Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Versailles (France, not Missouri)

Today we had great weather for our visit to Versailles.  It is just the beginning of the tourist season, but people were out in force.  After being herded through the tour of the king and queens chambers as well as the Hall of Mirrors, we tasted the freedom of the out-of-doors in the fabulous gardens and grounds.

Tomorrow we visit the city of Paris museum of modern art at the Palais de Tokyo.  Then back for packing.  Friday morning our shuttle service will pick us up at 6:10 a.m.-----sleepy-eyed I imagine.  It has been a great trip with a great bunch of students, but I think everyone is ready to be back home.  Since this is likely to be my last blog entry before we return, here's the itinerary for the flight day:

Continental Airlines Flight #57, departs Paris @ 9:55 a.m.
Arrives in Newark New Jersey @ 12:05 p.m.
Continental Airlines Flight #2806, departs Newark @ 2:40 p.m.
Arrives in Kansas City @ 4:42 p.m.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tomorrow Versailles

Yesterday we visited the Pompidou Centre and the National Museum of Modern Art.  It's the "inside-out" building you see here.  One of my favorite spots in Paris and one of the great museums of the world for this topic.  The view from the top is a spectacular panorama of Paris.

Today was a free day for everyone.  Unfortunately it rained most of the day.  Tomorrow we will all head off to the Chateau at Versailles, Louis XIV's "little place" in the country.  Light rain is supposed to end in the morning with partly cloudy skies for the afternoon.  Hope they are right.  

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oranges and Orangerie

After a stroll through the Sunday market underneath the Metro line outside our hotel, we headed off to the Orangerie (only fitting after all the fruit we saw at the Market!).  Students saw the penultimate water lily series by Monet, two sets of four 360 degree murals.  Then the Paul Guillaum collection of late 19th century, early 20th century work on the lower level.  A beautiful day in Paris.  Some went back to the Louvre in the afternoon, others to the Arc de Triomphe.  A big concert event was held down by the Eiffel Tower tonight celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel.  Rain moved in and dampened the festivities evidently.  Tomorrow we visit the Pompidou Centre and the National Museum of Modern Art.  It's a fabulous collection.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday in Paris

Today we visited Les Invalides, a complex built by Louis XIV as a home for old and injured soldiers, and the Auguste Rodin museum.  

The Les Invalides complex includes the spectacular Church of the Golden Dome, an example of French Baroque architecture.  In 1840, Napoleon Bonapart's remains were brought back to Paris from the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena and the interior of the Church of the Golden Dome was altered to become his mausoleum.  The emperor is buried inside six nested coffins, the last being the red porphyry one that you see here.

Students fell under the spell of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" this morning.  The most extensive collection of works by this 19th century giant of the world of sculpture is housed in the Rodin Museum in Paris.  The House, Hotel Biron, and gardens provide a wonderful space within which to experience the works of this artist.  

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Marais

Today we did a walking architecture tour of the Marais district and then went to two museums in the district, The Carnavalet and the Picasso museum.  

Some of the sites we saw on our architectural walk:

Church of St. Gervais & St. Protais, a French Baroque style building completed in the span of 1616-1657.

Remnants of the medieval wall that once surrounded Paris in the time of Phillip Auguste, 1190.

The Hotel de Sens, one of three excellently preserved medieval Gothic mansions left in Paris.  We saw one of the others, the Hotel de Cluny, on our second day in Paris when we visited the Museum of Medieval Art which is housed in the Cluny and the old Roman Baths.

Tonight some students are going for a cruise on the Seine on one of the Batoboats.  Bateau is the French word for boat.  As Steve Martin used to say, "They have a different word for everything!."

Blogger out!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eiffel and Off-day

Today was a free day and after sleeping in a while, students with their new found understanding of the Metro system went off to various destinations across the city in small groups.  A rail strike outside the metro system prevented some from taking planned day trips to Giverny to Monet's gardens and home, or to Chartres to see the great cathedral.  These visits will have to wait until our second free day next week.  Places visited included Sacre Coeur, sites at Montmartre, shopping areas, and the catacombs.

As you can see from the pictures above, yesterday the group went to the top of the Eiffel Tower; 1000 feet over Paris they saw the city laid out before them. Visibility was great.  This marvel of engineering, designed and built by Gustave Eiffel for the World Exposition of 1889 to demonstrate new bridge building techniques, is made from 7000 tons of iron and was met with disapproval by the artists and writers of the time who thought it ugly and collectively argued for it to be removed.  But tastes change and the people grew to admire it as a symbol of Paris's modernity and artistic and scientific leadership in the world of that time.  In 1909 when it's 20-year license was up it was nearly torn down; only its importance as a radio telegraphy transmitter saved it.  Now it lights up against the Parisian night sky, and "sparkles" on the hour each evening.  Students have made the pilgrimage to watch this popular event several times already.  We are only a short distance from the Eiffel Tower here in the heart of Paris.  

Tomorrow we visit a neighborhood on the right bank (rive droit) referred to as The Marais (the swamp).  It once fit this description before the French aristocracy during the time of Henri the IV drained it and built their chateaus in this region that soon became fashionable.  We will see Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, and the Hotel de Sully (the word "hotel" is used in this case to mean "home"), an example of one of these aristocratic residences.  Then we'll see the Musee de Carnavelet, showing the history of Paris through paintings, models, and transplanted room interiors from various time periods.  

Following that we'll move on to the Musee Picasso in the same neighborhood, where students will see a large quantity of Picasso's work that was selected from his own personal collection upon his death in lieu of estate taxes.  France and the city of Paris have accumulated a lot of acclaimed art works during the 20th century through this method which is referred to as the "dation."  The estates of the artists don't have to pay cash for estate taxes and the government gets great art for the public to enjoy, a win-win situation, at least from the public's point of view.

We're at the halfway point.  Time is flying by.

Blogger out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Museums Museums Museums

After two days in the Louvre, we moved to the Musee d'Orsay today:  Art from 1848 to the beginning of the 20th century.  This is the home of the largest collection of French Impressionist art that we will see.  Many pages of the art history textbook come to life here.  The museum is a remodeled train station built in the 19th century but was converted to an art museum 20 years ago.  It is quite beautiful in and of itself.  I escorted a small group who wanted to go to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur, the neo-byzantine church on the Butte Montmartre on the north side of Paris.  Quite a view from up there and a wonderful piece of architecture.  After that they insisted that they had to see the Moulin Rouge so I took them by there as you can see from the evidence.  All is going well.  It is a good group.  Blogger out!