My Last Full Day In Paris

I decide to go back to the Louvre today to do some drawing but on arriving I discover that the first Sunday of the month the museum is open to everyone, so it is absolutely packed, wall to wall people!  Certainly not conducive to study and drawing so I head over to the Eugene Délacroix museum on the Left Bank instead.

On the way I stop in at Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris.  There are marble columns inside that date from 512 AD.  The church has been repaired and enlarged over the centuries and is an example of Early Gothic and Romanesque styles. The church as I saw it today was mostly built in 1163 but it is once again in need of repairs and restorations.

DSC02558This is the view from the north west corner and the sculpture of a head in the bottom right of the picture is by Picasso.

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The view from the front door.  This church was beautifully painted with many stained glass windows high above the church floor.

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The pillars and columns are covered in painted designs…

DSC02536 and I also loved the pillar’s beautiful bases.
DSC02517I was surprised to see that one of the stained glass windows had a small part that opened.  It was very high up, so I have no idea how they get it opened and closed.

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A bust and chandelier were nicely silhouetted against this window.

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The colours are incredible.  Stained glass windows need light to show off their beauty.

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This picture is a bit dark, these cathedrals are always quite dark inside, but it does show the windows that encircle the church.  Just around the corner from the church and down a little side street is the museum I am looking for.

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Here is the entrance to the Musée National Eugène Dèlacroix’ which contains his home and studio.  One of the fascinating things about Paris is the way a door will open onto a courtyard or garden and offer a glimpse into a secret place.  You just have no idea what might be behind one of those big old doors.

DSC02570This is a palette that Delacroix is thought to have given to Henri Fantin-Latour who, like Délacroix prepared his painting palette with great care.

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Dèlacroix’s studio had many of his paintings and lithograph prints and in the house there were many lithograph prints with their original stone printing plates.  He had the studio built to his specifications, with huge north windows and skylights.

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Here is a view of the studio from its private garden. The garden has been recently restored, under the supervision of the gardeners of the Tuileries and due to the generosity of a donor named Mr. Kinoshita.  There were lists of the plants purchased and the work carried out in Délacoix’s archives so it has been faithfully restored, and is a beautiful calm oasis in a busy city.  His home is in the building on the right of the photo, it was quite large and well appointed.DSC02573A view of the garden looking from the studio.  I decide it is time to think about heading home and walk from here towards the Louvre, as I want to stop at their bookstore and a couple other shops nearby.

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There are some sights that are very definitely Parisian.  Do you notice all the parked cars?

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I have no idea how the drivers here manage to park in such tiny spots, or even how they manage to get out of them, but they do!  It is quite something to watch.

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I pass some very interesting looking shops, but as it is Sunday they are all closed so I take some photos through the windows.  Too bad, or maybe good, as I am sure I would have found some fascinating item that I would have wanted to bring home.

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All sorts of curious and interesting things.

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This window was intriguing, especially in light of all the figure drawing I have been doing.

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I snap a couple last photos and head home to get packed and ready for my flight home tomorrow.

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Me and the Mona Lisa!

Here are my metro drawings from the last couple of days.imageimage

The Louvre, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps

I decide to go visit the Louvre again on Saturday.  This is a view of the enclosed courtyard at the east end of the building.  It is hard to comprehend just how big this museum is, it covers almost 15 acres.

DSC02417The Louvre was originally a fortress built in 1190, but it was rebuilt in the 16th century to be a royal palace which continued to be expanded over the years. The Louvre became an art museum in 1793, when Louis XIV moved to Versailles. It is now the largest museum in the world.

The Louvre contains 35,000 works of art on display, divided into eight departments: the Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Paintings and Prints and Drawings.

It is impossible to see all of this museum in one day.  Even walking through all its galleries in one day would be a challenge, never mind actually stopping to look at the art.  Many of the paintings are very large, as is The Pentecote, 1732 by Jean Restoutst.  There weren’t many people in this room so I was able to set up my little gorilla pod and take my own picture.

