On Thursday, I tried to get up early to make the most of my time in Paris, but I was so tired and still feeling sick, I ended up not leaving the apartment til around 11am. My destination: Ile St. Louis, Ile de Cite and the Notre Dame Cathedral. I think this area and Notre Dame itself were my favorite part of Paris. I just loved the Cathedral. Its age (almost 850 years!) is awe-inspiring. It's one thing to visit ancient ruins, but a building that has actually been in (pretty-much) continual use for that long is another thing entirely. It's also just a beautiful building, and I love love LOVE the gargoyles. I strongly recommend going up to the top of the cathedral (if you're OK with narrow twisty staircases), because not only do you get to meet all those wonderful gargoyles, you also get a fabulous view of Paris. I took loads of pictures. Here are a few.
Front of the Catherdral
Gargoyle rainspouts :)
Flower gate enclosing a chapel
Beautiful stained glass windows
This was from a carved nativity scene. It might be hard to see, but I love Mary's expression here. She looks a little bit like McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed.
Closeup of a rose window.
Majestic Interior of the Cathedral
Colored light from the stained glass
Front doors. My favorite is St. Denis, carrying his own head!
OK, lots of gargoyles next:
This one looks like a sea monster to me. For some reason, he also seems very content.
This one looks like Sam Eagle.
This one looks a little confused. He's also got an eye on another shawm angel.
The shawm angel.
Lots of fanciful gargoyles, gazing down upon the city.
A gargoyle and his city. Montmartre and Sacre Coeur in the background.
This one looks like he is deeply engaged in a conversation. Wonder what's he's saying.
This one's ravenous.
So's this one, but apparently he's vegetarian.
Aww, he seems like maybe he's afraid of heights, poor thing.
There were also some great views of the city.
Riverboat on the Seine.
Eiffel tower. Gives good perspective on its relative size.
The giant Emmanuel bell. 13 tons, built in 1681, ringing an Eb
After spending quite a while at the great Cathedral, I wandered around the Iles for a while. They are lovely just to walk around on a pretty fall day. I grabbed a crepe somewhere for a late lunch, and then met Dawn with some friends of hers after work at the Musee D'Orsay, formerly a train station.
Unlike the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay has a modern layout, with lots of information about each work, and everything is arranged in a way that's been thought out and is therefore fairly logical. The purpose of our visit was to see a new exhibit, based on the life of Parisian socialite/muse, Misia Sert. This lady knew everyone who was anyone in early 20th-c Paris, and married or had affairs with half of them. She was good friends with Coco Chanel, and supported, among others, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diagalev, Satie, Ravel, Renoir, Proust, Monet, Mallarme, Toulouse-Lautrec, Debussey, Jose-Maria Sert, etc. Therefore the exhibit included paintings from many of the visual artists in this list, some of the paintings specifically dedicated to her or even of her. It also had actual costumes from the Ballet Russe, videos of some of the early productions (including Rite of Spring), jewelery and clothing she had worn, recordings and scores of music that went with productions, and more. It was a fascinating exhibit of a truly remarkable woman and the lives she touched. It was also very crowded, more so than I am accustomed to in American museums!
I might also have enjoyed the Musee D'Orsay all the more because this time I just said I was an art teacher, showed my Crossroads ID, and got a free ticket :) Perhaps a slight stretch of the truth, but worth it. After the Misia exhibit, Dawn and her friends indulged my desire to see a little more of the Musee D'Orsay and its regular collections, so we wandered around the museum for a while. I was particularly tickled to see this particular Van Gogh painting featured in Doctor Who, among some other impressionist art. After viewing the museum to our satisfaction, and a discussion of French manners versus American manners (my first instinct was to use stairs and let the older and less physically mobile people use the elevator when there was a line to use it; my young French friends thought that was silly--we used the elevator!), we left for dinner.
We went to a restaurant a bit of a walk from the museum, just a normal French restaurant whose name and exact location I of course have forgotten. I think I split two meals with Dawn so that we could try more things, and I remember a really delicious raspberry dessert, but I can't remember for sure what we ate. We did drink a lot of wine though. It was a typical leisurely Parisian dinner, and I enjoyed getting to know Dawn's friends a little more. They were a lively and humorous bunch! By the time we finished drinking our wine, it was time to go home once more.
Unfortunately, I woke up with a cold (probably something I caught on the plane--oh the wonders of modern travel) on Wednesday morning, which did not put me in the best of moods, but I was determined to enjoy Paris as much as I could, so I headed over to the Louvre, anyway.
