Friday, October 09, 2009

Paris. A Little Over Two Months Ago.

This is perhaps the longest hiatus that I've taken from blogging in a long time. The story is this: I simply couldn't help it! Finishing my MA thesis, leaving England, spending a measly two weeks in California, driving across the country, and then looking for and moving into a new apartment and beginning school = no time for blogging! It has been, in a word, completelyhectic.

I finally have some breathing room, though, so I thought I'd sit down and do a little catching up. Truthfully, I could be doing work for my program around the clock, but I'm fairly sure my mental health would suffer from it, so here I am. And I present to you: Paris!

We spent a week in Paris at the end of July, which is a humid and sweltering time to visit, and it was glorious.

The Seine from Pont Neuf

That's a perfect example of how glorious it was. At the risk of sounding a bit maudlin, it was everything that I'd hoped it would be. Ever since studying French in junior high (more than 15 years ago! yikes.), I have wanted to visit Paris, and ta-dah! I finally did it. We really tried to make the most of it, too - we battled the heat and humidity and made it to nearly every landmark that I've been dreaming of for all this time.

We started, obviously, here:

The Eiffel Tower!

My head was hurting; the day was boiling; but it was fantastic. Somehow I managed to get a picture that isn't crushed by the crowd, which was a minor miracle. Paris in July is a crowded place; I suppose that, by being tourists, we were only adding to it, but at least we're a fairly unobtrusive pair.

We actually went back to the Eiffel Tower a couple days later, this time at night, so that we could climb it. Little did I know: I guess I'm afraid of heights. I've never really experienced it before, but on our way up the 300+ stairs to the first platform, I found myself believing that somehow this steel structure of approximately 10,000 tons would miraculously fall apart. Clearly, it didn't, but that didn't stop my nerves from jangling. I sucked it up, though, when a random stranger asked if we wanted our picture taken:

Over the Trocadero Gardens

(Because a second before that, I looked like this: Scared!).

Another incredibly famous Paris landmark: The Arc de Triomphe. It turns out that the Arc itself is, indeed, quite pretty, but the real attraction was the traffic surrounding it. It is possibly the worst roundabout that I have ever laid eyes, eight cars deep with absolutely no organization and death-defying cyclists cutting through it. We stood watching it for maybe twenty minutes. The picture doesn't do the madness justice.

Arc de Triomphe / traffic

We also, of course, went to the Louvre. We spent, in fact, the entire day there, so by the time we left at seven in the evening, my head was spinning from all the staring and elbowing. The elbowing was limited to only a few wings housing the most famous pieces in their collection, and the most intense clutch was right here:

Art Lovers?Insane crowd

The Mona Lisa. Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code craze really ruined it for people who want to see the Mona Lisa, I have to say. Leonardo isn't particularly one of my favorites, but I would have liked to have seen this painting in a less frenzied environment. Though there were a handful of other pieces in the museum that attracted large crowds, none of them were as bad as this. People were really flouting the rules of museum etiquette, which is one set of rules that I actually really appreciate.

Other areas of the museum, though, were a bit more easy to move through. One of my favorite areas was Napoleon's chambers and the furniture of the various royal families. It was truly opulent.

Post-revolution opulence

We spent maybe 10 hours in the museum, all in all, with a short break for lunch. But, as amazing as it was, I think I enjoyed the Rodin museum just a little bit more. I love sculpture, and Rodin is my favorite sculptor, and to see his work up close was absolutely amazing.

The Gates of Hell by Rodin

I'm not posting the large size photo here, but if you click through to the actual photo page, you can see the large one, and you may be able to better see the incredible detail in this, which is called the Gates of Hell. It's so intricate and full of so many subtleties that a picture can't really capture. His ability to infuse emotion into sculpture is simply incredible to me, beyond my comprehension.

Andrieu d'Andres by Rodin

It was a lovely day to be in the garden, too; the Rodin museum is actually made up of a garden and then a more formal museum, and the garden is the perfect setting in which to see his work.

We visited Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge; we walked along the Seine; we window-shopped on the Champs-Elysees; and we went to the bizarrely futuristic area called La Defense, which is apparently considered by some to be a blight on the otherwise austere and historic Parisian landscape. I, however, thought it was incredible and strange, full of curious buildings and an even more curious marriage of new and old.

La DefenseAt La DefenseLa Defense

I'm not sure of the purpose of the rainbow column. It was just that; a rainbow column. The whole district seemed to be full of mostly superfluous artwork, which I thought gave a surreal edge to the otherwise sterile and business-based area. Post-modern finance, I guess.

It's funny to think back on Paris from here. At the time, we were seeing it in the context of Not England, which surely had an effect on our perception of the place. We were so happy to be in a place that was, well, more European, so now it seems somehow twice-removed. Twice-removed in a good way, though; the distance makes it seem that much more magical.

Phew! That was a long post. I'll be back soon, with 1) tales of our final days in England, 2) a quick narration of our trip across the country, and 3) the beginnings of Rhode Island. Before I go, though, a little more Paris, because there are a couple things so quintessentially Parisian that I cannot finish without them. Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

silvergirl said...

The sky, the Rodin museum, and the catacombs were my favorite memories from Paris. (Also, going to Shakespeare & Co. and typing a postcard to a friend in one of the upstairs rooms.) But i have to say: i am so proud of you for braving La Tour Eiffel! i basically refused to ascend, preferring instead to view it from afar in all its sparkling glory... as for the Louvre, Nat and i had a terrible time (got lost from each other for hours) and next time it will definitely be the Musée D'Orsay. ;)

Hey Katie- what was your name in French class again? And do you remember mine? ;)