Search Results for: travels paris

travels: paris, the louvre and funny faces

Another thing that caught my eye and became a wonderfully fun treasure hunt was funny faces. I had one of those halt in my tracks, turn back and try to keep myself from squealing moments when I chanced upon a set of Archimboldo paintings. Delighting in the wackiness of these portraits sent me off in another direction – finding funny faces. I wasn’t ignoring women here – there just weren’t any women making funny faces in the wings I wandered.FullSizeRender-1

Do me a favor – come up with some hilarious captions for these and I’ll add them to the post.

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Cinq maitres de la Renaissance florentine

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Autoportrait avec un ami (Self portrait with a friend by Raffaello Santi, de Raphael)

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Portrait de deux jeunes hommes (portrait of two young men by anonymous vénitien painter)

“If you pretend you don’t smell anything, they won’t know it was you.”

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La Seance de portrait (the portrait session by Gaspare Traversi)

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David vainqueur de Goliath (David vanquishes Goliath by Guido Reni)

“Yep. All in a day’s work.”

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Portrait d’un graveur en pierres fines (Portrait of a fine stone engraver by Jacopo Carrucci)

“Wait, who took the last cookie!”

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Self Portrait by Jacques-Louis David

“The original duck-lip selfie!”

travels: paris, the louvre and strong women

When there is so much to see, in such a short amount of time, it sometimes helps if you have limited parameters. Instead of trying to see everything – choose one or two things to concentrate on. louvre-women2I didn’t have any particular parameters in mind when I began our peripatetic perusal, but after this powerful woman on a plinth caught my eye. I decided to see how many paintings I could find with powerful women as the main subject. louvre-women5Not Madonna’s – although I think of them as very strong. There were just too many of them. And clothed would be nice. Have you ever stopped to consider the ratio of naked women to men in art museums? Hmmmm.louvre-women3Most all of the paintings with women as the main subject were allegorical in the galleries we visited. No idea what collections we visited. I also don’t remember seeing a lot of “women as sexual objects”. Either I missed those ones or they came later in the art world. I hopped over to the wiki site for the Louvre and of course I missed a great number of works that feature women… some in the “sexual object” category. I also missed Michelangelo’s Dying Slaves. (I think I would have actually fought the crowd to see that one!)

louvre-women1Still, most of what I saw was woman as saint or goddess, or symbol or something otherworldly. I would have loved to see a few Vermeers. Have you seen the film Tim’s Vermeer yet? I recommend it. It is an entertaining and educational hypothesis about an optical device Tim believes Vermeer used to paint his works.louvre-women4Interesting that the only portrait of a real (non-allegorical) woman I saw was painted by a female artist. Elizabeth Lebrun was born in Paris to a portraitist father and by the time she was 16 was painting portraits professionally herself. Click here to go to the wiki page about her. She was a very interesting woman. I don’t remember her being mentioned in my art history class. I wonder how many other interesting women weren’t mentioned in my art history classes? Did you know that 

travels: paris, the louvre – odd bits here and there

Once you start walking through the Louvre you realize how overwhelming such a collection can be. Almost any work here could be a national treasure on it’s own, to be gazed at and appreciated for hours in any smaller museum. But here at the Louvre, when there are hundreds and hundreds of treasures, you start just glancing here and there until something catches your eye. Avia quickly found works that she had recently studied in her art history course.FullSizeRender-29I quickly forgot that this place used to be the palace for the French Royalty. Until I was reminded by a room like this….

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louvre-statue-egyptian-romanHubby and I were talking the other night and I was telling him a little more about the trip. I kind of feel like, “Paris – Check! Greece – honey you’ve GOT to see this!”

That might only be because he loves sun and beaches. Museums – not so much. Because who doesn’t want to travel across the world to see some hellenistic dude dressing up like Pharaoh? Right?

But then we started thinking of all sorts of crazy fun ideas like, “Let’s go spend a season in Paris. You go to Le Cordon Bleu for cooking school, I’ll go see and make art every day.”

louvre-paintingThat idea takes Paris right back into the “when can we go!” category. Sigh. The answer to that question is most likely – after the kids are grown. We have a ways to go there.

Can you imagine being in Paris during the off season, heading off to the Louvre (or any one of the other amazing museums) without the crowds, and tucking yourself in a corner to just really learn from one of your favorites?

louvre-statues4And without the crowds maybe you could laugh out loud when you see these guys contemplating…..

 

It took some hunting but Avia found a piece she had written an essay on last semester. How cool is that!? To see it in real life? In all it’s hugeness? Very cool. 
louvre-avia1Although by the end of the day all you want to do is snap a quick picture to prove you were there and then find somewhere to sit down. It’s all good – a day well spent.

travels: paris, overwhelmed at the Louvre

Once I tore myself away from the stone tablets in the Islamic wing of the Louvre, Avia led the way to one piece she wanted to revisit.FullSizeRender-15

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is, for all it’s incompleteness, is one of the most graceful and beautiful sculptures I’ve ever seen. I wonder if I would have such a visceral reaction to the flowing lines and the feeling of movement and grace if she did have a face?FullSizeRender-13

And I wonder if she is yet another national treasure, spirited away during the Turkish occupation of Greece to a foreign land. Anybody know? She was excavated by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, in 1863 who sent her right away to Paris. Her setting here is certainly magnificent!