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It is easy to be mesmerized by the art on display but I also found it interesting to remember to look up and to look past the art work to see the palace itself. Here are some photos that remind us that the Louvre was first and foremost a royal palace, and what a palace!.

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The Apollo gallery.  I love the red walls and remembered this room from our last visit eight years ago.

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This is the Grand Gallery!  and the picture below is about halfway down this long room.  If you double click the photo to enlarge it and look closely you can just make out the statue above the heads of the people in the picture above, and then the Gallery continues way past the statue!

DSC02466In a side room off off the Grand Gallery is the painting most people come to the Louvre to see.  La Joconde, more commonly known as the Mona Lisa.

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It is behind bullet proof glass now, and is pretty much always surrounded by hordes of people, most of whom are very surprised, and sometimes disappointed,  at the rather small size of this very famous painting.

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This is Eugene Delacroix’s The Death of  Sardanapalus, just one of many familiar paintings. After seeing these paintings in my books for so many years it is wonderful to be able to stand before the actual works.  I spend about four hours here and then head off to visit a couple other Paris landmarks.

First, The Galeries Lafayette, this incredible dome is located in the main store, which has nine floors and covers an entire city block.  There are two other stores, connected by walkways, each of which also covers a city block!  This place is enormous, and very crowded with shoppers.

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A view looking down onto the perfume, makeup and fashion accessories floor.

DSC02478The shoe department covers one entire floor.  The floors are divided into ‘mini stores’ where each designer has their own displays and sales people. There are so many people shopping that the escalators are absolutely jammed with people all the time.  I find It  totally overwhelming, there is no way I would be able to shop here, and after taking a few pictures I leave.

I head down the block to Printemps, thinking that it might be a bit smaller and easier to look around.

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… but it is just as big and almost as busy. Here is the floor map of Printemps, again three stores connected by walkways, each store a city block long and wide.

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I am definitely not a shopper!  I spent less than an hour in these stores and that was more than enough for me.

I find a little sidewalk cafe and stop for a much needed meal and a pot of tea.  This mural is on the building across the street.  The guy in the corner was my very charming French waiter.

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On the way to the Metro I stop in to visit a little church, Saint-Louis D’Antin but there is a service taking place so I don’t want to walk around and just snap a photo from the entrance.  Even the small churches are very beautiful.

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Here are just a few of the goodies I saw on display today.  They look scrumptious, but not for me…  I did have one raspberry tart today at the Louvre.  It was the only time I ate something that I shouldn’t have on this trip.  It is really almost impossible to find desserts that do not have gluten, egg or dairy.  Strangely, I didn’t feel deprived, or really want to eat bread, cheese or pastries.  I know if I eat these things I don’t feel well and I think that knowledge takes away the temptation, but I did enjoy looking at the displays.

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Saint-Séverin and Shakespeare And Company

I had a good flight home, and now, the first of the promised posts of my last couple days in Paris.

I had a very nice meal at a little cafe on the left bank overlooking the Quai Montebello which is part of the road which runs along the Seine, and I had a great view of Notre Dame just across the river.  After a leisurely second pot of tea I walked along the Seine down to Pont Neuf to take a few more pictures of Notre Dame in the late afternoon sun.  I am still marvelling at the fact that I was standing on the top of the tower closest to the river.

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The road along both sides of the Seine is the home of the used book sellers. Their iconic green boxes can be seen in many paintings of Paris, especially those of the Impressionist period.   There are 900 boxes along the Seine, three kilometres of used and antique books, old magazines, manuscripts, postcards, as well as stamps, souvenirs, magnets, posters, painting reproductions and even locks for lovers to put on the Pont Neuf.

