Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys

Seine River Looking Towards Notre Dame

April 1,2006 (A)

Well, it’s been about two wonderful weeks since we moved into our apartment in Paris.  And it’s been like a dream, I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been!

Erik peaking from window Bedroom view from apartment
Erik looking out of our apartment window, More Apartment pics, view from our apartment towards Les Invalides (click on for bigger versions)

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in art museums, trips on the Paris metro (subway), and long walks along the banks of the river Seine, and amblings through the narrow zigzagging back ways of “City of Light”.
Amy and the Eifel Tower
Amy and the Eiffel

A typical Paris Metro Car

This week’s highlights:

Musee National Rodin
Located in Hotel Biron, the museum was home to Rodin (1840 – 1858) for the final years of his life.  Some of Rodin’s more famous pieces include sculptures such as The Thinker, and The Kiss.  However the most impressive and meaningful works were by far his Gates of Hell, and the Burghers of Callais pieces.

Amy and the kiss
Amy and the Kiss in the background

  • Burghers of Callais:  I really enjoyed seeing the sketches & studies that Rodin created (and there were many) for the Burghers of Calais.  It was very interesting to see how he pieced together the parts of what would eventually become a complex and stirring final work.
    . .
    A giant head study for the Burghers of Callais & The Final work - the Burghers of Callais (click on for bigger versions)
  • Gates of Hell:  I had no idea that “The Thinker” was part of this greater piece of work.  The Thinker actually represents Dante himself (read: Dante’s Inferno) contemplating the misfortunes of the human condition.  He sits above the Gate of Hell, looking down on the many souls that seem to be seething and reaching out of the depths of an unrelenting quagmire that is to be their fate.  Above him hover the three shadows with their hands cut-off, symbolizing their powerlessness to alter the tragedy. Rodin liked to reuse his figures in assemblages, using them much as a florist would use flowers to make a bouquet.  In fact, I believe that that was a key part of his methodology that enabled him to create complex pieces such as the Gate of Hell, successfully.  Near the end of his days, Rodin was to have said that he was “finished sculpting” and wanted only to make assemblages of his figures.
    . . .
    The Thinker, The Thinker as part of the top of the Gates of Hell, & The Gates of Hell - Rodin's seminal piece. (click on for bigger versions)
  • Tower of Labor:  The Tower of Labor is a wonderful collaborative piece that was never finished beyond 4 foot high mock-up.  It is perhaps the greatest shame, that it never progress further, because had the intended piece ever been realized, it would have been an 8-10 story high tower.  Spiraling up along its sides would have been a frieze depicting the different industries of work that are taken up by man, starting at the bottom with hard labor and progressing with increasingly intellectual labor to the top where would dwell philosophers and the like.  Spiraling around this frieze would have been a foot-ramp allowing the viewers to explore the tower as both a work of art as well as a work of architecture.  Perhaps one day, it will be realized.

Musee d’Orsay
Musee d’Orsay, housed in what was originally a large train station, holds claim to the largest collection of Impressionist art in Europe.  After a trip to the d’Orsay, I can clearly and unconscionably state that I am not entirely in love with all of impressionism.  (I guess it is typically a rather specifically American thing, to be in love with impressionism, esp. Monet).  I really didn’t care much for Monet, Renoir, or Manet.  However I did find some of the artists to my liking, specifically Van Gogh for his use of color and creation of interesting textures and Edgar Degas for his subject matter, namely dancers and his use of extreme light and dark – stage lighting.  (I didn’t care much for the dark lighting used to display his works though).

Of course the highlight of the entire exhibit would have to be L’Origine du Monde (likely NSFW).  The name of this painting comes up almost every time I mention the Musee d’Orsay in conversation.  It appears to be the most popular piece.  I can definitely attest to it being one of my favorite pieces in the entire collection.  It has very realistic colors, and flawless blending.  Add on top of that, the somewhat colorful history of its origins and you have a show stopper.  Apparently the model, also know as Jo, was the lover and muse of an America artist (James McNeil Whistler), who had lent her to Gustave Courbet for use as a model.  Supposedly from the rubifcation of certain areas, one can see that Courbet may have done more-than-just-paint her, before painting her…  Anyways, the telltale painting was rumored to have created a precipitous falling out between Whistler and Courbet.

