Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Musee d'Orsay

So in my new little neighborhood, St-Germain, there lies Musee d'Orsay.  When I asked my friends what they thought the "must sees" of Paris were, Musee d'Orsay was at the top of the list.  

Can you see why?
Musee d'Orsay was the former "Belle Epoque" train station.  Don't the curved ceilings and gorgeous walls give you that feel?  There is a restaurant upstairs where people dined during the 1900 World's Fair.  I'm SURE in a past life I had a cocktail there ... with Michael Vartan.  Oh wait, no ... that's what I wish for in THIS life.  Are you there Michael?  It's me, SSG.

Not only is the building gorgeous, but it holds some of the most famous and beautiful works of the Impressionist era.

Like this one ... I THINK this is Seurat.  If someone knows, please correct me!

And Renoir ...

And Mr. Manet ...

And the lovely Seine River.  One of my favorite things about Paris ... and much too beautiful to be contained in a museum.

Hi Van Gogh!

Well hello again, Vincent!

And Mr. Monet, wonderful to see you again.

And sweet Degas. 

All I can tell you as I walked around these amazing paintings was that I was in shock.  They're so entrenched in our daily lives--walk into any Pier I Imports  or Cost Plus (or my old dorm room) and you can have inexpensive access to the color, texture and life that these paintings still breathe.  But to see the originals.  To sit before the same canvases that VanGogh, Monet and Renoir did.  To look at their strokes and admire as they must have, their subjects.  It still blows me away.

And I wish ... like I did this whole trip.  That I had more time.  This was Tuesday afternoon.  Thursday morning we'd leave Paris.  We had one more day.

Snapshot of Coco:

Amazing (George Michael)
Until I Fall Away (Gin Blossoms)
Luxurious (Gwen Stefani)
Forever, For Now (Harry Connick Jr.)
Drops of Jupiter (Train)


Monday, September 29, 2008

St-Germain des Pres

If you haven't ahem, noticed ... the ENTIRE city of Paris has captured my heart and is now planted firmly in the #1 spot on SSG's List of Favorite Cities.  I am figuring out a way to get back there QUICKLY and have actually given up my daily lattes to help facilitate that right along.  And giving up the morning coffee run?  Haaaaaaaaaaard peeps.  But I do it because I know this place is waiting for me.

This is the St-Germain neighborhood.  And I fell.  Hard.  And it's not just because of the guy down there in the business suit standing at the cute little newsstand (but he definitely kicked things off in the right direction) but because in this neighborhood I felt the most at ease.  I already felt very comfortable in Paris, but felt even more so in St Germain.

Like I could very easily walk through these gates and into my apartment.

Of course I'd be carrying pastries from this little place tucked under my arm with a baguette for a small dinner party I'd be hosting.  Would you like to come?  Please do!

On the table will be flowers from this sweet shop.

And afterward we could stroll along the Seine, popping into a cafe for a lingering glass of wine ... or two ...  

I think the reason I loved St. Germain was because as we wandered its streets, this neighborhood seemed like the most "real" place we had been.  There weren't a ton of tourists.  We weren't around any major monuments.  It felt very simple--life being lived, in all of the beautiful little moments that exist throughout each day.

But since we WERE tourists and wanted to see everything we possibly could.  We headed a few blocks down to the Rodin Museum gardens to check out this guy.

This is Rodin's famous work, The Thinker.  You'd probably recognize his profile.  Where most people look at this man, caught in deep contemplation ... at his flexed toes and the way his hand is held tensely at his mouth and ponder what he may have been thinking ... 

SSG decided this view was WAY more appropriate for what she wanted to ponder.

Once a butt girl, always a butt girl ...

Snapshot of Coco:

Big Girls Don't Cry (Fergie)
Come Back to Bed (John Mayer)
Enough of Me (Melissa Ethridge)
Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)
My Hometown (Bruce Springsteen)
I'm Not Waiting (Chris Isaak)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Louvre

There is no way to explain how overwhelming (in the best possible way) the Louvre is.  Built at the beginning of the 12th century as a fortress, it was turned into a palace in 1364.  Dudes like Charles V, Francois I and Henry IV all put their spin on things by trying to make the palace bigger and more opulent until in 1672 Sun King Louis XIV said "F this place, I'm moving to Versailles."  I think that might have been the first suburb in history (not really).

