The Pantheon

The humongous Pantheon is the final resting place of many French VIPs and the home of the Foucault pendulum. King Louis XV had the church built as a replacement for St. Genevieve’s ruined church aftr she miraculously healed him. Begun in 1744, it was finished in 1791 when the revolution was in full swing and it was converted into a nonreligious mausoleum honoring the Champions of French Liberty. Many famous French men now call the Pantheon their final resting place.

 

This building is huge!

 

In the front hall.

 

The Foucault Pendulum

 

Love those long, lighted hallways.

 

Victor Hugo’s tomb

 

Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas’ inscriptions.

 

Interesting piece about Braille who also found a resting place here. (Sorry it got cut off)

 

Rousseau’s Tomb

 

Voltaire’s statue and tomb.

 

A beautiful glass dome.

 

The Convention Nationale Monument. “Marianne,” the fictional woman who symbolized the Revolution, stands in the center, flanked by soldiers who fight for her and citizens who pledge allegiance to her. The inscription below reads “Live free or die.” (I believe Marianne later moved to New Hampshire.)

Saint Sulpice

Saint Sulpice is the largest church in Paris, bigger even than Notre Dame.  It’s where part of the novel, The Da Vinci Code, was set, and a small part of the movie was filmed there.  Construction begin in 1646 and was completed in 1745.  I don’t think the church is as attractive from the outside as Notre Dame; indeed the two towers aren’t finished, don’t match, and one is taller than the other. And the huge windows around the nave were deliberately not set with stained class.  But the other windows throughout the church, though not as colorful as in some churches, are very detailed and exquisite.  The church is home to a remarkable organ, with 5 keyboards and exceptional sound. It was installed in 1781 and renovated and enlarged in the 1860’s.  We were lucky enough to enter at the end of a weekday mass when the organist played for an additional 15-20 minutes after the service.  What a treat!

 

Saint Sulpice is such a large structure in such a confined area that it’s hard to get a good photo of it.

 

A side view of the church.

 

An interesting sea-themed holy water vessel near the front entrance.

 

Looking down the nave of the church.

 

A beautiful and interesting pulpit.

 

The mammoth organ pipes at the back of the church.

 

An interesting smaller chapel in the front of the church.

 

Also near the front of the church are these old wooden doors in the floor. I really wanted to open those doors and see what’s inside! Rumor has it that they somehow figured into the plot of the Da Vinci Code

 

A few of the beautiful windows.

 

 

 

 

This beautiful fountain can be seen in the plaza that’s immediately in front of the church.

Montmartre

The Montmartre neighborhood lies on Paris’ highest hill which is topped by the iconic Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The lively area is well-known for it’s cabaret nightlife, bohemian artists, and pickpockets. We attended a show one evening at the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub and earlier in our stay we attended the Lapine Agile Caberet show – both are located in Montmartre. And we saw several artists in action.  Fortunately we ran into no pickpockets.

This is the first time we haven’t seen mimes in Montmartre.  In fact, we’ve only seen one mime since we’ve been here and that was in Versailles.  WHERE ARE THEY???

 

Everybody recognizes Sacre-Coeur, one of the main landmarks of Paris. On a clear day, it’s very photogenic.

 

The view from atop the hill near Sacre-Coeur.

 

We saw several artists in Place du Tertre, the square where local artists paint Paris scenes…and tourist caricatures.

 

I did like this artists’s work though.

 

Denise checked out some of the artists’ work.

 

An interesting inside-outside gift shop. A really cute way to display merchandise.

 

As young men, many famous impressionist had homes in the area and they painted in the artist squares. Many of the other buildings have been here for centuries too, like this vine-covered Maison Rose restaurant.

 

A cute window in the Maison Rose restaurant. To the right it says “in love.” I’ll bet there’s a really cute story here.

 

On the way back down the hill, we went by several yummy looking stores, like this elegant cookie shop.

 

…where these macaroons were in the window.

