A Travellerspoint blog

9: Curios and Trinkets

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Louvre day today! Started my day early as I knew it was going to take most of the day to have a good look at the museum. I started in the Italian gallery and this time had a good look at all the paintings in the Great Gallery before moving into the Large French Painting Gallery. I would have spent a good hour or more just ogling at some of the huge paintings that hang in this gallery. The majority of the paintings were created in the late 18th and early 19th century and focus around the events of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s subsequent campaigns. My favourite is “Liberte” by David, a picture that shows the mob fighting for freedom during the revolution!

By the time I had finally finished in just the Italian and large French section it was well after lunch time so I went hunting a snack back downstairs and took some time out to write some postcards. After a break I went back into the Louvre this time to not look at paintings but to enter the artefact area and Napoleon III’s apartments. This part of the Louvre contains curios and weird trinkets that have been collected over the years! There is a whole room dedicated to clocks! One of the rooms that really impressed me is a room full of porcelain that is finely painted with scenes from biblical stories. Considering the age of the porcelain the lustre of the colour and the definition of the painting is fairly incredible!

I finished my long day in the Louvre by checking out Napoleon III’s apartments. He had these remodelled in the Louvre after the demolition of the Tuileries palace. I would say that these apartments are probably the most ornate apartments I’ve seen of any palace I’ve entered! These apartments are complete with furniture, carpet and ornaments so you can actually see exactly how they were when they were in use two hundred years ago! (Unlike most apartments were all of the furniture has either been sold or rotted over the years!!)

Finished the day with a really tasty paella before heading home for an early night. Off to London tomorrow!

Posted by weary_feet 10:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

8: Hall of Mirrors

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Versailles day to day! I have to say that I have waited many, many years for this day.. I remember in high school studying the French Revolution and seeing photos of the Chateau and wishing then that I could see the castle and it’s gardens!

I started later than I normally would for a whole day out mainly because I had booked myself on a private tour of some of the “off limits” parts of the Chateau at 2pm and didn’t want to get to the castle too early and then have to sit around and wait for my tour.

I need not have worried as the amount of people out at Versailles was pretty nuts and therefore whatever would normally take an hour to do I needed to double it just to account for the line up factor! When I arrived the line up to get into the Chateau itself was down the whole length of the entry way back to the main gates (that’s at least a couple of hundred meters!!)

I decided to forgo the pleasure of the immense line up and thought I would see the gardens first, then do my tour and finish off by seeing the public part of the Chateau. This turned out to be a stroke of genius on my part because I actually managed to get a couple of photos in the Hall of Mirrors that are people free!!! That is a feat, trust me!

Anyway, as I said, I started in the gardens of the palace. I had decided not to go to Versailles on the Wednesday (and I am not in Paris on Sat or Sun) so I therefore didn’t get to see the fountain show. This means that none fo the fountains were turned on! I thought that even if the show wasn’t on the fountains would still be going (just not in time to music) but I was really wrong.. No fountain show, no fountains! The gardens are still beautiful, but………….

I wandered right down the Grande Canal to the Grande Trianon (one of the other palaces built onsite). This is a good hour walk so I was feeling fairly hot and thirsty by the time I got there! The palace itself basically an empty shell so probably wasn’t really worth the walk but if I hadn’t gone I would have wanted to and the walk through the gardens is worth the effort anyhow! I had a quick look through the Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette’s palace) before heading back the hour long walk to the main chateau so that I could attend my tour.

The tour was worth the 16E additional that I paid. We were taken to many off limits apartments of Louis XIV that average tourists cannot enter as well as the Grande Opera. Louis XIV built a fully functional opera house within Versailles (that is still used today as an Opera House) that is just incredible! Its probably one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever entered! I reckon seeing an Opera in this room would be well worth the money (not that I have either the money or the time to see one!)

The apartments themselves (and in fact the whole Chateau) is really under furnished. This is because after the fall of the Bourbon dynasty (during the revolution) all of the furnishings in every chateau owned by the king were auctioned off. The curators of Versailles know which pieces of furniture once belonged to Versailles (a full catalogue was taken at the time of the revolution) and who owns them so they scour the globe waiting for these items to come up for auction and attempt to purchase them. They also have many benefactors who have either loaned or given pieces of furniture back to Versailles. I can’t even begin to imagine the value of the furniture that currently resides in the castle or the full cost of getting all pieces of art and furniture returned.. Probably billions!