A study for a sculpture Final piece Girl being bitten by a snake The Dance
Some of the sculptural works on display at Musee d'Orsay: A sculptural study/sketch, the final sculpture, A girl being bitten by a Snake, the dance (click on for bigger versions)

Musee de L’Armee
Saturday, Erik and I decided to take a trip to Hotel National des Invalides and see what it was all about.  Les Invalides was built by Louis the XIV, a king with a great penchant for conquering places, in part as a hospital for war heroes and to house his soldiers the injured, disabled, and aged.  The architecture of this Leviathan of a building is breathtaking to behold, especially when coming at it from a particular bridge that has two large sculptures Gilded in 24K posed on either side as you approach.  In this building lies the body of Napoleon entombed in 7 nested caskets.  We visited the tomb of Napoleon, though we found it rather disgusting that some tourists were laughing, joking, and posing for trophy photographs at what was obviously a site of French national respect and honor.  (Horrible to think that some of them were Americans acting this way… *cringe*.)

The Musee de L’Armee is located on the same campus as Napoleon’s Tomb.  It houses an exhibit of war weaponry through the ages, up to pre-WWI.  Guns.  Cannons.  Pointy spear like things, and more guns.
. . .
(click on for bigger versions)

Next we were planning a leisurely viewing of the Eiffel Tower.  However, the weather had other plans.  It had started to get thickly overcast by the time we walked over to the tower and we were able to get one nice shot in front of the foot of the Eiffel Tower (near the Peace monument) before the sky opened up on us.

Sunday, we finally went to a big open air market, this after hearing and reading so much about them!  The market we went to at Bastille is the biggest farmer’s market in all of Paris.  About mid-morning, Erik and I took the subway over to see it, and meet a friend there.  The market was laid out across several long blocks and consisted of two main rows of vendor stalls.  Oh, the things that could be bought!  Cheese, meats, shampoo, scarves, children’s toys – there was quite a spread.  But most of all there was the produce!  Vegetables!  Tastes-like-wild strawberries!  Fruit!  The open-air market was not unlike the Saturday markets that Erik and I would visit upon occasion in the states – just a whole lot bigger and with cheese and meat.  And in general, the markets seem to be more ubiquitous, and accessible.  Cheese, quality handcrafted cheese, is much cheaper to come by here than in the states.

After we met up with my friend Erica and made another round through the market, which gave me a chance to get some sound advice on who to buy what from, the three of us hopped over to the Bastille Starbucks to chat over a bite to eat and some lattes (without smoke). 

Much later, we all three, took the metro back to show Erica the apartment to make dinner with our market finds.  (Yippee!  Fresh finds from the market!)  Everyone one chipped in, Erica and I chopped the spices and Cabbage, I sautéed the Red Cabbage dish and the Leek and Omelet dish, Erik arranged and baked the fish (after much struggle with the non-English oven directions).  One big happy kitchen!

Dessert was two courses.  We had fresh pineapple tar tare.  The pineapple tasted like it was really in season – yet another market find!  Heheh…  The second dish was meringues layered over with fresh and stewed strawberries (a la Erik).

Lingering over good cooking and great conversation, was a lovely way to end the week.    

April 8, 2006 (A)

This week’s highlights:
French class – last week I found a French school about 4 blocks away from our apartment, and took an entrance exam.  I placed into French II, part 2.  I think that the placement was pretty accurate.  Anyways, I started this week on Tuesday, the fourth.  So far I really like my teacher, she is very vivacious and a very motivated to teach.  Class meets every week day for two hours a day – it’s not much, but it’s a start!

