Thursday, October 15, 2015

Passages and Museums

Day 13: Walk with a Greeter, Arts and Crafts, Picasso, Monet and all their friends.

We had a 1030am appointment with our Paris Greeter, Joel.  He decided to meet us at the apartment because of our interest in history.  It was a very cold, windy day with a few sprinkles of rain.  Miserable for walking, really.  Joel is a 60-something retired engineer who lives with his wife and adult son in the suburbs.  His daughter, her husband and their baby live in Australia.
Joel started the Greet by talking about the origins of Paris.  He lead us to rue des Ursins where we had walked several times in the previous days.  He showed us markings on the street that delineated the old roman wall.  He explained how the city grew and changed over time and showed us drawings of the walls and settlements.  Fascinating.

We went from Ile de la Cite over the bridge by Hotel du Ville up past St. Merri Church (gorgeous red door), through passages--some nice, others very seedy with prostitutes lingering about--past the gates at Pte. St. Martin and Pte. St. Denis.   After one last passage (Prado), we were too cold, tired and disheartened by this poorer, seedier side of Paris to continue so asked him to lead us to food and drinks.  We ended up at  Le Cerceau (129 Boulevard de Sebastopol) for a very nice lunch.  Joel then lead us over to the Musee des Arts et Metiers where we said goodbye.  Overall, we both enjoyed this walk with Joel.  I liked learning about the history of Paris more than walking through the passages and we were certainly unlucky with the cold, windy, damp weather, but we definitely appreciated Joel's time and energy!

The Musee des Arts et Metiers (Arts and Crafts, free with museum pass) is filled with interesting old and new objects.  There is way too much to see!  We stopped and marveled at Pascal's calculator (he may be a distant relatives of mine), Lovoisier's laboratory, Foucault's brilliance (dude figured out how to measure the speed of light in 1862!), the robots, the looms, cameras, machinery, cars, bikes, etc., etc., on our way to the Chapel which has Foucault's pendulum (fascinating!) and so many incredible vehicles and airplanes cleverly hung from the ceiling.  We climbed the ramp to the top--it is really high and a little scary at the top and took lots of photos.  This Museum merits a lot more time than we gave it but I'm so glad we saw what we did.   

We took the metro to the Picasso Museum (free with museum pass).  We visited this museum on our first trip and remembered it fondly.  We had liked that the art was displayed chronologically in the rooms of the house.  The museum has undergone a major renovation and some rooms were closed for the upcoming one year celebration of re-opening.  I'm not a big Picasso fan; I like his early stuff more than the later.   I like when a museum shows the artist's life and progression but I don't feel this new Picasso museum does that.  I didn't get a sense of Pablo, it just felt disjointed.  The house is gorgeous but cold.  I don't need to go back.  My favorite one-artist museum is still the Van Gogh in Amsterdam--it was biographical, comprehensive, and I "got" Vincent after visiting.

Husband was hankering for his favorite Parisian treat--falafels at L'as du Fallafel.  We've eaten there every time we've visited Paris.  On our way we popped into two pretty gardens, Square Georges Cain and Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph-Migneret, and enjoyed a bit of tranquility in the busy Marais.  Husband enjoyed his falafel immensely while I snacked on fries and wine.   We decided to cancel our reservation for dinner at Le Florimond because no way would we be hungry in a couple of hours!

Just like husband needs to have a falafel every time he visits Paris, I need to visit the Orsay (free with museum pass).  It's, hands-down, my favorite museum. We arrived close to 7pm and it was pretty crowded.  We started off in the Toulouse Lautrec rooms, passed by the gorgeous sculptures and the model of the opera house on our way to the Impressionists.  I looked at every single painting and lost husband along the way.  There are so many paintings in this collection that I love but I discovered a new favorite, Edouard Manet's L'Evasion de Rochefort, which lifted and broke my heart at the same time. 

Back among the sculptures to the Post-Impressionist rooms then on to the decorative arts section with the gorgeous belle époque furnishings.  We walked through a few more galleries (Georges Clairin's intense Sarah Bernhardt caught my eye) but our energy was lagging so we headed out.  Goodnight, L'Orsay, until next time!

We took the RER back to Ile de la Cite, walked by gorgeous Notre Dame then stopped at Au Bougnat again for snacks and drinks before bed.  Another fabulous day in Paris!

1.  A Greeter can provide great insight into a city.  It's a fantastic program.
2.  Love the museum pass!
3.  The Chapel at the Musee Arts et Metiers is outstanding.
4.  L'Orsay never disappoints.
5.  I love Paris even when it's cold and gloomy. And I HATE cold weather. :)

Next: City Hall, Monet, a special lunch, and more Monet.

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