I arrived in Paris at 9:00 in the morning and got a single with shower in the Center Internationale Hostel in the Latin Quarter for 165 francs, about $25. It was a small room and I had to walk up five flights of stairs to get to it, but for Paris it was a great price in a great location.
When I got to Paris it was fantastic; no crowds, short lines, lots to see. I also found most Parisians to be nice. I didn't attempt to speak French, I just said oui and merci and smiled a lot. It worked fine. Unfortunately the day after Christmas millions of tourists hit Paris, with half of them in line to see the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower at any given time. Somehow the Parisians remained pleasant. That amazed me; even I was sick of the tourists after a few days of this, and I was a tourist. Contrary to the popular stereotype, I found that with few exceptions the Parisians were polite and friendly.
There were a lot of bars in the Latin quarter near the Hostel I was staying in. Some were pretty quiet, some catered to a student crowd, and I found one Irish Bar within walking distance called the Finnegan's Wake. Nothing crazy, a usually mellow place with a good crowd that occasionally had an American ex-pat folk singer who had a good following. Julian, the son of the owners and occasional bartender was planning to move to MFEMFEMFEMF and try to become a professional golfer, or attend FSU on a golfing scholarship. That and chase FSU women. Just thought I'd warn everyone, he may be around town now, on the golf course or in the campus bars.
Paris has a wide variety of night life. Not nearly as cheap as Prague, but most of it was affordable. A notable exception to the affordable statement was the Moulin Rouge. An entertainment paper I read listed the price of a show at 500 francs, around $70. That price included two drinks, but I passed. I did take a sunset walk in the Moulin Rouge area, along Boulevard de Clichy in the Montmartre district. This area has a notorious reputation going back decades, so I had to check it out. The bad reputation is deserved; it was unpleasant late in the day, and I am sure it is worse at night. Cliche has lots of sex shops and sex show barkers who try to drag passing men into their business. I wasn't going to fall for that again.
I preferred the bar scene on Rue St Denis, an area a little north of Notre Dame. My favorite place was an English bar called The Frog and Rosbif. This is where I met the U.S. college student, originally from St Petersburg, who told me about the Soviet Union's school system. Check the Russia page if you don't know what that refers to. I wanted to talk with her more, but a group of drunks on my other side, mostly in their thirties, found out I was older than any of them and insisted on a long and trivial discussion about it. Sometimes old people can be really tedious, even the ones who are younger than me. The picture isn't of the old people, with one exception of course, this is the college students, the bartenders and me.
Rue St Denis had a number of other bars, English, Australian, Irish and other nationalities. It also had sex shops, which became more frequent the further north I went, but it was never as sleazy as the stretch of Clichy I had seen. I also noticed a few grandmotherly like little old women who would stand on the street wearing high boots and short skirts. The bartender in The Frog and Rosbif confirmed my suspicion--they were hookers. I must admit they weren't nearly as scary as streetwalkers I'd seen in other cities. Apparently in Paris this is a career that some women stick with for a long time. I think that after a certain age prostitutes and professional athletes should accept that they are past their prime and give up the game.
I was in Paris for New Year's. I originally planned to hit the New Years hot spots, but the early evening snow turned into a very cold rain, and I only had a light jacket that was not waterproof. Spending the evening wet and cold didn't appeal to me, so I opted for a quiet evening holed up in a Aussie bar called Cafe Oz on St. Denis. Hanging out in a warm dry place with beer seemed good enough for the evening.
That's about it for the bar stories. Now for the pictures. Lots of pictures of Paris. Here's a view of the Seine, the Louvre entrance, and the arch near the entrance to the Louvre. There are below-ground entrances to the Louvre are on either side of this arch; very useful when the line to the main entrance is long. Last are Bronze hands in the Jardin des Tuileries. Kind of a startling sculpture that I stumbled across.
Some night shots of Paris, starting with the Paris Opera, then the Hotel de Ville with a skating rink in front, the Seine and the Louvre.
I didn't take any pictures inside of Notre Dame, but have a nice one of the outside, plus shots of gargoyles and views of the city taken from the viewing area near the top.
Some pictures of pictures taken in the Musee de Orsay; two Renoirs, Frederick Bazille's painting of Renoir (I like Renoir), and Whistler's Mother. I thought she was American.
