7th – 10th February 2020: Paris (France) for DIR EN GREY & BABYMETAL

7th February 2020: Through the Strikes

I had an (amazingly convenient) flight that left at 9am on Friday (and that had cost me 35€), but it turned out to be weird. When we boarded, it turned out that it was a big plane, an intercontinental plane. Which meant it was huge, and more importantly, it had on-board entertainment. Thus, as we waited for the go-ahead, I set up to watch an action film. Then, the pilot told us that we were going to have to wait something between one and two hours to be able to take off due to the strikes. But hey, at least we were flying and I had an action film to watch (the newest X Men, Phoenix one. I did not become a fan).

We took off at 10am and our big plane made the jump in just one hour, as opposed to the 2h10 minutes of estimated travel, which meant we were almost on time! Of course this did not sit well with the strikers, who had us wait first for the parking spot, and then for the stairs. Finally, I made it to the train and was downtown Paris at about 13:00. I came out at the Notre Dame stop to inspect the damage caused to the Notre Dame Cathedral by the 2019 fire. My first impression, looking at the tower, was optimistic, but as I walked round the cathedral, I could see the real damage and reconstruction efforts. Furthermore, it still reeked of burnt wood, probably because they are still pulling out debris.

Collge of Notre Dame showing the cranes and scaffoldings in the repairs

As it was sunny, I decided to go to the Sainte-Chapelle and see its windows in good weather. The Sainte-Chapelle is a small two-level chapel inside an administrative building in the Isle de la Cité smack in the middle of Paris and not far from Notre Dame. The chapel has a lower early Gothic level, and an upper level with impressive stained-glass windows that I love. As the sun was shining, I got really lovely views and pictures. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Collage. Sainte Chapelle: outside showing the spire, inside with some colourful windows and pointed arches

Collage of the upper floor of the Sainte Chapelle. It shows different angles of the long gothic windows, covered in colourful glass

The weather was great, and the forecast for the following day was bad, so I decided to just walk along from the Isle de la Cité towards the Arc de triomphe (some 5 km away). On my way I walked by the Louvre, Les Tulleries, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Alexander III Bridge, and into the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Collage with different landmarks of Paris - the river, neoclassic palaces, Luxor obelisk, Champs Elysees...

Finally I got to the Arc de triomphe, where I took a train to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur area, where my hotel was. After dropping my stuff, I walked up the hill to have a look at the basilica and I caught a glimpse of the sunset with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

A view of the Sacre Cour with a classical carousel in front of it

A profile of the Eiffel Tower in a blurry sunset in orange tones

As my last adventure for the day I went to see the Moulin Rouge from the outside (because inside was too expensive to even consider) – and I listened to KAMIJO’s ムーランルージュ.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret, all lit up in bright red for the night

8th February 2020: Louvre and DIRU

The forecast was accurate and on Saturday weather went down the drain. I decided to go to the Louvre Museum, even if I had been there before. I got predictably lost and I’ not even sure how. In the end, I managed to see everything that I wanted, which began and finished with the Victory of Samothrace, my favourite piece of art ever.

I have a love-hate relationship with Louvre, mostly based on my utter lack of sense of directions and the way the palace-museum is organised, with the exhibits in different wards and floors. In the Classical Greece sector, however, I overheard something strange. I was looking at the Sleeping Hermaphroditus, and I overheard a random guy explaining to a little kid that Hermaphroditus was designed to represent the “most important sacrament of them all, marriage between a man and a woman”. I had a very WTF moment and I was too shocked to address the guy because, seriously? I’m all for Christian art representing Christian beliefs. However, pushing those onto a culture that a) had completely different values, b) was 100% all right with homosexuality, and c) whose goddess of marriage (Hera) was consistently cheated on? I mean, yes, there was a connection between Hermaphroditus and marriage in how they became intersex, but let’s face it here – the Greek mythology had too many erotic undertones to be able to push the Christian values onto it.

As you can see, I am pretty much biased…

A collage with several Louvre pieces of art - Winged Victory, sitting scribe, the three graces, Diane wasing her hair, Hermaprhodite sleeping, Psyche and Eros kissing, Liberty guding the people, Venus de Milo

I spent three to four hours in the Louvre and then went back to the hotel to get ready for the DIR EN GREY concert and VIP experience in Élysée Montmartre, which could have been a better experience if my head had not been hurting and the weather had been nicer – I could have totally skipped the downpour while waiting. Oh, and if the stupid chick from behind me had known how to behave. But hey, it was a great excuse for a much-needed mental break. DIR EN GREY or “Diru” is a Japanese heavy metal band formed characterisede for its dark themes and scenography that I thought I needed to check at least once. I don’t think I’ll need to repeat the experience, though I don’t regret attending.

A dark stage with a drumset. Letters projected on the screen behind the stage read Dir en Grey Tour 20 This Way to Self-Destruction

After the concert I headed off to the hotel to catch some sleep (I had booked a very close hotel because I remembered the area being rather… unfriendly from the 2015 trip).

