I’m back!

15 Mar

It would appear I’ve grown popular in my absence.  I write reviews and post them on TripAdvisor under the screen name WyldWeezle. I got a note from them the other day saying that I am one of the top 20% most read reviewers. I have no idea if that means anything really, but I thought I’d mention it here (In a post about travel).

Yes I promised to post more often.

Yes I’ve failed miserably in that.

I’d be ashamed of the long silence but for the fact that I know myself well enough to have seen this coming from the outset. I will endeavor to do better. I will likely fail. Hopefully you’ll like what I write despite the long hiatus.

When last we spoke of our Grand European Tour yours truly was in Paris having just finished a fantastic meal at The Blue Train. So… on to Day 3;

On the recommendation of the clerk at the Hotel du Printemps (The eminently helpful Marc) we visited the Wednesday street market on the Cours de Vincennes about a block away.  Those of you that live in larger cities may be familiar with this sort of market, although I had never encountered its equal for its breadth of scope.  There was produce, meat, seafood, and baked goods of every description.  There were entire stalls devoted to spices, mushrooms, and cheeses (The cheeses!). There were also shoes, kitchenware, clothing, furniture, and household items of every description.  There was one stall devoted solely to hairdryers.

Could've spent the morning here

Could’ve spent the morning here

If we had been set up in an apartment instead of a hotel, or anyplace with a kitchen, I’d have loaded up and gone directly back in order to start cooking and eating fabulous things.  As it was we had not so much as a hot plate in our little hotel room so we browsed about one block of the market before catching the Metro to the Musée d’Orsay.

An English Language course ad we saw on the Metro that struck us a particularly hilarious solely because we know a guy named Brian. It helps to be easily amused, that way you never get bored.

An English Language course ad we saw on the Metro that struck us as particularly hilarious solely because we know a guy named Brian. It helps to be easily amused, that way you never get bored.

Once again our Paris Museum Pass allowed us to skip the ticket queue.  We proceeded directly to the security checkpoint where, upon discovering the bottle of red wine in my bag, a security officer insisted on escorting me to the coat check to make certain that I didn’t bring said bottle with me into the museum.  Perhaps someone from the Louvre narced on me.  As with the Louvre we rented an audio guide.  Again, as with the Louvre, only selected items are included in its memory.  This audio guide was an iPod Touch that didn’t have nearly the battery life of the Nintendo DS, and I had to switch it out about halfway through our visit.  It was full of useful information about the items in the permanent collection that it had in its memory.  The guide information on the temporary exhibit of Degas nudes was an extra charge.

The Musée d’Orsay is a converted train station completed in 1900.

Sorry for the poor quality. Photography is absolutely forbidden, so I snapped this shot rather quickly.

Sorry for the poor quality. Photography is absolutely forbidden, so I snapped this shot rather quickly.

It served in that capacity until 1939. The structure was put to use in a number of ways until it was slated to be torn down in the mid-70’s. It was instead converted to a museum in 1986.  The central sculpture gallery is a large open space several stories high.  Like the other stations of its era, it was built to let in great amounts of light and is extremely well suited to its current purpose.

We had come to see Impressionists, and Impressionists aplenty they had!  We spent the morning looking at works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, Seurat (Ok, ok, “Post-Impressionist”), Degas, Monet, Manet, and many others… more than I can recall or list. The museum was crowded but not packed, so a little patience was required to get a good unobstructed view of some of the pieces from a distance that would allow you to take it all in.

Ok, not really a peeve, but an observation. I am not a habitual visitor of art museums. Perhaps I’ve visited more than the average bear in my lifetime but I am not a serious student. Here’s what I’d like to know; Is there a reason that the information about any given painting (Generally posted on a little card to one side in 9 point letters) in a permanent collection can’t be made large enough to read from say… 4 feet away? It would certainly enhance my viewing of art to A) Not have to come within a foot of the wall and (9 times out of 10) bend down to read a 3×5 card. And B) Not have a steady stream of people stopping and bending over to read the card while they stand between me and the painting while I’m standing at a distance from which the painting was meant to be viewed.

Yes, I understand that this is an exceptionally self-centered view. Yes, I know that there are folks who like to get up close to see the texture of a painting, I happen to be one of them and I don’t begrudge anyone taking the time to closely examine the brush strokes of a master. But waiting while someone stops in front of Monet’s Blue Water Lillies and spends 5 minutes reading the card and then explaining it to their companion makes me a little twitchy.

Maybe it’s just me.

Sacre Coeur as viewed from the upper floor of the D'Orsay.

Sacre Coeur as viewed from the upper floor of the D’Orsay.

We spent the majority of our time in the Impressionist galleries and in the central sculpture gallery before heading out at about 3PM to have lunch. We sat on a wall just below the museum on the Seine and had our standard tourist meal of oranges, apples, bread, prosciutto, cheese, chocolate, and red wine. We  people-watched, giggled over the fact that we were having lunch on the ground by the Seine, and fed crumbs to the little birds that were flitting about the quay.

After a short rest (Again, hours spent walking marble floors wear you out fast) we set off again and made our way back to the Trocadero where we visited the Musée National De La Marine (The French National Maritime Museum). We again entered with our Paris Museum Pass (There wasn’t much of a line to skip here).

A masthead in the figure of Charlemagne.

A masthead in the figure of Charlemagne.

The museum is made up mostly of artifacts from the French Imperial Navy and is generally centered on the period when the French and the English were slugging it out all over the globe and generally running about trying to beat each other to all the treasures of Antiquity, box ‘em up, and haul them home. Or, failing that, steal anything the other guy got first (See also: Rosetta Stone). There are countless weapons and small items of shipboard life as well as a few intact wooden artifacts from the period (And a little earlier) on display. In particular, there are some truly stunning examples of maritime sculpture in the form of mastheads and stern decorations. There was a lighthouse exhibition that was an extra charge that we did not visit.

Probably a good third of the collection is made up of period paintings of sailing ships and models of wooden ships and modern naval vessels. One model that we found particularly fascinating was a diorama showing the process by which the French removed, packed, and transported the obelisk from the Temple of Luxor in Egypt that now stands at the center of the Place de la Concorde. A diagram of the process is also carved into the base on which the obelisk stands. Muhammad Ali Pasha made a gift of the obelisk to the French in 1829. Using a complex block & tackle system the obelisk was tilted over on its side and moved length-wise into the ship Louqsor (As far as I can tell purpose-built to hold the obelisk) that had been beached nearby and had its stern cut off. The stern was re-attached and the whole shebang was towed back to France by a steamer.

After a large room of models of modern warships and deactivated naval artillery shells there was a display of navigation equipment and (Thanks to the policy of free admittance to students to any museum) a pair of teenagers making out on a bench near the exit.

We left them to it, quietly slipping out onto the esplanade where we took more touristy pictures of the EiffelTower, bought overpriced crepes from a stand on the Avenue Pierre Loti (Cause that’s what you DO) and then took the Metro back to our hotel.

Overpriced, but still delicious!

Overpriced, but still delicious!

We made an early night of it after more cheese, more prosciutto, more fruit, more bread, more wine, and more chocolate.  Time to rest up for our last full day in Paris!

Take good care.

© 2013 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator

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3 Responses to “I’m back!”

  1. Ilene March 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    C’mon-you can’t just say Crepes and not tell us what kind!

  2. William Kenyon March 17, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    thanks for getting back to the story! as always, a pleasure to read your writings…

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