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Art, Culture and Jim Morrison - My 15 Days Paris Trip Report

Art, Culture and Jim Morrison - My 15 Days Paris Trip Report

Jun 20th, 2006, 03:13 AM
  #1  
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Art, Culture and Jim Morrison - My 15 Days Paris Trip Report

We came to Paris on a Thalys train from Amsterdam. We weren’t used to not having a luggage rack next to the seat, so we were a bit apprehensive when we saw that the only rack was at one end of the car.

We kept looking anxiously at our luggage all through the journey, especially when the train stopped along the way in various stations.

I noticed that this train is used by many business people travelling in the Benelux area. Many passengers had only a briefcase, laptops and were dressed in suits.

We were the only ones in the car with heavy luggages, compared with briefcases and laptops.

The train took us at 300 km/h and reached Paris in less than 3 hours. The seats were very comfortable and had leg supports. We really enjoyed this Thalys train trip.

If we weren’t looking out on the window we wouldn’t have realized that the train has started to move. There was a faint humming noise somewhere at the end of the car, like a small motor purring, but nothing else.

Each time it got into motion, we would feel a slight lifting of the car and then the floating.

As we were getting nearer to Paris we became more and more excited.
It was the most important trip ever. Nothing mattered more than visiting the City of Lights.

We reached the Gare du Nord at about 9pm. We went to the taxi stand and left for our hotel. All the way we looked on the window, trying to get as much as we could from the architecture of the city, the crowded narrow streets, or the wide boulevards with heavy traffic.

It was 9.30 pm when we reached our hotel (Etap Aubervilliers – Euro 32.50 per room per night at that time) and it was not even getting dark. We settled ourselves in our room: “Welcome to Paris!” we said to each other.
The holiday that we so much wanted had begun.

Only at 10.30 pm it got dark. This fact was to give us some trouble during our first few days, as seeing the daylight we would stay late down town, not realizing how late it actually was.

To be continued....
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 03:22 AM
  #2  
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Forgot to mention that my wife and I took this trip in July 2002.

Day 1 - The first place we wanted to visit in Paris was Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Jim Morrison’s grave to be more precise.

Not knowing the way around town, we asked for directions at the hotel. We were explained which way to go, what metro to change and where.

We changed three metros and in about half an hour we were at the cemetery.
The public transport in Paris is very well organized. They say that no matter where you are in town, at maximum 5 minutes walking distance there’s a metro station.

Add to this the buses, trams and a network of short distance trains connecting the city with the suburbs and small towns around. These trains are called RER and they share part of the tracks with the metros.

At the gate of the cemetery we took a map with the most famous graves marked on. We took to the alleys inside and started to look for Jim Morrison’s grave.

We stopped to ask someone for directions and I haven’t even started to say anything that the man pointed to us the direction: “It is there”, he said.

Everyone there goes to see Jim Morrison’s grave, who died in Paris in July 1971.

We had noticed on the cemetery map that there were the graves of many famous people and we visited them all: Chopin, Enescu, Bizet, Balzac, Eugene Delacroix, Moliere, La Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Modigliani, Edith Piaf. At her grave we saw that her actual name was Lamboukas.

We lef the cemetery and took a train to Sannois, where we visited the Utrillo-Valadon Museum, the only one dedicated to Maurice Utrillo. Actually, the museum is the same house where the painter lived and worked since he was 25.

Sannois is at about 50 km north from Paris. When we got off the train we entered a building that we thought was the station. It was in front of the pavement and we got off right in front of it.

It looked somewhat strange that there was no ticket hall, we didn’t see any ticket counters, anything. It didn’t really look like a station, but we were thinking that maybe because it was a small town...

But even anywhere in the countryside they still have a ticket counter, a waiting room...

A person passed by us and looked at us suspiciously. At last we saw an open door, an office and we went in. We were told that we were in the building of a company and that the station was the next building! We had a lot of fun on this.

We were just some innocent tourists there. After visiting the museum we stopped for a pizza where the cooks and waiters were all Italians.

There were three guys there, all very sociable, lively, easy going. They prepared an excellent pizza in a very short time. This was to be the best pizza that we had during all our holiday.

We returned to Paris in the evening.
On the way to our hotel we stopped in the La Defense area, one of the most modern areas in Paris.

What drew our attention was a wide promenade, with a huge mall, tall and modern buildings, blocks of flats painted in commando style.

In the same square there was a lively coloured sculpture by Joan Miro: Characters.

