View from Montparnasse Tower (2013)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Day 6

I am so glad we are here as long as we are so we don't have cram everything into just a few days.  We are taking everything very leisurely, doing just one thing each day, and it's working for us.  Fortunately, we have both been to the big sights, so cafe sitting and people watching are high on our priority lists.

It was warm today!  In the low 80s.  We left the apartment around 9:30 to take the #38 bus to the Cluny Museum, officially the Musee National du Moyen Age (National Museum of the Middle Ages).  We met a friend I connected with when I was in Paris in 2013.  It was great having her along as she speaks and reads French, so could interpret the signage for us.

The Cluny is in a 15th century "hotel," one of only two this old in Paris (per Michelin Green Guide).  It is on the Left Bank, near the Sorbonne. Excavations under the 15th century structure revealed Roman public baths from 200 AD.  The collection consists of Medieval art, much of it religious.  The highlight of the museum is the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  They are exquisite. Dating back to the 15th century (1400's), they were found in a castle where they suffered damage from water and rats, but the colors are still brilliant.  Reds, blues, yellows, greens.  The detail is amazing - flowers of every kind are scattered all over among rabbits, dogs, monkeys and other animals.  They must have taken years to complete.  These were on loan to a museum in Tokyo when I was here last, so this is the first time I've seen them.  There was also a special exhibit of German religious statuary.  We found the facial expressions on some of the figures to be interesting.

After touring the museum, we attended a concert that was held in a Roman section of the building which houses the heads of the Kings of Judah which were knocked off from the facade of Notre Dame during the French Revolution.  The people thought they were the Kings of France.  The concert was medieval song performed by four people, three men and one woman.  They had excellent voices.  One of the men played instruments similar to violins and violas, and the woman played a small harp.  There were lengthy introductions to each song, which Kathy and I didn't understand, though I could pick out a few words.  One song was in old English, a couple were in Latin, and the rest were in French.  It was very interesting and enjoyable.

After the concert, the three of us went over to St. Germaine to have lunch at Le Comptoir du Relais.  I had white asparagus with lemon vinaigrette  for my starter (it is in season now and in all the markets) and lamb shank for my main course.  It was really good.  Kathy had a daube or stew - beef in a rich sauce.  We all shared a carafe of rose wine.

It was after 4:00 when we got back to the apartment.  We can get a good cross breeze going in the apartment, so it didn't take long to get the place cooled down.  It doesn't get too hot because it doesn't get any direct sun. We rested for awhile, then went out to get some ice cream at Amorino across from the Pompidou Center, which has got to have some of the best people watching in Paris.  After our large and late lunch, we considered the ice cream dinner.

A word about Paris fashion.  Many people visiting Paris obsess about what to wear and how to fit in so they don't look like a tourist.  Well, I'm here to tell you that there is no reason to worry.  Teenagers, especially, dress just like they do in the US: Have you got ripped jeans? You'll fit in.  Cropped tops? Yep. Short skirts, short-shorts, t-shirts.  It seems like anything goes.  For adults, there's no need to buy a special wardrobe to visit Paris.  Of course dark colors are the norm here, and everyone throws a scarf around their neck, but tourists are easily identified no matter what they wear.  To find people wearing high fashion, you have to go to the more exclusive areas.  Women who work in "les grands magasins" or those who work in the fashion industry tend to be more fashionable, but everyone else looks pretty normal.  No need to be intimidated by an idea of Paris than no longer exists, if it ever did.

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