August 17: A Day for Museums in Paris

Rue Cler was buzzing with people this morning sitting outside at local cafes enjoying their morning coffee and fresh baked croissant. Local shops were setting up their wares in outside stalls and the outdoor market was doing brisk business selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Tourists with their guidebooks in hand were heading off for a day of sightseeing. Paris is really a vibrant place to be.

Paris is so full of museums that is made sense for us to buy a two day museum pass that could be used at most of the major museums. Our first museum was the Rodin Museum. Housed in the former residence where Rodin once lived, you can see the evolution of his work. Many of the works there displayed the original plaster models near the statues. I was surprised to learn that when some of his bronze statues were unveiled, people actually booed them because they thought they were ugly.

Surrounding the museum are beautiful rose gardens. Rodin's bronze statue, The Thinker, was mounted carefully on a pedestal in the center of the garden. People stopped at its base to strike the same pose. On the other side of the garden was a set of five bronze statues called The Burghers of Calais. This artwork depicts the tragic fate of five French leaders who decided to sacrfice their lives in order to save their town. Each of the people featured had a different downcast expression.

Next we visited Napolean's tomb. He is buried in an enormous marble tomb that sits on a pedestal below an elaborately painted dome. Napolean died in 1821 and his body was moved to the current location in 1840. His hat and grey frock and coat are proudly displayed in a gleaming glass case. Downstairs surrounding the tomb are carved marble statues and reliefs telling of some of his accomplishments. Based on the number of statues and the magnitude of the tomb, it almost seems as if he was a pharaoh.

Before visiting the Musee d' Orsay, we toured the military museum to see the World War II exhibits. The museum is in chronological order and had an amazing collection of memorabilia from news articles, to crisp elegant uniforms adorned with medals. Propaganda posters and war related posters were displayed. As you walked from room to room, relevant black and white newsreels played.

The Musee d' Orsay is housed in a former grand railroad station right on the River Seine. Two enormous clocks surrounded by glass and marble are reminders of the old train station and are still in working condition. The museum is very nicely arranged with separate galleries for many of the artists. The number of famous paintings we saw was staggering. We saw paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Cezanne. In one of the rooms was Whistler's Mother. I have to admit that it looked rather uninspiring to me amid all the colorful paintings by Monet and Van Gogh.

While we were wandering through the galleries admiring all of the paintings, people stuck their cameras right on front of the paintings to snap a photo. I found this rather annoying. It was quite a contrast from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, for example, where art enthusiasts would step back to admire and discuss each painting rather than blocking everyone's view with a camera. But if you can block out this distraction, which we did, you are able to see some of the most incredible masterpieces in the western world.

Dinner tonight was right across the street from our hotel on Rue Cler, Ulysee en Gaule. The owners serve delicious Greek food which you can eat either take away, or enjoy at one of their sidewalk tables. We've noticed people stopping there at all hours for a crepe which is made right there on the sidewalk. Our crepe was heaped full of fresh mushrooms, peppers, onions, and garden ripe tomatoes. Humus was served with thin slices of French bread.

As a special treat, we took an evening sightseeing cruise with Bateaux-Mouches down the River Seine. The boat had lights on the side which illuminated the banks of river. Narration was given in many languages. Paris looked stunningly beautiful at night. Every building looked elegant.

The Eiffel Tower was lit by blue searchlights with huge stars between the second and third level forming the EU flag. At 10:00, the light show started, but even when it was over, the Eiffel Tower stood like a jewel over Paris and with a full moon behind it, will be a scene we will never forget.


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