We went to the beautiful, modern arch there, at the end of some stairs. From there we had a very nice view along the entire Champs-Elysee, till the Arch de Triomphe at the end.

As the night was starting to settle in, the last shades of the day going away, the sprinkle of lights from the cars on the boulevard created a nice spectacle.

Upon our return to the hotel we had an adventure. We forgot what was the metro we were supposed to take back to reach our station and we landed in a different area of the city.

Everyone was saying that the address we were looking for was very far from where we were, but we were convinced that we weren’t that far.

After making a round of the area we were in, we asked some policemen for directions. They were more than kind to us.

One of them took us to a bus station where he spoke to a bus driver. Then they explained clearly to us that we had to take one more metro for a few stops to reach our address.

This was the only time that we lost our way in Paris. Next morning we took a Paris transportation map and managed to get around very well in the city.

After a few days we weren’t even looking anymore at the map. We felt like at home.

To be continued...
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 05:02 AM
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Day 2 – July 13

On Saturday morning we went to the Palace of Versailles. There were a lot of people in the RER train that took us there. We didn’t even have to ask for directions, as we just followed the crowds.

We knew that having the Museum Pass we could jump the queues at most museums and castles, thus saving lots of time and even a few euros. On the way to the palace we found a Tourism Office and bought the passes.

When we reached the palace we realized the huge benefits of these passes. The queue for the tickets was absolutely huge, long, so long it stretched till round the corner of one of the palace wings.

We could’ve spent maybe 2 or 3 hours waiting in line for tickets. We looked around and saw a place where it was mentioned “Entry for pass holders”.

We asked shyly, not believing that there was not a single tourist there. “Yes, enter this way please”, we were told.

We looked back one more time at that never ending queue for tickets, rejoicing for our privilege. It was full of people there.

In the palace court people were as many as ants. Tourists, tourists, tourists from from all over the world. We could hear all sorts of languages around us. Some were in tour groups, some on their own, like us.

We wondered at all the beauties of that place. At the entrance in the palace court, an equestrian statue of Louis XIV welcomed the tourists.

We started our visit in the Royal Chapel, nicely decorated with frescoes, basreliefs and columns, a place where the great religious events of the French Monarchy took place.

Then we went on to visit the state apartments, seven huge halls, full with paintings, frescoes, objects of art, sculptures, tapestries, gilded chandeliers, a.s.o.

We then entered the famous Hall of Mirrors.
During the Sun King times, everything here was solid silver: the pots in which the orange trees grew, the tables, stools, as well as the statues in the royal collection.

Everybody had access here, from the common people to the greatest of the nobles. There was a time when this hall was crossed even by goats and cows, who were taken to the little king daughters (the dauphines) so as to have fresh milk every morning.

From the Hall of Mirrors we went to the King’s Apartments, then the Queen’s Apartments. Each consisted of several rooms and halls, having a precise purpose: library, games room, dining room, porcelain room, nobles room, a.s.o.

These two apartments do not communicate directly, but they are in different wings of the palace, separated by a few halls.

We then visited the children apartments, Queen Maria Antoinette’s Apartment, various other rooms and halls, all of them richly decorated.

There is also a Hall of the Battles, 120 meters long. On the walls here there are paintings commemorating the glory of the French armies, starting with the 8th century until the beginning of the 19th century.

After that we went to the Grand and Petite Trianons, about 20 mins walking from the palace. Everywhere, both at Versailles and at the two Trianons, the gardens are splendid.

Besides the beautiful arabesques made of bushes and the flowers rainbow of colours, there are kinetic fountains with pools, statues representing scenes and characters from the Greek and Roman mythology.

Here and there, on the sides of these immense gardens, there are entrances made of tall shrubs, that lead you to other smaller, tucked away gardens, with other kinetic fountains with statues and floral arrangements.

We returned to Paris in the evening, but this time we didn’t lose our way. We were under a spell from what we had seen at Versailles and Trianon.

To be continued...
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Jun 20th, 2006, 05:50 AM
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Day 3 - July 14

Next morning at about 8.30 we were in the metro station, waiting for the train to Picasso Museum. After a short while a tipsy man (at that early hour!) started to sing gleefully the Marseillese: “La la la la la la laaaaa la la, la la la la la la laaaaa”.

His voice sounded nicely in that 100 years old metro station, as if it were the crowds singing on a stadium at the beginning of a France football match.

