Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Cut-Rate Grand Tour: Day Eight

Tuesday, 13 December, 1988

HÔTEL GRANDS BOULEVARDS, 11:30 PM-- When I woke up at the Hôtel St. Antoine around 8:00 this morning and it was still almost totally dark in my room, with only a sickly glow filtering in from the dirty rippled plastic over the inner courtyard, I decided I definitely had to change hotels.

Spent a good part of the morning doing that. Looking for another hotel, I mean. And had one or two interesting experiences in the process.

At one place they were letting little rooms for 100F with little windows high in the wall, up under the roof. I was trying to decide if I could deal with that and asking questions about whether the front door is locked at night to see if that would tip my decision one way or the other, when suddenly the previously amicable patronne changed her countenance, began to go on about how it was all "trop complique" for her, and summarily showed me the door! I wondered what God thinks of such behavior. I know that if I behaved in such a fashion I wouldn’t expect His compliments . . .

Anyway, I ended up in the first place I’d inquired into, the Hôtel Grands Boulevards in the rue de Austerlitz on the other side of Place President Wilson from where I was last night.

Unfortunately, I have to change rooms again tomorrow. Where they're moving me I'll be paying 135F for a chambre avec douche. Very nice, that will be, but the room I have now, with only a sink and bidet, is quite sufficient and has a (nonoperating) fireplace besides. But it’s booked for tomorrow night, it seems . . .

This room is 90F a night, only 3F more than what I paid at the St. Antoine last night, and it has a large window, on the street. That other place was too quiet.

All that settled, I headed for la gare and got my couchette reservation for Friday night’s run to Paris taken care of.

Then I found there’s no bus to Conques so I checked into rental cars. Hertz has the best one-day deal. 490F. If I do that I go to Aurillac the same day. Depends on if I’m up to wrestling with French road signs.

Saw the basilica of St.-Sernin . . . too bad the sun didn’t stay out. But it was still a lot brighter inside than was Chartres. All a very pretty delicate pink. They laid the brick with a tinted mortar, then flattened the excess over the brick, then raked out a V-groove horizontally.

I hadn’t realized how much of the old polychromy is left. Most of that is in the transepts.

Visited the ambulatory and the crypt. They have quite a fine treasury. And it’s impressive to see the plaque commemorating the fact that Charlemagne helped the church obtain many of its apostolic relics.

The choir is pretty well Baroque. Woodwork, mainly. And it’s true-- the piers for the crossing tower do rather interrupt the flow of vision. But the tower is wonderful from the outside.

The west front is obstinately homely, especially compared with the liveliness of the east end chevet. The odd thing is why it’s so much higher than the nave itself. Were they planning on western towers?

Bought a copy of the book that Dr. Gendle† gave me to study from, and a number of postcards. I seem to have lost all but one of these, having held the bag upside down while consulting my map on the street. I noticed I was doing that, stuffed the one card back in, and figured the rest were all inside. Wrong!

At that point I was wandering around trying to find the laundromat. Finally did, and went and fetched the dirty clothes. Did the wash, so, but sitting in laundries in strange cities is, well, strange.

Blew 91F on dinner, around the corner from the hotel on the rue de Strasbourg. Oysters and other mussels on the half-shell for starters and then a compendium of salmon, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms in a sauce. Had a carafe of Sauvignon blanc which I didn’t finish.

I dined at one of a line of two-person tables, ranged close together along one wall with a long banquette on one side and chairs on the other. The man seated at the table next to me engaged me in conversation. He looked to be in his late 40's or early 50's and reminded me of the guy who played Manolito in High Chapparal. Seems he was born in northern Italy but moved to France at an early age and has been here ever since. Lives in Rodez but comes to Toulouse on business. A certain amount of chitchat ensued, allowing for my downhill French, but I did not take him up on his offer to go somewhere else for a drink (I’d had enough, anyway) or to a discotheque. There’s probably a difference between being company and being a pickup, but until I learn the dividing line I’d better avoid any semblance of either.

Gave the patron of the hotel a good laugh when I returned. Was thinking so intently about what had just happened at the restaurant that I didn’t process the fact that I had an open door and not a sidelight there in front of me. Kept trying to operate the inoperable leaf and wondering why the man, sitting in the lobby watching the tube, didn’t come and let me in . . .
†My Medieval architecture history tutor in Oxford

1 comment:

whiskers said...

Oh how charming! I just love dingy little hotels, (as long as it is just dinge and not dirt.)