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As always, Paris continues to surprise the unwary traveller with many new and unusual treats. For instance, for the past twenty minutes, Mom and I have been entertained by a brass band playing in the square of the St. Michel fountain, which we can see from our hotel room. Lovely, except that they bring more enthusiasm than proficiency to their performance (although I was particularly struck by their rendition of "I was made for lovin' you"). 

Our hotel is in the midst of quite a touristy area, which hasn't made for the most wonderful meals, and has made for some very crowded streets. But we are, as promised, in close proximity to everything, like Notre-Dame and the Louvre. In fact, the first night we arrived we walked around the cathedral and along the Seine.

Yesterday we went out to Saint-Denis, the burial place of French kings. It's apparently the first cathedral in the Gothic style in France and was really spectacular: it had beautiful stained glass, and the memorials to the kings (some covering their tombs, some simply monuments) were wonderful. We saw the tombs of Pepin the Short and his wife, Bertha Big-Foot. The tomb of Henri II and Catherine de Medici was also very beautiful. The atmosphere in the cathedral (during the first half-hour we were there, and before all the tourists came) was unbelievably still and peaceful. Then it was off for lunch and back into Paris, where Mom and I separated for the afternoon.

I went off down to the Mitterand site of the BN to renew my reader card (much busier than in February, although the renewal process was very simple), and then back up to the BN-Musique to see about copying out more of the partial scores I brought home last year (I was trying to save a few euros, but of course now I wish I had the whole thing). Alas, Paris has been suffering through a heatwave (now past) and ALL the paper in the ONE functioning microfilm copier was sticking. I made a grand total of 10 copies before the machine and the librarian both gave up the ghost. "Come back tomorrow," said the librarian "or perhaps Wednesday, and maybe the machine will be fixed by then." So back to the hotel I went, where I found Mom similarly disappointed: she had wanted to visit the Orsay, which was closed on Monday, as were most of the shops she wanted to visit (mostly antiques).

As if that weren't trouble enough, Mom's camera has been acting up (something is loose somewhere inside, so that it can't complete its warmup routine) and no one has been able to direct her to a shop which might be able to repair it. 

This led to much disappointment last night during our after-dark river cruise, during which I took five times as many pictures as usual to compensate for the fact that Mom couldn't take any. I think I might have about twenty or thirty pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night. But some of that can be explained by the fact that the Tower itself lit up in a spectacular display of sparkling lights just as our boat cruised by.

Today we explored the Garnier opera house (because the BN-Opera didn't have the stuff I wanted on microfilm either, so no copies from them!) and then I went back to the BN-Musique (where the machines were still not working). We passed by the Orsay but the line to get in was so big that as we were leaving another pair of women rounded the corner, saw the line, and started laughing almost in despair. 

Tomorrow we're going out to Fontainebleau (I hope). We hope to buy a train/bus/chateau admission package, but considering our average in Paris so far ... I think we had better be prepared with a backup plan! (Yay! Versailles!)

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February 2009


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