Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do We Love Paris? OUI!

Don't blame me if I dance a jig upon publishing this post. Blogger has been obstinate but, lucky for you, I'm MORE obstinate and I wouldn't give up 'til the post was complete!

The girls are standing in front of a really cool mural which is in a large courtyard next to the Pompidou Center in Paris.

We saw soldiers all over Paris. They always worked in teams of three. This group is unusual in that one of the soldiers is a woman. Apparently they take the threat of terrorism seriously and I'm glad.

The Centre Georges Pompidou built in 1977 is one of the world's most famous pieces of architecture. The building is turned "inside out" with brightly colored utility pipes of different colors on the outside of the building: bright green for water, yellow for electricity, blue for air conditioning. One of the building's most striking features is the external escalator which climbs the front of the building in a plexiglass tube. It's a pretty amazing ride!

The girls inside the plexiglass tube at the Pompidou Center. The view was fun both inside and out! Unfortunately cameras are not allowed to be used inside the museum. Some the artwork was just plain weird, some fascinating and there were plenty of masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Dali and more.

On our way back through the plaza, we spotted this humongous chalk portrait. Very cool!

Moving on to another museum, this is an ancient church altar carving, about a thousand years old! We saw this at the Cluny Museum, a museum of the middle ages that was only five minutes away from our apartment.

Ancient stained glass portrait of the disciples. Preserved through all the wars. Some ancient stained glass was discovered in an old barn! Apparently the villagers took the windows out of their churches and hid them during WWII in an effort to save the ancient artwork.

I loved this old carving of Jesus. There are a lot of likenesses of Christ, but not many crafted of wood that still survive. It's very large, maybe even lifesize. Beautiful.

Giant doors at the Pantheon, a gorgeous old building which is the resting place of the nation's great figures. It was originally built as a church but became a public building in 1885. Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Louis Braille and Joan of Arc rest within the Pantheon, among other historical figures.

We couldn't resist having a little fun in the giant rooms of the Pantheon.

Leah's not a midget. The building is enormous!

Me, surrounded by splendor, looking small.

Another day, another museum... Rodin's "The Thinker". It seems that every time you turn around in Paris, there's another masterpiece waiting to be savored and enjoyed.

You can't go to Paris and not bump into this guy. In case you don't recognize him, it's Napoleon Bonaparte at the Hotel des Invalides, an enormous old hotel built for wounded soldiers that is now a large museum. Actually, a handful of old soldiers still do live here.

Napoleon's tomb. It was his final wish to be situated on the banks of the River Siene and so his body was moved nineteen years after his death to this final resting place, the Hotel des Invalides, not far from the Siene.

Ooh La La! The most famous icon of France, the Eiffel Tower! The girls and I were struck by the beauty of this gorgeous structure. It didn't matter whether you were down below looking up, or...

at the second level looking out on the wonderful view. We're hardy Wisconsinites and so we did not take the elevator but used the stairs. There are 720 steps in all. They thoughtfully mark them off, ten at a time, so you can see the progress you're making as you ascend and descend.

That's the Sacre Coeur you see on the hill in the distance. The basilica was built as a memorial to the 58,000 French soldiers killed during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and took 46 years to build, finally completed in 1923 for 40 million francs! Priests still pray for the souls of the dead there 24 hours a day.

One of our favorite museums was L'Orangerie. It is a small museum but it houses Monet's eight huge Water Lilies canvases. They're placed on curving walls and are so huge that when you stand or sit in the middle of the room, the gorgeous artwork surrounds you. It's like you're right there in Monet's gardens.

So beautiful! It was hard to choose a favorite scene to stand by...

Also in L'Orangerie are select impressionist artworks by the masters. I loved this still life by Renoir. Wouldn't you like to pick up one of these peaches and take a bite?

After our tour at L'Orangerie, we moved on to the grandaddy of museums in Paris... The Louvre!We thought Daniel would appreciate this ancient Easter Island head after seeing a likeness in "Night at the Museum".

Sigh... No words necessary. Will you think I'm a total geek if I confess to getting choked up when I saw the Mona Lisa for the first time? It was just one of those moments. I truly never thought I'd actually have the privilege of seeing the Mona Lisa in person. Such an iconic painting... Even though we weren't allowed to get close, it was still a special moment for me.

