Archive for December, 2006

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Vive le Yeti

December 22, 2006

My time here in France is now drawing to a close; I can’t say that I am completely saddened by this thought, either. It has been fun. I have enjoyed going to the museums and monuments, and learning how to better to use my camera. But this trip, unlike the last, it seems that many more things have gone wrong—little things that we could never seem to completely take in stride. And of course the big set-back: Mom injuring her foot.

Wednesday was a good example of the time we’ve been having. On Wednesday we took some trains out to Auvers, an important town to many impressionists including Vincent Van Gogh. In order to seem less negative, I’ll begin with the bad parts of the day and then move on to the good. Our train out of Chessy Gare was running slow, and we got into Paris later than we were supposed to, causing us to miss our train out to Pontoise; so we had to wait around for the next one. Because we were late getting to Pontoise, we had to wait around again for the train that took us back in the direction from whence we came to Auvers. Dad had carefully planned our train ride the night before, discovered it was all covered by our Paris Visite passes, and all of his plans were then undone because the A was late getting in to Paris. When we arrived we headed over to the inn where Van Gogh died to have some lunch, only to discover that it was closed for the holidays until February. The way home was more of the same: the trains leaving Auvers run fairly frequently… but not until after 4:00 pm. So we had to wait around in the cold for that train. By the time we got back to Paris it was rush hour, so the metro was packed—this was mainly a problem because Mom’s foot was hurting and we couldn’t get a seat on the train for a little while.

But, lest you think the whole day was awful, let me say that Auvers is really quite cool. We had the best meal we’ve had the entire trip at the Café de la Paix—a silver lining to the closure of the inn. After a nice leisurely lunch we went out and started walking around town—the plan was to follow the path of this walk in a book of Mom’s, which didn’t end up happening, but we had a nice walk anyway. Our first stop was l’eglise d’Auvers—the subject of one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings. The last time we were in Paris we saw the painting at Musée d’Orsay, where I fell in love with it. Here is my rather impotent attempt at recreating at least the framing of Van Gogh’s painting with my little Canon SD300:

After l’eglise d’Auvers we wandered up to the cemetery where Vincent and Theo Van Gogh are buried. I like cemeteries, probably because Mom used to take me to play in the cemetery as a child, but now I find that the sensibilities instilled in me by society—not “Society”, that malicious entity that to every teenager seems to do nothing except oppress them, but rather “society” in the sense that I did not grow up alone in a cave—I’m somewhat self-conscious in a cemetery if I’m not visiting someone I knew personally. I soon realized, however, that, were I dead and buried, I would have no problem with strangers examining my grave. Then we just wandered around the country side—beautiful country side, by the way, no wonder the impressionists liked it there—until Mom’s foot started hurting. Then the aforementioned adventures in travel began.

Today, having taken yesterday to relax and not really do much, we went back into Paris to Centre Pompidou for the Hergé exhibit. Hergé, for those of you who don’t know, was the creator of Tintin. The exhibit was quite cool, and as a bonus: free. They had up many sketches, drawings, and other falderal created in the process of putting together the comic, they had some doodles of Hergé’s, and bits and pieces of the comics themselves. Against one wall they had lined up chronologically the covers of Le Petit XXeme Siécle—the magazine in which Tintin was printed. It was kinda cool how much of the story you could glean from the sequence of covers. I even discovered a pop-up Christmas card that Hergé had done. Unfortunately, I saw signs that I took to mean that photography wasn’t allowed. I’m not sure if it only meant no flash, or no photography all together, but having been scolded at Picasso for taking pictures I shouldn’t have, I decided to play it safe. I did take a few of the non-original artwork that Pompidou had put up to accompany the exhibit, but nothing of Hergé’s work on display.

And oh yeah: Vive le Yeti!

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It’s Raining Mice

December 19, 2006

This morning we headed back to Musée de la Musique to finish of the permanent collection and check out the “Traveling Guitars.” The permanent exhibit was pretty cool; it was nice going back a second time knowing what to expect. The only thing I didn’t like about the museum was that their collection of non-western instruments was kind of lacking. The history of western music was great, but being a fan of obscure, strange musical instruments, I was hoping for a larger collection of eastern instruments.

After we finished going through the permanent collection we went downstairs to the “Traveling Guitars.” Pretty cool exhibit. In the first room they had a couple Fenders set up to play with, and a copy of Guitar Hero. Dad snapped a couple pictures of me rockin’ out in France. The exhibit itself was pretty much just a collection of guitars. They had some common models, some fairly unique ones, some old models, and a collection of guitars that belonged to famous people. I got to see guitars belonging to David Gilmour, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, Donovan, and Frank Zappa. I think Zappa (left) and Donovan (right) had the most interesting guitars…

Just outside the museum as we were leaving, Mom saw a mouse fall from the second story of the building, land on the ground, get up, and scurry under the building. Apparently this experience really affected her because she couldn’t stop talking about it. She even told Klye the story when we called him from my cellphone upon our return.