It took us a while to realize that that day was the National Day of France, 14 July, and the French are so proud of their nation.

After a few moments that man interrupted his singing and said out loud: “Isn’t it so that it is beautiful?” He then continued his singing even happier.

So we went to the Picasso Museum. We saw there a big collection of Picasso works of art: paintings, sculptures, sketches, ceramics, postcards. There were paintings and sculptures from all the periods of his creation.

From here we walked through the city, heading towards the National Arts and Culture Centre, Georges Pompidou. At one of the floors there we discovered a nice coffee shop with a superb terrace: each table had a fresh red rose on it.

This huge cultural centre hosts the National Museum of Modern Art, with one of the best collections in the world. We saw works by Miro, Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Kandinsky, Warhol.

As Romanians, we were proud to see Matisse’s “Romanian Blouse”, as well as two works by the Romanian sculptor Brancusi, who was a friend of Rodin: “The Rooster” and “The Newborn”.

We then visited the Romanian sculptor’s workshop, which is part of Georges Pompidou Centre. There we saw the master's tools and many exhibits of his various works of art.

From there we went walking till we reached Place de Bastille, where we took a metro towards the Seine. Once on the quays, we took a one hour cruise with Bateaux Mouche, thus having the chance to see a good part of the city.

The Seine passes under 36 bridges in Paris, among which the most famous are Alexander III, Pont Neuf, Pont Royal and Pont St. Michel.

After the cruise we went to the Eiffel Tower. There were crowds and crowds of people there. Being 14th July, there was a show scheduled for the evening at 10.30.

We climbed to the second level (being very crowded, it wasn’t allowed climbing to the top) and watched the city around us: long boulevards cutting through the city, Montmartre hill with the Church of Sacre Coeur, Arch de Triomphe, Montparnasse Tower, boats cruising the Seine, bridges over the Seine.

When the dark settled in, the city lights were spectacular: indeed, Paris is the City of Lights. The most beautiful views were the boats and bridges on the Seine.

At about 10pm we were told to descend from the tower. From the foot of the tower, we looked upwards and the lit tower looked amazing. It was superb!

At about 10.30pm the show began. On two big balloons high up above all the crowds, there were images projected showing the greatest personalities in the history of France, while a powerful voice was heard in the loud speakers, quoting excerpts from everyone of those personalities.

We as non French, had goose bumps on our arms. Every few minutes the images disappeared and fireworks would start. The sky lit in thousands of patterns and colours, every time different.

It was a unique experience, from all points of view, especially that we witnessed a celebration of France National Day right in Paris!

To be continued....
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Jun 20th, 2006, 06:05 AM
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Day 4 - July 15

On 15th July we went to the Louvre. It was open till late in the evening, and we spent the whole day there. There too we benefited from the advantages of the Museum Pass, and skipped a queue that would have taken us more than one hour.

It was very crowded there. The museum is so big, that you cannot afford to spend too long time in front of an exhibit, whether it is a painting, a sculpture, silverware, tapestry or any other object of art.

We were happy to see some masterpieces by famous painters and sculptors. In front of Mona Lisa there were so many people, that we couldn’t get nearer than 10 metres from the painting.

We saw statues from the Easter Island, Venus of Milo, Godess Athens, Michelangelo’s Slaves, Egyptian mummies.

We couldn’t go through the entire museum, as we expected. We were to return in two days.

To be continued...
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Jun 20th, 2006, 02:59 PM
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Day 5 - July 16

On 16th July we went to visit Rodin Museum, which is the same house where the great French sculptor lived. The collection represents the entire Rodin’s work, and some of his bigger sculptures are displayed in the garden.

On the way to the museum we asked directions from an old man at a newspapers kiosk. He was dressed nicely, suit and tie.

We were pleasantly surprised by this fact. We could see that the man was old fashion style and gave due respect to the press.

He explained to us in details how to reach the museum, naming every single street, giving us exact walking distances from point to point.

We thanked him and he said “it’s a pleasure to help Rodin’s friends”. The museum is in an 18th century mansion, surrounded by a big park.

We liked very much Rodin’s “Thinker”.
This visit was enchanting and at the end we walked around the park and gardens and sat on a bench for a while.

From the Rodin Museum we went to Museum d’Orsay. Once here we got frightened by the immense queue for tickets.

The museum is hosted by the former Gare d’Orsay, which is therefore a huge building. The queue was going along two sides of the building and it would have taken us two hours to buy the tickets.