Centre de Pompidou (Musee National d’Art Moderne)
You know the old adage which goes something like “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”?  Well, Amy don’ do ‘dat. 
In actuality, they did have a nice temporary exhibit of a pencil artist Hans Bellmer – a virtuoso whose drawings display a richness of textures made possible by a very skilled and steady hand.  His meticulous attention to detailing the textures of his figures lent his drawings a nimble delicacy that was sumptuous to behold.  He seemed to have a real “thing” for assemblages of female body parts – breasts, heads, legs buttocks, etc.

What I didn’t like: the current permanent exhibit named “Big Bang”.  I’ll give you a taste.  So you won’t have to suffer as I had.

  • Teaching a Plant the Alphabet – a black and white video of a hand displaying, one after another a series of a cards depicting the different letters of the alphabet, next to a potted plant.  The audio consisted of someone repeating the letter, say like letter “K” for instance, over and over again for about a minute.  Try THAT ad nauseum!
  • Black Balls – a black and white video close up of a man’s balls.  His one hand was holding his penis out of the way so you have a clear shot of the subject matter – his balls.  The other hand was smearing black paint onto his balls, ever so slowly and with enough pressure to stretch the skin out very nicely. 
  • An un-named photographic series – of a man being shot in the arm, with a rifle, by his friend.  And I mean:  the set-up before, the actual firing of the rifle, and the bloody aftermath.  Yes, the particular person being shot was the “artist”, if you would even call it that.  And apparently he really “gets off” on this kind of thing because he has a number of photographic series depicting him doing various highly idiotic things for the sake of attention – think self-crucifixion, for one.    

I won’t torture you with anymore of what I would call faux-art-for-the-sake-of-getting-some-one-elses-attention-but-not-mine.

Photo: Okay, one photo from Centre de Pompidou - this one is entitled: Utility

Musee National Picasso
The temporary exhibit at the time featured the work and times of Picasso with his lover and muse of 8 years, Dora Maar.  Dora was a photographer and she and Picasso greatly influenced each other’s work during their time together.  The highlight of this exhibit was the photos that Dora had taken in the days up to Picasso’s completion of his seminal work, Guernica.  It was quite something to see the photos of the work in progress, and also to see the many studies that he made in preparation for the final painting.  It was very inspiring.  Now all I need is something like the Spanish government to commission one of my works!

One technique that I really took notice of was in Picasso’s exploration of the crying woman, and the woman with a dead child.  These were themes that he explored over and over again after WWII.  He liked to use the image of two bowls spilling liquid, to represent the eyes of the crying woman.  They seemed to be spilling over with the wealth of their tears.  Very effective.

I must say that I didn’t much care for the ambiance of the museum itself, both the omnipresent and obtrusive security personnel, and the sterility of the walls and rooms contributed to the austere feeling of the place.  I think it was that reason in part, why I forgot even to visit the souvenir shop.

In a bit of a retrospect, I would have to say that the best museum that I’ve visited so far has been the Musee National Rodin.  It’s not just the art itself that charms, but the architecture and grounds of Hotel Biron (where the exhibit is housed) have a warm relaxed feel to them.  It was the first museum I have ever chanced upon to be like that.  And this welcoming atmosphere may have been due to the fact that the place was once the home and studio of the artist himself.  It may also be attributed to the fact that the building itself is rather historic in age.  Either way, I’ve probably been spoiled for returning to some place like Seattle.  Namely, I think of the Seattle Art Museum and the Bellevue Art Museum, and how new and proudly modern – and austere their facilities seem in comparison.  They really can’t hold a candle to the better museums in Paris!

And finally, I’ve bought some English tour books for visiting London! 

I’ve been keeping busy, in between visiting art museums and going to class, I’ve also been playing travel agent!  I’ve just finished researching and planning a side–trip to London!