I can’t help but think though, if this beauty, and so many of the other magnificent sculptures from ancient Greece were still IN Greece, FullSizeRender-14would there be crowds like this there?

 

The next thing I really remember is turning a corner and gasping for breath thinking – it’s SO beautiful as I looked at a painting/fresco. Then I did the inner gasp thing again, thinking to myself, is this a Botticelli!?FullSizeRender-25

Looked down at the title card and sure enough, there is the name. Coming face to face with favorite works from several college art history classes many many many years ago can be disarming. There truly is no way to capture the essence of a work, especially a large scale work, in the pages of a book. The figures in this fresco were almost life size if I’m remembering correctly.FullSizeRender-25

Then there are works that might make as much of an impact in a book, because they are tiny in real life. And – who wants to fight that crowd to get a glimpse? That was shoulder to shoulder, push your way through. Not my favorite way to see art.IMG_4969 So technically I DID see the Mona Lisa. But no, I didn’t think it was worth it to fight the crowd.

 

travels: paris, the louvre in stone

Everything inside the Louvre is a treasure. The most overlooked artifact there would be a centerpiece of any smaller museum.IMG_4976-1Statues from ancient Greece and Rome..IMG_4975A mosaic on the floor that most people rush by on their way to see that one paintingIMG_4984-1This was Avia’s second time in the Louvre but I think she had mostly spent her time in the Islamic wing. She humored me for a quick trip through where I was inexplicably drawn past exquisite mosaics and tapestries and entranced by stone after stone.IMG_4983

With her French study abroad program she had spent several weeks in Paris studying immigrants in France as well as several weeks in Morocco studying French Colonialism’s effect on North Africa. They had spent weeks analyzing and picking apart cultural biases and interactions.FullSizeRender-5I think it was something of a lightening of spirit to be able to just go and enjoy the beauty of the artifacts.FullSizeRenderHave you ever seen a more beautiful script?FullSizeRenderIf I can find translations somewhere (anyone able to help me search them out?) these might end up as thermofax screens. I wouldn’t want to be disrespectful if they are religious texts. FullSizeRenderI’m hoping for grocery lists or epitaphs. What do you think they are? The pictures are quite heavily digitally edited so that I can see the scripts more clearly. Here is an original for comparison.IMG_4982

travels: paris, entering the louvre

FullSizeRenderIt’s a BIG place. All the exterior pictures I’ve ever seen of the Louvre picture I.M. Pei’s pyramid in the courtyard. I think we might have come in through the back entrance of what was once the Royal Palace. Do you ever wonder what today’s American equivalent of royalty is? We certainly don’t revere our politicians. TV and Movie stars perhaps. Perhaps professional athletes (mostly in Football and Basketball.) I don’t watch TV or sports (no time) so I wouldn’t really know but I get the feeling those people are as spoiled and behave as badly as did the French Royalty. I can imagine what the palace must have been like as one giant stage for the nobles to be seen upon. And don’t ask me how I ended up with a chinese map – is it chinese?Louvre_exterior1I think we must have come in the back door. The big empty dirt yard was a little underwhelming. But the building itself went on forever.Louvre_exterior2In through the first arcade… It was interesting to see all the details, wondering when the lamps were added then thinking, what did they use before lamps and what did that look like?Louvre_exterior3Old and new always butt up against each other. Did they even bother to repair or scrub the buildings before they had cranes? I was thinking that we were in great luck and that the tourists had all decided to stay home that day. Honestly – this place is huge. You can just glimpse I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid through the next arcade. We definitely came in the back door. Every picture I’ve seen of the place showed the pyramid from the other side.Louvre_exterior5I’m not sure if the ugly red box is semi-permanent or not. It might house ticketing booths. I know the other side of that glass holds enormous lines of people from all over the world. Which could be really annoying.Louvre_exterior6Or, if you have the right shoes and the right attitude it could be really fun. The people were honestly as interesting as the art.Louvre_exterior8 Just listening and trying to identify how many languages you can hear at a place like this is an adventure worth taking.Louvre_exterior9With the Paris Museum Pass you can skip the ticket line, but not the security lines. Fortunately those go pretty quickly. Louvre_exterior10And really, it’s worth the wait. Stay tuned for the ART!

travels: paris – on the way to the louvre

Or in this case – on the way to the Louvre. I’ve just decided that I need to print up maps and mark all the places we wandered. I’ve already forgotten a lot of them… or at least where they were on the map. Of course – if you keep your eyes open – many of the most delightful discoveries are on the way to your destination. Or when you are lost.

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paris_pass1paris_pass2I’m not sure if we walked all the way to the Louvre or if we took the Metro. Avia had a pass and we decided that for the time I was there a bundle of 10 tickets was the least expensive option. It was much nicer to just be able to decide on the spur of the moment to hop a train rather than needing to stop and purchase tickets for each part of our last minute journey.