We breathed with relief however, when we saw that the museum pass that we had was valid for this museum as well.

Once inside we immediately noticed the railway station past of the building.

There was a huge hall, a domed ceiling, and on either side there were the exhibition halls, where upon entry I was thinking that in the first half of the 20th century people would have come in there to buy train tickets.

High up at one end of the hall there is a big railway station clock. The interior gives a certain charm to this museum, which holds a huge and very good collection of paintings and sculptures, one of the best museums in Europe.

We were happy to see works by the most famous artists, like Gauguin, Degas, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Lautrec, Renoir and many others.

From the Museum d’Orsay we went to quartier Montparnasse and climbed the tall building with the same name. It is the tallest building in Paris at 209 meters height.

The elevator took us to floor 56 in 38 seconds. We climbed three more floors to the top on stairs.

We saw the panorama of the city with the Eiffel Tower’s silhouette rising majestically somewhere in the distance, boulevards cutting through the Parisian neighbourhoods with their old buildings, a continuous flow of cars on the streets that looked like missing the horse trotting just about a century ago.

We decided for that evening to go to Luxemburg Gardens for a walk.

It was full of people, parents with children eating ice cream or waffles with chocolate and whipped cream, some kids were enjoying the playgrounds, young and old were walking on the alleys, meandering among kinetic fountains and floral arrangements, others laid on the grass reading their books or simply basking in the sun or enjoying the shade of some trees.

Some were playing tennis or basketball, and some were jogging.

We noticed that the Luxemburg Palace was closed for renovation and unfortunately couldn’t be visited during our stay in Paris.

At 9pm we were told by the security guards there that we should leave, as the gardens close for the night.

The sun was still shining, creating shadows on the streets. We continued walking down town, passing by the Pantheon and St. Stephen Church.

We headed towards the Seine and crossed a bridge to the Isle of Cité, at the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The cathedral looked very somber and sinister, but we couldn’t visit it as it was very late.

A group of artists was giving a concert in the small square in front of the cathedral. An instrument box was open in front of them for people to throw coins.

To be continued...
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 03:24 PM
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Day 6 - July 17

On the 17th July we went to the Louvre for the second time. We visited the Egyptian Antiquities wing, where the famous Scribe is displayed.

We saw the Royal Apartments of Napoleon and Josephine, more painting galleries and an interior court with statues representing various personalities and mythological scenes and characters.

We finished the visit to the Louvre at about 2pm and went to Notre Dame Cathedral. The last modifications or additions to this construction date from around the year 1250.

The cathedral walls are blackened by the passage of time and give the impression of a somber air.

All the time during our visit, whether we were inside or outside the cathedral, I was thinking of the Dark Ages in Europe, with the Inquisition, I was thinking of how people would go to church more from fear of the authorities than from other reasons.

However, we liked the visit to Notre Dame. We admired the paintings, and sculptures inside, the architecture of this cathedral, something really amazing thinking that this was possible 800 years ago.

Nowadays you need a whole lot of engineers and lots of drawings to build something simpler than this.

That afternoon we also visited the History Museum of Paris – Carnavalet. This museum is dedicated to the history of Paris from its beginnings until more recent times.

The collections include archeological discoveries, objects linked to the French Revolution (flags, uniforms, weapons, etc.), paintings, sculptures, furniture and objects of art that recreate the atmosphere in the people’s homes during 15-19 centuries.

We ended up our day with another walk through the city.

To be continued...
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Jun 20th, 2006, 04:25 PM
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Day 7 - July 18

On the 18th July we went to Fontainebleau Castle. I had learned about this castle while in school, and now I had the chance to visit it.

We didn’t have the exact details of how to reach there. The castle is located in Avon, a town not too far from Paris.

The cashier at the Gare du Nord told us to take the train at track 23 and to get off in Avon. There was a train there and we hopped in.

There were about 10 minutes more till departure. Next to us at the ticket counter were two American ladies, mother and daughter probably.

I noticed that they too were up to the same train, even though they looked confused as well. The confusion originated from the fact that there was no mention of Avon on the route board and no mention of Fontainebleau either.

Inside the trains, near the door, there are some boards with the route taken by the respective train, same like in the metro. Even on that board I didn’t see any mention of Avon or Fontainebleau.

Moreover, the train was not crowded at all, as it was the one for Versailles. I kept asking myself “why wasn’t it crowded with tourists going to this castle? Fontainebleau is famous, isn’t it?”

