Monday, April 30, 2012

Paris Journal: Day Two

Despite my indescribable excitement upon waking (in Paris!?!?!), it was hard to get out of bed.  A wonderfully hot shower helped.  I put on a black lace dress with gray leggings, my gray cardigan, and my Grandma Linda's black and gray scarf.  The scarf-around-my-head... a little too "Parisienne"?  or perhaps even "Parisienne-wanna-be"?  Maybe.  But fun. 

We walked around Place de Republique to a cafe for le petit dejeuner of croissants et jus d'orange et cafe.  Pricey for a croissant, but worth the euros for the table, the view, the atmosphere, and the experience....and oh, the buttery flaky warm croissant...!

The metro took us to our first stop, the Louvre.  It was magnifique.  Overwhelming.  dizzying, breathtaking.  Every inch of visual space (for miles?) was a sensual overload of beauty and detail.  It was difficult to fight the numbing effect of so. much. beauty.  The courtyard itself was like a dream...hard to convince myself that I was actually there, standing beside the glass pyramid, surrounded by the Louvre.  Our 2-day pass allowed us to skip the long line at the entrance, so we dove right in.  Our first glimpse of the Louvre's exhibits was in the back, near the middle...a grand hall filled with creamy white sculptures, Hermaphrodite, Homer, and others.  We roamed through much of the Louvre, checking off our lists of 'must-sees' including Venus de Milo (Aphrodite ), Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova, Michelangelo's Captive (Dying Slave), Mona Lisa, Veronese's The Wedding Feast at Cana (which dwarfed the tiny 'La Jaconde' facing on the opposite wall).  We also found the 'other' symbol of the Louvre, "The Winged Victory of Samrothrace" overlooking a grand staircase in a magnificent marble hall swarming with people.

The apartments of Napoleon and the crown jewels seemed almost too much to absorb in the midst of our already-overloaded eyes.  Nearly every 20 steps or so, we gasped with some new discovery,...a vast courtyard (several stories tall, lit by sunlight) full of Greek or Roman sculptures, a grand room with masterpieces lining the walls (and ceilings!), marble staircases...   

Even though we were looking for it, we almost missed Vermeer's (tiny) Lacemaker.  But she was beautiful. Brilliant and quiet.   
When we had 'finished' our list, we headed toward the exit, accidentally discovering one more room, this one, filled with Renoirs, Degas, Monets, and Manets.  
The Jardin de Tuileries was perfectly sunny and delightful.  We sat in little green chairs overlooking the fountain.  A picnic lunch in the garden gave our legs and feet time to rest before we headed to Musee de l'Orangerie...

I was particularly excited about this museum.  Though it was much smaller (and far more intimate) than the grand Louvre, I knew it was filled with the art I really wanted to see.  The current special exhibit could not have been more perfect for our visit: Debussy, la musique et les arts.  Room after room of old photos, paintings, musical manuscripts, all related to Debussy and other composers demonstrating the relationships between the artists (and art) and the musicians (and music) of that era.

The permanent exhibits were also wonderful.  No photos were allowed inside this museum.  But this museum deserves a picture....for no description (or even a great photo, for that matter) could really convey the sensation of entering these rooms, (two of them!), pure white and oval shaped, diffused sunlight perfectly illuminating the surrounding walls covered with Monet's Waterlilies.  Ryan and I were both speachless, a little dizzy even, when we rounded the corner into this incredible space.  

Since I didn't have a photo, here is an image I found at 
(article: 10 Things to do in Paris) 

After L'Orangerie, we crossed a bridge to the Musee d'Orsay, but found it was closed on Mondays.  Without a plan for the rest of the day, we roamed the streets.  We checked off another 'list' item, Berthillon glace (ice-cream) cones (vanille por moi, et tiramisu por Ryan) slowly eaten on a bridge over the Seine.  So delicously rich, creamy and flavorful.  I made that tiny cone last longer than any other ice-cream I've eaten in my entire life.  
As we wandered, we also found Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore!  
The inside was just covered with books, packed tightly, lining the walls...with rolling ladders...Low ceilings and tight walls created lots of cozy and quirky rooms.  You could feel the historic significance of the space, especially upstairs, rooms with old sunken velvet sitting chairs, an old Schindler piano, a tiny cove, a cubby with a curtain (only about 4 ft. tall... inside it had a miniature desk, a lamp, & a typrewriter...the perfect place to hide for a day). No pictures were allowed inside, so I tried to store the images in my mind forever.  
Here is an image (not mine) of the inside.  Having read A Moveable Feast just before the trip, my imagination was full... with thoughts of Hemingway, Joyce, Sylvia Beach, and Paris in the 1920's.  

Full.  We rode the metro back to our hotel to rest and make a plan for the evening.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Paris Journal: Day One

Here, I'll share excerpts from the meticulously detailed journal I kept of our trip to France.  Since the journal itself was a gift, I was extra motivated to record my thoughts.  And I'm so grateful.  The memories and the images of our beautiful adventures will remain with me for a very long time, but the details and the impressions are also forever mine to treasure in this book.  Most nights in Paris, I fell asleep, trying desperately to catch up in my memories of the day trailing off into a squiggly line on the page...turning into dreams.  But I always went back to catch up, because each day was overflowing with treasured moments and discoveries.  I just couldn't bear to lose any of them.

This was our first night in Paris.  We arrived in the late afternoon, checked into our hotel, and anxiously took our first metro trip into the heart of the city.

Once we arrived at "Chatalet" metro stop, we wandered towards the Seine...Notre Dame appeared before us with Palm Sunday crowds and tents for a special Baptism celebration.  We walked a bit, across the river and back, taking in the beauty and shock of it all...the markets, the flowers, the vendors, the language, the architecture, the shops, the bridges.  We came back over the river and walked down the right bank, toward the Louvre.  We were cold and hungry, exhausted and rather disoriented, but mesmerized by Paris and our first soiree in the city.  
A cafe with WIFI allowed us to finally have 'facetime' with the girls and Nana and Papa.  We sat at a little corner table by the window and watched the people pass along the Seine.  We had our very first Parisian crepes au nutella with cafe.  
On the way back to our metro stop, we walked along the river again, and I got to take "the picture I've always wanted" (it was the first of many) ~ Ryan and I on the bridge with the river and the Eiffel Tower far in the distance...evening light sparkling on the Seine.  

The picture isn't really that amazing.  We took a lot better ones later.  But this moment was so beautiful.  Beautiful partly because I was so dizzy with excitement (and lack of sleep).  I also remember feeling emotional, almost upset, feeling the pressure to make every moment 'perfect', and wondering why I was  feeling so sensitive... I was just. so. tired.  Undeniably happy and full of anticipation.  But very, very tired.

We slept soundly that night in our little double bed and awoke on Monday ready to conquer the Louvre.