Giverny

Giverny is the little village about an hour outside Paris where Claude Monet, the Impressionist artist, and his wife lived with their 8 children from a blended family.  Middle-aged Monet moved to this pink farmhouse with the green shutters in 1883 and lived there for 40 years.  In front of Monet’s house are 2 large gardens separated by a village street.  The garden immediately in front of the house was called the walled garden while the garden across the street (joined by an underground tunnel so it’s not necessary to cross the street) is the water garden, a large pond full of water lilies and surrounded by weeping willow trees, colorful flower beds, and Japanese bridges.  Monet cleared the land of pine trees and designed his own symmetrical beds.  You can’t help but be impressed by the way the color scheme of each bed contributes to the look of the whole garden.  And it all just looks so . . . so . . . Monet

Last time we visited the gardens was on May 1st, Labor Day, and it was a zoo.  So we avoided going on that day this time.  However, the day we chose this trip turned out to be Victory in Europe Day when they celebrated the end of WWII in Europe.  We can’t win.  (Actually I think France observes 4 holidays in May so it’s especially hard to avoid them.) So there were crowds and I don’t think the flower beds collectively were quite as pretty as last time although there were a lot of pretty individual flowers.  In particular, the wisteria and rhododendrons were prettier this time but most of the tulips were past their prime.  They replant constantly, so once again, it’s the luck of the draw.  So here’s some of what we saw, first some pretty scenes, followed by some very colorful individual flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day at Versailles

A day trip to Versailles is a very long day.  First of all you have to take a train out there.  Or 2 trains if you count the first one you took that was going the wrong direction. But it’s a very nice train and, unlike the Metro, it’s above ground so you can see the countryside. Even if you’re going the wrong direction, the scenery is very nice.  Everything is so green in the springtime and the countryside is beautiful.  It takes about 45 minutes or so to get from Paris to Versailles on the train.  Then you have to walk from the train station to the huge cobblestoned grand entrance to the Palace.  We already had our tickets in hand for a 9 a.m. entry so that let us skip the ticket line and hordes of people and walk right in at 9 a.m. when they opened.  So for a very short time, it felt like we were all alone in the palace.  But the hordes caught up to us very quickly.

 

One side of the palace. This place is so big that it’s hard to get a photo that shows all of it.

 

Walking up the long entrance to the main gate of the palace.

 

This is the front entrance.

 

Inside,, the palace is…well…palatial.

 

And the fabulous staircases.

 

This staircase was constructed entirely of marble. Oh my!

 

This is the famous Hall of Mirrors. The mirrors weren’t great back then but it’s still an amazing room…mirrors on one side and windows all along the opposite wall. As you can see, it’s a very popular room.

 

This room was the king’s bedroom. Some of the rooms are not fully furnished and a lot of them aren’t open to the public.

 

Occasionally a window would be open in the hall or one of the rooms and we’d get a sneak peak into the gardens.

 

This huge hall is called the War Room. It’s lined with mammoth, incredible oil paintings of war scenes from across the centuries. There’s even one of George Washington.

 

Another view through one of the windows.

 

Another view of the fabulous manicured gardens from one of the windows. The palace windows give great birds’ eye views of the grounds because they’re so high.

 

After we had visited all of the inside areas that are open to the public and had some lunch in their lovely restaurant, we went outside to check out the gardens and the grounds.  My goodness that place is huge.  And it sits high on a hill so you can get a good view of the expansiveness of the estate.  We found a little train that took visitors to two other smaller palaces on the estate – – areas where the royals could get away from prying eyes u the main palace. We also saw many fountains, statues, lakes, and the grand canal where they rent cute little boats to visitors.  The grounds of the estate are actually public areas and on our little train journey we saw many cars parked along the roads and people were cycling, eating picnic lunches, and just generally enjoying the out of doors on a beautiful spring day.

 

One of the fountains close to the Palace.

 

Another beautiful fountain.

 

Behind the Palace are many fountains, pools and highly manicured gardens. Beyond them are woods surrounding the mile-long X-shaped Grand Canal.

 

We saw this swan swimming in one of the fountains. When I looked closer, I realized she must have a baby riding on her back. I thought I had seen back-riding babies on swans before, but I don’t remember them being this ugly.

 

After our little train ride, we walked back through the front of the palace and down across the courtyard to where the horse stables are.  There’s a fabulous carriage museum there called The Coaches Gallery with carriages from the 18th and 19th centuries and we went in and saw the dozen or so immaculate carriages they have on display.

 

 

 

A child’s carriage.

 

Royal snow sleighs.

 

A funeral carriage.