There were maybe two or three more persons in that car, besides us and the two American ladies. I went to the door a couple of times more to see what’s written on the train’s route.

We kept looking desperately on the window to see a sign in a station, something to show that we were on the right train…

After a while, even the American ladies asked us if that train was going to Avon – Fontainebleau. They were going through the same state of mind and nervousness like us.

In front of us sat a gentleman dressed in a suit and having a briefcase. I thought that dressed like that and with that kind of luggage, the man must be on his shuttle to work so he had to know on what route we were.

I asked him about the castle and he answered that we had to get off at the following stop after he got off. That was at Avon.

So he was getting off at the first stop and we at the second. From Avon we had to take a bus to the castle.

We breathed with relief, the American ladies smiled when they found out the news and we reached Avon.

We found our way quickly and noticed a bus at the station. Behind the wheel was a nice French woman driver.

We asked her about the castle and she said that she would let us know when we got there. We took a seat and waited.

The bus left the station and we saw that the town of Avon is not that small. It lies in a hilly area, with many nice houses and buildings with two or three floors.

At a certain moment, after one more bend and a climb on a hill, the bus stopped somewhere and we heard the French lady driver calling loud with a happy voice: “Le chateauuuuu!!”

Everyone left their seats and got off the bus. Life in this town must be funny, when you see that most of the travelers and passers-by are tourists.

The bus had travelers inside only on the way from the station to the castle and back. The rest of the route the bus was empty.

Fontainebleau castle is somewhere in the centre of the town. The most spectacular transformations to this castle took place during the Rennaisance, in the 1500’s.

From the castle’s gate to the entrance there is a big court, with four turf areas divided by alleys. We entered the building on the horse-shoe shaped stairs in front.

In the apartments and halls inside we saw sculptures, statues, frescoes, paintings, furniture, tapestries, chandeliers, glassware and fine porcelains, gold and silver jewels.

Fontainebleau was one of Napoleon’s favourite residences. For the first time that the bath tub was used in France was in 1806, when Napoleon installed it at Fontainebleau.

We saw Napoleon’s and Josephine’s Apartments, the Throne Hall, the Ballroom, galleries and halls from the Renaissance period, the Imperial Apartments, Napoleon Museum and King Francisc I Gallery.

In the Napoleon Museum we saw objects that belonged to the emperor: paintings, sculptures, furniture, objects of art, clothing and objects of personal use.

The castle is surrounded by several gardens and fountains. Compared to Versailles and other castles in France, the gardens at Fontainebleau are not that spectacular, but they are beautiful however.

There are big stretches of turf, its green colour very calming, multicoloured layers of flowers along the alleys, a forest surrounds the estate, and here and there we saw statues representing mythological scenes and characters.

Fontainebleau was one of the most beautiful castles that we visited in France.

Back to Paris, we walked on the Champs Elysee, among crowds of people and heavy traffic, and we reached the Arc de Triomphe, built in 1836.

We entered a door in one of the arch’s legs and climbed a narrow spiral stair to the top, and went on the observation deck.

We admired the Paris panorama, the Eiffel Tower rising sharply above the city. We watched the traffic under us, in the roundabout that gathers all the 12 boulevards in a star shape.

It was full of cars down there, a major risk to cross the street or even passing by car in that spot.

All the buildings in the area are from the 19th century or beginning of the 20th. We were admiring this décor and found it difficult to accept the presence of cars, when those buildings asked for horse trotting and carriages, not car engines.

To be continued...
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 05:21 PM
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This is great, thanks so much for posting.
Piaf was married to a lovely young Greek man named Theo Lamboukas, he died after she died and he is buried beside her
Scarlett is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 09:59 PM
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ttt
Scarlett is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 10:40 PM
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Great trip report! Thanks for sharing. My sister-in-law is going to Paris in September and has read every word of your report...now I am wishing I had some time left over from my trip to Florence this fall to see Paris! Will save this report for my next trip over. Any more to share?
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Jun 20th, 2006, 10:44 PM
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Scarlett and camelbak,

Thank you for your appreciation.
I'm so glad you like this report.

Yep.... more to come. I'm working on it (I have it in Romanian and I'm translating it).
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 11:00 PM
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Day 8 - July 19

On the 19th July we went to Montparnasse Cemetery. We knew that one of Brancusi sculptures, The Kiss, was there. At the cemetery gate we asked for a map.

