So there you are. In the middle of Paris.
Japanese restaurants to the left of you, firemen to the right, and here I am, stuck in a side street wondering why their training shorts are so very small. And why do they not have curtains or something to stop passersby looking in? Are Parisian fire-stations the Red Light District of France? Are you meant to look? They do this every day, is it an event? I have so many questions, and zero answers! Cue Sanity dropping by and saying, “they’re professionals, professionally training their rope climbing skills, in their professional trunks – remember that“.
The thing about Paris is that it’s like a large Edinburgh: doesn’t matter where you go or what you’re doing, you fall over history with every step. Whether it’s Notre Dame (above) and it’s incredible automated Nativity scene indoors, or the Musée de l’Armée and Napoleon’s gilded tomb (below), everything is within walking distance of each other, leaving no excuse not to see as much as you can – provided you like walking. Otherwise there are Vélib’ bikes across the city, buses and, of course, the Metro. With most cities I’d never advocate a car, however, electric cars known as Autolib’ are available to rent.
Napoleon’s tomb was probably one of the odder visits I’ve made. If you sign up for a tour, some will provide you with a cardboard Bicorne to rival Burger King’s crown – which is great and all, but there’s something twisted about wearing one while visiting Napoleon III’s tomb, no? (middle picture above). Then again, if this place doesn’t scream inflated ego, I don’t know what else would. Naturally, Napoleon III has the largest tomb, in the grand hall, dug into the floor, with a walkway around it so as to observe the ego in all its shiny grandeur. With marble-carved angels watching over it. And marble-carved walls, describing the homage to Caesar-influence over French policy-making under Napoleon III.
The detail in the carvings are eerie. The lone picture of the woman on her knees above, if I didn’t know any better, had an air of an actor in make-up, and at any moment she would open her eyes. As for the angels, the attention to their fingers, how they stand on one hip, even their skin made me want to touch them. They would be cold, obviously, but the impulse alone was unsettling.
[Next up, ‘Paris by Night’!]