Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

What I Did On My Hols: Conclusion.

Our first day in France we toured Paris in the coach, then some of the party went boating on the Seine and others of us strolled round the Champs de Mars waiting for them to get back. I wasn't expecting to be thrilled by the Eiffel Tower- it's  too familiar- but when you see it in the movies you don't get a proper idea of just how enormous it is. Or how beautiful- with its inward-curving flanks and lacework of girders. When it first went up the public hated it. Guy de Maupassant used to dine regularly at the Tower restaurant because- he remarked- it was the only place in Paris where you didn't have to look at the bloody thing. 

And now it's an icon- one of the few buildings anywhere that almost anyone can be expected to name. There's the pyramids, there's the Taj Mahal, there's the Eiffel Tower and... that's about it really. 

We didn't climb it. Here- as at all the Paris landmarks, including the art galleries- the queues were tremendous. I don't understand why this is.  You don't have to queue for Westminster Abbey or St Paul's or the National Gallery or Tate Modern. A couple from our party queued two hours for the Quai d'Orsay. Does Paris really get so many more tourists than London?

In the afternoon we were at Fontainbleau. I hated Versailles, but Fontainebleau is charged with the energy of the Renaissance and I love it.  Leonardo woz here. Yes really. And several of his masterpieces, including the Mona Lisa, used to hang on the walls. I think they should be returned.  Where Louis XIV employed flunkeys to decorate Versailles, Francois I was intellectually adventurous and went for cutting edge Italian talent- men like Rosso Fiorentino, Niccolo Dell'Abbate and Primaticcio. The art-historical word for these guys is "mannerist", but that's wrong.  Minding their manners is the last thing they do. They're modern artists- rude boys- who stretch and twist and generally muck about with appearances like no-one else dared do until the close of the 19th century.  They make me think of De Chirico, Dali- even Picasso.  Versailles is about le gloire. It's static, oppressive, going nowhere.  At Fontainebleau the art works seethe and scramble across the walls and ceilings as if they wanted to burst them apart.

We ate in town. It was the best meal of the holiday. I had a thing called a coupe colonel which is lime sorbet with a shot of vodka poured over it. 

There's a carousel in the town square. The French seem to like carousels.
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