Paris is more than a world class city when it comes to art. It’s paradise! Bring your shoes. And if you go, I recommend the Paris Museum Pass. You can purchase it at varying costs for however many days you will be there. It gave us the freedom and flexibility to pop in and out of some of the smaller places that we would not have wanted to pay for. It also lets you skip a lot of the lines – which is a THING in and of itself.

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But seriously, take your time and look around during the journey instead of focusing entirely on the destination. Everywhere you look there is something really interesting to see. Who built this? What is it? I really want to see what it looks like in there! Don’t you love the asymmetrical awning?
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I wonder if this is a shop or factory? Or is it both? I have never had a desire for name brand stuff and couldn’t spot a Louis Vuitton anything if my life depended on it, but it’s a very lovely building.FullSizeRender-18And this…. I don’t even know what it is or what it says but don’t you wish they made details on buildings like this these days? And finally – we arrive at the Louvre – but are completely distracted by what is across the street. We both love exploring cathedrals. There seems to be one every few blocks in Paris, an embarrassment of architectural riches to be sure. We chose to hit these on our way back – although I don’t remember if we actually ever did.FullSizeRender-23

Travels: Paris street art

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travels: paris, the food!

Paris sweets tend to focus their variety on pastries, the cake like specialty cookies that I can’t remember the name of (confiseries – I had to look it up), and of course macarons. All of them are spectacularly beautiful and artistically presented – but I didn’t see a lot of other options either in the tourist areas or the neighborhoods we explored. Every once in a while there was a surprise. See those three chocolate truffles? Served with home made real whipped creme. At the equivalent of a fast food bagel shop!!!! When I ordered it I thought I was just getting one truffle for desert. What a lovely surprise. paris_food15

Then there are the meringues. No pretty ribbed little drops. The meringues are simply big, blobby blobs of sugar, light as air and crispy. They are usually displayed in a bowl on top of the counter. Often they are dusted with cocoa. They were the only sweet that was sweet like Americans like sweet. Which is to say – ridiculously sweet. I saw a couple of them that were the size of a flattened football. They crumble and fall apart when you bite into them so I’m not sure how one would share such a monster.paris_food12This beauty was obviously an exception. Here is Avia in the lovely apartment we rented through AirBnB for the week. (It was wonderful and ideally located by the way!) She had been eyeing this thing for a couple of weeks and neither one of us were quite sure what it was. We knew it was chocolate on the outside so how could one go wrong?paris_food14Other than making a royal mess on the table, the process of discovery was a delight. A meringue coated in a light chocolate whipped cream, dipped in chocolate crackle stuff. Impossible to eat politely and absolutely delicious!

So – I’ve cultivated a love of surprises when it comes to food. I know so many people who only like the same things to eat (one of them lives in my house but I hope he’ll grow out of it.) I suppose if your tummy tends to rebel it would make it hard to like surprises but I think exploring with all my senses is half the adventure of travel! What have been your best (or worst) food surprises when you’ve traveled?

travels: paris, the food – it’s all about the presentation

I think the Parisiens are very keyed into the visual language of beauty. They like to dress beautifully, trim their trees into (ridiculous) rectangles so the beautiful view is unobstructed, and every pastry shop was like an art gallery.
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Honestly – look at that display! Everything is just so …. Beautiful!paris_food05

I wonder if they like to just loooooook at all the beautiful food? To many Americans, desensitized by the presence of sweeteners in practically everything we put into our mouths, the taste doesn’t quite live up to the visual. The pastries just aren’t as sweet as American pastries. That’s probably not a bad thing. Oh, and they don’t skimp on butter – ever. I think that when you aren’t constantly eating sugar, and live in a country where the default is walking rather than hopping in a car to get anywhere – that you can eat butter!paris_food01

This lunch was arranged as beautifully on the plate as the pastries in the shop. And here is another wonderfully interesting thing about Paris. See the chairs in the cafe across the street? They are all facing the street. That was more the norm than were we were sitting. I think the people watching is as much part of the experience as the food. I loved it. Except for the fact that smoking is far more accepted there. During this particular meal a guy sitting nearby kept blowing huge puffs of a super stinky cigar our way. 
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This was a chain store – we saw the same place in several touristy areas of town. But still….paris_food16

Pressed tin ceiling, perfectly stacked cookies (what do you call al little cake biscuit thing?) and everything color coordinated.paris_food17

Even the fish market was artfully arranged. It’s all about beauty. Or at least, they care enough to dress even every day things with beautiful arrangements.paris_food06

travels: paris – the food!

One of our favorite things in Paris was to hunt down any sort of treat that was recommended to us. We were told of a great gelato (ice cream) shop in Isle de la Cite’. We found a place, bought a really expensive tiny scoop – and were not really impressed. paris_food19

Walking back along the tiny cobblestone road we found another place, with almost the same name, with a line of loud and rowdy American teenagers (and their loud and rowdy chaperones) and decided we definitely had room for another cone. Avia tried the Poire (pear) and it was truly delicious. Don’t remember what flavor I had. I do remember that we ended up trying Pear flavored gelato whenever we found it on the rest of the trip. This place was definitely better than the first! We ate this cone on the banks of the Seine river at sunset – before racing through the city to catch the twinkling of the Eiffel tower.

