07 June 2009

Perry, perry quite contrary how does your garden grow?

last full day in paris and we started with nice weather so we did a lot of gardens.

began the day at yet another café near our hotel. this one was called motown bar. hilarious. as mom sat drinking her café créme, we were treated to the musical genre of...country music...you do realize banjos and cowboy hats have absolutely nothing to do with motown and why it became famous? dear me. so sad and so funny.

anyway, took the métro to the jardin des plantes. this is a nice big park bordering the seine. it has several museums on the outer edges and several different kinds of garden sections. there is a long groomed promenade, some shady trails with benches, a botanical garden, a rose garden, a greenhouse, a mini forest, and an upward spiraling labyrinth. very lovely, especially because it is full-on rose season and things were smelling fantastic, plus the frogs in the botanical garden area were croaking for us.

(natural history museum. did mcdonalds have something to do with mastodons becoming extinct?; mom and roses galore!; me with a giant black quartz geode outside the natural history museum)

when we exited the park, we walked around the block with the mosque of paris on it. a fairly unimposing structure from the street with pretty blue-green tiles accenting the mostly white building. if i had known the protocol for going inside i would have been interested to look around...perhaps next time.

(i think this was the mosque side entrance)

so, from the mosque we started wandering toward the jardin du luxembourg. it was a nice little sunday stroll. quiet streets and lovely little scenes: a single red balloon floating down the street (i kid you not), and a perfect little square (place de la contrescarpe) with a fountain, trees, shady benches, and one sunny café in particular with a huge terrace housing dozens of parisians soaking up the rays.

it was shortly after this that i stepped...in a pile of dog shit. as luck would have it, i looked up and found a bakery teeming with people. score! we stood in line for our lunch sandwiches with the rest of the regulars. it was the first time i ordered a sandwich not on a baguette since ive been in france, but i didnt regret it. grainy yet soft bread with my staples: ham, cheese, butter. yum!

after picking mom up some coffee in a to-go cup from columbus café, we entered the jardin du luxembourg. there was a brass band playing in one of the little gazebos so we pulled up a chair and were entertained during lunch. very nice spot to relax and the music was a bonus. after eating, we walked around the garden trying to find the miniature statue of liberty (the 1/10th model is supposedly somewhere in the garden but we did not locate it).

(scene from the jardin du luxembourg)

on our way out of the garden we popped into a free exhibit at a satellite l'orangerie museum (le sénat) exhibit in the gardens called "lignes et lumières" an interesting little collection from two artists in a nice, light, earthy space. got us warmed up for the next museum on our route, musée d'orsay. we took the rennes métro stop up to the museum.

(rennes represent!)

so, the first sunday each month the musée d'orsay is free. i was expecting a crowd of people and an uncomfortable visit through the collection. but, i guess the nice weather (after following a day of rain) had thinned out the interest in the museum. we got right in, checked my bag (tons of tourists ignored the no photography signs, grrr), and grabbed a map.

the museum is inside a huge old train station, so the building is very open and airy and bright. the bottom floor slowly slopes up past some graceful sculptures and hides some masterful treasures in the little alcoves along the way. if you pass through all this to the back of the building, you can take the escalators all the way to the top floor. this is the area with the largest concentration of rooms devoted to the "heavy hitters" (monet, renoir, degas, van gogh, gauguin, cézanne, manet, etc).

we saw one of monets famous paintings from belle île, very cool (called: tempête sur la côte de belle-île). from there, you start to descend back to the beginning level. i was a little annoyed with the map provided for the museum. you couldnt figure out where all the paintings by one artist were, and it didnt clearly mark where the most famous pieces were (like: Starry, starry night) so it might be a bit difficult if you had absolute things in mind to see. but i really liked the rooms organized by schools of style. there was one area filled with all the masters of pointillism (yay, Georges Seurat) that was really cool. comparing similar artists and seeing how they influenced each other is a great way to absorb art and really learn something at the same time.

(favorite seurat of the day, called "le cirque")

another room i really liked was the symbolism room. HUGE paintings that locked their images in your head. there was a gloriously colorful field of flowers and beautiful muses fawning over a knight in shining armor and a dark, moody painting of a woman/girl with penetrating eyes, an elaborate costume, and barefeet in deep blue hues that i really enjoyed. and the large painting by jean delville called "The School of Plato" schooled me. i stared at it for a while and all i could come up with was "jesus and the 12 gay apostles." but it left a strong enough impression for me to look it up after i got back to the hotel and teach myself a little bit more about art, culture, and philosophy. which aint a bad thang.

(jean delville painting, "the school of plato")

overall i was really surprised by this museum. i dont generally care for that type of art, but the museum wasnt just about the art. i felt, more than other museums, like i was learning, and absorbing and that everything was thoughtfully placed (even if the map, in general, pissed me off).

and after filing through rooms and rooms of the top french impressionist painters who painted what i previously thought of as nothing more than banal, everyday group scenes, i was forced to re-adjust my view. after living in france, being observant, and understanding the culture better, i was really hit with the impression that these painters had a seriously keen eye. they painted "slice of life" scenes that captured an essence better than a photograph. regular french people sitting on the park lawn enjoying food and drink, an evening spent dancing, a garden in bloom, a snowy lane, a pond in the evening. these are things that the french search for, treasure, and enrich their lives with and these painters totally nailed their inspirations.

so, i would go again and spend some more time in certain areas now that i am a little familiar with the layout. also, on the way out we hit up the gift store (for me, no museum trip is complete without a roam through the gift store) and it was here where again i heard the name "obama" in a foreign tongue, a short while after, i also heard "michelle obama." cool to note, the first family stayed after the d-day ceremony to shop and hang out in paris.

when we exited the museum, the wind was swirling and grey, and threatening a storm. and, ha ha, the museum line was long! we hopped on the métro back to our hotel. being sunday, we knew we'd have a limited restaurant selection, so we headed out right around 7p for dinner. we went back to the cute area by saint-martin canal and found another italian restaurant called fuxia. learning from last night, we each only ordered a main dish. for me: cannelloni with spinach and ricotta and side salad and for mom: rigatoni with white truffle oil, cream of artichoke, salt and pepper. both were tasty and filled us up to the perfect level.

to round out the day, we walked along the canal and through the nearby park exiting into a homeless bread and soup line. it startled me at first, but it was nice to see them out in the open getting help and no one was making a big deal about it. then, just before we made the final turn to our hotel, we passed a bus stop. a man was waiting in one of the plexi glass bus areas and slowly turned toward us, it caught my eye...unfortunately. he was whipping it out to (i want to assume) urinate. gross, gross, gross. i cant tell you how the image has been burned into my brain. sent me off to nightmarish slumbers...

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