London plan:
It will be a long-weekend this coming weekend...  Easter, (or Paques as it is called in France) is a national holiday, so Erik will be off next Monday.  I've booked train tickets and a hotel room for an Easter weekend in London.  I hope that the weather will hold up, I'd like to walk along the Thames.  I had been researching hostels and BBs but as it turned out, since they charge a person the rate, the costs would have equal to that of a hotel room (minus a private bathroom).  That is if we didn’t want to sleep in a 6 person dormer.  I’ve got an entire itinerary planned and everything is in place.  London, here we come!

April 14, 2006 (A)

This last week in review:

Saturday, I had the fortune of finding out about a neat little museum called le Musee des Art Forains (translated: The Museum of the Showman/Carnival Arts).  Show was by appointment only, so I didn’t know if we were going to be able to get in.  The first time I called, I got an answering machine, and the message was very French and a bit too quick for me to quite understand.  However I was later able to catch a real person and get in an appointment with a larger group to see the next “show”. 

There were animatronics, automated music machines of various sorts, sound, and light displays, carnival games, and of course rides.  And best of all it was, in part, and interactive tour, so we got to try-out some of the rides.  My favorite part of the tour was probably getting to see and listen to an old time pipe organ that read its input in the form of a crate full of fan-fold hole-punched cardstock (just like an antique computer).  It was complete with percussion instruments too.  And a close second would have to be the carousel ride, because I always love those.  Erik’s favorite was a pedal-driven bicycle ride.  The ride layout consisted of a circle of bicycles, each linked to the next and to get the ride going, you just needed people to pedal.  It got going dizzyingly fast!
Mechanical Organ

Driving Program

Afterwards we went to a park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont) in the 19th district and had a lovely lunch with a view across the Eastern part of Paris from a pretty high-up hill.

Sunday, we visited Notre Dame de Paris.  We got to drop in just in time for Palm Sunday mass.  I lit a candle, and made some well wishes for my mom.  We marveled at the rich stained glass windows and then left, due to the crowds.
Notre Damme Paris

Next we walked west along the banks of the Seine, and stopped on a pedestrian bridge just west of the Pont Neuf bridge.  We had an orange and I indulged in a leisurely sketch of the Pont Neuf Bridge and its surrounding sky line.  I was also pulled into a brief conversation with a schizophrenic French man who, when he wasn’t engaging me in perfectly sane conversation, was busy twitching, pacing back and forth, and talking to himself.  He was actually quite pleasant to talk to, for a crazy person.
View along Seine

We continued westward, walked through the Jardin des Tuileries, paused to sit in some chairs and watch little kids sail their miniature sail boats across the ponds, and then continued down the Champs Elysee, towards L’Arc de Triomphe.  The Champs Elysee was a bit crowded, in part because it was the weekend but also because it was the day of Paris marathon, passing through all three of Paris’ arches, and the race had just completed.  We saw the Arc, but decided against ascending it, because of the crowds.
Arc de Triumph

On Tuesday, Erik had an unexpected day off from work.  So after I came back from French class, we walked over to a local Patisserie bought a couple of sandwiches, some chocolate and custard filled Brioches, and une tartlette Fraise and had ourselves a lovely lunch back at the apartment.  Then we took off to go see another art museum, Musee Zadkine.  Unfortunately, it looked as if the museum was closing permenantly, to be replaced by a theatre.  It was a bit of a bummer, to be sure.  However, we made the best of it and went to explore the Jardin du Luxumbourg instead.  We walked through the garden, reading the descriptions on the many statues of queens, regents, and duchesses.  We lazed and chatted by yet another pond and watched people go by and children sail their toy boats.

Wednesday, I visited le Musee Maillol – yet another stellar museum.  It is right up there with the Musee National Rodin, at least in my book.  Maillol was a prolific artist, and it appeared to me that he dabbled in a bit of everything and finally settled on painting and bronze sculptural work. 