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Another favorite, simply for the style, was the shop that turned each cone into a flower. This might be raspberry, basil-lime, and coconut. 

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Another night we were thinking we couldn’t be in Paris and not visit a Fromagerie. (cheese!) This required a little more advanced planning as they keep French hours and close at lunch and in the evening. We were told this was THE best place and that we must try a desert cheese called Fontainebleau. (wow – I just googled the name of the cheese to make sure I was spelling it right and the Barthelemy Fromagerie came up on the list first thing!

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It was great for a very light late dinner of baguette and fresh strawberries. It was sort of like a very, very light whipped ricotta – and my sincerest apologies to cheese experts. To us uneducated (in the world of cheese) Americans that is the closest I could come. Just the tiniest bit sweet – a perfect match to the tartness of the berry.

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Another day we traveled to Maison Pradier to try what we were told were the BEST eclairs. The fun thing about traveling outside the tourist zones is that in Paris, there are no boring strip malls and monotonous suburbs. Every place is an adventure. This place was around the corner from Deroylle… scroll down if you missed this cabinet of curiosities. Every part of the trip was an adventure. I highly recommend that when you travel you TRY NEW THINGS!!!! Sure you can stop by a McDonalds almost anywhere in the world – (URG!) but why would you spend the big bucks to go someplace completely different and do something you can do every day at home. (again – URG!)

Of course, there really is no way to go wrong with the sweets in Paris. Have you been there? What was your favorite?

travels: paris, notre dame – inside

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It’s really, really, really big in there. (And much, much more crowded these days.)IMG_5751

Every nook along the apse (the aisles on either side of the Nave -which is the long central main space)  has beautiful stained glass and a little sanctuary with statues. Each is unique.IMG_5752

I loved Joan of Arc. Fierce woman if ever there was one.IMG_5763The stained glass windows on every level are beautiful. It is impossible to convey the feel and atmosphere of the place.

IMG_5765-1Is that the shadow of an angel – or the hunchback of…. Notre Dame?IMG_5766-1I wish I could read french. Was this really a great man giving to the poor, or was it a rich guy who commissioned a statue to make people think of him as really generous. I really shouldn’t be so cynical. Really I’m not.  Late at night the snarky thoughts just seem to take over my usual pollyanna view of the world.

Travels: paris, notre dame’s gargoyles

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Painted in Waterlogue

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Painted in Waterlogue

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Painted in Waterlogue

travels: paris, notre dame’s bells

According to Wikipedia, “The cathedral has 10 bells. The largest, Emmanuel, original to 1681, is located in the south tower and weighs just over 13 tons and is tolled to mark the hours of the day and for various occasions and services. This bell is always rung first, at least 5 seconds before the rest. Until recently, there were four additional 19th-century bells on wheels in the north tower, which were swing chimed. These bells were meant to replace nine which were removed from the cathedral during the Revolution and were rung for various services and festivals. The bells were once rung by hand before electric motors allowed them to be rung without manual labor. When it was discovered that the size of the bells could cause the entire building to vibrate, threatening its structural integrity, they were taken out of use. The bells also had external hammers for tune playing from a small clavier.”IMG_5716

“On the night of 24 August 1944 as the Île de la Cité was taken by an advance column of French and Allied armoured troops and elements of the Resistance, it was the tolling of the Emmanuel that announced to the city that its liberation was under way.”

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“In early 2012, as part of a €2 million project, the four old bells in the north tower were deemed unsatisfactory and removed. The plan originally was to melt them down and recast new bells from the material. However, a legal challenge resulted in the bells being saved in extremis at the foundry.[11] As of early 2013, they are still merely set aside until their fate is decided. A set of 8 new bells was cast by the same foundry in Normandy that had cast the four in 1856. At the same time, a much larger bell called Marie was cast in the Netherlands—it now hangs with Emmanuel in the south tower. The 9 new bells, which were delivered to the cathedral at the same time (31 January 2013),[12] are designed to replicate the quality and tone of the cathedral’s original bells.”

travels: paris, notre dame’s towers

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Climbing towers – being UP – one of my very favorite things ever. Every time I travel my most memorable memories are climbing to the top of things. Or at least the view once I get there.

IMG_5722Waiting in lines – NOT my favorite thing. Hers neither. And this was one LONG line. I suggest either get there first thing in the morning, or wait until a time of day when the line is in the shade.

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The views as you wait are wonderful if you take a moment to look.

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We finally made it to the little red door.IMG_5720And then – up and up and up and up and up and up…..

IMG_5719But the views are SO worth the climb! This is looking North – the hill is Montmartre and Sacre Caeur.

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Another view North of the bell tower.

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The Seine.

