Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paris, Day 10: Art & war

For our second full day in Paris, and Mike's first, we viewed quite a bit of art, had lunch by the Eiffel Tower, and visited Paris's war museum. Another busy day!

I finally got a good morning-time shot of the lovely Place Dauphine, where our hotel is situated. Every morning we got to wake up to this beautiful scene, which was usually people-free, considering that the French are not awake at 9 a.m.

Oddly, on a handful of occasions, we saw what app
eared to be modeling shoots (either professional or not). So if I ever pick up a French magazine and see a scene with a peaceful park, I can probably guess that this is the one.

For our first sight of the day, we visited Musée Rodin, which is a wonderful little museum that contains much of the life's work of the sculptor Auguste Rodin.

What is unique about the museum is that its contents are partly indoors and partly outdoors. The museum building is formerly a hotel where Rodin lived out the last years of his life, and beautiful gardens are attached.

His most famous work, The Thinker, is the first artwork to greet you when you enter the gardens. Dave liked this guy.

What I have always liked about Rodin's sculpture is that it is so expressive and fluid. The museum did a really good job of showing how Rodin created his works.

Next we walked over to the Invalides, inside of which is the Musée de l'Armée. Being a WWI and WWII dork, I was really excited to go, and, of course, the guys were always keen to see guns. Rob even got to touch them:

I would say that this war museum had as much as the one in Britain, but the museums definitely focused on different things. For WWI, London's war museum focused much more on the Battle of the Somme (for obvious reasons).

For WWII, London's war museum focused far more on the Battle of Britain, being that most of those artifacts fell from the sky, whereas Paris's war museum focused mainly on Nazi occupation and the French resistance. The Nazi occupation of France has always seemed so unimaginable to me, so it was really brought to life for me by all the artifacts.

After going through the artifacts from the world wars, as well as some beautiful medieval armor, we visited Napoleon's tomb in the Invalides complex. It was a huge tomb, befitting the tiny but influential man inside. Having been starkly reminded of the Nazi occupation in the Mus
ée de l'Armée, I thought of Hitler's visit to the tomb in 1940. Weird.

After the Invalides, we walked over to the Champs de Mars to have lunch by the Eiffel Tower. We picked up lunch at a cute little bakery on the way over through the 7th arrondissement. We had to walk through a gaggle of marathon participants, but we managed to find a nice spot:

Yes, that's Dave and the gang in the lower left-hand corner. Awesome. We had each picked up a quiche lorraine and some pastries at the bakery, and everything was phenomenal.

Then we walked over to the Eiffel Tower to get a little daytime taste, although we did not go up the tower at that time. (Later.) Here's me with the north pillar:

I didn't think of it then, but this is the second spot that we had visited that day that was also included on Hitler's sight-seeing tour. Apparently he visited the Eiffel Tower but was not able to mount it because the French had cut the elevator cables. Nice. (FYI, in that link, Hitler is on the Trocadero area, a site we would visit later in the week, from which we viewed the Eiffel Tower. Creepy.)

Afterward, we partly walked and partly took a bus to the Mus
ée d'Orsay, the world's most famous and fabulous collection of Impressionist artwork. I should mention that we saw something rather odd on the Paris bus: a man holding a perfectly tame albino ferret. I guess I'd rather see that on the bus than some of the crazy stuff that happens on Chicago buses.

Waiting to get into the museum was another time we were really glad for our museum pass; the line to buy tickets was ridiculous, and we got to bypass that line and go directly into the admission line.

The museum is a really neat space, being housed in a defunct train station.

It's a lovely space that I really enjoy being in. Some of my favorite artwork is in here, including Edouard Manet's Olympia and Le dejeuner sur l'herbe, beautiful Toulouse-Lautrec pastels, and some really vivid paintings by Vincent van Gogh. To be in the van Gogh room meant understanding a little of what his crazy, lead-poisoned life was like.

I also like walking on the first floor gallery of the museum, because they have some really fabulous sculptures, too. The one at left is from the Paris Opera. It's supposed to reflect the spirit and movement of music, and I think it does that admirably.

For dinner, we took Mike back to the Marais for some delicious falafel. This time we went to the more famous L'As du Falafel, made famous by the amazing falafel sandwiches and Lenny Kravitz's rave review. Mmm.

I shouldn't say that's all we ate; we did also go to Macdo for some fries. (I think Rob also got a Big Mac...good lord.)

For some reason, my back completely flipped out, and Dave and I had to turn in early. Luckily it was fine by the next day, but I have hardly ever experienced back pain that severe. I know we were walking a lot, but man.

Anyway I got my rest, and I needed it, because the next day we had a great tour of dead things and the outdoors (and sometimes combined)!

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