The highlight of the entire exhibit, I must say, was the temporary exhibit of works by Rene Margritte.  One may best recognize him as the man who painted the famous work depicting a man in a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face.  He is described by some as a surrealist, although, I’m not sure that that is what he considers himself.  His work is inspiring in part because I believe that he derives his muse from the same sources as I myself do.  I was even able to see the progression of his technique, from earlier works to the captivating pieces characterizing later periods.  I almost feel like I could look at the chronological layout of these pieces and pick out where I myself am as an artist.  In a way, it makes my artistic goals seem more plausible. 

It was interesting to see how different artists create interest in their works in different ways.  For instance Van Gogh: his paintings have less of the realism and fine detail that characterize Margritte’s work.  However, his paintings create interest by way of textures and color combinations that draw the viewer in, time and again.  Margritte on the other hand: his paintings are mostly in goache and look in large part flat, like watercolor paintings.  His pieces lack the impasto affects used with Van Gogh’s oil paintings.  What Margritte gains, by way of sacrificing texture, is greater continuity of shapes and forms, and a larger ratio of detail per square inch.  He uses detail to create realistic images that are tweaked “just–so” to draw the viewer in and make them question the veracity of what they see.  

The grounds of the museum were just as welcoming as those of Musee National Rodin.  I am beginning to wonder if sculptural museums pay a bit more attention to the interior space of a building in comparison to museums exhibiting mainly paintings.

On Friday, I visited le Fondation Dubuffet, a museum devoted to displaying the life and works of a particularly odd and most-likely-off-his-rocker sculptor.  I didn’t really care for the exhibits which consisted in part of paintings that looked like textural paint sprayed onto cardboard and subsequently framed, and also drawings and eerie noise compositions juxtaposed against Dubuffet’s strange rambling writings. 

I guess that the high light of the exhibit would be his sculptural work, which I found, at best, redundant and for the most part creepy.  There was even a video displaying a strange theatrical piece where in the frame is full of these sepulchral sculpture pieces, where in, every once and a while, a piece would shift or move part way across the screen, accompanied by strange humming (mostly likely performed by the Dubuffet himself).  According to a book published on his works, he apparently had a huge (HUGE) warehouse full of these creepy pieces and they are all part of a masterwork/installation of his, on display somewhere else – I’d rather not know where.  Creepy.

Friday night consisted mostly of packing for our long-weekend to London.

April 18, 2006 (A)

Tuesday is here and we are settling in after a long-weekend spent vacationing in London, England.

Our trip summary:

We were almost late for the train!  We left the apartment later that we’d hoped and walked to catch the metro that would take us to the train station.  As a rule, one should allow for plenty of check-in time at the train station.  (It’s much like checking in for an airplane flight.)  Instead of arriving 45 minutes in advance, we arrived about 25 minutes in advance, so after the line for the check-in, security screening the bags, and the line for passport stamping we got onto our train with not to much of a time margin.  Whew!
Paris Train Station

The train ride and trip under the English channel was uneventful.  The Chunnel itself was just 20 minutes elapsed in darkness.  Through France itself the train runs about 186mph, though a bit slower in England as they have not fully upgraded the rail-line for that speed yet. The trip took about 2.5 hrs from down-town Paris to down-town London.

After we debarked, we found our way to our hotel, got our bearings and a map and made for the British Museum.  The British Museum is one great big warehouse of loot.  Boy did the Brits plunder and make off with stuff!  There were, of course, lots of old treasures, some very fine pieces of 12000-plus year old craftsmanship.  Some of the older finely made items raised the question of how all the artistry and technical innovation would have been so easily lost generations later in the dark ages.

That evening, being that it was Easter weekend, we found an alarming number of shops closed.  By the time we left the Museum, we found ourselves walking into numerous bars just as their kitchens were closing.  Fortunately, we ended up at a very nice place for dinner (the Black Friar’s).  We got a prime seat savored the cozy, intimate setting, got some fish and chips and ice-cream for dessert.  It seemed to be the only game in town for late dinner and continued to fill-up as we passed the time. 