Another gallery, another masterpiece at the Louvre. This is the Venus de Milo, believed to represent the goddess Aphrodite from the second century BC discovered on the Greek island of Milos in 1820. Isn't she beautiful?

Walking home from the Louvre, we crossed this bridge, the Rue Dauphine, which is literally covered with padlocks! Apparently when lovers come to Paris, they put a lock on this fence to signify their never-ending love. Trust me, Paris is full of lovers!

Believe it or not, when we went to the Cluny Museum the first time, we missed the star attraction: The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries! I read about them in our guidebook and I talked the girls into returning with me so that I could see them in person. There are six huge tapestries in all and they each represent one of the senses. This is the sixth tapestry in the series and is titled, "My Only Desire". The tapestries are gorgeous and remarkably well preserved, given that they are estimated to be over 600 years old.

Okay, I begged the girls to go to the Louvre twice because I knew we couldn't do it all in one day. We didn't even come close. I hope to return someday, but even if I don't, I'll never forget the priceless works of art we were able to see. The girls and Mona. You can see that they don't allow people to get close to her anymore after she'd been stolen and attacked in the past.

A close up from The Coronation of Napoleon, a huge canvas measuring over 20 feet by 32 feet by Jacques-Louis David from 1805-1807. It's enormous and not many museums could properly display such a grand piece of art, but the Louvre does it with style. I could have stood staring at it for hours, there's so much going on in it. A fascinating view of history of the coronation of Napoleon at the Notre Dame, but not entirely accurate.

They were working on the ceiling in this gallery, hence the cloth hanging from it. Even the display areas are gorgeous! Notice the gilding, the ornate wainscoting, the beautifully painted walls. It almost distracts from the artwork and ancient artifacts within the room! The Louvre was built originally to be the fortress of King Philippe-Augustine in 1190 and was turned into the home of King Charles V. Napoleon renovated the Louvre as a museum at the end of the 18th century and what a museum it is, filled with 35,000 priceless objects!

Another painting I have long admired, "The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds" by Georges de La Tour. The young man on the right is being plied with women and wine and will lose his fortune before the night is over!

We saw this statue on one of our many walks. I'm not sure what happened here but it probably has something to do with the protests we witnessed earlier in our stay. Apparently this is nothing new, as anti-war vandals have also painted a bronze statue of Winston Churchill's hands red, signifying his role in WWII. I'm a big fan of Winston Churchill and in my opinion, he didn't have much of a choice about entering WWII. They'd be better off going after Hitler, but I doubt there are many statues of him in Europe.

Our final evening found us relaxing in the Luxembourg Gardens in the sun...

Such gorgeous gardens! Lovely! We soaked it all in because the next day...

That's right, there we are, packed and waiting for the Eurostar train to bring us back to England.

The Eurostar is a very comfortable train to travel on. In about two hours we were back in England after traveling under the English Channel. We hated to say goodbye to Paris as we had so much fun there. I only hope to be able to return someday but I'm grateful for the wonderful time the girls and I had and the memories we created.

Au Revoir!


Leah Marie said...

After about a week, you finally got blogger to upload your photos. :) congrats! I loved this, it made me feel like I was there all over again. Let’s go back soon, okay?


Farmchick said...

I love coming along on these trips! Such a wonderful experience for you and the girls. I would love to go to the Louvre.

Farmgirl Paints said...

Holy cow...I feel like I went with you. That was one amazing trip. You saw the MONA LISA. WOW!!

Libbie said...

Okay so now I am VERY jealous! I mean I was jealous before but all those museums!!! You're killing me!!! I also think I need to stand in the middle of that room to feel small :)

Too funny about the glitter! I actualy don't like a lot of glitter myself anymore :) I used to but I am over it...except for ANnie...a little girl needs a lot of glitter...sparkly stuff & little girls is a wonderful thing. For me...I am with you ...Not really into it either :)

Farmgirl Paints said...

so so sorry to hear about YOUR day. that's awful and you said the only thing you could. praying for you too.