After our private tour I went back into the public areas of the chateau to have a look. Most importantly, I wanted to spend time in the Hall of Mirrors. It does live up to its name as the most beautiful room in the castle (and probably the world). The chandeliers are truly incredible and the mirrors really help to keep the room quite light. As I said earlier, I managed to get off a couple of side angle shots that are people free but even 20min before closing time there were still a good 50 or so people in the room… A fully empty room is probably not possible unless you go there after hours!

After a truly memorable day I returned back to Paris aboard the train and finished my day with a well deserved piece of pizza and an early night! Last full day tomorrow… Louvre day!

Posted by weary_feet 09:47 Archived in France Comments (0)

7: The best job in the world....

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Got going at a pretty good time this morning as I wanted to go and tick off a couple of the famous art galleries here in Paris; Musee d’Orsay and the Pompidou Centre. Neither museum opened til 11am so I first went back to the Saint Chapelle (the cathedral I wasn’t able to see the day previous because of the filming of a documentary).

The Saint Chapelle has probably the most ornate and beautiful interiors of any cathedral I have ever seen. The Chapelle was built by Louis IX to house some of JC’s relics that he bought off the Byzantine Empire; the crown of thorns and fragments from THE cross. The Chapelle was the personal chapel of the king and it shows. Almost all of the four walls are stained glass and the glass windows portray the story of Genesis and of course the Passion. The Chapelle is no longer used for services which is a real shame because I would attend a mass just so that I could sit inside that chapel for a couple of hours to just admire the stained glass! The relics are now housed in Notre Dame inside the treasury (which I was too stingy to spend the couple of Euro to enter!) so really you are just looking at the shell of the chapel when you go in.. the shell is really impressive so I would have loved to have seen it in its hay-day!

From the Chapelle I went back across the Seine to the Pompadour Centre. The Pompidou centre houses the Gallery of Modern Art so I spent the next couple of hours cruising the corridors of the centre admiring the Modern Art. I’m not a massive Modern Art fan there are just some aspects that I love.. The thing that is great about Modern Art though is that you can easily work out at what point you want to stop touring! For me I stop once the art is getting to a canvas of one colour or random splotches on a canvas.. for me this isn’t art, this is the type of work I could do… (In fact maybe this should be my next career move…. I could do splotches on a canvas and call it “memories of a tortured turtle” or something equally obscure and make a fortune…. Mmmmm) No, in all seriousness, I went to the Pompidou to see the Modern Art up until the 30s—I wanted to see the cubist exhibitions and the surrealist exhibitions and the rest of it I decided to leave!

The Pompidou houses a great lot of Picasso’s earlier cubists’ works of which I haven’t seen many, so I spent a pleasant couple of hours just admiring the clean lines and colour changes of the cubist and surrealist exhibitions. I also had a glimpse at Kandinsky’s works (although he isn’t really one of my favs) and at the couple of works by Dali.

After lunch I headed across the river (again) to the Musee d’Orsay. In my opinion it has the greatest works of art in Paris! I really think the Louvre won’t be able to beat the d’Orsay in my opinion. The d’Orsay houses many many works from the French Impressionists (ala Monet, Renoir, Degas) as well as the Post Impressionists (ala Van Gogh, Gaugin, Cezanne).

The one thing I didn’t like about the Musee is that it is currently under renovation meaning that the French Impressionist and Neo Impressionist exhibitions are being temporarily housed in special rooms.. meaning not much room to admire these incredibly beautiful pieces of art and many, many hundreds of people all trying to get a glimpse!

For me the works by Monet and Renoir were just spectacular in the Impressionist area. The colours and the shadows really make these paintings seem really quite lifelike! Some of the Monet paintings of Montmartre are just awesome and I can almost imagine those types of ladies and gentlemen walking down the road out the front of my hostel!!

Like every other gallery the highlight for me was the Van Gogh section. M d’Orsay has maybe 10 of his works on display both his earlier realist works as well as his later impressionist works. In particular, my favs of Van Gogh’s are the ones that he produced when he was in the asylum.. Maybe that says something about my taste in art?????