9th February 2020: Destroy the Bastille!

Sunday morning felt like 2ºC and it was windy. I lingered in bed for a while and then headed out to see the Bastille monument and its remains. Like, the four rocks remaining. I searched for KAMIJO’s Bastille on the mp3 and hoped that the device lasted another season.

Monument to the French Revolution

A few brick stones forming a circle, considered the last remains of the Bastille

Then, as it was cold, I headed off to the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée (Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy Gallery) which was a short walk away. I’m still trying to decide whether it was amazing, or the materials nightmares are made of.

The first floor holds a “Cavalcade of Skeletons”, along with dissected specimens and a “gallery of monsters”. The museum was founded in the 19th century, and it keeps the atmosphere – and the charm – of the old exhibitions. There are stands and wooden cases, and the smell of dust and old paper. It was enchanting, but at the same time deeply disturbing.

The second floor hosts the dinosaurs and other fossils, including a very cool mosasaurs. Most of the fossils are either moulds or reconstructions – I swear I’ve seen that Irish elk at least three times before. Also, the T-Rex skull was adorably flawed.

The third floor is… ammonite-land.

Shots of the museum. Skeletons of animals - fish, oxen, crocodiles, elephants, whale. Fossils: Dinosaurs, fish, toothed whale, shark teeth, snails

After I was done with the museum I decided to head off to yet another one, the Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet (The National Museum of Eastern Arts or Museum Guimet), which holds pieces of art from Cambodia, India, China, Japan, Korea and so on. Behold my favourite Shiva (which is not as cool as the British Museum sexy bodhisattva, but still).

Different pieces in the museum: Dancing Shiva, sitting Buddha, Caligraphy in the shape of a dragon, ellaborate kimono, samurai armour, Indian goddess

After checking out the four floors, I left the museum and walked towards Trocadero to take the underground. I snapped a few pictures of the Eiffel Tower and saw a bunch of peddlers swinging people away from their money (up to 400 quid. Live and learn (O_O)!)

The Eiffel Tower in front of a cloudy sky

Finally, I decided it was too cold to continue walking around and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the BABYMETAL concert. Truth be told, had I known they would be adding Madrid to their tour, I would not have bought that ticket but as things went, I found that they were going to be in the same venue as DIR EN GREY just a day later, so it made sense to try to stay. It worked out. BABYMETAL is one of those insanely-profitable Japanese marketing stunts involving cute girls that had never really been in my radar until I found a cheap ticket to see them. The crew was quite different from DIRU’s, including good ol’ metalheads and families with little girls. It was entertainingenough, and it seemed very lucky timing.

A group of girls dressed in black dancing in front of a logo that reads Babymetal

The concert was short, so I was back at the hotel before 10pm. Thus I got a good night’s sleep before I left.

10th February 2020: No bells of Notre Dame

My plane boarded at 10am so I had to leave early for the airport. The weather was rainy again, so I took the underground to Gare du Nord and then to the airport, where the staff was super nasty. In the end, I made it to my plane, where I settled down to watch Jurassic World on the way back. As I was riding the train, I had a nice view of the Paris as it was dawning, but the bells of Notre Dame were not tolling, and my inner child was sad about that.

I only had three days, but this trip was a very welcome getaway, and even if the weather did not help, I got to do a lot of stuff. I had to scratch out a few plans due to the weather (and the stupid headache, I think I might have put in the left contact wrong again), but there’ll always be April… Because yes, I’m coming back to Paris for the Saint Seiya Symphonic adventure and that’s going to be epic. And heartbreaking because I found out too late to get VIP tickets (≧▽≦).

3rd – 5th July 2015: Japan Expo in Paris (France)

I went back to France rather unexpectedly because VAMPS announced an appearance at Japan Expo, a Japanese Culture convention held in Parc des Expositions de Paris-Nord Villepinte. I flew in on Friday and as I had time, I decided to go to the Louvre museum. I discovered the automatic ticket selling machine, so my queue was unexpectedly short once I was out of the security waiting area. I geeked out to my heart’s content and I reflected on how I had got used to geeking out alone and how comfortable I felt compared to my first time alone in a museum, back in the Dark Ages when I was 14.

Different exhibits of the Louvre: bronze sculptures, Egyptian sarcophagi, sitting scribe, Babylonian bulls, a marble, bathtub, Venus de Milo, Eros and Psyche, Victory of Samothrace

The following day I met up with some friends at the Japan Expo for the VAMPS concert act that had been organised. Japan Expo is one of the biggest European conventions about manga, anime, Japanese culture and everything in between, including concerts, food stalls, merchandising, and so on. The concert in itself was all right – one of the shortest ones I’ve attended, but in the end it was “just” an act in something bigger. I wish they had talked about the Sunday autograph possibilities earlier, though, because I could not attend due to my flight being in the morning.

