Nerds in Paris – Part 2


Remember the part of this blog where I am a published author of a gripping story about coming of mystical age when you’re black, urban, and nerdy? Me neither. However, Broken Wave, the next Cryptid Coterie installment is on the horizon, and there have been a few odd incidents of life imitating small sections of Girl Out of Water. Subscribe for effortless updates, or mark next Friday in your calender. Whichever. But back to Paris.


Capital of a column from the audience hall of the palace of Darius I
Achaeminid Period, reign of Darius I, c. 510 BC
Tell of the Apadana, Susa, Iran

I have been a museum nerd since I was the smallest of children. I read the words Champs Elysee in a book as a little girl and talked about going there, full of charm because I pronounced it chAMps Ulysses. The precocious clueless cute was too much. On a field trip to the Chicago Art Institute, our docent called me Mythology Girl (she might have been annoyed by my interrupting her talk with fun trivia about Hero and Leander, among other things). I like big museums and I cannot lie. Once again, Paris is perfect.

The Louvre. I could just stop there. Depending on how much time one has to tour Paris, you could legitimately spend weeks just touring The Louvre. It’s that big. In fact, The Louvre is so large (I promise this won’t turn into a Yo Mama joke), that the only time I got lost in Paris in weeks of aimless foot wandering, was inside the museum. There are over 2 dozen thematic trips through the museum (works on Love, Food, etc.), but I did not attempt any such navigation because I am a Muggle and not a Witch. I planned to hit The Louvre on a Wednesday and a Thursday one week, and then the following Friday, because Wednesdays and Fridays, the museum is open late into the evening. On my first visit, I wanted to leave the Richelieu wing to go to the Sully wing. I had a printed map in English. I had a Nintendo DS audio guide programmed in English that showed me where I was, and I still could not figure out how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I adopted a new strategy. Because I was in effect trapped in Richelieu for the rest of my day, I opted to see everything in that wing on all three floors, instead of touring the museum floor by floor as I had intended. My next visit I did Sully, and then last I did Denon. I did the first two days back to back and then I spaced out the last day. Even for an art lover, after 9 hours of being obsessed with light, color, technique, and detail, it all blurs together. I realized this when I sauntered through a room of Rembrandts without really seeing them. It was time to turn in my headphones for the day. Also, if you’ve ever been selfie blocked in the club? NOTHING compared to trying to get a decent shot of a piece in a museum. Getting this shot of the gorgeous palace column took about 10 minutes. If it was something more popular like the Mona Lisa? Not happening. Just never.

If Paris only had The Louvre, that would ONLY be 1.7 million square feet of priceless artifacts and art work, some of which, is approximately 9000 years old. But there are so many museums in Paris, they have a pass, that you can buy that will let you into nearly all the museums in the city for the one price of the pass. I recommend this. Not because you can realistically tour over 60 museums and monuments in even 6 days, but because the pass lets you skip to the front of the line. No waiting. The money is well spent if you plan to go to the Louvre even once because the line outside that big glass pyramid is basically World War Z. You will feel like Beyonce when you skate past your fellow tourists in their endless queue. Until you get inside of course and you’re just like everyone else again.

The Louvre is in a class by itself, but my favorite museum was Musee d’ Orsay. The scale is meant for mortals, and the subject matter is largely sculpture, and late 19th and early 20th century decorative arts. Massive paintings are also there of course. I even discovered a painter I should have known, and totally geeked out on the ones I knew.

ImageFor my engineering and steampunk types, you can not miss Musee des Arts et Metiers. You won’t find many figurative portraits in this museum, but there are entire rooms devoted to 19th century gears and engines, the first computers (I had to restrain myself when I saw a Commodore 64 behind the glass, the nostalgia was overwhelming), and the most ornate tools you’ve ever seen. Writer me was obsessed with old printing presses, and a fountain pen set so extensive, it required half a cabinet of its own. Even the display cases themselves were fascinating in this museum as several were old-fashioned wood and glass, where the front panel expanded on a wheeled track. There’s also a small theatre for automatons, a room for the roots of industrialization and transportation in France, and a beautiful model of the Ariane rocket. It’s quiet, you can check your coat and bag, and wander back a bit in time. Highly recommended.


I could blog about Paris forever. Easily. It’s old, beautiful, and full of interesting people. Alas, it’s back to this business we call show and not tell. My two takeaways from Paris: 1. Why do I live in Seattle when Paris exists? 2. How can I be a better writer? How do I become the people who painstakingly swept a brush across a canvas until the pigments on their palette made the sun shine, and silk rustle, the woman who shamelessly showed off her skill with leaded crystal and bronze to create a dressing table far beyond anything ever accomplished in the medium, and the countless faceless bodies, that nudged and carved stone for decades to build exquisite and soaring monuments to their faith. THAT. Paris made me hungry for that.


You know you live in the PNW, when these remind you of Portland