I had high expectations for the Louvre, and perhaps for that reason (along with the cold), I was a little disappointed in my experience there. Don't get me wrong, the Louvre is a fabulous museum with an amazing collection of art, it's just that it's ENORMOUS, overwhelming, and not particularly well-organized. Perhaps I have become accustomed to the more modern way of organizing a museum, where the rooms are arranged with a particular idea tying them together, there is just one painting per block of space, and there is background information printed right next to it. But most rooms in the Louvre have row after row of paintings, so that your eye is just bombarded with artwork. It also makes it difficult to see the artwork that is hung higher up on the wall.
In addition, unless I wanted to purchase an audio guide (I HATE audio guides. I want to be able to read about my artwork, not hear about it), I found very little information on the paintings. Each of them had some basic info in French right next to them (artist, date, a one-sentence description), but nothing in any other language and very little background. Each room had a laminated, 8.5x11-size paper printed on both sides in different languages that chose a few of the paintings in the room and went into great detail about them and their significance. Unfortunately, I found those to be too much information (to the point of being dull, in my view) about too few paintings. What they needed was something that presented less detail (but more than was written on the inscriptions) on more paintings, especially telling the viewer the often dramatic events and characters depicted in the paintings. It's pretty frustrating to see what is clearly a very dramatic scene and characters, but to have no idea what's actually going on or why, or why that painting is important enough to be included in the Louvre. Fortunately, I had downloaded the iPhone app for the Louvre, which had exactly that kind of information, just on a smattering of works. In retrospect, I would have loved some sort of expanded form of that iPhone app, even if I had to pay a few dollars. I think there might be some out there.
Also dampening my spirits slightly was the fact that I tried to use my music teacher status to gain free admission, but I failed. I should have said I was an ART teacher! Thankfully, the Louvre ticket gives you reentry, so you can leave the museum and come back, which was a lifesaver. I really needed a break from the art for a little in order to enjoy it for longer! What would really be ideal would be to become a member of the Louvre and just go visit it almost every day, but see it in small chunks. If one lived in Paris, of course! At any rate, I used my lunch break to meet up with another very old friend from Connecticut (well, she's from NYC), actually from good old Camp Asto Wamah, my beloved summer camp. Michelle is now working at the Sciences Po, the university for political science in Paris. It was wonderful to catch up with her after so many years (15?!?!), and we made plans to meet again later in the week for dinner and drinks with more friends. After lunch (tuna nicoise salad), I returned to the Louvre. Here are some highlights.
The famous glass pyramid of the Louvre entrance. I think it works. Other people don't. At least it's interesting.
An early double reed instrument and case! Billed as a primitive "double oboe."
Winged Victory of Samothrace. Beautiful and ancient.
I actually didn't take too many photos at the Louvre. Frankly, I don't see much point in taking photos of famous artwork. Almost any piece of art is now readily found via Google image search if you wish to view it from the comfort of your home, and I don't really see a point in taking a picture of yourself beside something as what, proof you were there? The point of a museum is to enjoy the visceral effect great art has on a person, not to photograph it. Which leads me to: the Mona Lisa. That painting deserves a much better experience. It's protected with bullet-proof glass that changes its colors. Visitors are prevented from stepping closer than about 10 feet from the painting. There are throngs of people, most of them trying to get a picture (again, why?), in front of the famous painting at all times. Because of all these things, I couldn't really get a good feel for it. Oh well.
Anyway, I saw loads of art, from Botticelli to DaVinci to Etrucsan sculptures to Egyptian mummies to Greek and Roman marble (including, yes, the Venus de Milo). Like I said, the Louvre is pretty overwhelming.
After the Louvre, I met up with Dawn to go to her knitting group at a very cute little cafe/tea/knitting place owned by her friend Aimee, L'OisiveThe. We had a bit of a picnic dinner of meat, bread, and cheese in a park near the shop and then joined a large group of women to knit and chat. There were a few English speakers from various parts of the world, and it was nice to meet them and enjoy a warm cup of tea before heading home to bed.
Tuesday morning I was on my own to explore Paris. My first destination was the Rodin Museum, walking distance from Dawn's apartment. But first, I must be brave, and order myself a cafe, in French, and figure out how much it cost and use the right amount of currency. It was scary, and my French is terrible (the only way I can do a French "R" is by extremely over-pronouncing it in a Monty Python-esque manner), but I did it! Successfully caffeinated, I continued on to the Rodin Museum, and my next adventure in French. Contrary to what I'd heard, I found that Parisians didn't mind if you horribly butchered their language, as long as you gave it some effort (what they did mind, and I don't blame them, is if you just spoke in English to them as if you assumed they would understand). So once again mangling my French horribly, I asked the lovely young lady at the counter for my ticket to the museum. She then asked if I was a student, to which I replied, no, but I am a teacher. What kind of teacher? Art? No, music. Close enough! Free tickets for art teachers in France :) After showing her my Crossroads ID (which conveniently states "Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences" on it), I received my free ticket, and happily entered the museum.
