Rodin sculpture garden
Hotel des Invalides
Montmarte - Moulin Rouge

Tuesday - March 5, 2002
Tuesday morning, I checked out of the quaint hotel I had been staying at near the Eiffel Tower and moved to the Hotel Concorde La Fayette, a business hotel adjacent to the conference center I would be working at. That morning, I shopped in the Rue Cler market, a street market where locals do their daily shopping. There is a shop for everything - bread, cheese, meats, chocolate, wine, produce, pastries, flowers, and even olive oil. And of course plenty of cafes to sit and watch the shoppers go by. I walked along assembling a picnic lunch - a fresh-baked baguette, a few stinky cheeses, smoked turkey, cherry tomatoes on the vine, a juicy pear and a bag of handmade chocolate cordials. I ate my picnic to the Rodin sculpture garden, among the bronze masterpieces. Every few minutes I could feel the rumble of the Metro train passing beneath the ground.

The nice day began to turn overcast and windy, so I finished my lunch and walked to the Hotel des Invalides. Built in 1671 to house homeless war veterans, the palace-like house is now home to one of the world's largest military museums and the tomb of Napoleon. He rests in a 15-foot-high tomb, with six coffins until you finally reach the one that holds the emperor. More impressive was the World War II wing of the museum, which detailed the French occupation and resistance.

I took the Metro to the Abbesses stop. Not only did it have a turn-of-the-century art nouveau entrances, but it also had brilliant murals painted along it's long staircase. In other Metro stations, there were different themes, like a pictorial timeline of the 20th century, or political cartoons projected on the walls. But most stations just had large advertising posters. Among the ads promoting shopping centers and symphonies was this ad for a cable station which featured a topless woman. It was one of those cultural differences. The commuting Parisians took no notice of a 12-foot-high naked woman in a public place, but I suspect it would get quite a reaction in America.

I had been told Montmarte was magical at night, but I found it a little bit sketchy, very dead and quiet. It was the only time I didn't feel completely at ease in Paris. Even the Place du Tertre, the bohemian tourist trap, was almost empty. I was hoping to see the Moulin de al Galette, the windmill and outdoor dance hall portrayed in Renoir's painting. But it was not illuminated at night, so I didn't get a good look at it. I walked along Pigalle, the seedy red-light district, before taking a few pictures of the Moulin Rouge and heading back. I had heard that the Montmarte neighborhood was the most charming part of Paris and that it was an overrated tourist trap. I tend to agree with the latter. It was my only disappointment in Paris. next>>

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