Last Boot-Scoot In Paris

Next morning we went up to Montmartre. That didn't work out so well; the place was swarming with tourists of the most obnoxious sort, and the almost equally obnoxious class of Parisian hustlers bent on separating them from their money. And the usually beautiful little Place Dalida was under major construction.

Still, we wandered around a bit and had a good picnic lunch in the little garden behind Sacré-Coeur before clambering back down the hill to the subway station.

One thing about riding the Metro: there's never a lack of entertainment. I don't think I've ever gone anywhere by subway in Paris without somebody getting on and putting on some kind of show. It's always Open Mike Night on the Metro.

Generally I'm not much on museums and art galleries, but we did pay a visit to the Musée d'Orsay. At the door they checked the contents of our backpacks, rather perfunctorily; the guard eyed the half-full bottle of wine in mine with true French interest, and obviously wanted to pull it out and read the label. I said, "Cotes du Rhône," and he raised an eyebrow and inclined his head approvingly and waved me through.

The ground floor was mostly taken up by what an Australian acquaintance once described as "a load of old toss" but the top floor made up for it: Cezanne, Monet, Pissaro, Gauguin, above all Van can get a pretty good idea what some of the great paintings are like, looking at pictures in books, but with Van Gogh there is no substitute for the real thing. Close up, the thick violent brush strokes radiate such pain and ecstasy that the effect is almost unbearable.

The museum itself is located in what used to be a railway station, complete with an enormous clock which is still working, and from behind which you can get a remarkable view of Paris - including (see above) the hideous excrescence of Sacré-Coeur, but even in Paris nothing's perfect.

Later we walked back along the river. Phyllis had become fascinated by the houseboats.

It looks like a lot of fun, living on a houseboat, but the reality has to involve a lot of very hard work. After all, you've got the combined maintenance problems of a house and a boat.

And all very public, too. A close examination of this photo will show the shadow of some damn fool tourist taking a damn fool picture.

We climbed down a flight of steps and walked along nearer the river's level. By now the sky had cleared and the day had grown warmer, and people were out enjoying the sunshine.

At last Notre Dame loomed up ahead, its ancient bulk only partly obscured by the inevitable scaffolding. (I have for some time argued that the design for the new Euro currency should include the images of a crane and a scaffold, with the legend CONTINENT UNDER CONSTRUCTION.)

Decision time. We had planned to spend another day in Paris; but, much as we were enjoying ourselves, we were getting the urge to move on. Preferably to somewhere warmer and sunnier. Paris may be lovely in the fall, but it is also entirely too damn cold and damp.

So that night we packed. First, though, we paid a visit to the local laundromat - such as it was. The French do a lot of things better than Americans do; they do a lot of things better than anybody else in the world, but when it comes to laundromats I'm afraid they have a long way to go. The laundromats we used in France were uniformly very clean and well-lit, their machinery very reliable; but much, much too small, their washers tiny and their driers slow as global warming. Still, this one was a pleasant little place, not bad for people-watching; and we were, after all, in no special hurry.

Next morning we headed south.