While Audrey Hepburn famously says in her title role of Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea,” Robert DeNiro rebukes her and says, “I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, “There’s no place like New York. It’s the most exciting city in the world now. That’s the way it is. That’s it.”
In fact, I was thinking of Robert DeNiro this weekend. Up and down Mulberry Street, Little Italy was celebrating the Saint Gennaro festival. You know the scene in The Godfather, don’t you? The young Vito Corleone kills Don Fanucci and returns to his family to celebrate the feast of Saint Gennaro with the tiny Michael in his lap…it’s an iconic moment in cinema history and it happened in NYC.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of NYC is, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” Did he mean it? After all, the essence of Gatsby is illusion and falsity. Of Paris he wrote, “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.” So which is it, Scott? Can’t we have both? After all, Gertrude Stein said, “America is my country, but Paris is my hometown.”
Which do you prefer?
Paris vs. New York City
The Tuileries Garden and Luxembourg Gardens or Central Park
The Eiffel Tower or The Statue of Liberty
The River Seine or The Hudson River
The Opera House or Broadway
Rive Gauche or The East Village
Croissants or Bagels and Lox
Flan or Cheesecake
The Ritz or The Plaza and The Waldorf Astoria
Boat rides on the Seine or Carriage rides in Central Park
Tour First with 52 Floors or The Freedom Tower (1776 feet high)
The Louvre or The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tour de France or NYC Marathon
Avenue des Champs Elysees or Fifth Avenue
New Year’s Eve at Champs des Mars or New Year’s Eve in Times Square
Boulevard Montparnasse or 42nd Street
Marais or The Lower East Side
Rue Mouffetard or South Street Seaport
Le Bon Marche and Galleries LaFayette or Macy’s and Saks
Notre Dame or St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Paris St. Germain F.C. or The Yankees
Pont Neuf or The Brooklyn Bridge
Charles de Gaulle Airport or JFK
Crepe Stands or Hot dogs and knishes
Outdoor cafes or rooftop pubs
Jardin des Plantes zoo or The Central Park Zoo
I just deplaned from many miles,
In search of Mona Lisa’s smile,
I do not want to wait all day,
Just see the gal and be on my way.
-Yep. I wrote it myself.
It’s true. The Louvre has some spectacular pieces of art. It’s a bit overwhelming. I read somewhere that if you look at each piece for a total of one minute it would take you like thirty seven years to see everything. Uh, I’m as cultured as the next buffoon, but I really just want to see The Big Three; Venus di Milo, Winged Victory and oh by the way, DaVinci’s gal, The Mona Lisa. Does that make me less of an urbanite? No, but I only have said amount of time here and in an effort to say, “check” I have to make the best use of my time. Besides, you’ll see literally thousands of pieces of art as you look for these. If you follow my directions, you’ll almost feel sorry for the poor slobs standing for miles when you view them from the window inside. Almost. I just felt gleefully condescending looking down on the peons who didn’t know any better. (Don’t judge me, you’ll feel the same way.)
The Louvre is totally, completing and thoroughly intimidating. (Are you waiting to for me to say, in a good way, ’cause honey, it ain’t happening.) I want to make this as painless as possible. It’s hard to ask for help because everyone speaks French and if you decide to dress up and look Parisian it will backfire because guess what, they will answer you in French. There’s something to be said for dressing like a hapless tourist to get the locals to speak English to you. You can understand them perfectly through the disdain.
OK. So the Portes des Liones. The Louvre is like a giant U shaped castle. Walking along the side of the Seine, continue past the main doors and the arches and the statues. Ignore your complaining husband, yes, you know what you’re doing. Even though NO ONE is standing there, go in the doorway between the giant green lions. Head to the right and prepare to be scolded by a French woman. She’s not telling you to get out, she’s telling you that your bag must go through the X-ray machine. Act perfectly cool as you present your museum pass. Go up the stairs to the first floor. (You were just on the ground floor.) The Mona Lisa is on the First Floor, Denon Wing, Room 6. You can’t miss her because they have signs like this everywhere. Even if somehow you don’t see the signs, follow the noise. Head straight down the hall and on the left side of the gallery you’ll see the paparazzi. There’s really no better way to describe it.
Shrouded behind a wall of glass she grants photographs, but no interviews. Prepare to have your breath taken from you. You’ve seen her so many times before, on television and in books and movies, but there’s no preparation for when you meet her in person. Bring a tissue.