Vamps promo claiming they were the guests of honour

24th – 26th May 2014: Paris (France) for Yoshiki Classical

24th May 2014: Evening in Montmartre

I was going to atted Yoshiki Classical concert in Paris on Sunday, so I made planes with a a friend to meet up with her over the weekedn so we could do some stuff together. We booked a hotel close to the venue, Le Triannon. I arrived in Paris in the evening of Friday the 24th and met my friend direcly at the hotel – the first thing we noticed was that the area was not the safest, but we could still get to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur to see it lit.

Sacre Coeur, a basilica on top of a mountain, lit in gentle green light at night

And also to see a nice view of the Eiffel Tower all lit up.

A shot of the Eiffel Tower from afar, lit reddish orange

25th May 2014: Under ground, above ground

On Saturday morning we went to Catacombes de Paris, the Catacombs of Paris. The ancient quarries and mines of Paris became the final resting place of more than six million people. In the late 18th century it was decided to eliminate a good portion of the quickly-overcrowding cemeteries and graveyads of Paris and for a 1786 the bones were carried to the catacombs at night. Today they are consisdered a museum and thus managed as such.

Creepy catacombs of Paris, with thousands of human skulls and other remains

After the catacombs we moved onto the Ille de la Cité, the “island of the city”, an island in the middle of the Seine, to visit Notre-Dame de Paris, our Lady of Paris, a magnificent Gothic cathedral built in between 1160 and 1260. In the 19th century an extensive renovation was carried out, and a few features were added, such as a the gargoyles and a replacement spire for the original one. We climbed the towers and were treated to a really cool Paris view before going inside.

Collage of Notre Dame; the main façade, the gargoyles, the inside of the main navev, and a view of Paris from the top

Leaving Notre Dame, we headed our the Île de la Cité and passed by Saint Germain l’Auzeroix, which mostly dates from the 15th Century and used to be the church for the Louvre inhabitants.

A restored gothic church with an octogonal tower

At the Louvre, by the way, there was a humongous queue, so as both of us had seen it before, we decided to skip going inside.

The Louvre palace from the outside

We passed by the Luxor Obelisk, an Egyptian monument which is over 3000 years old, located in the Place de la Concorde. I’ve always found that name very ironic considering that many people were guillotined there. But hey, the obelisk is cool and all.

A black Egyptian obelisk with golden decoration

We continued walking up the Champs-Élysées until we got to the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (the “Triumphal Arch of the Star”. Okay Paris. Okay.), which is one of the biggest triumphal arcs in the world. It was completed in 1840 and it honours the casualties in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Commemorative gateway or triumphal arch in white stone

From there we took the underground back to the area of the Sacré-Cœur, which we could see at the end of the streets.

Sacre Coeur peering at the end of a street

And to finish the day, we had some Japanese food because why wouldn’t we?

25th May 2014: Bad weather, queue & Yoshiki

On Sunday, we started off back in the Île de la Cité and we walked around Notre Dame on our way as my friend wanted a walk along the Seine.

The back gardens of Notre Dame

We took the underground towards Les Invalides (Hôtel national des Invalides or The National Residence of the Invalids), a complex of buildings erected between the 17th and 18th centuries and that hosts the military museum and some notable graves, among them Napoleon’s.

Les invalides, a neoclassical palace with a golden dome

Afterwards we took the underground to Champ de Mars, the long park where the Eiffel Tower stands. The Tower was built as an entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair exhibition and it was controversial at first (and rather ugly if you ask me, but hey to each their own). Eventually, it became so famous that it was not taken down as originally planned, and to-date it is one of the most visited landmarks of the world.

Eiffel tower in the clouds

Eiffel Tower from underneath, with a tennis ball hanging in from the second floor

As you can see in the pictures, the weather might not have beent he nicest, but we made our best. We walked all through the Chaps to the Trocadero on the other side. There were very few people on the street so I convinced my friend to take a ride in the carrousel over there, because I’m insane like that. Soon after we had left, a group of random people decided to emulate us.

Classical caroussel, looking over the ears of one of the horses

After this, we said goodbye. I headed off to Le Triannon for Yoshiki Classical, and my friend towards the airport as she had work on Monday. Yoshiki is one of the most important figures in Japan’s musical scene. He is the leader of the iconic band X Japan, and also trained in classical music. He wrecked his health when he was young, though, so he is not in the best shape. His recital Yoshiki Classical was meant to be a reimagination of some songs of his career, just him and his piano and some invited artist. I have to admit that it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been to, and I don’t regret attending one bit. Although this was my first concert alone, I didn’t feel strange in any way.

A concert venue with some people waiting

I don’t know what I was expecting, but this surpassed any and everything I could have thought of. Yoshiki is a wonderful human, and he spoke in English during the whole event – he is living in America now, collaborating with people like Stan Lee and Marilyn Manson to do more great stuff. For me, seeing him in person and playing his piano was a heart-bursting experience.

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