By the time I left the M d’Orsay it was well after 6pm and time for dinner. I stopped at a small restaurant and had a homemade cheeseburger (which was damn good) and then went up to the Sacre Coeur a large cathedral on the Montmartre hill. The cathedral is up many, many stairs or you can take a fernicular.. Again I’m a cheap skate and walked and was rewarded by not only puffing a lot when I got to the top but also by being really hassled the entire length of the stair case by sellers trying to sell cheap crappy souvenirs (I’ve been hassled before but never have I felt unsafe when being hassled). Needless to say my visit to the cathedral was really marred by my trip up the hill and so I didn’t hang around too long to get photos etc (the area just plain wasn’t safe to be wandering around as a lone female with a pretty nice camera for someone to hock!)

Posted by weary_feet 13:46 Archived in France Comments (0)

6: Guillotine

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Nice leisurely start today. My plan was to go downtown to the Il De Cite (the first inhabited part of Paris back before JC) and do the main sites of the Cite and if I had time to go to the Musee d’Orsay.

Before going site seeing I stopped downtown on the Rue de Rivoli (main shopping street) to look for a couple of English bookstores. I wanted to buy my brand of guide book for both Paris and Britain (the guide book I have for Paris I’m not super excited about). I was disappointed to discover that neither English bookstore had my brand and I also discovered that I hadn’t brought my other guide book either, so after having morning tea in the Tuileries garden I returned back to the hostel to find my guide book.

An hour later I set off for the island of Il De Cite. I got off before the Cite and crossed the Seine taking in the site of the Louvre without a million and one tourists (it’s closed today). I went to Notre Dame via the Saint Chapelle church (one of the only remaining parts of Louis IX’s palace). Unfortunately it too was closed today til 4pm, not because it is normally closed on a Tues but because they were filming a documentary in the church today, so I thought I’d make this a stop later in the arvo.

Arrived at Notre Dame to find an absolute horde of tourists waiting to get inside the cathedral (it’s one of the few free things to do in Paris, and also is on everyone’s must do list, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised). I waited patiently and joined the throng making their way around the cathedral. Notre Dame is famous for its stained glass windows, and I can understand why! The two main rose windows are a real treat as is the main alter piece. Overall though, I wouldn’t say that the interior of Notre Dame is anything to really write home about.. Many of the other cathedrals in Europe are much nicer on the inside than this church. I guess Notre Dame is all about the exterior! I chose not to pay 8E to enter the treasury of Notre Dame so didn’t get to see the relics, maybe they are what make the interior of Notre Dame so special?

I spent a good half an hour wandering around the exterior of Notre Dame trying to get some half decent photos of the famous buttresses and towers. I also had access to the tower via my museum pass so joined the queue waiting to go up. 55min later I was still on the queue and it hadn’t moved in over 20min. Based on the amount of time I had already waited and the line I was still on I decided that no view was worth a wait of >2hrs so left Notre Dame to find the Crypte of Notre Dame!

The Crypte is actually the archaeological digs that have occurred in the square out the front of the church and show the original foundations of the original church and the surrounding houses and streets. (Notre Dame was built on top of an earlier Merovingian cathedral, Saint Etienne). Some of these houses date back to well into Roman times so it was pretty interesting to delve into Paris’ history. In fact, the name Paris comes from the original tribe of people who lived in the area when the Roman’s invaded in 52 BC, the “Parisii”.

From the Crypte de Archaeology I went back to the Palais du Justice (Saint Chapelle is a part of this complex) to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie is a museum dedicated to the French Revolution and more particularly to the Revolutionary Tribunal. The tribunal was the law court that tried those who were deemed to be ‘counter-revolutionary’ and against the principles of the revolution. The tribunal was held upstairs to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie itself was actually the prison were the accused were housed whilst waiting for their trial date. The most noted ‘visitors’ to the prison of the Conciergerie were of course both King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The Conciergerie also housed Robespierre at the end of the Reign of Terror. More than 2000 people where guillotined during the revolution and all passed through these corridors. The Conciergerie must have been some place during the revolution, they have mocked up some of the old cells as they would have looked and I would think squalid is probably a pleasant term to describe the cells! Marie Antoinette’s cell was turned into a shrine after the revolution (during the reign of Louis XVIII) but it is clear she had a lot more space than the “average Joe” in the prison.