 

At 3 pm we attended the corps de ballet put on by the National Equestrian Academy of Versailles in the nearby Palace Stables. The show combined dressage with dancing, singing, fencing and Kyudo.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed, so the photo below was borrowed from the program.

 

Jardin Atlantique

The Jardin Atlantique (Atlantic Garden) is an 8.5 acre park that occupies the top of the Montparnasse Train Station.  It’s a real challenge to find a way into it but once you’ve conquered that challenge, it’s a cool little park and gardens.  It’s surrounded by tall office buildings and you can hear the rumble of trains below your feet.

Gorgeous Rhododendrons in a pretty orange color.

 

I don’t know what they are but I love these vines with their simple 4-petal white flowers.

 

Rats appear to be a serious problem in Paris. We’ve seen several of these signs, including this one in the park and then later on we saw a huge dead rat lying on the sidewalk.  Eeeew!  No, I didn’t take a picture.  You’re welcome.

 

Beautiful purple irises.

 

Love the wisteria. And the benches are of varied heights to accommodate both short and tall people. Nice1

 

One of the funnest things about the park is the play equipment, although some of the “kids” seem a little big.

 

The minimum age for this piece of equipment is 3 years so I guess it’s safe for Denise to ride.

 

Well THAT’S awkward!

 

I’m not sure what kind of bird this is but I love how his eyeliner and lipstick match.

Our Vintage Citroen Tour

Just as it was getting dark, a vintage Citroen picked us up at our hotel and took us on a tour of Paris at night. It was fabulous! The top was open, but we weren’t allowed to stand up while the car was moving, of course, so it was a little difficult to get photos through the tiny windows. But we did the best we could, wind in our hair, and ostensibly about to get hit countless times. It was really a fun experience.

Here’s our little vintage Citroen – isn’t it adorable? Our driver was a native Parisian who’s working on his PhD in history at the Sorbonne. He was SO nice, and SO knowledgeable about all things “Paris.”

 

Vintage is a fancy word for “old.” That shiny exterior hid this seen-better-days interior. The car was a stick shift and it lurched and coughed and sputtered in the heavy traffic, all the time with the driver dodging other cars and rattling off fascinating tidbits about Paris.

 

Driving down narrow streets through crowds of locals and tourists all gawking with envy at our cool Citroen.

 

The Pantheon

 

The Arc de Triomphe

 

The colorful ferris wheel at the end of the Champs-Elysees.

 

St. Sulpice Cathedral, the second largest church in Paris.

 

Our tour started at 9:30 and our driver managed to gt us to the Eiffel Tower at precisely 10 pm so we could catch one of the evening hourly 5-minute light shows.

 

Another view of the Eiffel Tower.

Napoleon’s Tomb

You can see the Hotel des Invalides, the home of Napoleon’s tomb, for miles.  On a sunny day, the golden dome is very impressive (this photo doesn’t do it justice).  And when you get inside, it’s even more impressive.

This is Les Invalides from the outside. It’s a pretty impressive building.

 

The grounds are very manicured. The building behind these shrubs is part of the Army Museum and is attached to Les Invalides.

 

The building is surrounded by a moat. At this point, it’s full of grass, not water.

 

This is Napoleon’s tomb. It’s difficult to get a photo that clearly shows the size of the tomb and the room.

 

The beautiful gilded ceiling. Once again, it’s difficult to show the size of this.

 

The marble in these columns is amazing. And it’s interesting that behind the altar is a glass window looking into another room, not mirrors or a regular wall.

 

The detail work on these columns almost looks fragile. And they’re so tall!

 

The main rotunda is surrounded by several smaller rooms like this one, each containing a tomb. This marble beauty is the resting place of Joseph Napoleon I, the elder brother of Napoleon, who made him King of Naples and Sicily and later King of Spain. He died in 1844.

 

Another of the side rooms, this one containing the tomb of Hubert Lyautey, a French army general who died in 1934.

Rodin Museum

The Rodin Museum was museum #4 on a 5-museum day.  Whew!

 

Rodin’s house is very splendid and it’s my understanding that he had several roommates in order to afford to live there.

 

I think Rodin is most famous for The Thinker.