We closed the night with Harry Potter movie III, that happened to be on the tube, that night in our hotel room.

We got up early had breakfast and walked along the Thames.
Amy and the Eye

We had a 10:30am booking for the London Eye (I paid extra for the express pass, worth-it not to stand in line).  We had some time to spare so we took our time, then checked in for our ride on the London Eye. 

The London Eye is the largest Ferris wheel in the world, although its texts claim that isn’t really a Ferris wheel because has only one support arm instead of two, and that the capsules are completely enclosed instead of being open.  However, I call it a Ferris wheel – one that takes 20 minutes to complete a rotation and while doing so, affords its riders splendid 360 views of London downtown.  Their marketing department even dubs the ride as a “flight” and co-brands the Eye with the British Airways. 
In the London Eye

The weather was very accommodating; with mostly clear skies and sun we were able to see very far indeed.  We could even see a very faint outline of the Eiffel Tower in the far, far distance.  We enjoyed wonderful views over London, including the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, to name a few.
View from top of London Eye

Afterwards we visited the near by Dali Universe, an exhibition of some works by the famous, if a bit egocentric, Salvador Dali.  I had no idea that he was such an accomplished printer/lithographer, on top of being an accomplished painter!  There were very few of his paintings on display in fact.  It was an exhibit mostly of his print-work and sculptures based on themes in his paintings.  I really enjoyed the whole exhibit.  It was a no-photos-please exhibit, unfortunately.
Dali Universe Sculpture

After lunch, we walked over to the National Gallery and took a tour.  The building and its collection was huge.  We were decidedly a bit tired from the first museum, so we may have been less receptive than we otherwise would have been.  However, of the works that we did chance to see after 2 hours, I can honestly say that I really cared for maybe one (a painting by Gustav Klimt – one of my favorite painters). 
National Gallery London

We left early, got some dinner to-go and spent the evening in, resting our poor “feeties” and hanging out.

The next morning, after breakfast, we walked toward the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Tower Bridge London

I got to show Erik what the “modern art” movement was all about.  We visited the Tate Modern.  Yup, as one may guess, its a modern art museum!  There was a lot of stuff, some bizarre, some rudimentary, most –we wouldn’t call art.  I particularly saw enough works by Max Ernst to know that I don’t like his stuff and don’t consider it art.

We left the museum and made our way to the train station, to head back to Paris.

Impressions on London:
London seemed to have a greater percentage of new buildings gracing its banks.  Everything in London is bigger, in comparison to Paris.  Its river, the Thames, is bigger, its buildings and bridges are taller.  I kind of preferred Paris, and Erik, he preferred London.
London skyline looking towards Tower of London

April 19, 2006 (A)

Today, I visited le Musee be Bourdelle, a museum feature the works of the French sculpture Antoine Bourdelle.  Antoine Bourdelle was a student of August Rodin, and since I have visited Musee National Rodin, I thought that it was only fitting to visit a museum featuring one of his students. 

I didn’t find anything particularly outstanding about Bourdelle’s work, save for the great size of some of the sculptures.  He really liked to make friezes, much more so than Rodin, and most of the works on display were bronzes, the only stone works where his friezes.  He was a competent sculptor, that much I can say.  The grounds of the museum were also very nice and welcoming, there was an outer and an inner garden displaying many of his various bronzes.  (He didn’t have many marble pieces though, which was a shame.  I rather preferred works in marble.)  And I even found a pair of art-admiring (sun-worshipping) cats in the outer courtyard. 

It is interesting to note that both Rodin and Bourdelle established estates before their deaths in anticipation of creating museums to preserve their respective works.  And both of theses museums use their space very well, welcoming visitors with beautiful gardens and a warm and inviting interior space.

