It is impossible not to love something about Paris – even my husband who had never been had to admit that there is a special magic in this city. It has to be said that we were there, the moon was full, the nights were balmy and the city was sparkling after long rains, so there is not much to complain about, on any front.
We split our stay in Paris with a trip to Normandy that was such a different experience that it must be kept for another post. The music and moonlight of Paris are light years away from the emotion experienced on the beaches of Normandy. I simply can’t adequately stitch the two together in a meaningful way. So I won’t try, and this blog will be about museums and music and good friends and laughter.
Our digs for the entire visit to the city were at the Hotel de Varenne (www.varenne–hotel–paris.com) on the Rue de Bourgogne – within walking distance to just about everywhere I wanted to go, and near enough to the Varenne Metro stop to go everywhere else. It is practically on top of the Rodin Museum and an easy walk from the Musee d’Orsay. All of the rest of the usual suspects for tourist destinations were so accessible – even the Palace of Versailles was only a train away – we could not have been more easily situated. So we did as much as we could in the time allotted. A friend told me that Paris is a city you must return to – that you will never be able to do it all. How true, and how lucky, to always have the feeling that I must go back to Paris. Life is good.
We took the sunset cruise on the Seine. We walked the parks where flowers bloomed. We ate good bread, drank good coffee, imbibed excellent wines and visited museums. We wandered the Left Bank at night and somehow avoided running into anyone who was rude or even particularly inconsiderate – something I could never have done in New York…
Importantly, I was able to take time in the Rodin Museum to examine the sculptures and paintings – and to enjoy the garden – which I loved because it was as much about garden as about sculpture. There was a wedding, but judging from the people lounging in deck chairs on the lawn, there is likely a wedding there on any sunny day.
It would be my preferred way to attend a wedding.
Since the object of much of the trip was the Normandy beaches, one of the museums we visited was the Musee de l’Armee at Les Invalides which included the Eglise Saint Louis des Invalides which houses the tomb of Napoleon. I was surprised by the depth of the collection – spanning wars in which the French took park in various parts of the globe. There was a large focus on World War I, and perhaps the piece that struck me the most was a muddy coat, all these years still caked in the mud of those horrible trenches. It was a graphic reminder of what the everyday soldier deals with in wartime, There were other things too – ingenious machines like a motor scooter in a box – I’m not sure how effective it was, but it was clever. Of course by now I can’t remember which war it dated from – in spite of the dates, year by year, embedded in the floor, the ways in which humans can kill or maim each other becomes bewildering.
The tomb of Napoleon was serene enough and had something that pleased me a lot. When I was a kid, we had amber leaded windows in our house – and I always loved the light that came through them. I haven’t seen them anywhere until the Eglise Saint Louis des Invalides. Now I want them in my house again…there is such a grace from that light.
So from dying to death to …wine. It seemed a logical progression at the time. Then to the Eiffel Tower where there was no way we would stand in line two hours to go to the top (it is good to have already done that!) and to a sunset sail on the Seine. With the full moon hanging in waiting for the setting of the sun, and the splendor of the architecture sliding by on either side, it is a great way to get a sense of the city in a very short while.
The quality of the light was beautiful – I often take pictures of the light rather than of something…and the light of Paris is very special. Of course, there are other things about Paris that make me open my eyes. I did see some of the very best graffiti – from the boat, no less, so stylish…
There were other sort of odd things as well – shoes abandoned on the street at the Opera…I’m still puzzled over that one – did someone change their shoes by the car and then forget them? It could be the beginning of a nice novella or something. Some of the things I noticed were more typical, I suppose – the baker working up the baguettes in the morning, the men playing petanque in the park…I loved it all.
To a large degree, I was in Paris to see art. I did not go to the Louvre – there simply was not enough time to see this place where, as they say, if you stood for a single minute in front of each work, it would take you four months to see the collection. So I concentrated on museums I had not set foot in – and then, at least in the d’Orsay, had to concentrate further on Impressionists, though I was delighted to see a show called Degas et le Nu which
was a large collection of his drawings and studies for other paintings, some of which hung with the collection to illustrate how he took his studies to the finished work. It was a fascinating display of work, and enormously helpful to me. As a bonus, the museum also had a great many paintings by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, a Finnish artist whose work I recognized but did not know. I have no idea where I saw it before, but growing up in a Nordic community, there is a chance I caught some of it somewhere…
Also at the d’Orsay, I took one of my favorite photos – which I call “Going into Time”
OK, so is this enough on Paris? I haven’t covered all of it, no. There was the wonderful dinner at Le Galichon in Clichy and the night in Montmartre culminating in the old cabaret Au Lapin Agile…there is still so much to say, and still so much to see. I am ready to go back! After all, only in Paris are macarons a food group – along with the important C vitamins – coffee, chocolate and cheese. 🙂 I love Paris! Of course!