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I thought I would be spending time with my watercolor sketchbook, sitting at cafes while I was traveling. I didn’t. Too many things to see, and then too exhausted to think. My Waterlogue app did plenty of painting for me.

travels: paris, notre dame

Notre_Dame_01One of the subjects I studied in college was architecture. It took a while to dredge up the names of the parts of a cathedral, but no time at all to realize that seeing and walking through the structure in person cannot compare to looking at pictures in a book. I knew this and wanted more than anything to do a study abroad program in architecture back then. Better late than never!Notre_Dame_08Notre Dame is THE cathedral you study when you learn about Gothic Architecture, which is characterized by pointed arches,Notre_Dame_02ribbed vaults,

IMG_5704 and flying buttresses.

IMG_5706Notre Dame was the first structure to use this innovative support system – out of necessity after the walls, growing ever higher, started to develop stress fractures. It took 185 years to build, finished in 1345. IMG_5705

Notre Dame is also known for the naturalism of it’s sculptures.Notre_Dame_04

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Notre_Dame_03(Somebody in this picture had a rough day.)

Notre_Dame_06I love it for the Gargoyles and Chimeras. 
(Lots more pictures to come – interior, the view from the tower, gargoyles!)

travels: paris, the bird and flower markets

Every Sunday, just east of Notre Dame next to the Isle de la Cite metro stopparis-bird_market10… you will find the Paris Bird and Flower markets.paris-bird_market06The flower markets are a permanent fixture although I’m not sure they are open every day.

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The bird market is a Sunday morning only thing.paris-bird_market04I suppose in a city without Petsmart type big box stores, buying your regular supplies for your pet parakeet requires a bit more planning. paris-bird_market07I didn’t see any more unusual birds than you would find at a pet shop in the US. Except maybe the chickens. (Can you find one?)paris-bird_market12

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I did see some unusual people.paris-bird_market03

I was impressed that she could ride a scooter in heels and a mini skirt – with a bird. I half kill myself on scooters – even with a helmet and sensible shoes.

travels: paris, deyrolle – a cabinet of curiosities

IMG_3784Please see the previous post if you missed the introduction to this amazing shop in Paris.

Deyrolle is a cabinet of curiosities full of wonder and – when I walked into the entymology section – absolute delight! Underneath these display boxes are row upon row of drawers filled with specimens.

 

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The specimens were not simply displayed as a collection. Each box, each display and framed piece on the wall was a work of art.IMG_5663

Of course I happen to think that the living insect world is full of tiny works of art all by themselves. I could have spent the entire day photographing every specimen they have.IMG_3786

What artist could create jewels as beautiful as these?IMG_3779

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The artist Jean-Luc Maniouloux had several works on the wall that ought my eye. The shattered light bulb (is that a bee or a bullet?) was my favorite.

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I could spend hours on the Deyrolle pinterest page.
Now I need a month or two of completely uninterrupted time in order to create a vast series of works celebrating the beauties of the insect world. Anyone want to come take my place for a while? Sigh. If only….

travels: paris, deroylle – a cabinet of curiosities

IMG_3784My daughter and extremely competent tour guide, Avia, had already been abroad in Morocco and Paris for a few weeks before I arrived. When one of her study-abroad group said “you have to stop by this shop – the best eclairs ever – and oh, by the way, there is a cabinet of curiosities shop nearby” – off we went! IMG_5665Avia just might be the world’s foremost expert on judging the quality of an eclair. She notices and has a reasoned opinion about every part of the pastry. She judged these as very good – but not the best she had tasted in Paris. The curiosity shop, however, was worth a trip to Paris on it’s own merits.

FAIR WARNING: This post contains images of dead and stuffed animals and taxidermy. And skeletons. And maybe bugs and other stuff.

According to their website: “With few exceptions, the stuffed animals in Deyrolle come from zoos, parks or reserves where they died of old age or sickness. The animals were not killed for being naturalized in Deyrolle. All protected species are sold accompanied by a CITES certificate (issued by the Washington Convention), which ensures traceability.”

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Downstairs is a little shop with books and gardening supplies and a few interesting frames with mounted insects on the wall. Upstairs – is a garden of wonder that strikes the visitor full of awe. The employees/artisans worked their magic in an atmosphere of more hushed reverence than any cathedral we visited.
IMG_5659It wasn’t just the lifelike taxidermy, it was the whimsy and artistry of each arrangement. There was something unexpected around every corner. The people who do this aren’t trophy hunters. They are artists who appear to care a great deal for the natural world.

IMG_3795Taurus – with butterflies. Or Papillon if you want to be French.

IMG_3794Creatures in and out of their nice neat shelves.

IMG_3791-1Lobster anyone? The picture doesn’t do this justice. It was the biggest lobster we had ever seen.

IMG_3789Would you believe me if I told you I’d always wanted a bat skeleton – and bird and frog skeletons too. The history of Deyrolle is very interesting. Begun in 1831 by Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle, it has long been an institution devoted to education. They currently provide scientific wall charts to schools in 120 countries teaching everything from human anatomy to etymology.

IMG_3792Surprise! (um… I did warn you.) In 2008 much of the collection was destroyed by a devastating fire. Even then, art emerged. Artists and photographers documented the remains and effects and if I had room in my luggage I might have purchased the amazing book that resulted. A little creepy and beautiful at the same time.

