Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vacation with Darrell, part the last

Brain exercise: all the photographs in the last post will be mentioned. Up to you to match them to this text as you like.
And now... to take up where I left off...
On our walk around Paris Tuesday evening, the Louvre is lit up as usual, but they've added a wheel of filters that turns around, giving the glass and girder structure slowly changing colors. And the giant Ferris Wheel has been set up. This year it is all in white, with fake white trees in front and a shack for toffee peanuts, roast chestnuts, and souvenirs off to the side.
Let's eat French food tonight. Being here in France, after all. We vow to stop for fondue if we see it offered, or tartiflette which our mouths watered over but we didn't get to in Clermont. Those are both regional dishes, though, and we'd rather not wander around in the cold for too long. We're not picky. Parisian French is often edible.
There's a place just a block from the hotel where we can have yet another round of duck, including salad with gizzards. D is a big fan of gizzards done right, and I guess the French do them right. Even I will happily down salade aux gesiers (though if there's salade au saumon fumé on offer, there's no contest). How do they do it? Keep them from getting tough and dry? D thinks they might be steamed.
Tuesday is quiet for dinner out. We have the place to ourselves until after 9, when a party of the owner's friends arrives. The art on the walls is original, and mostly for sale, so when the bored owner sees us looking he comes over and tells us all, all about the artist. It's good food, all the way through the chocolate ganach cake for dessert.
There aren't many people at breakfast, but they all turn and laugh when I set the heavy glass jar of Nutella down with a clack on our table. I didn't mean to set it down quite so hard, really. I wasn't trying to make a statement. Life is better with Nutella. On bread, on croissants, on waffles. The dull breakfast fare comes to life. Accompanied by plenty of coffee.
This morning we have a mission: find and photograph an old Master lock that has been attached to one of the gates at Park Monceau since the early 1980's. Motorcycle thieves did not succeed in stealing the bike, but they did damage the lock beyond all function. - And - it's so tough it's still there.
It's still there because the city of Paris doesn't spend any effort removing old, useless locks from various gates and fences. They litter parks all across the city, in the thousands. The readers of Locksmithing Today just don't know that.
But it's a mission all the same so here we go. While riding the Metro, we decide to start at the first gate we come to, and to continue around clockwise in a scientific and systematic manner until we have found it or gone all the way around. There's the park, with its high, spike-topped fence and its elaborate gates. The very first gate has three locks, two of which are City locks in nightly gate-closing use. The other is some german thing. Staying outside the park we turn right.
More gates, more locks. City is popular, and not just with the city. Bjorn. That german company whose name I forget. Two-thirds are holding something safe - a bicycle, a scooter, a motorcycle; but a full third hold nothing. Some have chains, some chains wrapped in plastic, some just huge hasps. Some new, some old, some ancient and beaten. None are Masters. If we had a digital camera we'd make a catalog. Never fear: they will all still be here next year when I'll have one.
None of the locks have paint on them - apparently the city painters are careful to respect the abandoned locks whenever they come around for the fence.
Around to the fourth and last major gate, and there it is! A long-hasp, combination Master lock, very beaten and worn. Maurice poses with the find. We take its portrait. We take turns touching it. Yep. There it is, as promised.
D is satisfied. He's a big fan of locks and keys, and every time we pass a key store he stops and looks around. Too bad all the really unusual ones are very expensive!
All over town there are posters for a "Courtesans" exposition at some museum, and here it is, right in a little building abutting the park. And what do we have but a group of schoolchildren being shepherded inside. Um, All About Courtesans for second-graders?
We are in France.
It's a museum of Asian art & history, and in front are bronze dog statues that are kind of neat. One has its mouth open, full of teeth, so we go for a Maurice Moment. That gets the interest of the security guard inside, who has by now finished with the herd of children. That would have been fine on its own, but then Darrell notices that the hollow bronze dog has a hatch on the back. And he opens it. Hey, put that back! We're being watched! But no, it's really cool to look inside, and now the guard comes to the door and shakes his finger menacingly, and D doesn't put the lid down, and the guy starts to come out, so D finally gives in and we leave.

Completing our circuit of the park, it's time to figure out what to do with the rest of the day.

Museums? Nah

Art & architecture? Nah

Shopping? Nah
We could go see some other town not too far, like Riems or Rouen, but that turns out to be too expensive just for a day trip to someplace we're not super keen on anyway.
There's the Chantilly castle, but we've done a lot of castles.
So off the Science Park with its Exploratorium it is.
We take the metro out there, and walk around the extensive grounds for a while. The place is huge, though it looks so outsized because there are a meer handful of people putzing around in a space built to amuse thousands. It's probably packed in the summer. In the park there are lots of things to climb on, all chained off now, off limits. The kiosks are all closed, no ambulant pastry sellers or carts of knicknacks. Empty.
We take a likely direction in search of lunch, but find nothing. Back toward the metro station there were a couple of iffy places where we might risk a sandwich - aside from the Science Park this is a fairly depressed and scuzzy part of Paris, full of graffiti and debris. We get lucky and happen across a little bar & resto that's doing a cracking business. Today's specials: spaghetti bolognaise, braised beef with carrots, various combinations of couscous. The steak with blue cheese sause and fried potatos at the next table looks delicious, but I've been having a lot of steak so I go for the spaghetti. Mistake. D has the beef and carrots, which are a hit.
The Exploratorium is huge. Many sections are closed as they turn over the temporary exhibits, but just the part that's open is many times the size of the H Fleet in San Diego. Today's Special Exhibit is "Tout sur le Zizi", which translates to "All about the Penis", targeted to the 9-12 year old crowd. It's a separate ticket, and we pass. The entire afternoon goes by without our being able to mess with all the stuff there is to see and mess with. Optics, space, acoustics, city planning, electricity, engines, we don't even get to the mathematics part, or see the genetics exhibit. There's just too much, and it's time to go to the Imax theater in its mirrored sphere for our movie.
We passed up a film on Monsters of the Deep in favor of Fly Me to the Moon, in 3-D. It's an animated thing about some flies that tag along on the Apollo 11 mission. The 3-D effects are great, but What were they thinking?? This is a science park, and the science in the film gets an F. Flies wearing space helmets not attached to anything. Flies with two arms, two legs. What's more characteristic of a fly than it's compound eyes? Just to cite some more blatant examples. Going to the moon is so interesting and cool in itself it doesn't have to be made dumb to appeal to grade-schoolers. And the story. OMG. They should distribute airsick bags with the show.
The Exploratorium closed while we were in the theater. I'll have to come back some day and see the rest of it.
One last French dinner. Crèpes this time, savory then sweet, and cider. Ohhhhh, that homemade caramel! For late evening entertainment, we take a tour of the Metro. Most of the stations on line 1 are decorated in interesting ways, and line 6 is mostly above ground, allowing us to see what holiday lights are up and to peek into people's apartments as we trundle by, plus where it crosses the river the 6 has a great view of the Eiffel Tower. The 1 and 6 cross twice, at either end of the interesting part of line 1, a very convenient loop. At this time of the evening (it's not "night" in France until either midnight or you've gone to bed) there aren't too many people riding the trains, but not so few you get nervous about the ones there are. It takes about an hour and fifteen plus the round trip on the 12 to get to Montmartre, and then we're done with Paris.
In the morning we say our Happy Thansgivings and our goodbyes at the airport. Darrell gets home without any problems, and that's it for the vacation. See you again in May!

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