After the museum, we just popped on a train back towards our hotel, but got off at the mall the stop before for dinner and a little Christmas shopping. Not much to tell here: Christmas shopping was rather unsuccessful, but I did get a new pair of pants in a shade of black and blue I’d never seen before; I love them muchly. I also found exactly what I want for Christmas. Here’s a picture:

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Of Afghanistan and Tintin

December 18, 2006

Today’s first stop was Centre Pompidou; I was very excited to go back here, having loved it last time. It wasn’t until I visited Centre Pompidou last trip to Paris that I finally began to understand modern art. I was looking forward to seeing what new exhibits they had, and hopefully find my three favorite from last time: Fibonacci Crocilius, the Chanelle Guillotine, and the 3′ tall bronze statue of Hello Kitty. The first thing I saw, however, upon entering the museum, was a large banner featuring Tintin:

The good news is: two days from now (Dec. 20th) there is going to be a special exhibit featuring—as near as I can tell—Tintin! The bad news is: a lot of Pompidou is closed for renovations until February, including the modern art wing. So even if Hello Kitty is still there, I shan’t see her this time. But we’re going back after the exhibit opens to see it (eat your heart out, Dan).

After some poking around the lobby of Pompidou while Dad patiently ascertained the location of this Treasures of Afghanistan exhibit that is here in Paris, we hopped on the metro and headed over to Musée Guimet to see the exhibit. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures—Dad was scolded for doing so, not that we saw any signs indicating we were not allowed—so I’ve got none to show you. It was interesting, though it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I must say that I’m glad these things survived the civil war, though; every culture has probably crafted some pretty marvelous things, and it’s cool to get to see them. Just another reminder that we’re not always as different as we think.

After the museum we hopped back on the metro to head back to Shakespeare & Co. so Mom could pick something up. While she and Dad went in, I stood around and took more pictures of Notre Dame de Paris. I truly love Notre Dame; I am not a religious man, but I really appreciate the spirit that it can sometimes engender in others, and when that spirit manifests itself in art it is truly moving. So I have lots of pictures of Notre Dame, far more than I’ve put up on Picasa. I put this one up because I like the colors and because I didn’t take very many pictures today.

I also uploaded a number of pictures from previous days that I didn’t get to last night because I was tired. Tomorrow we’re headed back to Musée de la Musique to finish the permanent collection and hopefully take a look at the “Traveling Guitars” exhibit.

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Today in Brief

December 17, 2006

Good news, everyone! Today Mom’s foot was well enough to come out with us. First order of business this morning: find Mom’s old neighborhood. When my mom was about 10 years old her Dad moved the whole family out to Paris for a year while he taught English at l’école militaire—the school where French military officers are trained. So this morning we took the metro over to Parc Monceau, where Mom, my Aunt Katy, and my Uncle Cam used to play as children.

After wandering around for a while admiring the park (coming from Colorado I am amazed at how green France is this time of year, and the concept of a jardin d’hiver is quite novel to me) we headed out to find her old apartment. Parc Monceau and Mom’s old apartment are just a stone’s throw from l’Arc de Triomphe; quite a nice neighborhood. We found her old apartment, the brasserie where she used to by bread every morning, and a post office that may have been her old school. It was quite fun. After lunch we caught the metro over to the other side of Paris to visit la Musée de la Musique.

After changing trains in Stalingrad—I kid you not—we arrived at la Musée de la Musique. The museum was a great deal larger than I anticipated; in fact, we didn’t even get all the way through. They have quite a collection of instruments, many of which I’d never really encountered in those particular forms, and the audio tour was full of excellent music. Quite an interesting spot, if you’re a musician, maybe even if you’re not. I found the guitar I want there, too.

I think we’re planning on heading back to try and finish the museum and check out their exposition, “Traveling Guitars,” on Saturday before we return home.

On a related note, I’ve set up a Picasa web gallery and started an album for this trip, if you’re interested. Captions coming soon.

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Pablo Picasso and Space Invaders

December 16, 2006

Continuing our sojourn through Paris, Dad and I went to the Musée Picasso today—one of my favorite museums. We got a bit lost on the way there after misinterpreting a sign directing us to the museum, but one broken umbrella and a croque-monsieur later we arrived none the worse for wear outside the entrance to the museum. Today was our first normal French winter day, you see, meaning that it was marginally more chilly then the past two days, cloudy, and a bit rainy. Naturally I had my umbrella, and not 100 yards from the metro station exit a nice gust of wind renders my umbrella useless. Of course, the only solution when we didn’t immediately find the museum was to step into a café for some lunch.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before lunch we once again stumbled upon aliens in France. Our last visit, I discovered a small Space Invaders mosaic above a door on some building in downtown Paris. Today we discovered an entire fleet!