Lucky for us, the Louvre was declared a national museum in 1791 and doors opened to the public in 1793.  Some of the most famous works of art call this place home.

This amazing glass "Pyramide" was erected over the new entrance in 1989 and though controversial, it was amazing to walk through.

This is to commemorate the amount of STAIRS we climbed all over Paris.  

Allow me to break it down.  The Louvre has three wings, each wing has four floors (or a lower ground floor, ground floor, first & second floor if you want to be technical).  There are over 6,000 paintings alone and that doesn't include exhibits or sculptures like this guy.  In a nutshell, there is A LOT to see.  Do you know how bad I wanted to nestle into his paws and rest a while?  

We decided to take the quick approach--seeing the big works of art and then each time we go back to Paris seeing a little bit more.  There is NO way you could see it all in one day, one week ... MAYBE one YEAR, if you went every day, all day.  Though I couldn't say for sure.   BUT!  If anyone would like to foot the bill for me, I'm happy to research that for you.  I loved the Louvre and all of its size, history, crowds and Starbucks in the basement glory.  But mostly because they protect and share things like this.

Meet Venus de Milo, circa 120 B.C (ish).  She's beautiful, carved from marble and found in Greece during the 19th century.  

But this little dude was one of my favorites.  He hails from 2,500 B.C. (ish).  Over 4,000 years old.  Over.  FOUR THOUSAND.  Years.  Old.  And I kind of like that they didn't cover up his moobs.  And that he was secure enough to wear blue eyeliner LONG before Debbie Gibson did it in the 80's.  Accepting your body is important peeps.  Let history and SSG teach you these things.  

Not only does the Louvre have multiple wings and floors and ART, it has about 3 million stairs.  All of which we climbed.  But you almost don't care because you turn the corner and get smacked in the face with things like this.

And Napoleon's crown.

I wonder if I'm in that guy's picture across from me.  I hope I smiled.

And just when you think that's the prettiest thing you've ever seen, you walk up another 100,000 stairs and you get to see THIS.

Say hello to the Winged Victory of Samothrace.  The original Nike to the ancient Greeks was carved in 305 B.C. by those talented peeps to commemorate the victory of Demetrius Poliorcetes over the Turks.  Do you KNOW who Demetrius Poliorcetes is?  Me either.  But I do know the current Nike is headquartered just outside of Portland and even though the campus is pretty, I'd say this lady has it beat.  Sorry Mr. Knight!

But the big rush was to check out this place.  The wing of Italian Painters.  And there is one particular painting in here that has been through A LOT.  First of all, it used to hang in Napoleon's bedroom and I'm guessing it saw MANY, MANY things that it probably didn't need to see.  Then once it had a safe haven in the Louvre, it was stolen and finally discovered in some Motel 6 equivalent in Florence.  And THEN some crazy person threw acid on her in 1956.  Do you know of whom I speak?

That's right!  Here she is.  Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo DaVinci in 1503.  Unfortunately you can't get as close to her as you used to be able to.  And you have to kind of push your way past a bunch of people only to have to jump up over more peoples heads to try and take a clear shot.  But she is pretty amazing ... the most famous painting in the world.

I wonder what she thinks of all of us ...

A Snippet from SSG's Diary that evening:

Oh.  Mah.  LAWD.  STAIRS.  Lots of STAIRS.  And climbing of STAIRS. 

Snapshot of Coco:

New Deep (John Mayer)
Time (Chantal Kreviuzak)
All the Stars (EastMoutainSouth)
Sleeping in Your Hand (Elisa)
Satellite (Dave Matthews Band)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

L'Orangerie & Tuileries

Monday was museum day.  

(P.S.  In SSG's universe, she would make EVERY DAY museum day.)

This is the Musee de l'Orangerie.  L'Orangerie used to be the royal greenhouse for kings that lived in what is now the Louvre.  More specifically, they'd keep the palace's citrus trees here during the winter.  If I die, I'd like to come back as a royal citrus tree in Paris, okay?  Thanks.

This "greenhouse" now holds some different garden items.  

When SSG was in college, she went through a MONET phase.  She had a "Water Lilies" comforter and Monet prints EVERYWHERE.  The year before she had gone through a sunflower phase, but we won't talk about that because Spleen (her dorm roommate) has spent a lot of years trying to forget that era.  Spleen likes to call that period  "Sunflower Barfed Over Dorm Room."

