Not the Da Vinci Code tour – part 1

Posted by jerry on June 26th, 2006 — Posted in Journal, Travel

It began one summer evening, when celebrated semiotician, Jerry, was giving a presentation at a conference in Paris – he even had his Moleskine notebook (standard issue for all celebrated semioticians). That evening the phone went (they’ll pinch anything around here) but actually on further analysis it was only the phone signal. Must buy another recharge card, he thought. He was startled from his reverie by the phone – this time it was ringing with that insistent frog tone that marked his phone from all the other corny ring tones. It was Sharon – something about the Louvre. Jerry headed straight over there, admiring the art nouveau Metro signs at the station.

metro sign

At the Louvre it didn’t quite add up – who put that ugly glass pyramid in front of this nice building? It was Jerry’s first brush with Modernism. Must have been the Chinese-born American artist Ieoh Ming Pei. He turned, like he had a sour taste in his mouth. Another mystery. There across the river – how did they manage to turn a railway station into the Musee d’Orsay? He headed over to investigate.

Musee d'Orsay

Now that was refreshing. His eyes glistened like Monet’s water lillies and he came away with the heady feeling like the world was flowing out of perspective, like Van Gogh’s bedroom – the air conditioning wasn’t working and he decided he was in need of Evian water.

Louvre museum from the rear

Later, in the parking lot behind the Louvre there was a sign – two signs, connected by some emergency tape. Some random youths were circling on in-line skates. Suddenly one broke free and raced for the tape (this could get ugly) and at the last moment he sprang up over the tape and landed skillfully on his skates. Another, this time on a push bike pedalled furiously while riding on the back wheel – then he lunged forward and coasted for several metres – on the front wheel. The semiotician analysed – what did this mean? And then he had it. “must be French” he muttered – they’re the only ones that skillful. Perhaps they were Templars. No, he decided, they were clearly Hospitallers. It was time to go to the Church of Saint Sulpice.

Church of Saint Sulpice, Paris

He found it further up behind the Louvre, on the road towards MontMartre. Not bad as churches go, he thought, but what caught his eye was the antiques market in front of the church – forget the gnomon – and he went to investigate. His gaze was attracted by some white porcelain – perhaps this was an Arzberg teapot? He was, after all, on a quest – and quests give meaning to one’s shopping. Sorely tempted by the antique model steam engine he tried to do a quick calculation of what one hundred and eighty euros was worth in Aussie dollars. He carefully replaced the steam engine – it would keep another day. He admired the traditional market games laid out in front of the church, and smiled.

Saint Sulpice market, Paris

It wasn’t too far to discover Paris’ true holy relic – Cugnot’s steam carriage, tucked away in the Musee des Arts et Metiers just past the national archive.

Having seen Leonardo’s Mona Lisa some ten years ago, along with the Virgin on the Rocks  (sounds like a Richard Branson cocktail drink) he decided it was time to compare the latter with Leonardo’s later version, which hangs in London’s National Gallery. Paris is a place to look up – above the shops are delightful balconies bursting with window boxes of colour. Parisiennes love their flower boxes. And if you don’t see the window boxes, there are always the wonderful baroque architectural details that add visual texture to the streetscape.
To be continued…


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