It was a lovely place to spend a beautiful fall morning in Paris, which bright sun, mild temperatures, and a nice breeze. One of the nicest parts of the museum is its garden, which includes "The Thinker," among many other famous Rodin sculptures. It also has an indoor collection of marbles (inlcuding "The Kiss") and a houseful of artwork related to Rodin and his contemporaries. When I went to go into the house part from the gardens, I realized I managed to drop my ticket somewhere in the garden. I hurried back into the main entrance just catching my friend from before, who was about to leave. She remembered me an issued me a new ticket, no problem. I was embarrassed but grateful.
After the Rodin Museum, I met up with Arthur, who had kindly offered to show me around Paris on his day off, for lunch. I had a croque-monsieur sandwich at a cafe near the Opera stop. From Opera, we did a bunch of walking, including the Champs Elysee (which I wondered why its spelled "champs" but pronounced "chans") and the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs Elysees, though beautiful, was a bit disappointing. It was almost like a giant American mall but on a beautiful Parisian street. There were mostly chain stores that could be found anywhere, and restaurants that were unreasonably expensive for what they were offering. We went into the flagship Louis Vuitton, which seemed a little bit more Parisian to me than, say, the Gap. It was a gorgeous store with beautiful merchandise, but it's not like I could actually buy anything there.
The Arc de Triomphe, however, was pretty great. I was tempted to buy tickets to go up, but in the end opted not to. It is ornately carved, including the ceiling.
It also featured this epic sculpture (fierce!!):
And this one, possibly of a shawm-playing angel:
After the Champs Elysees, we headed over to the Etienne Marcel metro stop to meet Dawn after her workday, and another co-worker, Yann. I was excited to find this mural:
We partook of some pastries in this neighborhood, and then wandered around for a while, enjoying the evening and window shopping, in typical Parisian fashion, before heading home. We had a nice crepe dinner at a charming little restaurant near Dawn's apartment.
I arrived on a Monday, which was somewhat unfortunate, since I had originally been planning on arriving on Sunday, when my gracious host would be home from work. Since it was a Monday, I would be arriving while she was still at work, so she recommended I wait for her at a cafe near her apartment, where she would meet me when she got home from work. So took the Roissy-Bus from the Airport (CDG) to the Opera Metro Station, where I took Line 8, arrived in the 7th Arrondissement, ordered a cafe at little restaurant right off the metro stop and waited, bleary-eyed, for her to arrive. Soon enough, there she was!
I hadn't seen Dawn in several years (since we met up in Boston, where she was studying a MIT--yes she's a smart one--and I was auditioning for grad school at NEC. We had a great day in Boston!), but we were close childhood friends, so it was fun to see her in such an exotic locale. Dawn took me back to her apartment, an adorable yet tiny studio in a beautiful French apartment building with a bakery at the bottom of it. Dawn explained to me that as a foreigner in France, it is very difficult to find an apartment in Paris. Most places want references from other Parisians, which is obviously impossible if you've never lived in France before. So she had to live in an apartment essentially sublet from someone else, very far from her work, in a very expensive part of Paris (on the other hand, being an expensive part of Paris, also beautiful, central, and right near the Eiffel Tower, so don't feel too bad for her!).
After dropping off my suitcase and freshening up, we met up with Dawn's friend from work (post-doc in something science-y, involving fluid dynamics I believe), Arthur, for dinner. I think I had duck, but I couldn't swear by that at this point in time. At any rate, it was a nice meal with a couple glasses of wine and some profiteroles with chocolate sauce for dessert (that I DO remember). After our leisurely, Parisian meal, we meandered over to the Eiffel Tower and hung out for a while to catch it blinking on on the hour before heading home to crash. The Eiffel Tower looks magical when it sparkles.
I went on a trip to Paris in September, and I meant to blog about it as a sort of trip diary, but I never got a chance when I came back. Now I finally have a moment or two to myself, I thought I'd try and recollect my experience.
I had originally been going to do some sort of multi-city tour of Europe with a friend of mine, but she bailed on me, so I had to rethink my trip. I decided it would be best that if I were on my own, I would stay in one city and visit someplace that I could stay with a friend. Fortunately, my friend Dawn was living in Paris at the time, and she graciously agreed to host me.
My trip started off delayed, as for some unknown reason, Air France cancelled my flight and moved it to the following evening. Therefore I lost a day in Paris, but that's life. They also gave me a small rebate. The flight was pretty smooth, and met a handsome, nice, young French man, Geoffroy, on the plane! Off to a good start.
I came across this really excellent article on facebook and had to share. I agree whole-heartedly with everything it has to say. There's so much more to playing in an orchestra than actually playing your instrument, and I feel pretty lost in navigating.