Where was I again?  

Oh yeah.  MONET.  

L'Orangerie houses the largest collection of Claude Monet's Water Lilies series.

And they were LOVELY.  A lot of people had told SSG how BIG they were.  That SSG would NOT be prepared for how HUGE the paintings were.  SSG scoffed.  She knew exactly how big the paintings were, she used to have a college dorm room that Monet had barfed all over. 

Let me tell you something.  SSG was NOT prepared for how BIG the canvases were.

The slightly curved walls of L'Orangerie, it's crisp white floors, arched doorways and sun pouring in through skylights made SSG very, very happy.

That is until she couldn't get her camera to focus.  She took this shot OVER and OVER again before realizing ... 


It was time for a drink.

This was a charming little cafe in the gardens that are adjacent to the L'Orangerie.  And this was the charming little cafe where the waiter was NOT so charming.  And where a soda cost EIGHT EURO, but a glass of wine only cost TWO.  

On second thought, maybe this was SSG's favorite place.  Like ever.

The Jardin des Tuileries was beautiful.  We strolled on vast gravel pathways, walking past fountains ...

And pretty benches ... 

Side note:  SSG is a firm believer in having LOTS of pretty places to sit and rest her feet and is glad Paris agrees.

And artists selling their paintings ... 

And while all of that was amazing, it was nothing compared to this place ...

Up next ... THE LOUVRE. 

Snapshot of Coco:

Here Comes the Sun (Nina Simone)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)
Strawberry Fields (Ben Harper)
Anticipation (Carly Simon)
These Are Days (10,000 Maniacs)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 2 Wrap Up

YES peeps, we're only on DAY 2.  Are you ready to gouge your eyes out yet?  Or do you want to hop on a plane with me?  Because this reminiscing is making me want to forgo my mortgage payment in exchange for one ticket back ASAP.

This bookstore is something that I had wanted to find.

And boom, we walked right past it after we were done on the islands ... SSG in the house ... or on the Seine!  Haaaaay, readers, haaaay!  

Where was I again?

Oh yeah ...

Shakespeare & Company was opened in the 1950's, but it was named after the "original" Shakespeare and Company that was owned by Sylvia Beach in the early 20th century. She was one hip chick and hung out with Hemingway, James Baldwin and James Joyce.  Hip still describes this place--it's kind of a flop house for writers and artists.  The second floor was cluttered with sleeping bags and laptops ... and one HOT Italian guy.  I almost took his picture, but he was the kind of guy that KNEW he was hot.  (And okay, the four other American girls surrounding him and SWOONING might have deterred me too.)

Tired and happy, we made our way back up to Montmartre to see the gorgeous Sacre Cour.  This church is a relative newbie--built in the late 1800's.  And where I WISH I could say I was as into it as I was Notre Dame, I think I had hit a bit of a church WALL at that point.  

No offense, lovely!  You're still BEAUTIFUL!  It's not you, SC, it's me.

The view was spectacular ...

And I loved wandering the sweet little streets after dinner--pausing for a trip into a candy store or to quickly purchase a couple of black and white pictures that will eventually go in my room ... if I ever decide to decorate my house ...

It was a busy, full day.  One that changed me forever.  The rest of our trip stretched out before us, full of possibilities.  And I couldn't wait.  

But this? 

Was very welcome on that Sunday evening.  

Snapshot of Coco:

Solitude (Billie Holiday)
Wait in Vain (Bob Marley)
Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding)
Sleep to Dream (Fiona Apple)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ile St Louis

Right behind the de la Cite, sits another teensy tiny island called the Ile St. Louis.  From everything I read, I had determined that THIS was my 'hood.  I had read of its narrow streets, its pricey real estate and charming shops and I was SMITTEN.

Its location right smack dab in the middle of the Seine didn't hurt.  I don't know why I was surprised.  I am always drawn to water and the Seine CAPTIVATED me.  I could have strolled along its banks for days, stopping to peek at painters works or to have a little riverside picnic. 

Instead of a picnic, we stopped into this cute cafe for lunch.  And it was here that we met French Boyfriend #3.  With a PHOTO no less!

