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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 Musée du 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 Hôtel 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;

  • the unobtrusive - even attractive ! - shield-shaped information placards that let tourists know something of their immediate surrounds; and
  • the 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 it ?!

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 .

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Musée du Moyen Age
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