 

So many of Rodin’s statues are of downtrodden-looking figures. Don’t remember what the story is with these 3 guys

 

Rodin’s estate is very sizeable. Besidees a big pool with foundain, there’s a wooded area on one side that is home to several of his statues and a flower garden with walking paths on the other side..

 

And huge, carefully pruned pine trees.

 

Inside of the house, the woodwork is intricate, the chandeliers are frequent and the ceilings are high. I can’t imagine having to maintain this home.

 

I believe this is Rodin’s sister. She’s displayed next to a window and her eyes catch the light and just seem to come alive. She is exquisite.

Jardin des Plantes (Garden of Plants)

We payed a return visit to this huge, lovely garden located just a few blocks from our hotel.  Some of the flowers were in transition but it’s still a beautiful place and this time we included a trip into their sweaty old horticulture buildings that house many large, tropical trees.

 

One of the museums that sits at the far end of the park.

 

This really is an organized scooter tour group – a great way to see the park.

 

Many beautiful acrylic panels like this one on birds run along the walls and explain all things “garden.”

 

This is one of 3 old horticultural buildings we went into. (And aren’t those 2 pink flowering bushes spectacular!)

 

What a perfect place for a springtime tai chi class.

 

A most elaborate beehive.

 

Everything in the park is so clean. The care with which this guy cleaned this bench kind of explains it.

 

Of all the little gardens in the Garden of Plants, the Jardin Alpin (Alpine Garden) is hands down our favorite.

 

And here’s that weird underground entrance into the Alpine Garden that we’ve never been able to explain.

 

A young artist was nestled in the Alpine Garden drawing charcoal trees. It was a perfect setting.

 

I love these old stone benches and the narrow stone path that runs by them.

 

And a perfect pair of ducks cruising up the little stream that passes through the park. It just keeps getting more and more perfect.

 

In the middle of the Alpine Garden is this huge, gorgeous tree.

 

And last but not least, these are the biggest and most beautiful peonies we’ve seen anywhere. They are so unusual.

 

 

 

Marie-Antoinette and an Art Display

After we visited Sainte-Chapelle, we went next door and walked through the Conciergerie. This is the prison where, like many others over the years, Marie-Antoinette, the Queen of France, was beheaded in 1793. We took a walking tour of the area and saw the cell where Marie-Antoinette was kept before her beheading which has now been turned into a tiny memorial chapel.

 

I suspect this huge painting captures the event very well.

 

Here’e a little more information about the event.

 

 

In another area of the Concergerie, a huge cave-like place, we ran across an art installation. We had seen part of it from outside the building when walking by a couple of days ago and wondered what the story was. Now we got to see it from the inside too. It’s very strange but very interesting.  It’s called “Detournement,” or Detour.  As the Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau explained it:

“Sculptor Stéphane Thidet is continuing his exploration of nature with an impressive, bespoke installation at the Conciergerie de Paris. By diverting part of the Seine, taken from the Pont au Change, Thidet echoes the 1910 flood that left watermarks on the monument’s columns. Like a rollercoaster, the bare wood installation transports water through the building, passing through the Soldiers’ Hall and the historic kitchens, to pour out through the basement windows into the moat of the conciergerie.”   Okay . . .

The wood is a striking natural color in this stunningly low-lit area. The water rolls, sometimes smoothly, sometimes roughly, down trails of troughs and occasionally forcefully falls from a waterfall into a tub and into a trough again and continues along. Eventually it comes out of the building through a tall basement window making a striking waterfall.  Here . . .  see for yourself.



It’s a striking waterfall from the outside of the building.

Tiny Sainte-Chapelle

Tiny Sainte-Chapelle is probably the best place to see the most amazing concentration of stained glass windows anywhere.  It  lies across the street from Notre Dame and is sandwiched in next to France’s Supreme Court in the Palace of Justice.  The church, a great example of Gothic architecture, was built for King Louis IX in the 13th century and essentially the only thing visible from the street is the roof, the tops of the windows, and a tall spire that was added in the 19th century.  You go into a low-ceiling basement which also has beautiful windows.  Then you climb up a narrow spiral staircase to the Chapelle Haute.  Upstairs, the tiny church contains 15 separate panels of stained glass, all very high up, for a total of 6,500 square feet.  It is breathtaking inside.