The security guard knew all the graves there and he knew about this sculpture as well. He showed us where it was and explained to us how to reach other graves as well.

Again, same like at Pere Lachaise, we were pleasantly surprised to find a lot of graves of the famous people: Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Brancusi, Emil Cioran, Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Tristan Tzara, Baudelaire.

Same like at Pere Lachaise, but I forgot to mention there, we paid our respects by putting a flower or a lit candle at every grave we visited.

Looking for Cioran’s grave (a Romanian writer and philosopher who lived most of his life in Paris), we asked an elderly man on an alley there if he knew where that would be.

He told us that he knew it, as he had just been to that grave and that he was a Romanian too. He and his wife knew Cioran and told us a few things from his life in Paris.

From Montparnasse we went to a different kind of cemetery: The Catacombs. In 1875 the cemeteries belonging to various monasteries in Paris became too small and the epidemic risk was high.

They decided that all the bones and skeletons to be gathered in some underground tunnels, dating from the Roman period. This is now called the Catacombs and we visited it.

We went down a tunnel at about 20 metres underground, then for about 10 minutes we walked with long hurried steps through winding galleries, low ceiling and dim lights, without seeing anything else but stone walls.

We started to think that it was boring, that there was nothing to see and we came there for nothing, when all of a sudden in front of us appeared... THE BONES.

Both sides of the galleries there were crammed and shelved human bones and skulls. They were even neatly arranged, as if specially to be presented in an exhibition.

Against each section there was a board with the year and the monastery of provenance. There were bones unearthed between 1750-1850 and were arranged in horizontal layers, and in the middle there were the skulls, symmetrically displayed, like in a shop window.

The images became lugubrious, water dripped from the ceilings in small drops here and there, and we were almost running, looking forward to come out faster from that sinister place.

We then went to Place des Vosges, in the aristocratic centre of Paris. We visited Victor Hugo’s House Museum, where he lived between 1832-1848.

We saw photographs, objects of personal use, furniture, paintings, objects of art. The size of the house and the fact that it was in a rich neighbourhood, shows how much this writer was appreciated even during his life.

From there we went to Montmartre. We watched the panorama of the city stretching far, far away, we visited the Sacre Coeur Church up at the top of the hill.

We went round a corner and we found ourselves in a market where traditionally the artists gather to paint and sell their works. Most of the famous painters of the 19th century, the Impressionists, spent time here.

My wife read a book as a teenager, called "The Painters of Montmartre" and she'd dreamed of visiting this place ever since.

It was very crowded, besides the painters with their painting stuff were many terraces, bistros, restaurants. We asked for directions to visit the Dali Museum and a lady painter told us: “Go two bistros down the road and then turn right“.

An 82 year old painter had appreciative articles about him cut from newspapers along the years. He was Italian but he studied in Paris and became known there.

We bought one of his paintings representing a symbol of Montmartre, other than Sacre Coeur: “Moulin La Gallette“.

We then walked through Montmartre, on narrow winding streets, among houses and buildings with lots of flowers at their windows. We passed by the famous Moulin Rouge as well, but as we weren’t dressed for the show, we couldn’t go in.

To be continued...
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 11:11 PM
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Oooops...

Skipped the visit to Dali Museum by mistake.

So before we went for that extended walk through Montmartre, we visited Dali Museum round the corner and we saw his famous works: paintings, caricatures, postcards, furniture, all of them in strange shapes or images (his Mae West Lips couch, the elephants with giraffe legs, etc.)

To be continued...
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Jun 20th, 2006, 11:35 PM
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Day 9 - July 20

On 20th July we went to Castle Vaux Le Vicomte.
This has been the inspiration behind Versailles. The construction of this castle lasted for five years and is one of the French architectural masterpieces of the 17th century.

Three grand masters were hired to build this castle, all of them chosen by the owner himself, Nicolas Fouquet, Vicomte de Vaux, Finance Superintendent at the royal court.

The three grand masters were Louis Le Vau – architect, Charles Le Brun – painter and Andre Le Notre – master gardener. At this castle we found out that out of envy, King Louis XIV, the Sun King, arrested Nicolas Fouquet accusing him of treason.

Some letters were falsified as if written by him and after three years of trials and using all his influence, the king managed to sentence him for life.

The judges couldn’t all be bribed, that’s why he didn’t succeed to get the death sentence for Nicolas Fouquet. The one who arrested him at the castle was no other than the famous musketeer D’Artagnan, at that time a lieutenant of the King’s Guards.

