Travelling in the 90s: Parisian culture

It’s back to 1994 Paris for the latest installment of Travelling in the 90s. Here we have more of my ramblings from 21 years ago, with bad photos and far too many exclamation marks (most of which I have edited out)…


Latin Quarter, Paris

Latin Quarter, Paris

[Monday 7 February, 1994]

A few more impressions of Paris:

  • A great many of the women wear fur coats during the day. Whether this is for warmth or fashion, I’m not sure, but it’s quite amusing.
  • The Latin Quarter, where our hostel is situated, is a student area, and also appears to be the place to find a good meal. There are restaurants everywhere — cafes, creperies, Greek taverna — and they’re all outside our doorstep. So far we’ve had souvlaki and crepes — yum! I had a nutella and banana crepe — delicieux — with nutella inches thick. The street (very narrow, cars at a squeeze) is always teeming with people, and basically it’s a pretty happening place. Food is fairly cheap (for Paris).
  • Paris is very expensive, and we’re still trying to decide whether it’s because of the lousy exchange rate, or whether Parisians just put up with it. It’s ridiculous! For instance, a cup of coffee with milk is cheap at 6 FF (>$1.50) but may end up as much as 18FF. How do the locals afford it? We’ve come to regard Aus$10 as a cheap lunch.
  • All in all, though, I love Paris and could easily spend another week here.
Travel scrapbook

Travel scrapbook

Yesterday we went to the Musee d’Orsay, which happened to be free, being Sunday. There we saw art works from impressionist to “not-modern” eras.

The museum has been converted from an old railway station and still possesses high arch ceilings. We saw paintings etc by Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Manet, Delacroix, Ingres, Renoir, Cezanne, Pissaro, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin — to name a few!

After the museum, we went looking for something else to do. One of our room-mates at the hostel had said she enjoyed Montmartre, and since this proved to be the Bohemian haunt, we both decided it sounded good.

Sacre Coeur dominates the “butte Montmartre” (or hill). It’s white on the outside with graceful domes, while the inside is much like any other cathedral — except for the mosaics, which were particularly beautiful. (I have recently discovered that I like mosaics — they are so intricate.) The basilica was also ablaze with candles and teeming with the most people I have seen together since the Melbourne Show.

The journal itself

Scribblings

The steps outside Sacre Coeur, which go down the hill, were covered in people — out for their Sunday stroll or tourists like us? It was really quite amazing. The view of Paris from the top of the hill was spectacular.

Nestled around Sacre Coeur on the top of the hill (and extending down the sides in Greek fashion) were the cobbled streets and houses of Montmartre. We wandered around these for a while, and came upon a square of portrait artists. The atmosphere was terrific, just as I expected Paris to be.

After Montmartre, we decided to check out Notre Dame. This too was teeming with people. It is very strange to go into a silent church that is nevertheless so crowded one has to squeeze past people! Unfortunately both the tower and the treasuries were closed, so instead we went around to the front to photograph it from the garden. In all, we packed a lot into a great day.

Today we went to the renowned Paris Opera House — home of the phantom. We glimpsed inside the auditorium for a few moments before a rehearsal of some kind took over. It had boxes all around, with seats in the stalls only. We then wandered through the main foyer and lobby etc and saw an exhibition of costumes. The decorations within the building are quite amazing — mosaics on the ceilings, “gold” carvings, marble floors, statues. It was incredibly ornate, but always tasteful. Lovely indeed.

Statue of a centaur, Louvre Museum, Paris

Statue of a centaur, Louvre, Paris

We next ate bread and camembert and patisserie for lunch outside the Louvre, while waiting for 3pm in order to get reduced priced tickets. Then we had three hours to do as much of the museum as we could.

I couldn’t begin to describe everything we saw, but it included Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Etruscan artifacts (including Venus de Milo, which we think should be called Aphrodite de Milos!), as well as numerous paintings (yes, we managed to see the Mona Lisa of course). Much of the sculpture was beautiful too.

We were exhausted about two thirds of the way around. There is far too much to see in one visit. Nevertheless, I felt a bit more cultured by the end of it.


I think my favourite bit of that installment is the comment on coffee prices… I remember being outraged at the thought of coffee costing $4.50. (HAHAHA)

Next stop will be Avignon!

4 comments

  1. Ellen, fascinating journey. I’m doing research for a screenplay, and I’m trying to find out if you could use credit cards as well as Travelers Checks in Europe during the 90’s, traveling from the United States… Like an American Express Card. Did the hotels and casinos, except credit cards in 1995?

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    1. Hi – I’m really sorry to say I don’t know! We were using travellers cheques only (common back then) and I don’t think I even owned a credit card at that stage in my life. We were also using very cheap accommodation and hostels, so I don’t know whether the larger hotels accepted credit cards. (We didn’t go to any casinos.) Sorry I can’t be of any greater assistance.

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