 

This is all you can see from the outside.  The church is surrounded by the Hall of Justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The toilettes that serve Sainte-Chapelle are in the courtyard and down a flight of stairs because they also serve the Palais de Justice. There are no signs on the outer doors so a budding artist has hand-drawn figures on the wall by the doors to help visitors distinguish the men’s from the women’s bathrooms. Unfortunately the drawing that signifies the men’s restroom is not appropriate for a family blog.

Lumiere de L’Ceils Lamp Shop

When we were planning for this trip, we ran across an article about a Paris light shop called Lumiere de L’Ceils (Light of the Eye).  Located on the left bank, it was a challenge to find because of it’s location on a tiny side  street that’s only about 1 block long.  But perseverance paid off and what a delightful place this is!  In this tiny boutique/museum, the owner sells, repairs and collects antique lamps, lampshades and light bulbs.  His workshop in the back is also filled with lights being repaired and/or collected.  And he says he has many more at home.  They’re like his children; he knows their complete history, including when they were made and when and how he acquired them.  When I asked the shopkeeper if it was okay to take photos, he replied with a grin, “it would be a shame not to.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame

We visited Notre Dame first thing in the morning and amazingly the crowds weren’t bad at all. I’ve talked a lot about Notre Dame and its history in the past. But for me it’s all about the view from across the river and those gorgeous windows. So lets take another look at those windows and a couple of river views and then we’ll move on.

 

Some of the front entry doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view from the bridge.

 

Notre Dame as seen from St. Louis Island.

Out and About in Paris – Part 1

Okay, you know the drill. This is where I get to post all of those fun odds and ends of photos I take everywhere. Those weird little photos that aren’t enough to make a post of but too fun not to share. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Okay, I’ve been brushing up on my French. I’m calling this one “Le Rental Bicycle en Le Seine.” I wonder how they explained this to the rental agent?

 

Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you? Like forever?

 

Oh those Parisians have such a sense of humor! Actually I think I kinda like it.

 

 

Bocce Ball – a popular pasttime among young men.

 

In the Tuileries, the gardens that extend from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, goats keep the grass “mowed” in the gullies where lawn mowers aren’t efficient.

 

Equestrian police guard the Tuileries gardens. They also patrol the mostly-pedestrian street in front of our hotel. You frequently hear them go clip-clopping by and it reminds you to watch where you step later on.

 

So what’s more appropriate than a brass band along the Seine on Labor Day. But what’s with his Santa hat?

 

We saw this big group of local walkers with walking poles near the Seine. I wonder if they’re hoping for snow?

 

I love these crocheted balls that appeared to float near the ceiling of this little boutique near our hotel. They certainly are an attention-grabber.

 

Don’t you just love this street in our neighborhood? It’s 4 p.m. Where IS everybody?

 

Isn’t this line of pre-school ducklings and their mother-duck teachers just adorable?

Musee de L’Orangerie

The whole point of visiting the Musee de L’Orangerie is because that’s where Claude Monet’s Water Lilies reside. We’re making the trip out to see Monet’s home and gardens at Giverny next week and we wanted to re-visit these 8 incredible paintings in preparation for checking out Monet’s inspiration for them. Indeed the paintings are displayed on 4 walls in each of 2 adjacent rooms as Monet had planned and they are amazing. The rooms are lit with only natural lighting (at least during the day) through a large oval window in the ceiling. And if you’re lucky enough to visit on a partly cloudy day, you get to see how the paintings change as the sun alternates between covered and uncovered.

Some of the photos look a little strange, caused by using the panorama function on my camera (and not very well, I might add). The Water Lilies are not wavy, they are rectangular.

 

 

 

 

I love this Renoir painting of 2 girls at the piano.

 

These 2 miniature vignettes are replicas of the collector and major donor’s dining room and office/library displaying many of the donated artworks.  These 6-8 inch “boxes” were inserted into the wall and were very interesting.

 

Musee D’Orsay

The D’Orsay Museum occupies an old train station and the building itself is a work of art.  The Museum houses French art of the 1800’s and early 1900’s – The Impressionists.  And who doesn’t love The Impressionists! They also have a lot of fabulous decorative arts collection that’s really fun. Here’s a small sampling of what we saw.

Here’s the front entrance. We picked a good time to visit because there was no line.

