Friday, August 24, 2012

Paris When it Sizzles

It's been a little warm in Paris, as you might have guessed. But also busy busy busy as we close in on those last weeks!

To escape the heat on Sunday after Bordeaux, we headed to Paris Plages (aka fake beaches along the Seine in Paris) to study for our midterm. I think I am the only one who successfully studied. This photo actually wasn't taken when we were there (I was afraid of getting sand in the camera) but it's a good view of what Paris Plages is like.

Monday 8/13 was a "big big big day" (Hunger Games fans??). We were ready to leave at like 6:50 and headed over to the Louvre to be the first ones in line, and we succeeded. We got in line and then were told by one of the security people that we could move to the group line even though we had individual passes. We gave presentations about the Louvre in the group line and waited until some horrible horrible woman who was substantially smaller than me - like seriously probably not clearing 4'10" - came to yell at us and kick us out of line. I have never seen my sweet little French professor so angry. She definitely would not let that woman push us all the way back to the end of the line that extended outside, so we went to a different one that was still really long but less long than the other one. It moved really quickly, but on principle the whole thing was super irritating. 

A couple of us also got separated from the group like right off the bat, but we called someone and got reconnected fairly quickly. And we got to see the Mona Lisa and they didn't! We saw more of the historically significant paintings and rooms versus the well known art, which was fine with me. I think the Louvre is way more interesting as a historical place vs. a museum. We got to see Napoleon's apartments, which I had never seen:

Then we took a walk around the Marais, the historically Jewish district, and talked about it's development and history. After this walking class was finished we went to a falafel restaurant and a bakery both recommended by Mme.

 It was my first time having falafel, and it was soooo good! The tart was also incredibly delicious although not particularly Jewish. After that we needed a nap, and class was postponed until 4pm!

The next morning we headed to Hôtel de Ville and got a private tour, which was very cool. All of the rooms were gorgeous, and it was cool to think about how many important people have been there.

You can now rent this room for something like $5,000 per hour.

 It's where all of the heads of state of different countries go to be received by the mayor of Paris. And sometimes they sign things. Example: Ronald Reagan...although I can't remember exactly what this was for.

After that we had pretty much the whole day free, so some friends and I decided to make that our monument day. Which was really more like me taking them along for the ride for thesis research. It was a lot of walking in very hot sun (and I stupidly wore pants), but we found everything!

 On the left is the monument to the holocaust, and on the right is the one to the Algerian War.

 And here we have two monuments to the Vel d'Hiv roundup, one of the largest in WWII France. The left is the actual location, the right is a nearby memorial space.

On the way we saw the lock bridge! You decorate a lock with the person you love and lock it to the bridge, and I think you're meant to throw the key in the water. Very sweet and romantic. Julie and I may get our own lock. 

The next day was very full as we went to two super huge castles. The first was Fontainebleau, which was a sort of vacay/hunting spot for the Kings' families. It's gorgeous, and it's amazing to go through the rooms and see all of the changes made during different reigns. It's like history in a building, and everyone left there mark.

A personal favorite feature of Fontainebleau - peeing dog fountain.
 Then we moved on to Vaux le Vicomte where we had a super fantastic meal, but I'll just show dessert. It was so delicious! And then we had a tour of the house and walked around the grounds. My camera died before I could take photos of the gardens, but I'll get some from someone else, because they are absolutely phenomenal.

It's also pretty cool to see it while we're learning about it. In the advanced class we're reading a book about Fouquet, the Surintendant de Finance for Louis XIV, who built Vaux. He didn't get to spend much time there though because he had one hugely incredible party there (which people still talk about - how's that for a Party of the Century?), and the king got super jealous and had him arrested. It's a little more complicated, but that's the gist of it. He introduced France to a lot of incredible artists and intellectuals (Molière, La Fontaine, etc.), and Vaux was the inspiration for Versailles. 

Thursday after class we decided to tackle a few assigned visits. We started with Les Invalides. It's a pretty huge museum(s), but we saw what we could and spent a lot of time in the WWII/Charles de Gaulle exhibit. We also saw the military museum, which houses Napoleon's horse. Like the real thing preserved via taxidermy. Ew.   

We were speculating on why Napoleon's statue always has his hand in his shirt like that.
Any thoughts?
 The real thing to see at Les Invalides was actually Napoleon's tomb, so here it is:

After we finished with that we moved on to Rodin. The Rodin Museum is very cool because you can walk around the gardens and see the various statues. For example, the Thinker:

I'm not sure statues are really my thing, but there were a few I really liked, and inside the house there are a ton more plus a bunch of paintings. I think my favorite part, however, was being outside to look at the statues.

We also saw the Musée d'Orsay that day, but you aren't supposed to take photos there. That surprised me because I'm pretty sure I have some from previous trips...anyway I figured I already had photos and ought to just enjoy the museum. It didn't disappoint. I always get so excited in the impressionist area on the fifth floor, when literally in every new room I see at least two of the paintings I've been looking forward to seeing and so many more that I love! I think there is a picture a friend took of me with Degas' La Danseuse, so I'll see if I can find it. I think that's probably it for now. Updates on Amsterdam to come!


PS Anyone who didn't catch the reference that this title makes to one of Sara's and my favoritest Audrey films really really ought to watch it! 

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