IMG_3796Does anyone else have heart palpitations when they see cabinets with rows upon rows of drawers of all sizes? The dream studio that lives in my imagination is full of them. It is not full of chickens and elephants. But if it were tall enough it would have a little balcony with a wall to wall library and posters just like these.

Tomorrow I’ll share my photos from the etymology room.

The Deyrolle Website
replete with photos, history, mission, education
46, rue du Bac – 75007 Paris

Travels: Paris, the Eiffel tower

Avia and I usually wore ourselves out by early evening and would head in to our apartment to rest and eat a very light dinner of fruit and cheese and of course a baguette. Eiffel_tower0605This night we headed out to find gelato and see the Eiffel twinkle. We (quite literally) ran through Paris and her Metro stations to make it in time for the lighting party. Because it is a party. Be prepared for lots of drunk and obnoxious american college students partying and for a river of men walking by trying to sell you wine.Eiffel_tower0201We made it just in time for the lighting at 10pm with seconds to spare. Avia really wanted to see the tower twinkle but … it just lit up. When it’s barely dusk it doesn’t make a big impact. We waited a bit to see if it would twinkle and decided that it wasn’t going to happen until the next hour.Eiffel_tower0706I decided that if we were going to wait around another 45 minutes we might as well do it in line for the elevator and see the twinkling close up. We did so in the company of another group of mostly drunk but amusing American college students.Eiffel_tower0403I think I wish I were part bird. I simply love being UP. Towers, belfries, hot air balloons. Doesn’t matter as long as I’m way high so I can see everything. Paris is beautiful from the heights.Eiffel_tower0302And – as promised at 11pm the twinkling began.

(You can click here to watch a video!)Eiffel_tower0504Worth it!

 

travels: paris – Blue Bike Tours of Versailles

IMG_3412I had been advised that a bike tour of Paris should definitely go on the “must do” list but to be honest, once I saw the traffic and the way bikes worked in the city, I chickened out. Everything seemed to flow smoothly but I didn’t have the confidence that I would need to navigate that zoo. Avia wanted to tour Versailles – which is acres and acres and acres huge so on a very late night whim I booked a bike tour for us there. It was perfect!!! There is no way you can see everything by foot and biking along the long, long pathways through the grounds was an absolute delight!

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We met the tour at the train station in Paris, which is an adventure in and of itself. I wish I had a photo of my confident daughter – striding purposefully through the maze of underground tunnels that twist and turn in every direction. Once you get the hang of the system it’s actually not bad to navigate but this station was huge! It covers several blocks of real estate underground and I think we walked most of it to finally arrive at the platforms. We traveled to Versailles and stopped in the town to pick up the bikes.IMG_0522

Good old comfy beach cruisers (no gears) are new to me. It took a few minutes to get used to but I find I like them. There are very few hills in the area so it was no problem at all. I had to include this picture just because it was cute. I was glad that we had panniers to carry our stuff in rather than baskets. I like my center of gravity to be down low on wheels.IMG_0530

The tour started off at the market to purchase picnic supplies. Check out the size of those pans – almost a meter in diameter! I forgot to check back to see what they would be making in them. My wish was for paella.IMG_0516I started craving seafood too – which wasn’t practical for a picnic. We ended up with some sparkling pear juice, cherries, and of course a baguette sandwich. Oh – and a bar of white chocolate with lemon and something else yummy in it. I didn’t mean to get white chocolate – what sacrilege! But  (shhhh – don’t tell) it was delicious!

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I think I could travel and just look out train windows for ages. There are, of course less beautiful and more industrial areas. But I never saw boring suburbs with rows of nearly identical houses. The architecture in city and suburb was always interesting to me. I suppose that happens when the structural environment has existed for generations before cars were around. I truly love environments built for people rather than cars. What I wouldn’t give for great plaza/pedestrian/market/traffic-free public spaces in the US. Shopping malls (ick) are about as close as we come.2015-06-17 09.51.37

Back to Versailles. Big place. Fancy buildings (scroll down to see the previous post for pictures of the Grande Chateau.) We had some fun history lessons from our entertaining guide.2015-06-17 11.20.52 HDR

Do you see those crazy rectangular trees in the background? The entire estate is almost all planted with Linden trees and they are all trimmed into giant rectangular tree-sized hedgerows on sticks.

IMG_0525Ronan said they do it with a laser – I’m not sure if I believe him or not. It felt like the majority of trees we saw in Paris were also rectangular Linden trees. Kind of an interesting thing for the Parisians to hold over from the last century.
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This is the Grande Canal – our first stop on the grounds. We bike along the paths behind the trees but it isn’t a straight shot. The canal has a cross section to go around before we landed on the hill at the very back of the canal for our picnic. Another interesting thing was the inclusion of installation art by Anish Kapoor in parts of the Chateau and grounds. This piece was a giant sucking whirlpool that we didn’t realize wasn’t part of the original estate at first. I took a video that you might enjoy – I’m working on trying to get it uploaded for you. Try out this link and see if you can view it.Descension2

Next up I’ll share my impressions of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, gardens and hamlet.

travels: paris, versailles – Le Chateau

On a bright and beautiful day Avia and I escaped the city, hopped a train and explored Versailles.IMG_3396

According to Versailles’ official website: “The Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art. The site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it more beautiful.”