 

Looking through the main part of the building that was the waiting area in the old train station. It’s an amazing view through here.

 

This beautiful clock hangs at one end of the building. The photo is deceptive – – the light fixture in the lower left is large. The clock is HUGE!

 

There are windows along the galleries in several places and the views are spectacular. Here we see a view of the Louvre across the river.

 

Here’s a view through another of the windows. This time we get a view of Sacre-Coeur high on the hill.

 

Manet’s Infant and Cat. Does that cat not look contented?

 

One of Edgar Degas’ exquisite ballet class paintings.

 

There’s both a really nice restaurant and a coffee shop in the D’Orsay. I prefer the coffee shop because you get to eat next to this wonderful original clock. And the lights are pretty cool too. (And the food is good.)

 

This marble statue is amazing. The perfect marble looks so much like fabric.

 

A close up of the gown.

 

Don’t you just love this chair displayed in the decorative arts collection!

 

And how about this office furniture?

 

Beautiful arc deco glass panel. (Not quite sure what the ET-looking thing is in front of it.)

 

Bedroom Suite

 

Interesting lamp

 

Unique corner cabinet.

 

Labor Day at Pere Lachaise Cemetery

May 1st is Labor Day in France.  Unions are big here and lots of groups were out marching and demonstrating and selling Lilies of the Valley.  And the same was true in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  We went to Pere Lachaise because we knew it was a holiday and we thought it probably wouldn’t be closed like so many places are on holidays.  But some areas were very crowded and some of the little cemetery intersections were blocked with police cars.  But we still managed to find Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Chopin, and a cat.  A live cat.

Some areas were very crowded with Unionists supporting Labor Day.

 

More peaceful union supporters. These people were singing.

 

Well guarded . . . and didn’t want their picture taken.

 

Jim Morrison’s grave. There’s a fence around it so people can’t get near it. Except for the people who left all that stuff.

 

But just outside the fence near’s Jim’s grave is this tree with bamboo wrapped around it.

 

And on the bamboo is gum. Lots and lots of chewing gum.

 

Also near Jim is this little tomb structure with trees growing out of a split in one of the roofing logs.

 

A close-up of the little trees. Funny.

 

“A La Memoire des Enfants Juifs Assassine par les Nazis.” There’s something very haunting about this memorial to the thousands of Jewish children who were deported from France during the holocaust and never returned home.

 

This local man comes here daily to feed the cats.

 

La Pere Lechaise chat.

 

He pointed us in the direction of Jim Morrison’s grave and later we ran across him again. Since we still hadn’t found it, he took us there! He spoke no English so it was an interesting conversation.

 

A memorial to the Armenians who fought in WWI and WWII.

 

Oscar Wilde. There’s a long story here.

 

A few other interesting things to share.



I think it’s a rose. Or maybe a can opener.

 

Chuck & Denise under a lilac bush.

More Technical Difficulties

Well I’m giving it my best shot but the hotel Internet just isn’t cooperating.  The speed is very slow and I’ve tried everything I can think of, including lots of complaining to the hotel, none of which seems to be working. I suspect I’m now thought of as that crazy American lady who complains about the Internet all the time. At any rate, I’m going to limp along and publish posts as best I can. Then whatever I haven’t been able to publish, I’ll finish up after we get home.  I appreciate your patience and hope you’ll keep checking back.

Thanks.

Au Lapin Agile (The Nimble Rabbit)

We paid a return visit to Au Lapin Agile in Paris’s fabled Montmartre area.  Since it’s beginning in 1860, the Cabaret has welcomed and fostered generations of singers, musicians, poets, and artists. The show has a melange of incredibly talented singers and artists. Of course the entire show is in French, but even to someone with a very limited knowledge of the language, the performers are so impressive in their sincere expression of emotion that we found ourselves laughing, clapping, and singing along.

The atmosphere is authentic, though they have eliminated the smoky haze of yesteryear. The small, dark, cave-like venue (probably 20×30) is jam-packed with benches around the walls, narrow tables and small low stools. The performers beguile you from the beginning with the intimacy of the space; indeed they come in with the rest of the audience and are sitting at one of the tables in the center of the room; no stage, minimal lighting, just an old, upright piano along one wall.