Drop down! Change direction! Increase speed!

The museum itself was fantastic. It was less overwhelming this time, I think in part because I knew what to expect. Picasso was a fantastic, if deranged, artist. I was once again baffled by “Man with a Mandolin.” Picasso must have either been a genius capable of seeing shapes in objects that are otherwise invisible to me, or he was a madman—if you will forgive the hyperbole. In the absence of my favorite piece—his rendition of Sacré Coeur—I was quite taken by his sculptures. They are interesting to me because most of them change so much when you look at them from different angles.

In addition to Picasso’s work, someone had gotten the bright idea to x-ray some of his sculptures and submit those as art; some of them worked quite well. The sculpture below was not done by Picasso, but inspired by him; even so I think it is quite remarkable, and I suspect it was done with the intention of being x-rayed. You can see in the x-ray that the leaves of the flower contain some nails or something, which I can only assume were put there for the purpose of showing up in the x-ray. I also think that this is the best photo I’ve taken so far, and may continue to be.

And of course, there’s always his paintings. We found a few today that were called “The Kiss,” or some variant. One common theme among these was that the subjects always appeared to be trying to eat each other. This was my favorite of the three…

Tomorrow we are off to the Musée de la Musique where they supposedly have on display 4,500+ musical instruments dating back to the Renaissance…

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Le Triosième Jour

December 15, 2006

Well, it’s the end of our third day here in Paris. “What happened to the first two?” I hear you ask. Well I’ll tell you. The first day, I was tired. Dead tired. After what was an 8 or 8.5 hour flight we arrived in Paris at approximately 6:45 AM local time; which was about 10:45 PM Mountain time. Dad left his hat on the plane by accident so we had to wait around for them to bring it up—fortunately it wasn’t lost.

We then hopped a bus over to the terminal where we could catch the TGV out Chessy Gare near where we were staying. After trekking across all of terminal 2 we arrived at the train station where we proceeded to wait for an hour or more for our train. We rode the TGV for all of 10 minutes before we arrived at Chessy Gare—this thing is amazingly fast and smooth, it normally takes us 30 minutes to get from downtown to the Marriott out here by Euro Disney. Once we arrived we got to wait for another hour and a half before the next shuttle came to pick us up and take us to the Mariott.

That’s pretty much it for day one. Dad and I walked into town to grab some groceries, we ate dinner, then we all fell asleep. I slept for something like 17 hours, I think.

Yesterday, day 2, we went into Paris over to l’île de la Cité to visit Notre Dame; which is easily in my top 5 favorite places in Paris. Dad and I climbed to the top and caught a couple of good pictures. It’s so peaceful up there. There is something about those gargoyles that I find incredibly soothing and comforting. After the treacherous descent from the towers we walked through the cathedral proper. At times like that I completely understand the comfort that so many found in religion—even a hethen such as myself is touched by a place like that.

Meanwhile, Mom had wandered over to Shakespeare & Co., having been to Notre Damn numerous times as a girl. After we snapped a few more pictures we went over and joined her. We spent a fair amount of time there; I wandered up to the second level—which I hadn’t discovered last time—managed to find a good Christmas present for Waqphael, then we left. That is such an interesting bookstore. We took the Metro back to l’Opera where we wandered down to Galleries Lafayette to look at their christmas lights and animated window displays. They had a number of really cool ones that—miraculously—none of us took a picture of. Then we grabbed some dinner, came home, and crashed.

On the way home last night, Mom had the great misfortune of tripping fairly hard and hurting her ankle; so she was laid up all day today. Dad and I went into the city to l’Arc de Triomphe. We climbed to the top, looked around some, took more pictures, and went down. We’d have probably spent more time there, except that the museum in l’Arc de Triomphe is under renovation; so there wasn’t much too look at. We then wandered down the Champs Elysée and found the restaurant we ate at last time: Vesuvio. After a late lunch we wandered over to la Tour Eiffel.

Since it was just the two of us, we opted to walk up the stairs as far as we could. They only let you climb to the 2nd floor before they force you to take an elevator (and make you pay for a second ticket). So we putzed around at the top of the tower for a while. Even though this is my second time in Paris, that was the first time I’d ever actually been to la Tour Eiffel.

And that pretty much brings us to now. I’ll refrain from adding more details at this point, since this post is running longer than most people probably care to read in a blog they barely care about. 😉