Fouquet was taken also to jail by D’Artagnan, who had become a captain in the meantime. He treated Fouquet very respectfully, like a gentleman, same like we read about him in Al. Dumas’ novels.

Then, in the jail where Fouquet was kept, there was also... the Man with the Iron Mask, who indeed existed. They don’t know exactly, however, who that man was actually, all the documents referring to his identity being destroyed upon his death in jail.

We could hardly leave this jewel of a castle and in the evening we returned to Paris.

We went for a walk in the Gardens of Tuilleries, we reached Place de la Concorde, then we kept walking through Champs Elysee Gardens till we dropped dead tired and returned to our hotel.

To be continued...
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Jun 21st, 2006, 12:04 AM
  #16  
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In general we stayed out until around 10pm, walking the streets of Paris all the time, as the daylight time is so long in summer, and we didn't care to look at our watches after finishing the museum and castle visits.

But boy, did we enjoy that!

Of course, we stopped for the occasional coffee, refreshments, chocolate and cream waffles, cakes, ice creams, pastries and so many other yummies.

We did this every day, we became regular customers to some bakeries and pastry shops in the area where we stayed.

We even made friends with some shop owners who started to know us.
Can you imagine, we became known in the area!! We felt like at home!

The lady at the post office counter where we would go every 2-3 days to send our postcards;

The man at the grocery store where we would buy our food stuff to have in our room when we returned to the hotel;

The lady at the pastry shop where we would look for another yummy cake, I mean every time 2 or 3 different items for each of us.

The cashiers at the supermarket where we would stop every few days for the French cheeses, breads and other food stuff...

Each time we wanted to try a different kind of cheese, even unknown to us.

One day we bought one of those "stinky" ones, but boy, it was sooo stinky and we didn't realize until we opened the pack at lunch time. It was so well sealed.

So we couldn't finish it all when we took our lunch break, the taste was also a bit difficult to cope with, and we packed it and kept it in our day pack for later.

After a few minutes a strong smell started to come out from somewhere and it was not difficult to realize its origin.

It was our day pack!! We couldn't believe the strength of the smell. The cheese that we hadn't finished was protesting!

Oh boy, and we had a museum to visit and the lady at the entrance asked us to leave the day pack at the wardrobe....

Oh, nooo!! We felt so ashamed that we had to give her that smelly bag!

However, we pretended nothing happened, that everything was normal, nothing out of the ordinary.... and we gave her the bag.

"Sorry, what? Smell? What smell?" - this is the way we behaved.

However, as all this walking and enjoying a coffee or a cake or an ice cream can be done any time of the day, that is even outside the museums-and-castles time, and it is all over the place in Paris, so much that no one needs guidance, I thought of concentrating more on the art & culture side of Paris in my report, and how we did it.

Day 10 to follow...
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Jun 21st, 2006, 12:40 AM
  #17  
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Day 10 - July 21

The day of 21st July was rich in visits and walking.

We first went to Marmottan-Monet Museum. This museum was founded by a family of art collectors, from father to son, and holds the biggest Monet collection in the world.

Other great painters in this collection are Manet, Degas and Renoir.

From this museum we went to visit Balzac’s House, somewhere in the neighbourhood. We saw an elderly lady sitting on a bench and we thought that being of old age, there are chances that she may know Paris well enough to give us some directions.

Chance had it that she lived near the writer’s house and she was so kind as to walk with us there. She wanted to explain to us the way to go, straight, then right, then left, then straight, then...

She gave up and said that it was better for her to take us there, ‘cause anyway she lived near.

Balzac’s house is small, just a few small rooms with small windows, through which the light struggled to come in. His writing table is in a room not bigger than 3 by 2 meters and was scribbled with lots of words in various colours.

One of the less known museums, but one of the most important in Paris, is Jacquemart-André. We found out about this museum by chance, while I was looking for information on Paris and what to see and do, to prepare the holiday plan.

From Balzac’s house we went to visit this museum. It is a mansion in the centre of Paris, who belonged to Nelie Jacquemart and Edouard Andre, two avid art collectors.

The couple have been known for the fact that all that they collected was for the French state, to whom they bequeathed their house, now a museum.

When the Louvre didn’t have the funds to acquire some important work of art, the couple would buy the respective painting or sculpture.

In other cases, when the Louvre was engaged in a bid with big chances of success, the couple didn’t enter the bidding.

