Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paris Day 2 - Mozart, Claude and Louis

There were a few things that needed to be done before we set off on our second day to Musée de l'Orangerie, Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe. We needed to stop at the Tourist Information Office first and get maps and literature to help with the rest of our trip. We also needed to get pre-paid phone SIM cards to call people back home in India.

After a wonderful breakfast at home, thanks to the wonderful boulangerie downstairs with the equally wonderful lady who managed it, we set off to Pyramides.

The freshest breakfast ever!

The Tourist Information Office is right across the Pyramides Metro exit. The office is a destination to visit in itself! Shelves packed with literature in at least 4 languages, neatly divided in sections, all for free. The folks at the desk were equally helpful and quite fluent with English (although Rave's French helped make conversations far more friendlier). Once we were done, they also pointed us out to the closest mobile outlet for our pre-paid SIMs. We walked down to the SFR store down the road and picked up our SIMs quite easily.

We decided to keep walking a little further down the road to take a peek at the Palais Garnier. Our first view of it and we knew Musée de l'Orangerie had to be moved to another day...we were going to the Opera! I stood so long ogling at the Mozart bust at the entrance, I almost had to be dragged away. Oddly, the first thing I set my eyes on was the ceiling (my fascination for them would only grow through the trip).  Everything seemed so grand...the curtains, the gold painted decor, the furniture, the chandeliers and, of course, the ceilings!


My affair with ceilings.

My affair with ceilings. Again.

More ceiling.

Unfortunately, there was a rehearsal on when we visited so we weren't allowed inside. But just as we were done and ready to leave, we noticed an open door! I've seen videos of the insides of an Opera but nothing prepared me for this. The stage was still being cleared, people from the production were still walking around, the sound engineers were still at work...and I stood in silence, both ecstatic with my first view of the inside of a theatre and horrified at the opulence that seemed to cover every square inch.

The next time, we'll be sitting here.

Well worth the money!

Still spellbound, we left for a nice long lunch and began walking to Musée de l'Orangerie. Our hungry eyes wouldn't let us pass on the Monet's after all! It's not too far from Palais Garnier (about 1.5 km on foot). You walk down the Metro Opera stop, via Place Vendome and through the Tuilleries...the perfect walk after a heavy lunch. Over the years, I've seen so many pictures of the famous Monet pieces here but I was a little disappointed when I first saw them. But the disappointment didn't last too long. You need to sit and drink the pieces in. Slowly, I began seeing what Monet would have years ago. The reflections were slowly coming to life. The light felt like it was passing through the leaves. The trees felt like they were slowly changing colour. Keep staring long enough and it felt like you were actually there in that garden and everything around was real. At some point, they stopped becoming paintings.

The size of Monet's canvases were almost unreal. Imagine painting them in sections, at different times and then stitching all those individual pieces's fantastic if you can pull back and, quite literally, see the big picture.

Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed, so I respected that and refrained from using my camera, although a lot of people were quite trigger happy. I wasn't keen on actually shooting any of the Monet pieces individually but I did want to shoot a few panoramas. Well, for now I'll make do with the beautiful panoramas on the Internet. There's lots of other pieces to see here as well...Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Utrillo, Renoir...but there were two artists in particular that I fell in love with - Modigliani and Soutine. I've seen some of the work in books or online but they're quite captivating in when seen for real. The two were actually friends and there's connection between their individual works. Soutine went into depression after Modigliani's death and continued to paint in depression that's evident in his work. He has that remarkable ability to make you cringe at his pain and still stand there, enjoy it and sadistically ask for more. The Musée de l'Orangerie is definitely time well spent and my advice would be to not leave after seeing the Monet's. Give Soutine a shoulder to cry on too.

After watching the sunset from Tuilleries it was time to move on to Champs-Elysees. It was a destination that I was morbidly afraid of walking into primarily because I was worried about you-know-who and the designer stores! Thankfully, she was more excited about the Christmas Markets that line up Champs-Elysees at this time of the year. The markets are fun and there's everything from chocolate to clothing to food to jewellery to rides for kids. We kicked off our walk with some wonderful Vin Chaud and let the crowds just carry us on. Everything was so festive and we we were glad we decided to brave the cold and pick this time of the year to visit Paris.

The Ferris wheel at Champs-Elysees.

I was too old to ride this. Damn!
The dancers on Champs-Elysees. We caught them thrice!

Champs-Elysees was one big festive party! There were sales everywhere, the store windows looked spectacular (especially Louis Vuitton) and there was celebration on the streets. This was just Day 2 and Paris had already shown us so much!


I am following your adventures in Paris with great pleasure. Your pictures are amazing.
Ceilings are also a fascination for architects.
Looking forward to the rest.

Thanks cbaarch! Maybe it had to do with the fact that I wanted to be an architect (among a million other things) as a kid!

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