Our Magical History Tour starts ideally, here;
the Museum of the Middle Ages is about two blocks away from the hotel, and
to me, a keen although ignorant mediævalista,
it's just marvellous. CS does his usual tricks in capturing various images
— this time, digitally — although not as well as he would like;
but the light levels are very low here, and he isn't allowed to use flash (not
that he ever does) . He records some of the glorious tapestries that explain
how it is we know so much about what mediæval times were like, for instance,
even though they're in virtual darkness !
Memory: falling in instant love with a wooden statue, from
the 10th century !, of an unknown woman; she leans forward, hands held up in
mute appeal - or perhaps, more 'suitably', in humility .
The Museum's other interesting aspect is that
it used to be Roman baths; and there are lots more underground bits of them
— the baths, I mean — that just keep on going, stretching away under the
Parisian pavements. One hears there are so many Roman elements left in France
that the Government doesn't even try to keep up with them, any more; they can't
afford to enshrine them all !
A nice lunch, that's far too expensive, in a
salon du thé, on one day;
an equally nice but totally different kind on another, where we watch, fascinated,
as Parisians chomp their way through multiple-course lunches, without turning
a hair ! — and put away a good deal of wine, of course. (Well,
we have our own ideas on the latter — cf our time in Grignan.)
But as for the consumption of food ... we are as mystified as anyone else on
the matter of 'the French puzzle'; they eat a lot, most of which is very rich,
and yet they have less heart disease and less obesity than most European peoples
In relation to this, a thing that several times
during our trip causes me annoyance is when waiters ask something like "But
surely you are going to have an entrée ?!", when I have very clearly
and precisely (I think !) ordered a solitary course; it seems hard for serving
people to comprehend that diners can consume in so niggardly a fashion !
Memory: Sunday lunch in an Italian ristorante close to the
Moyen Age, with the sun shining on the trees and a pleasant chianti to accompany
really nice pizzas — one of those not terribly meaningful moments that you
know you will remember always .
France has taken to what they call pizzas in a bad way; all over the countryside
there are places claiming that's what they're serving . but they're using electric
pizza ovens, and garlic (usually tons of it) in the tomato base, and strange
toppings. We think this is because the purchase of a small pizza oven is no
huge outlay and it can be installed without the slightest fuss - and the thing
certainly doesn't occupy much room . so too many see this as a business into
which to get ! Hélas ! Don't forget: if you're in France and you feel
like a pizza, check out those aspects before you order.
One of CS' favourite spots proves to be the
de Laffemas, haunt of one of Richelieu's many 'creatures', as
the signpost describes him. And this signposting represents itself
one of two of the excellent ways in which Paris is handling the
needs of today;
unobtrusive - even attractive ! - shield-shaped
information placards that let tourists know something of their
immediate surrounds; and
green, semi-transparent garbage bags
that swing free from top clasps in very spare mountings and
are all over the place; their contents can be made out sufficiently
well to allay any fears of bombs, but not so clearly as to
cause the gorge to rise, and they are very easy to remove and replace.
Paris has thus found a way to solve its garbage
problems in these times of security fears without simply removing the garbage-bins —
Sydney's "inspired" solution (not). Why
in heaven's name cannot at least one of our many globe-trotting Australian
politicians actually look about and see this kind of thing, and learn from
Memory: discovering the absolutely gorgeous array of gemstone
jewellery to be found in a little shop called Aventurine, in rue Dante. I should
like to be their Australian agent .