Once you are seated and served the traditional drink of the house (a delicious 2 oz. glass of cherry liqueur with a couple cherries in the bottom), the piano player comes in, strikes up a tune and the fun begins! The group of performers at the table sings traditional French standards, love ballads, sea chanteys and encourages the audience to join in. Eventually, individuals from the group get solo time for their specialties. Especially memorable was the raspy-voiced woman who played the accordion and sang her heart out.

Each performer was special, and as soon as one performer finished, another began. The piano accompanist was amazing at effortlessly matching the vocalist’s mood, timing, etc. Then he himself played a couple of pieces that showed his extensive and effortless talent.

Speaking of regulars, over the years this place has had some legendary ones such as Aristide Bruant, Pablo Picasso, George Sand and Gertrude Stein, Utrillo, Modigliani and the list goes on and on. Their guest log is also legendary.  There’s a note from Eleanor Roosevelt; Leontyne Price actually sang “Summertime” there when she was here on tour with the NY Met singing the lead role in Porgy & Bess.

And speaking of legends, when Picasso and his friends were regulars there before they became famous, he painted a picture of himself as a harlequin with the owner, Frédé, in the background.  He gave it to Frédé in 1905 to settle his bar bill.  It hung in the cabaret until Frédé sold it in 1912 for $20 . In 1989 it was auctioned by Sotheby’s for $41 million and now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art! A copy now hangs on the wall at the cabaret!

If you go to the Au Lapin Agile website you will find lots more info about this incredible place and it’s remarkable history:   www.au-lapin-agile.com

– Chuck

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

It’s been pouring down rain for the last 2 days – enough already!  And we’re not talking spring showers here – – we’re talking about rains with monsoon winds that make your umbrella turn inside out!

Yesterday morning, we went to find a Metro station with a photo booth to get our pictures taken in preparation for buying Metro passes.  After much hassle, we each eventually left the tiny photo booth with bad mugshot-quality photos in hand and took them to the Metro clerk for quick adherence to our shiny new Metro passes.  Have pass, will travel.  Later in the evening, we took the Metro to dinner and to see Au Lapin Agile.  It was Denise’s first ride on a Metro, always a unique experience.

In the afternoon, Denise and I went shopping in the rain and checked out our neighborhood.  Most of the shops have containers just inside the front door to stash drenched umbrellas so they don’t distribute water puddles throughout the tiny shops.

We took several photos of great doors in the neighborhood which you’ll see in a later post. Then just down the street from our hotel, we stumbled onto a huge Catholic Church, Paroisse St. Louis on I’Ile, initially not even realizing from the outside that it was a church as it extended unobtrusively along the sidewalk. But randomly people were entering and so we did too.   It was beautiful – and huge – inside.  And the windows were gorgeous.  After we got inside, the organ began to play.  It was perfect.

 

 

We haven’t had a chance to take Denise inside Notre Dame yet but we’ve walked by it several times and gotten glimpses of it, as well as the crowds standing in the rain waiting to get in.  In the meantime, this is our view of the back of Notre Dame looking across the river from our island.

 

Today, after hearing heavy rain on our roof all night, we once again woke up to torrential rains and temps in the low 40’s. After breakfast, we tried to brave the weather and walk down to the TI (tourism information) office to buy museum passes, but eventually discovered we aren’t really that brave afterall and turned around and came back to the hotel. Tomorrow HAS to be better!

Small World Dept: The 2 women staying in the room next to ours are from Coronado.

The Amazing Atelier des Lumieres

The Atelier des Lumieres (Studio of Lights) is located in an unassuming neighborhood behind an unimpressive storefront with huge blue doors that make it look like it could be a small neighborhood theater.  The only thing memorable about the outside is the huge line of people snaking out the front door and down the sidewalk waiting to buy tickets.  Until you get inside, that is.  That’s when you realize how amazing this place really is.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, the museum has taken over a former foundry that was built in 1835.  And the only thing they’ve done to the layout in this 16,000 square foot building is add a narrow little balcony on one side of the room to give viewers an additional viewing perspective.  Then the metal structure was refurbished to take advantage of the acoustics and the surface area was designed as a support for the 140 projectors they added.  The floors were left as is and the facility still contains a tall original brick wall as well as a drying tower and former furnace which have now become part of the “show.”  And what a show it is. The whole space has a total of 35,500 square feet of continuous projection space.