I had been casually taking pictures of my good friends, the wine glasses on the table, the DECOR when oops, he came around the corner at the same moment my camera flashed.  "Sorry!"  I smiled innocently.  To which Mrs. Bob slyly responded "MY ASS that was an accident."

Can you blame me?

Wandering around this little island was amazing.  

The Paris of my Paris dreams.  

At least it was for that moment.  Little did I know another neighborhood would capture my heart very, very soon.

Snapshot of Coco:

Them There Eyes (Billie Holiday)
She'll Come Back to Me (Cake)
If I Needed You (EmmyLou Harris & Don Williams)
Ramble On (Led Zeppelin) 
Cracklin' Rosie (Neil Diamond ... oh YES I did)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ile de la Cite

Sunday morning we got up early and headed down to Ile de la Cite and the Ile St. Louis.  They are two small islands located in the middle of the Seine River and are connected the the left and right banks of Paris (and each other) by beautiful, large bridges.

This point marks the center of Paris and it is directly in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Where I definitely believe in God, I do not align myself with any one religion.  I respect people's faith throughout the world.  My group of friends is diverse--Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Atheist, Agnostic.  I love that we're able to talk about our beliefs without getting heated or defensive and I realize it's because we aren't trying to prove that any one of us is right.  We just share information.  I'm of the mind that your religion is largely determined by where you were born and how you were raised and I have a hard time saying that someone in the Middle East or China, who is living a devoted and honorable life is wrong because they don't believe the way I do.  

That being said, I love churches and temples.  I love the spirit with which they are built, the hushed energy of faith and hope and belief of a better world that seems to be inherent within their walls.  

Notre Dame blew me away.  Construction began in the year 1160 and wouldn't be finished for hundreds of years.  The intricacy of its facade and the gorgeous detail inside was breathtaking.  And its size?  Overwhelming.  It was a question that came up throughout the trip--how incredible it was that not only did these structures remain, but HOW on earth were they built?
We were at Notre Dame for a Sunday mass and I loved strolling around its perimeters, listening to the service in French.  Beautiful candles lit the way and light poured in through stained glass windows that I hadn't noticed when I was outside.  The only word I can think to describe it was reverent.

I lit a candle and said a prayer before we trotted over a few blocks to see St. Chapelle, another church on the Ile de la Cite.

St. Chapelle was finished in 1248 and originally used to house Jesus' Crown of Thorns and some original pieces of the cross.  From my limited research, it sounds like the authenticity of those items was disputed even then and they are no longer on display (except for a few times throughout the year).  St. Chapelle is known mostly for its stained glass windows.  They were spectacular.  Most of the building was destroyed during the French Revolution and reconstructed, but roughly two-thirds of the windows were originals.

We then headed over to the Conciergerie.  Formerly a castle before the king headed over to what is now the Louvre, the Conciergerie was turned into a prison in 1358 and its most famous prisoner was Marie Antoinette.  It felt as imposing as this photo looks.  But that feeling was dulled slightly when we passed through a GIFT SHOP on the way to see a reproduction of Marie Antoinette's cell. 

Beheadings were common and I felt very disconnected from the information we read.  Such acts of violence were not only performed, but watched by citizens of the city at that time.   It is something that I still can't reconcile in my mind ... not only to sentence someone to death, but to witness it.  It still makes me shudder.

On a less serious note ... I met French Boyfriend #2 at the Conciergerie.  He was a guard and checking people through the entrance as it is located right next to the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial matters.  He also made me shudder, but in a MUCH, MUCH better way.  He was tall with short brown hair and blue eyes.  Readers, SSG loves a man in a uniform.  Mrs. Bob and I joked that I should have put something metallic in my bra and pretended to have NO idea what the problem was as I had to pass back and forth through the metal detector.  But alas, that was thought of too late and since it was security related, there could be no photos.  Sorry ladies (and Wah-dah-tay!).  

A snippet of my journal from that evening:

I don't know that any one religion is the way.  But I do know that faith has kept people returning to this place for almost 1,000 years.  To cleanse.  To pray.  To forgive.  To become better.  And so maybe religions are the stories we need to get us to, and understand, this place of hope.

Snapshot of Coco:

Hallelujah (Elisa) 
Sogno d'amore (Andrea Bocelli)
Golden Slumbers (Ben Folds)
Stay With You (John Legend)
Faithfully (Journey)
Beautiful (India Arie)