 

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More beautiful? Or perhaps just more MORE. This is the absolute antithesis of the “Less is More” modern architecture movement. Even though the French people overthrew the monarchy, I wonder if they still see Versailles as the pinnacle of French art and power. Perhaps as an American I cannot help but see it as a symbol of power taken to extreme excess by humans who thought themselves Gods.

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Every facet of life centered around the sun king including worship at the “chapel” didn’t begin until the monarch arrived. There were public ceremonies surrounding him going to bed at night for heavens sake.

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I must admit that I did enjoy the beautiful flooring …… modern quilt anyone?

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These were people who thought themselves as large as the paintings they commissioned. Napoleon crowned himself and his Queen and then commissioned many, many very large paintings of himself and his exploits. (Many of which we saw in the Louvre – our favorite was one looking like he was falling off his rearing horse.)

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The obligatory Hall of Mirrors photo.

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I was actually intrigued and impressed by some serious napkin folding skills (wonder if those are authentic 1780’s folds and how would they know?) Mostly, I needed to have someplace to look other than the rest of the room. I had an almost physical nauseous reaction to the place.

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adjective: rococo
  1. (of furniture or architecture) of or characterized by an elaborately ornamental late baroque style of decoration prevalent in 18th-century Continental Europe, with asymmetrical patterns involving motifs and scrollwork.
    • extravagantly or excessively ornate, especially (of music or literature) highly ornamented and florid.
       
      In other words – negative space must be obliterated!

Travels: Paris, monuments

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imageLest you think I’m an amazing water colorist, which I am not, check out the Waterlogue App!

 

Travels: Paris, the cluny museum

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Travels: Paris, ste Chapelle

It impossible to get full pictures of most of the really spectacular structures here as there is no open space around most of the cathedrals. This chapel was built inside the courtyard of a palace, the rabble had no access to it until after the Revolution.

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“The Sainte-Chapelle or ‘Holy Chapel’, in the courtyard of the royal palace on the Île de la Cité (now part of a later administrative complex known as La Conciergerie), was built to house Louis IX’s collection of relics of Christ, which included the Crown of Thorns, the Image of Edessa and some thirty other items. Louis purchased his Passion relics from Baldwin II, the Latin emperor at Constantinople, for the sum of 135,000 livres, though this money was actually paid to the Venetians, to whom the relics had been pawned.”

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I found the space to be absolutely beautiful. My awe was in thinking of the master glass men, builders, painters, and masons. This chapel was built in 9 years instead of the 200 needed to build Notre Dame, which is admittedly an order of magnitude larger.

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I love the monkey having some sort of conversation with the elephant and the bird. And what about those dragons? I guess they missed the boat.

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I suppose I have a bit too much of the proletariat in me though as I can’t banish thoughts running through my mind of the absolute hubris exhibited by those who are born into wealth and power.image

Travels: Paris, St. Eustache

I’m going to have to stop trying to get a whole day in one post. so simply, here is another spectacular cathedral. We stayed and listened to Mass for a while. To hear the organ and the singing fill such a soaring space gives you a truer feel of why these buildings exist. It is a very sonorous form of worship, full of pageantry and beauty.

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Along the Aisles in a cathedral, (what you see in the first picture, outside the columns that surround the Nave which is the main seating area down the middle to the crossing) you will find Niches. Each alcove usually has a statue, a confessional, often frescoes, and other art. This almost-life-sized diorama was definitely out of the ordinary and caught my attention. Titled “March of the Fruits and Vegetables …. something something.”

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Travels: art in Paris, the Orangerie

The Orangerie used to house Orange trees for the nobility, now it houses Monet’s Water Lillies. 

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And other Impressionist art. Sorry, not a fan of Picasso, but love Utrillo. There was one woman, Marie Laurencin, represented and wouldn’t you know it, her bio talked about the passionate affair she had with another artist and just a little about the progression of her artwork. Don’t remember any of the other bios talking about their sex life.

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Chiam Soutine was new to me. All of his work was wavy and distorted, which I liked in this piece (that just begged for a wonky photo) but not in his portraits or still lives of butchered cattle.

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There was also a special temporary exhibit of Adolfo Wildt sculptures and other artwork such as sketches and paintings. I loved most of his work. Look home up. No photos allowed there.

Travels: paris day 2

Got some sleep! Beautiful day! Off with my daughter, the Paris Transportation expert, to the Puces de Vanves flea market for a lovely morning stroll.

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Off again in search of her favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Can I tell you how much I love Pho?

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Some really lovely street art in this area.

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It is a wonderful Asian sector. Not sure what it’s called.

 

 

Travels: Paris day 1

It is such magic to find yourself in another country, another continent, another culture. Paris is timeless and ancient but new to me. I met my daughter Avia today at the end of her study abroad program. She was kind enough to meet me at the airport and guide me through the transport system then through the maze of courtyards and doors and up flights and flights of stairs to our lovely little Air BnB apartment for the week.

