The Eiffel Tower - Photo Taken September 2010

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 10 - Pompidou Center and the Islands

The sky was grey when I looked out this morning, but it was breaking up with some blue sky when I went out for my baguette.  I let my high hopes for the day override my common sense and left home without either my raincoat or umbrella.

I planned to go to the Pompidou Center this morning, but since it doesn't  open until 11, I walked around the side streets in the area around the PC.  Many shops are closed on Mondays, and those that aren't don't open until 11, so the streets were pretty quiet.  It's interesting to walk around when the streets are waking up.  Shopkeepers sweep their front walks, trash is being picked up, streets are being cleaned, and finally shutters are rolled up and the shops are open for business.  

I watched people line up for the opening of the Pompidou Center while drinking coffee at a cafe.  The line was just to get into the building.  Security involved opening our purses/bags for a quick inspection.  Once inside, those without tickets had to queue up to buy their tickets and those of us with a pass went right in.  The escalators to the upper floors are on the outside of the building; in fact, all of the building mechanics are on the outside (see photos).  I rode all the way to the top floor as the weather was clear and I wanted to get some pictures.  There is a wonderful view of Paris from the top level of the museum.  Unfortunately, the view is seen through plexiglass that isn't very clear.  The permanent exhibits are on the 4th & 5th floors - the 4th floor is contemporary art dating from approximately 1960 to the present, and the 5th floor is modern art from the first half of the 20th century. I was disappointed to learn that the 5th floor is temporarily closed until mid-October because that is what interested me the most.  The art on the 4th floor is interesting, but not really my cup of tea.  There were some fun exhibits, though.

The remainder of the day was spent on the Islands: the Ile de la Cite and the Ile St. Louis.  I rode the bus over to the Palais de Justice and walked along the Quai de l'Horloge to the Pont Neuf, which despite the name is the oldest of the bridges crossing the Seine.  This is at the western point of the Ile de las Cite and features a park and statue of Henri IV.  One of the "love lock" bridges is also here (see post for Day 4 for more about the "love lock" bridges).  It was lunch time, so I went to the Place Dauphine to look for a cafe. 

I went to La Rose de France and had a wonderful lunch, a bit of a splurge.  For a starter I had a plate of 3 preparations of foie gras.  One was foie gras "ice cream." It had an icy consistency with a salty/crunchy element on top.  At first it was cold on my tongue, then melted to a buttery consistency. It was really good.  The second was a foie gras "creme brulee," which came in a small ramekin with caramelized sugar on top.  The texture was just like a creamy smooth custard, but it was made with foie gras.  It was also very good.  The third was a slice of solid foie gras with some sort of glaze on top, and it was delicious.  The entire thing was heavenly.  After all that richness, I had wisely chosen a simple salad of sliced chicken breast with fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, and radishes on a bed of lettuce, for my main course.  While I was in the restaurant, the wind came up and it poured, and I didn't have either my raincoat or my umbrella.  But, it wasn't long before the wind died down and the sun came out. 

I finished my lunch, which was topped off with "un cafe" served with a perfect chocolate truffle, and started walking up the island.  Halfway up the block, it started to rain, and it poured.  I crossed over to the Left Bank because I knew there were several souvenir shops over there where I  could buy a parapluie (umbrella).  I found one, but not before I was pretty wet.  I stopped at a cafe just to get out of the rain - that's one thing nice about Paris, with over 10,000 cafes, it is pretty easy to find one when you need one - and had another cup of coffee until the rain stopped.  I walked around Notre Dame.  There were lots of people around and quite a long line of people waiting to climb the stairs up one of the towers.  I think the best views of Notre Dame are from the back where you can see the flying buttresses.  I walked over to the "love lock" bridge that I had crossed last week, so I could take some pictures, then went into the Deportation Memorial.  It is a memorial for the tens of thousands of Parisian Jews that were deported during the Nazi occupation in World War II.  Unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays, but I had been there before.

The Ils St.Louis is like a small village unto itself with narrow cobbled streets.  There are many very expensive mansions on the island and real estate there is quite expensive.  I walked around for a while and went into a few shops. 

It started to rain again, so I made my way back to the Palais de Justice to catch the bus back home. 

Three different times today I saw armed soldiers - once at the Pompidou Center, then at Notre Dame, and also at the Hotel de Ville.  Only 2 or 3 soldiers, but all were armed with automatic weapons.  Though I saw a military presence on Saturday during the Journees des Patrimoines, this was the first time since I've been here that I've seen armed soldiers.  I wondered what was going on.

One thing about France that I'll never get used to, even after five visits here, is the uni-sex restrooms.  I guess it's just one of those French things, I guess.  Vive la differance!

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