Paris: Day 7

Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
1
7
9
Trip End Feb 24, 2008


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Friday, February 22, 2008

Sooo tired this morning (went to bed at 3 a.m.), but dragged myself out of bed and was out the door by 10 a.m. to go to Versailles. When I was in Paris in 2001, I had to choose between visiting Giverny (Monet's former home, studio and gardens) and Versailles because I didn't have enough time to do both. I picked Giverny because the weather was great and there was a chance Versailles would be closed because of a strike. (Btw, parts of Musee d'Orsay and Musee d'Orangerie were closed yesterday because of a strike.) So, I was really glad to be able to finally visit.

Versailles was transformed by Louis XIV into a palace from his father's former hunting lodge. I was excited to see the Hall of Mirrors and wasn't disappointed. Throughout the palace, there are tons of ornate silver pieces and furniture...Louis knew how to spend his money, for sure. And, the gardens are really nice. I toured the palace and grounds for a couple hours and then during my walk back to the metro, I tried calling Phil again and my phone finally worked. It was great to talk with him, but again, it made me a little sad for home. I consoled myself with a cup of veggie soup and a baguette and then headed to Musee Rodin.

This was a special visit for me because seeing the original sculptures that my dad collected replicas of brought back memories. (And, I laughed about how my brother and I were always embarrassed by his "naked lady sculpture" that he displayed in the living room by the TV.) I didn't realize it until I was older (he died when I was 15), but I share some of his artistic preferences --Asian art and Rodin sculpture -- although not all, because his taste was more contemporary than mine. It's funny when you realize why you are the person you are based on your family and environment. For example, from my mom, I get my determination (or hard-headedness, in my case) and optimism.

The museum included sculpture indoors as well as throughout the garden, which I liked. There were lots of resting places outside to do as The Thinker did and ponder. Seeing the busts inside made me laugh because it brought back memories of when I was an art model in college (clothed!!!) and students in a sculpture class made huge busts of my head. Most of the final pieces were not too flattering, and I remember thinking, "Do I really look like that?" Still, it was a cool experience.

Next, I headed to Notre-Dame. I remember really enjoying my first visit, but I had forgotten how serene and peaceful the cathedral makes me feel once inside. I'm convinced that even the fiercest atheist can feel pious in this place (I'm not a religious soldier myself). I lighted a candle for my family and friends and then walked around inside, admiring the rosette stained glass windows (my favorite kind).

My museum pass included a tour of the towers and up to the very top of the cathedral, which I hadn't done before, so I got in line. For the second day in a row, I climbed up 400 steps and walked down 400 steps. Again, there was a lot of huffing and puffing from my fellow visitors, and I have to admit, my calves were shaking when I finally finished my descent. (FYI, I have weird depth perception when walking down steps, so I have to stare down at every step I take. I could never do a tap dancing routine on steps. Not that anyone's asking me to...I'm just saying.)

When I reached the first terrace, I started poking around and found a small door (about four feet high) and ducked through. Turns out it led to a rickety wooden staircase up to the cathedral's largest bell from the 17th century, Emmanuel (apparently, all Catholic church bells are baptized...didn't know that). Emmanuel is only rung on major Catholic feast days and four other bells in the north tower ring several times a day.

Oh, right in front of Notre-Dame on the ground is the seal of Paris, or the Place du Parvis, which is the point which the distances between Paris and other towns are measured. I remember thinking that was cool when I first saw it, so wanted to pass it on.

The tower tour took longer than I expected because you had to wait for the group before you to walk down before you could walk up and vice versa, so I didn't have time to go back to Musee d'Orsay. I'm OK with that because at least I was able to see the first floor and, I saw the Gates of Hell at Musee Rodin, so I didn't miss seeing it up close at Musee d'Orsay.

I kept my fingers crossed that I wasn't cursed a third time to miss out on Musee d'Orangerie, and happily, I was able to finally get inside. It was worth the eight years I've waited to go in...amazing! On the first floor, there are two oval rooms, each with four giant canvases of Monet's water lilies displayed in a 360-degree view and natural light streaming in from the ceiling (see my short video). I loved it! I'd estimate that each painting is about 36 feet long. Huge. They're slightly curved to fit the rounded walls.

The downstairs featured artwork of Monet's colleagues, and I discovered an artist I like, whom I haven't noticed before: Marie Laurencia. The selection of paintings included were of women with animals and were painted in pastels and grays. Her work reminds me of a present-day artist whom I'm enamored with, Carole Orr. I bought this painting in 2000 from her, and it hangs above our fireplace in our living room (I told you I spent all my money on art when I was in college). Thankfully, her prices were lower then.

I have two viewfinders at home of art from Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre, so I was happy to find ones at Musee Rodin and Musee d'Orangerie to add to my collection. They're inexpensive and make great mementos.

On my walk to the Louvre, I started to run out of gas. My entire lower body was sore and I felt like an old lady walking...could have totally used a cane (or at least my redheaded dog buddy). I walked into the Louvre via the metro entrance (much faster than walking through Pei's pyramid because you avoid the line or "cue" as the Brits say) and sat down at a cafe to eat a sandwich and rehydrate. I refueled and then took my time visiting my favorites, like Cupid & Psyche by Canova (I have a replica at home) and The Winged Victory (see pics). Waved hi to Mona and then went to check out the remnants of the medieval moat downstairs from back in the day when the Louvre was a fortress for the French king who paved the streets and built the walls of Paris (1190 AD until the early 16th century). Super cool and it's on the way to the metro.

Took the train back home, and here I am reflecting on day 7 of 9. I got full use of my two-day museum pass: I visited seven museums/tours, if I remember correctly. So, one full day left and then a long-ass flight home with a sprinkling of jet lag (and a reunion with Phil!). Tomorrow: sleeping in, wandering Montmartre and scoring a nutella crepe...which reminds me, I need to work out, too.

Bonne nuit!
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