The interior of the Musee de Orsay, which used to be a train station, followed by a very convincing sculpture of a sculptor sculpting, and an interesting late nineteenth century version of Athena--"Tanagra" by Jean-Leon Gerome.
The Musee Rodin, with the famous "The Thinker", followed by a bronze door that he worked on for years without finishing. I apologize for the quality of the picture--the door was fantastic, full of Dante themes, but the lighting at the time was less than ideal.
Rodin's two most famous works are "The Thinker" above and the "The Kiss"--a marble version is pictured below.
However Rodin had a number of variations on the theme of "The Kiss", including "The Grope"
and, from the Hermitage, "The Wrestlers".
And now for something completely different--six million dead Parisians. Paris is a very old city that ran out of cemetery space more than two centuries ago. So in 1785 the city decided to exhume the corpses from these cemeteries and store them in three abandoned quarries. This is one of the quarries. What a great place for a Halloween party.
I made three trips to the Eiffel Tower and found long, stationary lines. This mob underneath the tower are the lines to three entrances.
On my last attempt to get in, or on, the Eiffel Tower the lines were short and moving at an acceptable pace. This was because the top level had been closed due to high winds. So here are my Eiffel Tower pictures, from the ground and second level. The fourth, fifth, and sixth pictures are, in order--the Jardine du Trocadero, the Louvre (I think), and the mall to the southeast of the tower. The last picture is of me trying to look casual in the face of a strong, cold wind.
After one of my failed attempts to climb the Eiffel Tower left me with time on my hands, I decided to visit the Picasso Museum. I am now convinced that Picasso was an occasionally great artist who was coasting on reputation a lot of the time. The bicycle parts sculpture is clever, but I don't consider it a great work of art.
I've seen the old "Phantom of the Opera" movie with Claude Rains, been to the Andrew Lloyd Weber play, and even read the book. So of course I had to see the Paris Opera. It's nice, but they wouldn't let me underneath to see the lake. According to the book, there really is a lake under the Paris Opera. The last two shots are of the chandelier and its' base. You can't tell how secure it is, so would you sit under it?
One night, after my investigation of the bar seen on St Denis, I followed the sound of music to a big show at the nearby Pompidou Center. It is a nightly event with lots of lights flashing and trumpets and drums and singers doing the type singing that uses melodic "oooh"ing and "aaaaah"ing instead of words and musicians playing from perches swinging underneath huge cranes. It didn't make any sense but was fun to watch.
I saw a lot of cold, wet weather in Paris. I'm not complaining; it was better than I expected for late December and early January. On one sunny morning when it looked like it was going to be a nice day I made the trip to Versaille. Of course by the time I got there it had clouded over and a cold drizzle was falling on and off. I could handle that; what really turned me off was the crowd. I went on a "self-guided", i.e. no guide, tour, but it was so packed I got claustrophobia. I took this one picture of the Hall of Mirrors, then worked my way to the end of the tour as fast as I could.
I fought my way out and toured the gardens for a while. Even in the winter the gardens are really nice. Some very interesting ponds and fountains.
There were a number of large objects in the garden covered up. This one is either a statue or an inept workman.
After the gardens I went back for a guided tour. This was much better. Here are the chapel, Louis XIV's bedroom (if your Roman numerals are a bit rusty, that's a fourteen), someone else's bedroom, a really nice globe, and a sitting room with some clown with a camera reflected in the mirror.
Before leaving the Louvre, one story about Louis the XIV. You'll notice in the picture of the bedroom that it is set up to put his bed on display. When Louis ruled, his bed really was on display. He didn't trust the French nobility, with good reason. To keep the nobles from plotting against him he arranged to keep them busy and visible, involving them in an endless series court ceremonies. Two of these elaborate ceremonies celebrated the "King going to bed" and the "King waking up". They did this every day. All important noblemen were invited to attend, and it would have been very suspicious if they refused the honor. It sounds incredibly tedious, but it worked. What a policy; using ceremonies to deliberately waste the time of people who serve you. Nowadays we do that with staff work.
My favorite place in Paris was the Louvre (Frog and Rosbif came in second). I went five times and covered most of it, but not all. In fact I only covered as much ground as I did by racing through most of the galleries of paintings. I took so many pictures it warranted a separate web page.