Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You know how it is Constant Reader... you just get fed up looking at the same four walls.

So Owen and I had a nice 24 hour visit to Paris a fortnight ago!
Needless to say Paris kept up it's reputation as being as overcast as it has been the two previous times I visited. I must say up until now I have never really *got* Paris - I suspect it's because, thanks to Eurostar, I never really feel I have travelled somewhere... I just remain in 'city' mode. However this time I felt some of it's charm remained with me. I am now quite handy in getting about the city too which helps.Our base was the lovely Hotel Scribe which is two streets away from the Opera Garnier. It was the former home of the Jockey Club and hopefully we will be revisiting it one day. We were hardly there though as Owen had decided that this trip was all about the art!
So we hit the ground running and ended up at Lady Louvre. We decided to go for the most obvious wing, the Denon as that appeared to hold most of the Must-See works of art.
Now we had only been once before... to have a sandwich and a cup of tea in the cafe and whizz round the shop! So it was nice to actually see something this time other than the admittedly fabulous entrance hall under the pyramid!

We plunged ker-plop into so many hundreds of years of art. Bugger me, there's binloads of it in there! The best laid plans of Meissen men crumble when faced with rooms and corridors jam-packed with European paintings. There were so many paintings to try and take in so eventually I ended up just drifting along, stopping occasionally when something caught my eye. There is a jaw-dropping corridor in the wing which runs down the Seine side of the building which you could just imagine a Bourbon
Roi sweeping along it surrounded by fawning courtiers. I did my best to sweep but the place was mobbed.

We saw big paintings, small paintings, famous paintings and ones that the world wouldn't mourn if they were used as enormous jotting pads... yes that's your lot Guido Reni!

We walked the length of the corridor until we worked out that we had missed the turning to "the shrine". We doubled back and about halfway down we found the room and took our place in the four-deep ever-moving crowd of people in front of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci...
It was a very strange experience - staring at this iconic painting which has been reinterpreted
ad infinitum. And you know what? Despite being kept behind a barrier quite a way from the painting protected by a 6 inch glass pane, I understood why she has held our gaze and attention for over 400 years. I also had an audible chuckle over the constant whirr and buzz of cameras... like.. you are all going to be buying the postcard in the shop ANYWAY!!!

Of course the Denon wing is also home to another icon of feminine perfection... luckily these two Divas are kept apart - goodness only knows what would kick off if they ever met!

From there we wandered around the Sculpture Hall and out for a much-needed cake and Diet Coke. It also gave us a chance to nominate the three items we would put in our shopping trolley - mine oddly enough were all from the Sculpture Hall....Then we had a lengthy poke around the shop which oddly isn't all that. It's more an upmarket gift shop - as if the mere thought of having a nodding Mona Lisa would affront the famous Parisian sensibilities. Luckily in the bright and airy Carousel shopping arcade there is a gift shop which is much more
comme il faut.

After all the classic art it was time for something a little bit more contemporary. We walked over to the Centre Pompidou to have a look at the permanent collection of 20th Century modern art and we were treated to yet another jaw-dropping space but as it was later in the day on a Monday night it was less crowded so easier to walk around and take time over certain exhibits. Again there was a lot that it was very easy to glide by but I enjoyed wandering around every so often being confronted by a famous work that truly justified it's status.By the end we were both tres fatigues so we went on a quick sniff around Les Halles in search of grub and found a charming bistro
Au Père Fouettard where we successfully negotiated the menu to get something vegetarian for Owen to eat. Over our dinner I nominated the three things I wanted in my shopping trolley from the Pompidou - a Calder mobile, a Leon Bakst costume design for Nijinsky as "Dieu Bleu" and a Giselle Freund portrait of Virginia Woolf.
On the whole I enjoyed the space and the collection but the building itself left me a bit cold... although I'd definitely like another go on the snaking outside escalator and the great view from the top of M. Eiffel's gift to the city....Then it was back to the Scribe for a well-deserved sleep... that was until we saw, peeping around the back of the Opera Garnier, the full-on wow-factor of the Galeries Lafayette - NOW I've seen the City of Light! The animatronic teddy-bears and gingerbread man in the Xmas windows were good fun too!

So after a restless night - don't go there - we started a bit late for our Tuesday morning and afternoon. Sadly The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays but luckily that gave me time to wander around the dvd section of the subterranean Virgin Records - I bought Truffaut's DAY FOR NIGHT which isn't available here - and yes I DID check it had sous titres dans Anglais. We then stopped for the obligatory inverted pyramid shot which is handily outside the Virgin Records...
but not before witnessing the glorious sight of some dozy mare walking towards it gawping up at the pyramid, bumping into the little stone pyramid underneath it and smacking her gob off the glass.

Constant Reader, I pissed myself.

After that we had a calming walk through the monotonous charm of the Tuileries and decided to chance our arm with a quick look around the Musee d'Orsay on the Left Bank.
Of course as it was open and the Louvre was shut there was a long queue to get in and the place was again mobbed but once inside and seeing the main hall I was
tres jolie. I raced up to the top floor - no mean feat - only to find that the gallery that held the Seurat works closed and no indication where they had been moved to - you knobtetes!

I had such a
visage on me I HAD to have something to eat so we had tea and cakey in the rather fabulous cafe situated behind the right-hand clockface - needless to say it was a popular little eaterie.
We then had a quick wander around the Impressionist galleries - more bloody god-awful Sisleydaubes than you could wave a match at but there were some truly impressive works there which again, caught me unawares to be seeing them actually there... in the paint in front of me... and looking so much better than any reproduction.Time was catching up with us though and so we made a concerted effort to find the small but priceless collection of van Gogh paintings... needless to say we should have just headed to where there was the smallest room and the biggest crowd! Again I had to laugh out loud as people jostled each other to get their friends to take their photo in front of the famous self-portrait - truly a male Mona Lisa! Owen luckily had time to commune with a painting which he has long wanted to see - "The Church at Auvers-Sur-Oise".Then we whizzed around the impressive museum shop - the only annoying thing was the absence of a handy Musee d'Orsay "Greatest Hits" type paperback as opposed to large coffee table books or the door-stop catalogue. The d'Orsay is, once again, a wonderful gallery which would be great to revisit.It was a tough choice - but the three items I would like to take away in my shopping trolley from the Musee d'Orsay would be van Gogh's portrait of Dr. Gachet, Carolus-Duran's "Le Convalescent" and Caillebotte's realist masterpiece "Les Raboteurs de Parquet".
Then we had two more treats left - a quick hop on an always grin-inducing double-decker train to get us back up to Opera to dive into the wonderful confectioners La Cure Gourmande which we had wandered into the day before and been force-fed The most amazing strawberry biscuits! We stocked up an enormous paper bag full of different flavoured biscuits for our dinner on the Eurostar and headed off to Gare Du Nord.
All this and I never got to visit Jean Seberg's grave in the lovely cemetery in Montparnasse as I have done on my previous Parisian jaunts. I'll have to go twice next time to make up.

Yes I think Paris has finally won me over.

And finally...

...the enigmatic smile of the timeless beauty that thousands have looked on in awe.
And some Italian mystery in a painting.

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