that stuff just transports me back to kneeling on a hard prayer bench. Maybe it was the enormity of the place, and its impressive ancient-ness. But I got a lump in my throat that I couldn’t dislodge until I paid 5 euros to light a candle.

Let’s see – what else? Steve and I had lunch at some brasserie off Boulevard Saint-Michel, where there’s about a zillion college students. One such student brawled with a waiter, who she called “a little shit.” The French was rapid-fire, but from what I could glean, the little shit water didn’t acknowledge her quickly enough. There was an actual physical tussle. It was very exciting. Our waiter went to grad school in Cleveland, but he appreciated my attempts at French.

Then, we walked over to the Luxembourg Gardens, whereupon Steve was promptly pooped on by a pigeon. That sort of cut short our jaunt, although he was a good sport and went to Metroprix so I could buy some hosiery and other important provisions.

I have some preliminary observations about Paris, au cas où vous êtes intéressé.

1)   The whole thing about French women being reed-thin is bullshit. It’s just straight-up not true. Parisian women come in all shapes and sizes, though I will say I haven’t seen an obese Parisian woman (or man) yet. So no, French women may not get fat, but they also don’t all look like Carine Roitfield.

2)  So far, I haven’t seen evidence that every French woman is innately stylish. They do all wear scarves, however. And, I should add that we haven’t been to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré yet.

3)   French women (and men) do strut around like they own the joint.

4)   French women make the most of what they’ve got.  If they have curly hair, they let it be curly. If they have straight, fine hair, they’re usually rocking a pixie, or it’s stuffed into a ponytail. I didn’t see a lot of elaborate, tortured hairstyles, except on Americans.

5)   Except for shopkeepers and waiters, I don’t know what people do for a living here. Mostly, people sit in cafés and smoke. Or perhaps that’s because we’re in a very touristy area, which is already driving me slightly mad.