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Friday, July 24, 2015

How many museums can I squeeze into six days? A lot! Still more I want to see, though.



Some days later:

I’ve been too exhausted after day after day of long walks and multiple museum visits to write at night, and too eager to get going the next morning to write first thing.

I had thought about but decided against getting the six day museum pass, which allows unlimited museum and monument visits to participating venues. I’d thought that it would be too intensive and that it would be hard for me to get my money’s worth. Thought it would be better to spread my visits out since I am here for an extended time period. But then, as I walked up to the ticket booth at my first museum, I abruptly changed my mind. Today is day five, one more to go, and I have certainly gotten my money’s worth. 

Would I recommend it? It depends on your circumstances, what you want to see, what you’ve done in Paris before if you've been here before, how much time you will be here. There are also two and four day passes, but the value of the six day one is by far the best. They cost 49, 54, and 69 euros respectively.

Many monuments as well as museums are included, but those are all things I’ve done before and didn’t feel the need to do again. I would recommend it if you want to do a monument and a museum a day. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, La Chapelle,  the tour of the sewers (which I did years ago and loved, and it’s where part of Les Miz takes place!)  The Louvre, the Pompidou, the Orsay,  the Picasso, the Rodin.  The Quai Branley, and a whole lot more are included. At a few, including the Louvre and the Orsay (that’s the one with all the Impressionists, in the beautiful old train station) you even get to jump the lines.

So, let me tell you where I’ve been in the last five days: first, since I started in the afternoon(to get your best $’s worth, start in the am) was the Quai Branley. It’s basically a museum of cultures and ethnography, right in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. They have a beautiful garden and café where you can enjoy a citron presse, as I did, or a café or a glass of wine,  basking in the shadow of the tower.  I’d never been there before.  They have all kinds of wonderful artifacts, and currently had an exhibit called the Inca and the Conquistador. I am of course always taken with anything relating to Peru.  And was especially interested because we’d been to Cajamarca,  where Pizarro tricked and killed Atahaulpa. One part of the exhibit showed how they believed they’d recently discovered Pizarro’s remains.

I didn’t much care for the building itself, though. It was dark and disorienting, at least for me. I had to ask guards a couple of times where to go, not to find a particular thing, but just to follow the path of the exhibits. On the other hand, there were great s views of the tower through the scrims covering the windows

So that was museum day, or half museum day, one.  Oh, dear, I can’t even remember what day I went to which museums anymore. Think I’ve overdosed on art? Not really. Each day, each museum, even, I’m ready for more, have to pull myself away after a couple of hours. Let me just list where I’ve been, not necessarily in order, and give you a few impressions of each.

The Louvre, of course. I feel I have to go there more to see the museum, than anything in the museum, if that makes sense. The building itself, yes, but also the scene that it is.  I wasn’t going to even bother with the Mona Lisa, but in the end just had to, to see the crowds. The display is different than it was the last time I was there, which was also different from the time before. It’s so small, and I have to confess I would never pick it out from the hundreds, thousands I guess, of others there as one that particularly speaks to me. But you can’t really go to Paris and not see it, right? 

  There’s another portrait of a woman by da Vinci, although there’s some controversy over whether he really did it, in one of the outer corridors near the room where La Mona is. I really like that one much better, and wanted to pay it a visit. But I couldn’t find it, walked up and down the long corridor twice before I saw I a sign saying it was on loan to another museum, in Abu Dhabi, which I believe has a branch of the Louvre, an odd concept. 

I wasn’t sure if I was more disappointed to not be able to see it, or more pleased with myself that I knew it enough to realize that it wasn’t there. Anyway, look for it if you go, and also, on the other side of the same corridor, the four seasons faces,  all in vegetables and fruits, done by Arcipode in the 1500’s, which everyone always seems to like. I just read up a bunch more about him. These were the only ones I'd been familiar with, but he's done other botanical ones, and still others with other items, like one of a librarian that is comprised all of books. Apparently, he had a second round of fame when Dali rediscovered him in the early 20th century.

Before I went to the Louvre itself, I visited the Museum of Decorative Arts, which I’d been to before. It has wonderful exhibits, whole rooms full of art deco furniture and art.  I was amused by the bed coverings, which were a bit wrinkled and not perfectly tucked in.  I don’t know if that was intentional or if they just weren’t able to get the material to lie perfectly straight.  Funny the things one notices.
There are several parts to that museum, and since I didn’t see them all on the first visit, I went back the following day when I also went to the main part of the Louvre. I still haven’t seen it all, there’s a portion that’s the Museum of Publicity, which has many beautiful posters and probably a lot more, but I’m not sure I’ll get back to see that part.

In the Mode and Textiles museum, part of the Decorative Arts, which is part of the Louvre, was an exhibit totally about buttons, and I learned more about buttons then I ever knew. There were buttons and costumes going back centuries, some with photographs on them, some with political statements, some with diamonds and other jewels.

And there was a section with just jewelry, case afater case, in room after room.Stunning and mesmerizing, especially when I was the only one in the rooms.

