Paris : The Lovely Ladies of the Louvre
Paris Travel Blog› entry 7 of 268 › view all entries
‚ÄėThreads‚Äô (Part 1 of 3)
- "Iz okaay Mista, iz okay, I work for da church!"
- "Iz okay, I work the church. Iz free Mista. Where yo from Mista?"
- "OOOoooh! Eeeeengleesh man. We like the Eeengleesh man!"
- Yeah, I‚Äôm sure you do.
- "Ahhhh NO! Iz ok Mista I work for the church, iz free fo you fo da church. Give me yo finger."
Ok, ok, I raise the requested finger deciding I may as well partake in the charade. Not much else to do right now and so a series of twined cotton threads are skilfully looped over my index-finger as a holding point and the ‚Äėman from da church‚Äô commences deftly wrapping, twisting and turning these threads into some form of colourful bracelet.
- "So you like France Mista Eeengleesh man?"
- "Yeah, loads.
- "Me, I am from France. Well also my family we are from The Gambia but I looove Eeengland."
- "Wow. Cool. I have a friend who‚Äôs been to The Gambia lots. I‚Äôve never been there. Are these the colours of the Gambian flag you‚Äôre using?"
- "No, iz Jamaica I tink. Oh is wonderful there, in the Gambia Mista Eeengleesh man. The Eeengleesh man, the white man he like to go there. Ha Ha. He love da black woman yes! Ha ha. You wanna go The Gambia Mista Eeengleesh man? You wann-a-I-fine yo some niiice women? You like the jiggy-jiggy? Ha ha.
Cripes man, just hurry up and twist this thing to a conclusion would ya! I‚Äôm sure international sexual-procurement is no more in the church‚Äôs remit than bangle-threading.
- "Um, I‚Äôll bear you in mind if I‚Äôm ever in The Gambia." (feeble attempt at fake bawdy, conspiratorial laughter).
- "Yes, Mista Eeengleeshman. You do that. You like it. Ha Ha. A little zigga-zig-ah yes? Ha Ha. OH NO, I not done yet Mista Eeengleeshman. Just hold yo finga."
- "There! is done now."
- "Right. Thanks" (I think) "So how much then?" (Mr ‚Äúiz free from da church‚ÄĚ)
- "Oh Mista Eeengleeshman, fo usual price it be 20 euros..." (?!!!) "...but fo you, as you so funny and nice Mista Eeengleeshman not 20 but only 10 euros!"
- "There‚Äôs 3 euros pal. Cheers."
- "3 Euros!!! Oh. Ha Ha. Mista Eeengleeshman, only 3. Funnyman. Oh ok, as we like the Eeengleeshman, is ok. Iz fo da church."
- "What‚Äôs your name?"
- "Goodbye Caramac."
‚ÄúPhew. Thank heavens that‚Äôs done!‚ÄĚ A shaking of hands and 3 euros lighter and I‚Äôm done. First sort-of scam over and I have both my first true traveller fashion accessory and my passport to avoid further harassment all the way to the top of the steps that mount towards the Sacre Coeur basilica in Montmatre.
In previous trips to Paris this one‚Äôs always passed me by, but it caught my eye firmly from the vantage point of the Eiffel Tower yesterday.
The basilica is an impressive structure sat on Montmatre, curiously an area of Paris more renowned over time for the bawdier, rather that the religious side of life. Dancing clubs, can-can girls, sexual liberality and Le Moulin Rouge etc. It is calm and unmoved by all this change though. Lining the inside of its substantial domed main cupola (dome) is a truly magnificent mosaic scene of Christ, his mother and many others.
Next I stroll around Montmatre for a bit. The world is just waking and again this feels a good time to be taking in the real morning life of this slightly tourist-trap part of the city. Most of the tourists are still in bed, and the tack-hawking shops are only just beginning to put out there infinite naff Toulouse Lautrec and Degas prints rather than trouble anyone for money. I then catch a metro to Ile de la Cite, the island that sits just behind Le Pont Neuf in the middle of the Seine and amongst other things provides the foundation for Notre Dame cathedral.
This huge, imposing gothic structure I think in some ways is seared into the imagination of many people, whether they‚Äôve stood in its shadow or not, being the venue for Victor Hugo‚Äôs 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and a backdrop in numberless pseudo-gothic movies over the years.
I then head off from Ile de la Cite and take the short walk down the Seine and here I am at last. The Louvre!
At 9 euros for a full day entry The Louvre must be one of a small host of unsurpassable, great and affordable cultural experiences in life. I would have paid this sum JUST for the privilege of walking around the sprawling, magnificent palace alone, before you even begin to consider the sheer mind-boggling volume of art, culture and history on display within its walls.
And it is in this vain that I happen upon one of the two great ladies of The Louvre. I‚Äôll be honest, I didn‚Äôt even know this famous dame had made it her home, but all of a sudden there she is in all her armless glory, The Venus de Milo! A breathtaking moment. Seen a million times in encyclopaedia representations and reproduced many times over in art projects even by myself whilst aping some of Salvador Dali‚Äôs renderings of her form and here she is right before my eyes! ‚ÄúCool!‚ÄĚ
The other famous female resident of The Louvre of course is De Vinci‚Äôs 'The Mona Lisa', arguably the most revered and renowned painting in the whole of human history and not unsurprisingly the biggest crowd-puller in the museum.
There are indeed many, many people thronging around her as she sits smiling almost mockingly at her huddled adorers as they strain to get closer to the alter of her image. She sits behind (presumably nuclear bomb proof) glass some 15 feet behind a cordon. Cameras are flashing with machine-gun flack rapidity, people are smiling, laughing, overwhelmed to have met the star actress in the De Vinci Code. And as the clich√© goes when meeting such mega-stars in 'real life' she‚Äôs an awful lot smaller in reality than you imagine, and this only adds to the slight pointlessness of her position (so far away) as there‚Äôs just no way to get close enough to her to admire the creative epoch-defining form, composition and brushwork upon which her reputation (I presume?) is founded.
For my part, following from The Venus de Milo, the highlight ( and aside from the magnificent sculpture gardens, and the massive relocated Assyrian bass-relief temple walls) is Theodore Gericault‚Äôs ‚ÄėLe Radeau de la Meduse‚Äô (The Raft of the Medusa) a grand and powerful painting depicting the torments of a ship-wrecked crew in their attempts to wrestle salvation or rescue or both from the oceanic jaws of despair. Great stuff!
Time to head on now, 83 euros (!!!) for an evening train from Paris to Gent in Belgium and a quick connection to Sint-Niklaas (Saint Nicholas) where my good friend and former housemate Mr Kazutaka Tsuchida presently works (too hard) and lives.
We greet each other at the station.