Based on the value of the paintings collection that it holds, the Jacquemart-André Museum is considered the second after the Louvre.

From this museum we went for a walk through the Garden of Plants and because we enjoyed it so much first time, we went again to the Luxemburg Gardens.

We came back dead tired to the hotel, where we hit the bed almost instantaneously.

To be continued...
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Jun 21st, 2006, 01:03 AM
  #18  
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Day 11 - July 22

On 22 July we had a visit to the National Museum of Renaissance – Ecouen Castle. This museum is at about 50km from Paris.

We took a train there and at the station we were told that we had two possibilities to reach the castle. One was to wait about 30 minutes for the bus, and the other was to walk through the path in the forest. We gladly did the walk in the forest.

It was an asphalted alley that lead directly to the castle, and here and there the path would split, but there were signs pointing towards the museum.

The castle came out suddenly in front of us, at the edge of the forest, in a wide clearing.
We were at the top of a hill, from where we could see the entire village.

It is a hilly area, full of greenery and very tranquil. The museum doesn’t have an impressive collection, most of it are tapestries, ceramics and glasswork, all of them however, from the Renaissance period.

We liked however, the setting, it was beautiful there and the castle looks nice.

In the evening when we returned to Paris, we walked again through Montmartre, one of the most beautiful and picturesque quartiers of Paris.

To be continued...
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Jun 21st, 2006, 03:10 AM
  #19  
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Day 12 - July 23

We decided that on the 23rd July to go on a day trip to Luxemburg, three hours by train.
We left at 7am from Gare du Nord and at 10am we arrived.

Luxemburg just shines!
It is so different compared to other European cities. The people are dressed smartly, there is something classy in the air.

It shows that there are more than 200 banks and more than 5000 multinationals have their offices there.

We walked through a few areas of the city, including the centre and did a guided tour of the old town. We saw the fortress ruins, houses and streets hundreds of years old and took notice of some of the many bridges that exist there.

We had our lunch in a nice place in the centre, where there were many restaurants and terraces, beautiful atmosphere.

We had an enjoyable time, Luxemburg is a good place for a one day relaxation trip from Paris.

To be continued...
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Jun 21st, 2006, 03:43 AM
  #20  
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Day 13 - July 24

During the train trip to Luxemburg I had studied a few touristic brochures to see what else we could do for the remaining days that we had in Paris.

We weren’t too interested in Les Invalides (built by Napoleon for the French army – a place where the war wounded had shelter and did various jobs, depending on each and everyone’s physical abilities), Napoleon’s tomb and the Army Museum, so we checked out some castles in the area.

Thus, on the 24th July we went to Chantilly Castle – Condé Museum. We took a train to get there. This castle belonged to the Prince of Bourbon, also known as Prince Condé. Today the castle belongs to a family descendant.

Chantilly is a very beautiful castle, with the gardens designed by the same 17 century master gardener, André Le Notre.

At the exit from the gardens there are three statues: one is Prince Condé, one the architect Louis Le Vau (the one who designed Vaux Le Vicomte and Versailles) and the third is the master gardener, André Le Notre.

We took a tour with the little train around the castle estate and passed through the forest that surrounds it, a small village that looks the same way it did ever since the castle was built and where... the whipped cream was created, in the 18th century.

It was at that moment that I realized why the French call the whipped cream “Chantilly”. It is after the name of the place where it was created.

At the castle we visited the usual sumptuous apartments and full of objects of art, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, a library with a few thousand books, etc.

We walked through the gardens and recognized the unmistakable style of the French gardens, that became the fashion in Europe in the 18th century.

This master gardener, Le Notre, was called to other royal courts in Europe too, to build gardens (one of them is at Het Loo in Holland - really beautiful).

In the castle kitchens there was an exhibition about kitchens and parties at the castle in the 17-18 centuries.
Praise was given to the master cook Vatel.

After one or two years from this visit, we saw a movie starring Gerard Depardieu called Vatel, and the action took place at this castle and the story was about a banquet that was to take place there.

All the big names were involved, Prince Condé and the royal parties included.
Of course, everyone was amazed at the taste of that new cream, Chantilly, and the ladies liked it and they were exchanging "looks" among themselves and with men around there.

You know the usual intrigues at the court, just that this time the Chantilly cream was the subject.

So of course, back in Paris we stopped for our daily helping of waffles with chocolate and whipped cr... sorry, chocolate and chantilly.

To be continued...
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