Friday, January 21, 2011

Paris #2

Such a fabulous city! It's freezing cold with a nasty, biting wind and full of crazy, noisy traffic... but it's fabulous. Just as well I'm not a shopper or I'd be broke overnight. It's an expensive place, that's for sure. 4 or 5 Euros for a coffee, 8 or 9 for a glass of champagne. 8 Euros = AU$11. Pricey!!
But it's Paris so what the hell!
Yesterday I seemed to walk all day. I started at Notre Dame. It's smaller than I expected but fascinating nonetheless. The facade is so detailed, especially around the massive doors. Statues, bas-relief work, arches, pointy bits, gargoyles, etc. The inside is quite dark and not as ornate as some cathedrals I've seen on this journey. The stained glass is excellent though. The rose windows are probably the best I've seen.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame stained glass

From Notre Dame I headed over to Saint Chapelle, which apparently has even better stained glass. However, it was inexplicably closed. I found out today that there'd been a fire inside, just before I got there. I can't find anything about it on the news or the 'net so I'm assuming it wasn't too damaging.
So, instead, I wandered along the left bank of the Seine, window shopping in various private galleries along the way. I think I was headed for the Musee d'Orsay but I crossed back across the river too soon and ended up in the Tuileries gardens. It must be something to see in Spring and Summer! The main pathways are lined with statues - mostly marble in that classical Greco-Roman style.

Evening light

Disconcertingly there were also very young soldiers with menacing automatic weaponry strolling about. I noticed several groups of them today as well. Maybe something to do with the Saint Chapelle fire? Or maybe they're always about. I don't know.

I met a couple of uni students from Castlemaine while in the gardens. They were in Paris for the one day only and were trying to see as much as possible. We swapped travel stories and then parted at the end of the gardens - where there is the obligatory Eye, or ferris wheel. Is there a town anywhere that doesn't have one now?
I found myself in the Place de Concorde which is a huge square/plaza surrounded by traffic. Right in the middle is Hatshepsut's missing obelisk from Karnak Temple in Egypt.
From there I could see the Arc de Triomphe down along the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower further along. But the light was fading and I was too cold to continue. It was a long walk back to the bus at Chatelet.
It was a long day but so worthwhile.

Today I checked out the Musee d'Orsay. This museum/gallery specialises in art from 1848 to 1914: Impressionism for the most part. The building itself is amazing: a former railway station with a glass roof - perfect light for exhibiting art. The central section shows off various pieces of sculpture. Unlike the Louvre, photography is not allowed at all here, but I managed to sneak one:

Museum d'Orsay

The painting exhibits are housed in various rooms on each side of the main hall. Degas, Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Pisarro, and sundry others. A couple of paintings really caught my eye: Port of la Rochelle by Paul Signac, a painter I'd never heard of before, was one. Striking colours! The Van Gogh's were instantly recognisable - something about those wavy, forceful lines. His self portrait is absorbing. I looked at his left eye and thought he looked rather mournful and sad; I looked at the right eye and saw anger. Very interesting.
The pick of them all, for me, is Millet's the Gleaners. A representation of poverty at the time, showing women who had to rely on collecting the leftovers, it was not met with much enthusiasm at the time of its production. I think it's a classic. Fantastic to see for real.

From d'Orsay I made my way to the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

For a bunch of steel girders it has quite an attractive shape. The base covers a much larger area than I was expecting. The queues to go up into the tower were long and the temperature was painfully cold by then so I decided to make my way back to the hotel. I probably should have persevered and gone up but..... I didn't.

Undecided where to go tomorrow. I really should check out Versailles I think.

As I was wandering along the river today I really wished I could paint. Paris has that effect.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Long time no blog. Sorry about that but I've been distracted, since Christmas, by ill relatives in Liverpool. Cabin fever got the better of me and so now I'm in Paris.
I flew into Charles De Gaulle airport on Monday night - the biggest airport ever! It took almost as long to taxi from landing to the disembarkation point as it did to fly there from Manchester!
The next day I met up with Mariko and Alexander, the latter is a grandson of a friend of mum and dad's back in Melbourne. We had a leisurely lunch at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Then Mariko had to go to work so Alexander offered to take me on a tour of Paris on his motorcycle. The only way to travel in this town! Traffic is crazy! We zigzagged our way past the Champs Elysees, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triumph, Montmartre, Palais de Justice, Republique, what's left of the Bastille and sundry other paces. So much to see in this town! There was one street I want to find again but I don't know its name. Every shop on the street was a guitar shop. It was somewhere on the way to Sacre Coeur so maybe I can find it again. A whole street of guitars - heaven!!!!!
Today I went to the Louvre. Magnifique!
I caught the bus outside the hotel and got off at the river (Seine), then walked about till I figured out where I was going. I think I crossed the river three times before I got to the right place. Fortunately Parisians are a lot more polite than I'd been led to believe. And a lot more helpful. Even to English speakers.
The Louvre is so magnificent, wonderful, it's hard to describe. There's just too much there. I wandered around for about 6 hours but still only touched the surface I think. Of course I saw Mona Lisa. Works by David as well - his revolutionary works are elsewhere though. The coronation of Napoleon is there though - the world's biggest piece of propaganda perhaps?