Day 2 – Monday
Our only planned activity for the trip was tickets to the Louvre on Wednesday. Monday began with a ham and cheese crepe from a friendly creperie near us. Love the coffee here. Most museums close on Tuesday, so we spent the first part of Monday in the Cluny Museum of medieval art and culture. It is housed in a building that served as the “hotel” or townhouse of the abbots of Cluny in the 17th century on the site of an ancient Roman bathhouse. In the late 19th century it was converted into a museum, and among the treasures are the tapestries of a woman and a unicorn. They are similar to the unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters, which I love, but these are in vermillion and the artwork is astounding. 15th century weaving. Flanders, I think. There were also lots of reliquaries, including one built to hold the supposed umbilical cord of Jesus. Of course Mary would have put that away in case someone wanted to adore it centuries later! Many of the medieval statues, especially of the crucifixion were done in a very precise and naturalistic style, which makes me wonder why people claim that was invented in the Italian Renaissance. But I’m not an art historian.
The weather continued to worsen, but we had tickets for dinner on the river and were not going to miss it. We decided to head out early to see the Eifel Tower. We mastered the Metro, but took a wrong turn coming out of the station. We were happily walking along wandering why we didn’t see a large iron edifice in front of us. Being very cautious about pickpockets, salesman, and other dangers of the streets, we walked past some men telling us we had to wait for a minute. Finally we realized that they were filming a movie and needed to clear the sidewalk for a shot. So, with some embarrassment, we paused, let them film, and proceeded to stride purposefully in the wrong direction. We turned around and saw the tower, right where Gustave Eifel had put it. Too embarrassed to go back through the movie site, we crossed the road to walk along the Seine. Despite the cold and rain, it is as beautiful as the movies depict it. The line to go up the tower was so short, we took the plunge and traveled to the top. The wind was bitter and the rain cut into our faces, but the view was extraordinary. Even though the horizon was shrouded in mist, it was amazing to look down on Notre Dame the rest of Paris. The tower is a marvel. I have always loved it in pictures, but the reality is nearly impossible to describe. Tons of steel held together by rivets, and yet the whole thing looks as if it were made of lace. It did not even sway in the wind, it is so stable. I deeply admire Eifel for having had such a vision of quixotic beauty and materialize it on earth. Originally it served no real purpose and it was to be torn down, but now it is a symbol of beauty and strength for all the world to see.
We were nearly frozen when we got off the elevator and immediately sought out some cappuccino. And then we walked in the rain to find the boat Paris en Scene. It had not returned from its earlier trip and we managed to walk right past the docking place. Using Google maps and wandering too and fro, we determined where the place should be, and then we saw the boat coming down the river. While we were waiting to board, Julie saw a sign that was clearly visible from the car park, but which we could not see from the bank where we were strolling. The boat was lovely and we shared a brut of champagne to celebrate tenure. We had delicious pate with salad followed by a main course of the best salmon I’ve had in years. Desert was also nice, especially the very dark chocolate ganache. It was so nice to float down the Seine, looking out of the windows even though the rain obscured the view somewhat. We decided to buy a picture of us enjoying the evening. On the return trip the Eifel Tower lit up with a dazzling display. We made our way back to the hotel via the Metro. On the train we helped an Argentinian couple get off of the right stop. That was a comedy of three languages and much pointing! For some reason, jet lag hit us the second night and we were both awake very late. We skyped the children to make sure they were safe and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.