Lost in Paris
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
I decided to stay in Paris for just two nights. So far, I’ve spent all my time in big cities, and I want to go somewhere smaller and more restful. I got a lot done during my one whole day, but it was tiring and a bit stressful, and I’m glad to be off.
I had three things to do: buy a ticket to Avignon, book a hotel room there, and see the antiquities in the Louvre. Not a hectic agenda, but nearly more than I could manage.
Buying the ticket was easy. I had checked out the Gare de Lyon the night I arrived, and I knew I could get there. But after leaving, I got lost almost immediately. And I discovered that despite years of high-school geography, I am completely unable to use a map to get from one place to another. I can’t remember place names and directions, and I need to turn the map around so that it corresponds to the layout of the streets. Except that that doesn’t really help.
After an hour of standing on street corners, frantically rotating an obvious tourist map and swearing in English, I came across a metro station and decided to use that. The metro system map was fixed to the wall, which made rotating it more or less impossible, so I decided not to tempt fate, and went to the station nearest the Louvre on the line I was on anyway.
There followed another hour of hunting for wi-fi enabled cafes, booking hotel rooms, rotating the map, swearing, tearing up the map, and being offered directions in French by a helpful old man. However, I can’t understand directions either, even in English, and I was too busy wondering if the old man would want money to really pay attention.
But I did find the Louvre, mostly by following the well-signposted Avenue de Louvre, with its Café de Louvre and Tabac de Louvre and so on. It ended up being the huge-ass palace thing at the end of the street. And although the Greek and Roman ceramics were closed (damn!) I spent a happy few hours wandering around, mostly looking at Classical Roman sculptures, finishing with a quick run around to catch the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s prisoners and the Venus de Milo. The Louvre map was smaller and much easier to rotate.
After that, I did the obligatory tourist spots, most of which I had visited last time. There are photos, as usual. Then dinner in Saint-Denis, as David suggested, and then back to the hotel. And I only got lost on the metro once.