But it’s those 140 projectors and a fabulous sound system with gorgeous classical music that are doing all of the heavy lifting.  When we walked in (which we were able to do quickly because fortunately we had bought tickets ahead of time online so we were able to skip the line), it was like walking into a dark movie theater with no seats.  The art was moving and changing on the walls and floors continuously and it was absolutely mesmerizing. It was easy to miss the fact that all around you, almost every square inch of floor space was covered with sitting people.  Until your eyes adjusted and . . . there they were!

It’s almost impossible to describe the show adequately and even more difficult to get photographs that do it justice.  In effect, the show digitalizes the artwork of mainly two artists, Gustav Klimt and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, both Viennese artists.  And that art pours down the walls and moves and grows and shrinks and evolves, and covers those 33-foot walls and expansive floors imaginatively.  It was breathtaking!  We could have stayed and watched that art and listened to that music all day long.

 

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Everything in this painting was moving, including the woman. And look how gigantic she is compared to the people sitting on the floor below her.

 

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It’s like this piece, projected on all walls simultaneously, was being rapidly drawn, line by line, before your very eyes, accompanied by appropiate, fabulous music.

 

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It’s hard to believe that this 3-D appearing imagine was actually on a flat wall.

 

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These really looked like mammouth stained glass windows, lit from behind and separated by pillars.

 

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This tree started very small on all walls and quickly branched out, mostly horizontally, but also up.

 

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A glimpse of some of the people sitting on the floor in front of one wall, looking at a siimilar view on the opposite wall.

 

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This photogenic Parisian couple looks like they’re part of the show, but their shadow gives them away. They’re actually just sitting against the wall like many others, with the images being projected on the wall, the floor . . . and them.

 

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This piercing blue sea was gorgeous and the movement really made it look like water. The little boats floated along in the water too. A few white lights like the one seen here were the only distractions around the room . . . required lighted arrows pointing the way to the exits.

 

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An indication of the coordinated projection on the floor as well as the density of people sitting on the floor.

 

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All projections covered the large round furnace in the middle of the room as well as the walls. The furnace had a small entry door in it (seen on the left) and projections could be seen inside the furnace as well.

Chuck took some great videos inside the museum that do a much better job of illustrating the movement and the fabulous musical accompaniment.  But their refusal to be wrestled into this post is only one of several technical issues I’ve been battling.  If I can eventually get them to cooperate, I’ll add them later on.

And the Journey Begins

So we’re off to Paris.  Paris is one of our most favorite cities in the whole world and there’s nothing like Paris in the springtime.  So much to do, so much to see,  SO MUCH FABULOUS FOOD TO ENJOY!  And one of Chuck’s nieces is going to join us on this trip.  Yay!  Denise is from Indiana and this is her first trip abroad so we’re looking forward to showing her our favorite places…..the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame…..the best ice cream in Paris!

We’re staying in a little hotel on Ile Saint-Louis (Saint Louis Island) again.  As you may recall (what? you haven’t been taking notes from blog to blog?), Ile Saint-Louis is one of two remaining tiny natural islands in the Seine River.  The other remaining island, nearby Ile de la Cite, is home to Notre Dame.  We also stayed in a hotel on Ile Saint-Louis when we visited Paris 2 years ago and we found it to be the perfect location…centrally-located to museums and parks, close to the Metro, and  only a block from the Seine where there’s always so much activity.

By the way, if you’ve visited any of our blogs before, you’ll probably remember that Denise is always one our biggest comment contributors.  So now it’s going to be up to the rest of you to keep those comments coming in her absence. I feel confident that you’ll be up to the task and we look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for coming along.  We hope you enjoy our trip.

Atelier des Lumieres

We’re so excited!  Paris’ newest museum, Atelier des Lumieres (Studio of Lights), just opened on April 13th.  This digital art museum, with its in-your-face, wall-to-wall art, is located in a 1835 former foundry and looks amazing!

Photo thanks to Getty Images

We’ve already got tickets to see the museum on our first day there, so we’re really excited.  Hopefully I’ll get some photos to share on the blog.

Photo courtesy of CultureSpaces

If you’d like to see how this art “moves,” check out their website here: http://atelier-lumieres.com/