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We rested and refueled and set of for an adventure in spite of our exhaustion. She had stayed up late saying goodby to her study group and (inspire of a seat upgrade) I hadn’t slept on the flight. No matter. 

First stop top was the grande Notre Dame cathedral. The stained glass windows were enchanting and the architecture soaring. image

A Green Man in a catholic cathedral? Perhaps it is time to look up some history and download some audio tours. Perhaps in a few days we will climb the towers.

As is always the case, my favorite stop of the day was serendipitous. We were wandering and looking for Shakespeare & Co., a book shop Avia wanted to revisit. We found it eventually and it was an hour well spent in this maze/warren of a book lovers dream. My favorite part was the floor with its bits and inlaid pieces from here and there and then and now.

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The magic happened with a wrong turn and a glance and a smile. A shop with delightful toys and ornaments hanging from the ceiling fought our eye and we wandered in. Row upon row of tiny music boxes, the kind with a drum, pins, and crank. We cranked and listened and sand and hummed. Right along with the proprietress who was wonderfully friendly. It was my first chance to hear Avia  speak this beautiful language. 

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Next some more more wandering and a quick stop in a market. A picnic on the (mangy) grass near this tomb/tower/memorial.

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Then off for a very early night. And then of course some middle so the night, jet lagged blogging.

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travels: versailles, petit trianon and hamlet

versailles2Next stop on our Blue Bike Tour of Versailles was the Petit Trianon. First a residence of Madame de Pompadour, a mistress who apparently had some serious privileges – guess kings back then didn’t have to keep such things a secret. Versailles_Petit_TrianonNow it is mostly remembered for the presence of Marie-Antoinette.Marie167It’s just a “little” place to get away from the crowd over in Paris.versailles3

I love to zone in on details and found this doorknob to be one of my favorite things about the place. We weren’t given a long time to explore the place and to be honest, super fancy houses don’t capture my interest so I don’t even remember the rooms.IMG_3422

The gardens might have been lovely but by this time of the day it had gotten quite hot and I didn’t feel like heading out into the open with no shade around. Yup. I’m a wimp sometimes when it comes to the sun – having forgotten sunscreen and having no hat. I ended up with a wicked sunburn anyway.IMG_3414I did love the geometry of this place with diagonally laid floor tiles and a long view through the corridor.IMG_3423Then on to the Hamlet. A little village created to remind Marie-Antoinette of the simple life (which in actuality she never really had lived. Royalty – remember?IMG_3410The vista was charming and the swan seriously added to the feeling of – wow – this place has the exact same feeling as Disneyland! Fantasy done extremely well! but the knowledge that this was fantasy for one person at the expense of the French citizens makes it a little hollow.versailles1This delightful little cottage with truly amazing gardens – I loved the gardens! – was reserved for the queen’s boudoir. Her hairdressing cottage.IMG_3420The mill required humans to turn the wheel as there wasn’t any actual stream on the site. We were informed that she loved to collect eggs – but that she asked her servants to wash the eggs first then place them so she could collect them without getting her hands dirty. A true country girl.IMG_3419Sorry if I sound a little – um – jaded is the only word I can think of. I truly enjoyed Versailles as a day outdoors on a bike with one of my favorite people in the world. The sky was clear and blue and the world was green and beautiful.

And we had a funny story on the way home. In one of the Metro stations on the way home we came down to the platform just as a train was getting ready to leave. We decided to run for it and Avia hopped on – me right behind her. Almost.Metro-metro The door closed with one leg, one arm, and my face in and the rest of me out. I thought I could maybe get the doors back open. Nope. A guy with a somewhat panicked look on his face pried the door open enough that I could get my leg out and Avia shoved the rest of me out as the doors slammed back shut and the train took off. Abesses_entrance_1Nothing better to get your heart pumping than thinking you are going to be dragged down a train tunnel any second. No real worries though. I just hopped the next train and at the next station Avia was waiting and we both hopped back on. The massive (still very colorful 10 days later) bruise on my thigh that I’m sporting is probably from the table corner I clumsily bumped into that evening but I think the train door makes a better story, don’t you?

travel: greece – the water in katakolo

Spring of 2015 was one of the most amazing times of my life. My daughter Avia and I traveled in Paris and Greece. I managed to blog about part of our time in Paris (you can peruse those photos here – lots of museums, lots of food, lots of cathedrals!) Then life got crazy again and hasn’t stopped. Today I’m practicing the ultimate in procrastination and avoidance of a serious deadline and am reminiscing about our time in Greece.Katakalo_beach07
It’s a billion degrees hot with humidity like a steam room here in North Carolina. I’m taking a morning to remember the glorious azure waters of the southern mainland of Greece… the cool crispness of the water and the dry heat of the air. Enjoy this little video while I get back to work.

We visited before the Syrian Refugee crisis took over. I wonder what it was like the rest of the summer. And I wonder where all of those people who have suffered so much are now. The Greek people have the biggest hearts. Even suffering their own economic straights they welcomed those who have and continue to suffer beyond belief. I love them.

I looked up some current facts through MercyCorps if you are interested… 

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