Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wednesday, 18th October – Paris to Venice

We were being picked up at our hotel at 3 to go to the airport, so we decided to stay within walking distance and not risk getting caught in traffic and missing the plane. Fortunately there is a lot to do within a few blocks of the hotel. Although we were quite dubious about the hotel, it turned out to be quite good. Very shabby but our room was really quiet, and it was very clean. And it was a great location.

We had been recommended to go to the Musée des Arts et Métiers (thanks Carolyn) which happened to be only a block away. Think Powerhouse Museum, only about 400 years worth of history, several times larger and more of everything. It has been a museum since1794! A very impressive museum and hardly a tourist in sight. We saw landmark items like Lavoisier’s (the father of modern chemistry) Laboratory, Daguerre’s (as in Daguerreotype) camera obscura, Pascal’s mechanical adding machine. Science buff heaven, but enough to interest anyone. Fascinating, we were very glad to have gone.

Nearby is a clock called Le Defenseur du Temps, a dramatic automated clock in which “the defender battles earth air and water in the form of savage beasts to the sound of earthquakes, hurricanes and rough seas”. We sat at a café and readied ourselves for the spectacle – it took us about 20 minutes to realize that although the clock was “ticking” (the dragon was “breathing”) the time had not actually advanced at all, so that was a big non-event. But the big excitement was seeing the house of Nicolas Flamel (famed alchemist and creator of the Philosopher’s Stone), built in 1407. (He wasn’t home, by the way).

Our walk back to the hotel took us past the Pompidou Centre, that inside-out building that houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. We didn’t have time to go inside, but the building itself is striking, and we sat and ate our cheese roll next to the strange and modern Stravinsky Fountain. It looked somewhat the worse for wear and several hoses were disconnected, but was a popular spot, with lots of people sitting on the steps and in cafes nearby.

We made it back to the hotel with about 10 minutes to spare before the shuttle arrived. It was a good hour and a half drive to Beauvais Airport, through the centre of Paris, so we were very glad not to be driving. We met a nice family of Aussies in the shuttle who we traveled to Venice with, so the time passed quickly, but it was a long journey all up for a 90 minute flight – drive to Beauvais, wait around for plane (we were already queuing to board when we saw the plane land from the previous flight!), fly to Treviso, bus to Venice, then Vaporetto (water bus) to our stop, then a walk to the B&B – 7½ hours in total. But all the transfers went very smoothly, and when we arrived we found a wonderful room, a friendly host who made us a timely cup of tea, and a tiny balcony with a view of the canal.