Then there was the Musee D’Orsay, one of my favorites. The architecture is wonderful, one still gets the sense that it was once a train station.  And it’s filled with light, unlike the Branley which felt  claustrophic  to me. Its' the home of the Impressionists, many of which you'd recognize. It is also where I saw the Bonnard exhibit. He's an artist whose name I knew, but knew little about. I was just bowled over. It was one of those exhibits that just kept going and going and I couldn't get enough of it. Some of the brightest and beautiful colors I have ever seen. One of his favorites was bathroom scenes. I love bathrooms. Of course these also had beautiful women in them, which added to the appeal! 

There are so many wonderful pieces there, and so many that are familiar, that I just wander thru with a big grin on my face every time I go there, absorbing the ambience.  Gaughin, Picasso, Matisse, etc, all the master of that vintage.

In the Marais area, the 4th arrondissment, I visited the Picasso and Arts and Metiers museums one day, and the Jewish Museum the next.  I had planned to meet up with Matthew,   who I've known since he was a baby and the son of my friends Judy and John. Matthew lives in Paris now. It was he who connected me with the English speaking doctor who took out my stitches. Thank you Matthew!  I probably could have handled a French speaking doctor,  have done it before, but felt better being able to speak of my travails concerns in English.

Matthew and I somehow missed one another and didn’t rendezvous, however. I’m not sure how we missed each other. The plan was to meet in the café of the Arts and Metiers museum after his French class which meets there. That was great for me, as I had wanted to visit that museum anyway. Had never been there before, and it’s an unusual place, worth checking out.

I didn’t see Matthew, or anyone, in the café, and it was almost closing time, so I went out to the courtyard until the guards kicked everyone out and locked the gates. So how could we have missed each other?  I had wondered if I’d recognize him. But there weren’t too many young men by themselves, and how many single women his mother’s age could there have been? Unless there was more than one exit. Who knows.

The museum, though, was terrific. It’s basically a museum dedicated to the history of invention. There is room after room of machines and models dating back centuries, and the museum itself is a real throwback to another century. There were things ranging from scales to models of factories, just beautiful to look at. Loring and I were recently at a museum in Maine that had some of the same type of thing, but on a much smaller scale. (get it? haha.)


I went to the Picasso Museum, which is just the right size to be able to see everything in one visit, with many masterpieces of course, from his many periods  ( do people still refer to his blue, and other periods? It seems I haven’t read or heard those references in recent years.)
Like many of the museums, the Picasso is in an old mansion, and the building is as impressive as the art it houses.

This morning I went to the Jewish Museum, also in an old mansion, in the Marais, which was once the Jewish quarter.  And then, this afternoon, to the Pompidou. I think the Pompidou still remains my favorite, despite the odd exterior. I don’t mind it design wise, even though it sticks out contrarily in the neighborhood of otherwise regal buildings. After all, that’s what modern art is supposed to do, right, confront our values, of art and beauty, etc.  But as Loring pointed out years ago, it wasn’t constructed with a thought to practicality, is impossible to keep clean, etc. And it’s gotten worse, looks less playful, more grimey. But the art inside is still amazing. So many famous pieces, and so many I discover each time I go. Of course, one could say that about the Louvre, and most any other museum, contemporary or traditional.  I soaked up as much as my mind and time would allow. And wouldn’t mind going back again while I’m here. Will have to see what Loring wants to do on his three days here. I ‘ve got lots of possible suggestions.

The Jewish Museum, and the Arab Cultural Center, excited me less. I’ve been to the Arab before, and maybe the Jewish, I’m not sure.  In an odd way, I’m glad that neither of them makes the top of my list. I’d feel bad if I loved one, not the other! 

At the Jewish museum, what caught my eye, perversely I guess, was several different paintings depicting circumcisions. Can’t say I’ve ever noticed any such before. They all took place several centuries ago, so it was just interesting to see the ceremony depicted. And then there was another display case, in a different room, of circumcision instruments.  Sorry to say, but that’s what caught my eye. They also brought back a memory of my going to a circumcision, and watching  with everyone else from  behind a glass wall. It probably would have been my brother’s, but perhaps not. Is that something you’d bring a three year old to?

In the Arab museum there were a lot of beautiful items. There were in the Jewish too, it was just that they didn’t much catch my eye in either, maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the way they were displayed, maybe it was that they were mostly religious items(but then again you’d say that about the endless paintings of the Annunciation, Crucifiction, etc. in most any museum.) And I do get tired of those as well.

 I did especially like the costumes in both museums, and strangely noticed a number of Jewish related items, and Christian as well, in the Arab culture museum. There were a few mezzuzahs, the prayer vessels that Jews put on the outside of their doors, and other things.  One of the things I did not like about the Arab museum was their displays, the descriptions were very hard to read .  I didn’t see any explanation of why they included Jewish and Christian items, not that I was sorry they did.  I’ve always had a hard time with the word Anti-semitic, because Arabs are Semitic, right?  So what statement was the museum trying to make?  Further research needed.


There was a Hip Hop exhibit at the Arab Museum, titled “ Hip Hop: From the Bronx to the Arab Streets.”  There was a separate entry fee and I was too tired to go. It will be there a few more days so perhaps I will. How can I resist an exhibit that mentions the Bronx?!  Yes, I definitely should go. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how an Arab museum in Paris depicts the Bronx.  Hip hop really did start in the Bronx, in my own neighborhood in fact, at a party in the early 1970’s, just a few years after my family moved away.  I’ve always been amused to see Bronx t-shirts in the flea market here. It seems to have a certain cache, shall I say. 

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