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Week 4 Paris in the Spring: Musees, Velibs and Roland Garros

FRANCE | Monday, 25 May 2009 | Views [557] | Comments [2]

 

After a week in Paris we can now stroll the streets, ride the Metro and use the local bike hire system like locals. Our week commenced with a visit to the Pompidou Centre where we saw some great exhibitions by artists Alexander Calder and Kandinsky. The Kandinsky in particular, was fantastic and I have never seen so many works in the one space by one artist. We viewed the Modern Art collection and Paul is very proud to admit he thinks he now knows quite a bit about contemporary art and has asked to have his favourite Rothko painting included. We also had the pleasure of having lunch at Georges on the 5th level of the Pompidou. The restaurant is world known for its design and views of Paris. We are not sure how we managed to reserve a table as George's is a venue for watching the beautiful people of Paris. Maybe we have achieved that level.

We have had a variety of dining experiences from buying our own food to eating in a variety of French restaurants; some even twice they were so good. Most of our own meals we have managed to buy food at the market and cook it at home. One night we bought at chicken from a butcher that had been cooked in a rotisserie with potatoes. The butcher opens the cabinet, pulls out your selection and bags it up with the potatoes. We have eaten in larger brasseries as well as small family restaurants and have tried delicacies from foie gras, to steak tartare to andoulitte (offal sausages, a mistake Kathryn made in Reims, confusing it with 'agneau' which is lamb.)On Saturday evening we even ate in a Moroccan restaurant. We have found ordering not too difficult and the French are pleased to have an interest shown in their food and our attempts to speak French. In one restaurant, the chef even came out to greet the two men who consumed his large entrecote of beef. It was a chop which was the size of half a cow! Our favourite is the boulangerie on the corner near our appartment which serves fresh baguettes 3 times a day and beautiful tartes and pasteries. Paul is even impressed that they know him so well that he was sent to the front of the line when ordering today. He can even order in French now, just don't get him to say “Mille Feuille” or “Paris Brest”.

Back to our touring; Tuesday we went out to Giverny to Monet's Garden. It was quite pleasant but it was teaming with British women commenting on how their garden could look like this one, but even better. The garden and pond are beautiful and the village is very picturesque. There was also an exhibition of Monet's waterlily paintings at the Modern American Impressionist Gallery. You might get the idea who does a lot of the financing of the project. There were beautiful meadows (Yes, they are literally meadows) of Poppies.

Wednesday was an exciting day as we trekked out to the qualifying rounds of the tennis at Roland Garros. We were able to sit very close to the outside courts and see some great young players including 3 Australians: Sophie Ferguson, Peter Luczak and Antonia Moldiva (the latter is Russian, who seems to have australian citzenship to play tennis). We could even hear the players discussing their game with their coaches. Kathryn was very excited to see former Australian player Tony Roche and managed to get the courage to have her photo with him. We were also amused by the precision of the ball boys & girls and the groundstaff who spray the court with water after each set as the surface is clay. There were many, many French school children there who were very excited and quite noisy; the matches were stopped several times to get the crowd to quieten down. We thought the experience was fantastic and it gave us an opportunity to see the grounds as the French Open commences on Monday 25 May, when we leave for Bordeaux. The French are very excited about their players and are very supportive.

We commenced the 'big museums' on Thursday. The Rodin Museum, Musee D'Orsay and Quai Branly on Thursday. These museums are still magnificent and still full of many, many tourists. I often wonder if the crowds are really appreciating the art or just going to the museum to say they have been there. The Museum Quai Branly is a new museum in Paris. It features Indigenous Art and it is the museum that many of you may know that has a ceiling painted by an Indigenous Artist. I walked in and asked about the artwork only to be told it was 'in the shop' which was a little dissapointing as I had wrongly assumed that it was in the main gallery entrance. However, the displays are magnificent and it is a very good representation of French colonial acquisitions. (except for Indigenous Australia and Canada). The building and gardens, which feature indigenous plants are just as interesting as the exhibits.

Thursday evening we went on one of those classic trips on the Seine at night, very cold but some excellent views. Thursday was also the day when we discovered our new form of transport; the Velib. The Velib system is a bike rental operation around Paris. By swiping your metro ticket you obtain a bike for half an hour for free. When you finish with the bike you return it to another station, these are all around Paris and then pick up another bike when you need it. A deposit on your credit card is required but it gives you easy access and a new way of seeing the city. You also feel very French.

On Friday we braved the Velib in the traffic and made our way to the Louvre, where the crowds wer e just as heavy as the traffic outside. We viewed some of the classic French painting and then braved the Italian painting and sculpture wings along with the Mona Lisa and the big French Nationalists such as David's “Coronation of Napolean” and “Oath of the Horati (the art teachers I know will be swooning at this). The crowd is more interesting to watch than the paintings in these areas at times. If one proceeds into the shop you are exposed to the marketing of Art at its best. The Louvre now has a whole shopping mall underneath devoted to selling anything from children's cloths, to thongs, tea towels, china, chairs. You name it is there. I wonder again about the appreciation of artworks in all of this. It was fascinating to see the 'copyists' at work in the gallery working on the great masters. You have to apply to copy the work and can only stay in the gallery for a month from 9 am – 1 pm each day.

Friday night we were treated to another French tradition! The Moulin Rouge! Although we wondered how they fit a long queue 3 block long into one theatre in half an hour the spectacle was fantastic. We loved the costumes and the whole concept of French cabaret. I know my father will ask if they got any young men up on stage, as he remembers being one of them, my response is that they did and they also included a very tall blond Russian girl, a Chinese Man and a German Gentleman. The Moulin Rouge is coping with global statistics. The show included the girl in the tank fighting the serpents, jugglers, acrobats, the can can and a ventriloquist. All very French.

This weekend we have enjoyed our final days in Paris. We have been doing some more bike riding along canals and alleys, shopping at Galleries Layfette and markets and today we did an interesting walking tour of the Marais with a local historian. She gave us some interesting facts and stories about the area, its buildings and gardens. Finally we visited the Musee Picasso, which we thought was closed for renovation, however in typical French fashion there is no explanation as to why it is now open. The works again are the best I have seen as one collection. The building also has been designed by a French Installation artist and there are mirrors and corridors that open up the spaces and galleries in an intersting manner.

We leave for Bordeaux tomorrow, as I type we have been switching between watching the tennis and an a movie with Jack Nicolson that has been dubbed in French. Our experiences have been wonderful and having an appartment has provided us with the opportunity to mix in with the local culture and people. I must admit that Paris has a lot of tourists and often that can deter from its charms. However if you take the time to wander away from the crowds you can enjoy the history and the atmosphere that many people comment upon.

Until next time when we will be off savouring foie gras, gourmet food and wine on our walking tour.

Kathryn & Paul

Comments

1

oh my god how fantastic!!!!! i am enjoying all that you do make sure you keep the details of the apaartment etc!!!!
photos are great.......
love stella

  stella greig May 25, 2009 8:28 PM

2

Hi guys,I am insanely jealous, but we will be there later on in the year.
Photo with Tony Roche, that was great. I loved the pictures of Giverny, and I was salivating so badly over that raspberry tart I just had to go and calm myself down with a cup of tea. You both looked smugly happy and content at Reims in your favourite champagne seats that I am guessing it was truly wonderful.
Hi to Ian & Cecile. Continue on having a fantastic time.
Love, Janet

  Janet Quilty May 31, 2009 12:05 PM

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