After viewing the prison it was well after 5pm so I thought I’d give the Saint Chapelle a crack as it should have been re-opened after the filming finished at 4pm. Unfortunately, the film crew must have run over time because the Chapelle was still closed to the public! With limited time left to see any other interior attractions I thought I’d go for a walk along the Seine down to the Eiffel tower for a look.

The walk itself was hot but really pleasant! The banks of the Seine are dotted with these small second hand book seller/ souvenir sellers so I spent my time amiably wandering from stall to stall. I decided to go to the Eiffel tower via the Palais due Invalides. Invalides was built by Napoleon I as a hospital dedicated to his war- wounded heroes. The palace is pretty specky from the exterior so I would assume that this hospital must have been pretty sweet for the war veterans! (I couldn’t go in as it was past closing time but maybe another day this week?) I finally arrived at the Eiffel tower well after 7pm to discover the line-up was again really ridiculous so I contented myself with taking plenty of shots of the tower but not going up! (Oh well, you can’t do everything right?)

Headed back to the hostel for some dinner and a well-deserved night’s sleep.

Posted by weary_feet 13:12 Archived in France Comments (0)

5: The Mona Lisa

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Paris day today!!! Got up early and took myself down to the train station to catch my express train to Paris. Before catching the train I spent a good hour in the local post office trying to send a parcel home to AU. It was an interesting experience because the post office is built like fort Knox (they must have some issues in that area??) and wasn’t really designed to take such a large package! Obviously, not many people try to send a large box to anywhere from this post office! 70E later all of my “not required anymore” gear was back on its way to AU.

Grabbed myself a cuppa before settling on to the full train from Brussels to Paris (it’s a bullet train and only took about an hour!) Got off the train at Gare Du Nord (the main station) and decided to wander up to my accommodation rather than try and work out the metro with my entire luggage. Before setting off I decided to buy my Eurostar ticket to London (as I had read on the net that they can sell out quickly).. 120 E later I had my ticket and was on my way to working out how to get to my hostel. I fluked the exit out of Gare Du Nord and ended up on the street I needed to be without my usual wander around the station looking for the right street!

My hostel is in Montmartre about 15min walk from the station and pretty much straight up the hill! The hostel is really good, both from a looks perspective, from a friendly face perspective and location wise! After settling in I took off down to the local metro (one block- Anvers) where there is also a branch of the tourist bureau. My guide book recommended to consider buying a week long metro pass and look at a museum pass.. 90 E later I had both week long passes in hand and decided to start at the start and walk the Champs Elysee.

Took the metro to downtown and get off near the Arch De Triomphe and wandered down the Champs past Tuileries Garden and to the Louvre, stopping to admire the Place de la Concorde. These days the Place de la Concorde is a roundabout in the middle of a busy road in front of Tuileries gardens that houses two fountains and the large Egyptian obelisk from the temple of Ramses. More importantly, the Place de la Concorde was the Place de Revolution during the French Revolution, the main execution area for the guillotine. It is in this place that King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre lost their heads as well as more than 1300 French citizens during the years following the revolution. To see the Place now it is hard to believe that crowds gathered here during the revolution to witness people being beheaded…

By this time it was about 4pm but I decided to enter the Louvre anyhow as my week long museum pass allows me to leave and enter all of the attractions as many times as I want!! How awesome is that! Considering the pass is 60E it isn’t super cheap but when you think that most of the museums in Paris are over 10E each you only need to do 1 museum per day to recoup your costs and I know I’ll do more than that, so, sweet!!

Spent my one hour finding the Mona Lisa.. Now I would hate to try and find her in the middle of the day.. I found her bang on closing time and it was still 15 deep to see her!!! Like everyone who sees her I was disappointed.. I really think that the Madonna Da Vinci I saw in Munich is better, but what would I know???? I also saw his other works Madonna on the Rocks and St John the Baptist and wasn’t impressed by them either.. all of his works in the Louvre are much darker than the other one’s I’ve seen before. Anyway by the time I had, had a quick glance at the Mona Lisa I needed to skedaddle as it was closing time. I’ll be back to do a whole day at the Louvre sometime soon!

Posted by weary_feet 12:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

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