Paris - Day Five

Today was my last full day in Paris for this trip. And to be honest....I'm a little glad to be moving on.

I started with breakfast on the steps of the Charles Garnier Opera House. Paris has some beautiful buildings, but this is my favourite. It's such a social meeting place as well. More on that later. Back to breakfast. There is a little patisserie en route to the metro station from where I am staying. Every morning there is the most heavenly aroma emulating from the place. They also have yogurt with fresh fruit, and I travel with a spoon in my hand bag. Yes, that's right. I bring my very own spoon. If I'm going to be eating decadent European pastries and custards, I'm going to be doing it with a proper spoon; not a cheap plastic throw-away thing. Call it my good deed for Mother Earth. Anyway, I sat in the sun on the steps, enjoying my fresh pain au chocolate and my wonderful yogurt and watching the morning traffic and people on bicycles and scooters zipping in and out of traffic and was very glad I had no specific place to be.

I headed over to the Jardin des Tuileries to go to the Musée de l'Orangerie. The main attraction in this museum are the Claude Monet Water Lilies murals. These are so beautiful and so grandiose. There are two large rooms, and the murals are displayed four per room. The individual panels measure about eight feet high by ten feet across, and these individual panels are joined either in threes or fours to form the larger murals and displayed on curved walls so that you have a complete surround of these magnificent colours and reflections.

Claude Monet's Les Nympheas - not my photo, photo source - Wikipedia
The museum also houses a grand collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masters including works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Auguste-Renoir, Henry Rousseau, Alfred Sisley and Chaum Soutine.

No photography is allowed, but some people either didn't see the multitude of signs or perhaps thought the signs were meant for everyone else except for them. Either way, people were taking pictures.

Here is my thing about taking pictures in museums. If you are visiting a museum and all you do is walk around and take quick snapshots of the most famous works, then you are not really seeing the museum, let alone the art. Stay home. Google online and download pictures from there. They will be better quality and you will save not only your entrance fee into the museum, but your airfare and hotel costs as well.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen people SNEAKING pictures on their iPhones, pretending to be checking their Facebook status (come on, really? Monet's masterpiece is in front of you and you need to check and see what Betty had for breakfast?). It's distracting. I'm there to enjoy the art and understand the expression from the artist. I like to look at the work from across the room, from a couple feet away, then up close so I can see the brush strokes. Then back to across the room. I look at the work straight-on, then slightly off to the side to see if the perspective changes. Essentially, it takes me a good five minutes to completely appreciate a piece if I am really enjoying it. One does not truly enjoy Monet's Les Nymphéas at drive-by-mock-speed, or on a five inch iPhone screen on the plane ride home.

That being said, I have taken a number of pictures of artworks I want to research more when I am home. But only in museums where photos are permitted. And only once I have thoroughly enjoyed the piece in person, both up close and from afar.

And people can be blatantly rude about their right to take pictures in a NO PHOTOGRAPHY zone.

After spending a good three hours in the Musée de l'Orangerie, I headed over to the Musée d'Orsay. This museum is housed in the old Gare d'Orsay (train station), and as such has a wonderful glass ceiling to let in plenty of natural light. The center of the museum hosts all kinds of marble sculptures, while the side rooms are dark and house the painted works. Again, there is no photography allowed.

Renoir's Bal du moulin de la Galette, photo source - Wikipedia
So I'm admiring Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette and all its intricacies when a woman came up and pretty much elbowed her way in front of me to take a picture with her iPad (her iPad!, not even a discreet phone!), and then elbow her way out. As she's turning to leave I quietly said, "You know we aren't allowed to take any pictures, right?" To which she replies,"Who are you, the photo police? Mind your own business!" I guess she has a point, I should mind my own business. But still, pretty ballsy.

And I think people believe that their taking pictures isn't hurting anyone. What they probably don't understand is that in the long run, it does. The paintings are displayed in low, filtered light since exposure to light breaks down the colour pigment in the paint. If everyone were to constantly be pointing their cameras and iPhones at the paintings, over time even those brief exposures will cause the paintings and tapestries to deteriorate. Yes, it will take time, but it is possible that we may not have these great works in the future based on how they are treated today. This is one of the reasons the Mona Lisa is behind thick, anti-glare, light filtering glass. Too many cameras shoved in her face.

Okay, enough of that rant.

After close to six hours in museums, it was time to refuel. Now when travelling, it is hard to always stick to a healthy diet. Often, you need to eat the local delicacies, and today that meant a crepe. A warm, hot-off-the-grill-Nutella-and-banana-crepe. And oh my! This was amazingly good. And huge. And filling. But definitely worth it.

Now I needed to walk off some of that crepe. I ended up walking through Paris side streets with a more-or-less general idea which way I was heading but with no real destination in mind. Which, in the end after about two hours, got me a little turned around. Okay, okay...lost. Along the way though I found a wonderful cathedral that I plan to visit next time in Paris, Église Saint-Augustin de Paris. Now that it was getting dark, it was time to start heading back toward the city center. A quick enquiry and I was heading in the right direction.

Ever have that feeling when you have been walking and walking and all the buildings start to look alike, so then all the streets start to look alike...and it's starting to rain and you're getting cold and tired and just want to sit? That was me today by 8pm. Six hours of museums, rude photo paparazzi, and three hours of solid walking meant the day was starting to wear me down.

Then I caught this amazing smell. Warm, savoury smell. A little restaurant with a man in his forties behind a bar. He came to the door to greet me and brought me in to a table. I ordered shrimp and avocado salad to start, then duck confit for my main course. And of course wine. A nice Bordeaux. Dessert was crème brûlée. Definitely one of the best meals I've had in Paris. I couldn't finish my wine so they let me take it with me with a plastic cup. We looked at my map, and in broken English and my passable French, we were able to determine which metro station I could take. I was on my way again.

I'm supposed to be heading home, right? WRONG! While walking, I suddenly found myself at the Moulin Rouge. Well, why not go in and enjoy a show? The night was young. Tomorrow I could sleep on the train, right? And while I did enjoy the show, I will say that the one at Crazy Horse was better. This one was too....touristy maybe? That is all.

Okay, one last look at the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkly and it's time to head home.....

No wait! There was a flash mob dance group on the steps of the Charles Garnier Opera House. My day has come full circle and I am back exactly where I started it with breakfast. Except now I am drinking wine out of a plastic cup and watching 40 people dance to "Blame it on the Boogie" by Jackson 5.

It's been an amazing time in Paris (despite the awful apartment), but tomorrow I will leave and take the train to Italy. So for now I will say, "À bientôt Paris! À la prochaine!"

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