April 25, 2006 (A)

It’s another Tuesday and it’s been yet another busy week!  Where to begin?  Well, some of my friend Kim and her boyfriend Jeff arrived on our doorstep, Wednesday afternoon, after having flown in from SeaTac.  Their flight had been delayed by some 5 hours, which was a bummer, but they were otherwise looking well.
Kim & Jeff

Thursday after class, I went to go check out le Musee de Sculpture en Plein Air, which was a museum of sorts situated along a portion of the Right Bank of the Seine.  The idea of the museum was really cool – a free museum consisting of 29 installations in a park along the Seine.  The execution wasn’t bad either, it was just the follow-through especially with the up keep of the park, that I found to be lacking.  First of all, I couldn’t find all 29 installations.  Secondly, many of them looked desparately in need of a good cleaning, as evidenced by the graffiti still visible on some works.  And most sad of all was the fact that the park had become a stopping point for the local homeless, and destitute.  They were everywhere, taking up space, sitting on benches – smelling badly.  The Underside of a nearby bridge was rife with personal effects (towels, kitchen effects, chairs, et cetera) of several families, obviously in residence there.

Friday, after class and lunch, I met up with Kim and Jeff and Kim’s friend Beth at the Musee National Rodin and re-toured the place, it’s nice to be able to focus on one’s favorite works upon repeating an exhibit, plus I got to be an impromptu audio guide since they hadn’t loaned one.

That night the six of us, Erik, myself, Kim, Jeff, Tony (Kim’s friend) and Beth (Tony’s girlfriend) all met up at the A La Biche du Bois (translated: Of the Fawn of the Wood), for authentic French food.  The restaurant came recommended by one of Tony’s co-workers.  I had Coq-Au-Vin a safe standard, and Erik ordered a nice safe Salmon dish.  The food wasn’t bad, just a bit salty.  And, as my friend Erica likes to quip “the French don’t know how to do their vegetables” – was in full application.  And I’m really more of a vegetarian who dabbles with meat rather than the inverse, so I guess authentic French food doesn’t really suit me much. 
Tony & Beth

But the food aside, the place itself was great!  It was very crowded and social, people were seated elbow to elbow and in fact the six of us were sharing the table with another two diners (on their own end of the table of course).  It was all very social, very French (or Chinese for that matter). 

And of course we had to have reservations, ours were for 9:45 pm, which was all fine an dandy except for the fact that after appetizers, the main, dessert, and then coffee we were a bit late for catching the metro.  Apparently, lines close around midnight. 

But no matter, when we got to Bastille, there was a Taxi station so we got in line to wait for our turn to catch one.  The wait was short, and we were next in line for a cab when a petit and rather drunk (although I didn’t notice that he was drunk at the time) French man, cut in front of me for the cab as I was reaching for the door.  What happened next was a bit of a blur, I just remember shouting broken French at him and trying to elbow him off of the door as he was shouting at me and trying to get in the cab.  I guess Erik pulled me off of the cab and so I had to let the guy get the cab.  The cab driver was such a love!  He said something to the drunken guy, and the drunken guy grumbled something to me in French (something along the lines of “well I didn’t want your stupid cab anyway”) and next thing we knew, we were in the cab and headed back to the apartment.  Oh yeah, and I guess the drunk guy was still shouting at us as we got in, so Kim gave him a good shout back in English ("Oh Yeah! Well you are a very rude!").  Woo hoo!  Girls kickn’ ass. 

Later, Jeff told me that I had almost knocked the drunken guy over.  He came very close to falling on his “arse” when I elbowed him, and if Erik hadn’t intervened, who knows…  Exciting times.

