travel: paris – palais garnier, looking up, looking down

paris_grande_opera_23looking up

paris_grande_opera_25looking down

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paris_grande_opera_30down (now this… I looooooove!)

paris_grande_opera_27UP… love this too. The guard didn’t love the way I took the picture though. 😀

for your inspiration: asheville, NC

Downtown Asheville, NC is full of wondrous architectural gems. The people are interesting. The food is pretty amazing (this trip took me to Duck Taco and  Zambra’s Tapas, both highly recommended. I also wandered into Desicrant, a “lifestyle boutique” that held some interesting treasures. 

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Take a closer look at the bookshelf.
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An interactive sculpture detailing the history of transport in Asheville. You don’t notice at first that the sounds coming through the nearby bushes are the sounds of a canoe on a stream. Sounds move with the wheel through horses, trains, and propellor airplanes. Lovely.

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

travel: paris – le petit musée du chocolat

When you have your eyes open and aren’t glued to a map, or in a hurry to get somewhere, or if you get lost, you find amazing things. IMG_4718

This is straight down the hill from Sacre Ceaur, a big Basilica on a hill in Paris. Two of my favorite things. Chocolate and a Museum. I had read about this place in a guidebook or on a blog somewhere but it wasn’t high enough on the list to seek out. Running into it in passing was a very delightful accident.

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This is just the shop. Crystal chandeliers (and a guy on a ladder polishing them by hand.) And loads and loads of chocolate. 

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We didn’t go downstairs through the museum. It was our last day on our trip and we were winding down. Didn’t want to pay the fee. And – there was enough amazing stuff upstairs to keep us happy for a quick run through. I have a brother who drives a mini, and builds model ships. Guess who this picture made me think of.

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Just so you can compare and see how amazing the detail on this sculpture really was…

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This, of course, was my very favorite. I don’t like scary (no horror films for me!) but I do love things a little weird sometimes and gargoyles are just… cool. Especially when made of chocolate!

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Yes, we bought chocolate. It was good. We brought some home for family. I am very pleased to say that I live in an area of the country where I can find food, and chocolate, just as good as I found in Paris. Rarely as beautifully presented – but not everyplace can be Paris!

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

travel: paris, Notre Dame – west facade

Edeuard Baldus, 1851-1870

Edeuard Baldus, 1851-1870

The facade of the Notre Dame cathedral is truly impressive. There is a LOT of stuff up there. I suppose if most of your population is illiterate that a facade can be read like a really interesting book. Everything has a meaning and was meant to teach the general populace a lesson. I enjoyed reading through this article  with it’s general information. I haven’t had time yet to read through a statue by statue explanation…. Did I mention that there is a LOT of stuff there.IMG_5757

It was a surprise to read that most of the statues were originally painted all sorts of bright colors. (The same is true of ancient greek statuary and temples.) We are so used to the quiet and worn monochrome of age that the very thought sounds really loud and gaudy to me. What it must have been like…..Paris_doors_22For some reason I am drawn to the grotesques. And all the little pedestals that look like little villages and castles. Who are all those saints looking on… standing on the backs of the sinners?IMG_5758

Were they really saints? Were they really sinners? I don’t have a very Catholic world-view I’m afraid. My current favorite saying is “a saint is a sinner who just keeps trying.”IMG_5760

When I look at the statues I mostly think of the dedication and skill of the craftsmen who worked on this structure for their whole lives. Was it a cushy, secure job? How well were they paid? What kind of politics did they deal with? Did they enjoy their labor? Did they get to see it done?

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Can you even imagine the hours spent at the fire and the anvil, banging out each delicate curl and scroll?Pars_doors_09

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 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.

Preset Style = Vibrant Format = Medium Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light

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, 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, 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, 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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