Up at a relatively reasonable hour on Thursday and I’d had the idea I’d go to the Edward Hopper show at the Grand Palais. I mean, it’s Paris – who comes all that way to look at American paintings, right? I figured this would mean an easier time getting to see the paintings – something that’s a particular challenge here, especially in the more popular museums.
Arrived at metro station Franklin D. Roosevelt – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I felt a surge of American pride. Of course, then I just reminded myself that Americans coined the term “freedom fries” when the French (wisely) opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and I was back to feeling vaguely apologetic for my nationality…
Anyway, arrived at the lovely Grand Palais and discovered that the Hopper show is one of the hottest tickets in town – huge lines, most folks with reserved tickets. Curses, foiled again! What to do?
Well, the Grand Palais had a separate exhibition called Bohèmes, which looked at Bohemians in both senses – that is, gypsies who were originally called Bohemians and were a popular subject of art from the 1600s and on and the Bohemian movement in Paris of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Eh, as long as I’m here, I guess I’ll check it out…
WOW. This turned out to be one of the most incredible shows I’ve seen. The subject matter was fascinating and at times astonishingly beautiful. The audio-guide was extremely well-done and brought the history to life. And, of course, the second floor of the show which focused on Bohemian Paris was simply gorgeous and amazing for someone like myself who is in love with this city, both as a place and a way of life. I loved every moment here…
Laden with selections from the gift shop, I headed for the exit thinking perhaps I’d try and find some lunch nearby – and of course it was POURING when I left. So, I jumped on Metro and headed home to drop of my purchases and had some lunch in the ‘hood, followed by a nap.
Friday, I forced myself out of bed so I could be at the Musée d’Orsay when they opened at 930. Since I’d neglected to go shopping the day before, I had not breakfast in the apartment and, humiliatingly, stopped at McD’s on the way to the Metro. Quelle horreur! Though they do have free wi-fi, so there’s that…
Now, I don’t suppose it needs to be said the d’Orsay has one of the finest collections of Impressionist art in the world. It also has what has to be the crabbiest staff on earth – I mean, I suppose it’s understandable to some degree with the hordes of foreigners descending each day, but jeez! Sullen, cranky, impatient at the ticket counter, at the (mandatory) coat check, at the audio guide dispensary, at the gift shop (ok, she actually was reasonably normal). And I think what put me in an especially bad mood was, after shelling out an extra €5 for an audio-guide, I discovered that the audio guide for the special exhibition L’impressionisme et la mode was a separate audio guide that cost another €5! What nerve. I don’t really mind paying for museums – but this just seemed extra sneaky – the ol’ bait and switch! So, no second audio-guide for me – I showed them, all right!
The show was a good one, though, with rather clever set-up. Plenty of paintings and some quite lovely displays of dresses from the 19th century. And, despite the fact the Renoir tends not to be my favorite of the Impressionists (keep in mind, I am a philistine), my favorite painting in the museum was his charming portrait of Charles Le Couer.
A quick run around the rest of the museum – it’s lovely as always. And kudos to them for forbidding cameras and cellphones in the galleries. Helps make the hordes somewhat more tolerable.
From there, I took leisurely stroll along the Seine, headed toward la Tour Eiffel, with the goal of visiting Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine at the Palais de Chaillot. It was a rather long and chilly walk, but lovely nonetheless. And believe it or not, it was my first view of the entire tower – thus far, I’d only seen it’s top poking up above the horizon. I’d forgotten not only how large it is – but how magnificent. Yes, the area is swarming with tourists behaving like idiots – but there’s no disputing that the tower is glorious to behold.
Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine was very enjoyable. The first floor was filled with life-size casts of the exterior decorations from cathedrals and churches all over France. On the second floor, a variety of models and history of 2oth century architecture. There was also a small show of “paper architecture” – several artists who work with cut paper to produce marvelous work.
Located a “reasonably” priced bistro mentioned in my guidebook – though in this fancy part of town, reasonable turned out to be €50 or more. So I wandered a bit and found La Petite Marquise (that means “the petite marquise” in French) where I had a jamon-beurre-fromage sandwich and a Marquise – pistachio macaron filled with pistachio crème and surrounded with fresh raspberries. WELL. This was just as terrible as it sounds (that is, it was delicious).
After a bit more walking, I passed the Palais de Tokyo, one of several places on my list to visit – but at this point, I realized I’d probably had my fill of culture for the day and so headed home.