Saturday, the six of us visited Versailles, which was half an hour away by train.  Versailles the castle, was pretty redundant, if you’ve seen one room, you’ve seen them all.  The grounds themselves, with their ponds, and man-made water-ways stretching off into the horizon, were a site to see.  I would definitely go back, but only for the gardens.
Gardens of Versailles
Amy and Kim with Versailles Shrubbery

That evening, we had a wine and cheese (and meat) party, chez Badgers.  Kim and I had a bit of fun at the cheese counter.  We had already picked a nice aged Gouda, and a Cumin Gouda, but Kim wanted a soft cheese and I couldn’t remember the French word for soft (douce).  The both of us probably looked a little goofy trying to make up gestures to indicate “soft”.  The lady at the counter recognized what we meant, and had been really good natured enough to work with us, so we came away with three nice cheeses.  After we had got back and started setting up, Tony and Beth showed up with another couple of cheeses and some wine.  I threw in some dried sausages, sliced up fresh pineapple, apples, and carrots, we were good to go!  It was fun company and a lovely way to end the day.
Chez Badger

Sunday, Erik and I visited the Louvre.  Of course it was big, and we saw but tiny fractions of it.  The Apollo Room made the rooms of Versailles look positively dowdy.  The Venus de Mylo (aka. Aphrodite) was a very beautiful piece, I enjoyed seeing her.  We got to see a small portion of ancient Egyption art and artifacts.  We also took a tour of the Medieval Louvre, the ruins of which were situated under the current Louvre and the exhibit was sourced from recent archeological findings.  There was even a miniature reconstruction of what experts think the Medieval Louvre looked like.  Nearby was also a mock-up of what is slated to be Louvre two, which is to be constructed to exhibit the spill over from the current museum.  It will be huge also.  There seemed to be a lot of work put into restoring damaged artifacts and works of art, in this way, the Louvre seemed very much to be an active museum.  Beyond just displaying it’s current works, behind the scenes, the folks at the Louvre are continuing to acquire and restore.  It was really neat, to think that I was so close to people who were doing actual archeological and restorative work, rather than just resting on their museum laurels.
Louvre Inside

And of course we got to see the Mona Lisa.  It was a bit like counting coup though – done for the sake of bragging rights.  You stand in line (unless, like us, you go in the “out”, in which case there is no line) and after a very long wait, you get to see a moderately sized, oil painting guarded by a seated attendant, behind two layers of glass and a red rope.  And it’s about as thrilling as shopping for a new type of cereal: moderately interesting. 

The highlight of the visit was the temporary exhibit of the works of Jean August Dominique Ingres.  This man was a very talented French painter and portraiture artist of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  I do believe that he was a court favorite, and for good reason, he had such control and technique, and a wonderful ability to make strangers come alive in a painting.  He is my idol.  And to think, I had serious doubts about paying extra to see the temporary exhibit!  Well, in hindsight, I realized that it’s not like just anyone can have a one-man show at the Louvre.  I mean, that’s that the holy graille of exhibitions for an artist!  Too bad he’s too dead to appreciate it.  I too will probably have to wait a while for my own Louvre exhibit (heheh).

Monday, Kim and Jeff took off to go visit the rest of the country.  We’ll see them in a week or so. 

And of course, Monday was also April 24th, our wedding anniversary.  Number seven, to be exact.  Nine-plus wonderful years together and it just keeps getting better.  Erik is one amazing guy. 

April 27, 2006 (E)

A few more observations:

  • The ones that say "TAXI" on top don't stop for pedestrians, kindof like everywhere else, but they don't paint them a nice bright yellow to warn you either.
  • Some people on the subway should shower more often.
  • There is dog crap all over the sidewalks, but no-one seems to care and they just trod right on through...
  • If your apartment building has an unlocked door to the stairway from the street you will likely end up with smelly drunk people sleeping on the stairs at night (at least they are quiet).
  • There are special recycling containers that are moved around on the sidewalks for wine-bottles.
  • Considering the opulence and luxury the royalty seemed to live in at the Louvre and Versailles, the famous "then let them eat cake" statement is actaully not that surprising.
  • Amy wanted to know where the I's went from all the TO LET signs in London. She will be cranky when she reads this.

Web Log Sections (Newest at Bottom):