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I don’t think they should be allowed to sell locks, as the poor bridges in this area are becoming overburdened with all the locks tourists have attached to them. Lovers write their names on a lock, attach it onto the bridge and throw the key into the Seine River.   These locks are removed periodically in an attempt to prevent damage to the bridges but I saw several sections that had boards placed over areas of railing which had collapsed under the weight of thousands of locks. I don’t suppose that all the keys thrown into the river can be good for it either.DSC02277I wander along the streets looking for Shakespeare and Company, but have a hard time locating it.  Along the way I so see lots of other interesting places though.DSC02287

Another interesting art store, but it is closed so I have to be content looking through the windows.

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An interesting mix of automobiles, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles.  The guy looking back had just got honked at and one of the motorcyclists was yelling at him. I think maybe he cut someone off.  He is riding a velib bicycle, one of 20,000 bicycles you can use in Paris, after buying a daily or weekly pass, for 1.7 euros or 8 euros respectively.  The first 30 minutes of each ride are free, so you can ride, exchange your bike for another and keep doing this as often as you want.

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Another beautiful Paris building and one of the many Paris policeman directing traffic.  They love to blow their whistles, and do so very often and repeatedly

DSC02300This plaque is on a primary school wall.  It is in memory of young students who were taken by the Nazis to the death camps. I found the dried flower tucked into the ring below the plaque very touching.

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I find it interesting how the old churches are surrounded by other buildings and shops. This is Sainte-Séverin.  It is very dark inside and it has beautiful ancient and modern stained windows.

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There are a set of seven stained glass windows inspired by the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.  These two are the Wedding (with yellow tones) and the Confirmation (with red tones) designed by an artist named Jean René Bazaine in 1970.

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A view of some of the ancient windows.

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More windows and the incredible ceiling arches, and then I looked up!

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It is impossible to capture the  grandeur of these cathedrals in a photo.

DSC02334This pillar is the Twisted pillar, very unusual and quite famous.  This church was built  in the early 14th Century, and chapels along the outer aisle were added in1520.  It is one of the oldest churches on the Left Bank, and is still used for services today.

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A  mass was just starting in one of the chapels along the outer aisles while I was visiting. Because it was so dark in the church it was a bit difficult to take pictures.  This one is a bit blurry but gives an idea of the little side chapels that were completed in 1520.

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For some reason the lights on the pillars are green, which gave the place a strange eerie sort of glow.  The guy in the bottom right corner with a ladder was replacing burned out lights.

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This church is badly in need of restoration, it is very old and it shows its age.

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I am still looking for Shakespeare and Company, and pass by a little park and which contains the oldest tree in Paris.  The park it is in is closed but I do get to see this 413 year old tree from the sidewalk.  It has a cement support to help hold it up and was planted in 1601.  I think it is quite amazing that we know when and by whom a tree this old was planted.

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Success at last!  I figure out why I had such a hard time fining this place: it is right along the main road!  I thought it was a couple of blocks in so I was looking in the wrong place entirely.  Bob and I visited here last time we were in Paris and thought it was a pretty fascinating place.  It has an interesting history as it started out as a private collection of books.  Much too long a story to get into here but do look it up if you are at all curious, it is a very curious and intriguing tale.

DSC02345You are welcome to use this old typewriter or just sit and read in this room.  It has a collection of books that are not for sale, only for reading.DSC02349

There are several beds in this bookstore, including the upper bunk bed behind the curtain here.  People are still allowed to spend the night in the bookstore.  Really, do go read about all this!

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The bookstore is a maze of rooms and hallways, on two levels.

DSC02357Here is a view of the store.  Sometimes if I wait a bit I am able to take photos without list of people, but no luck here.  This is a very busy place.  It is getting late so I head for home, walk back to the Cité Metro station which is on the other end of the same island as Notre Dame.DSC02362

The cathedral is quite beautiful all lit up at night.

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Cité is one of the art Nouveau stations designed by Hector Guimard.

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This is a picture of some of the rail lines of the Dare du Nord taken form the Metro on the way home.  Do you see me?

This is a long post, but I did promise lots of pictures!

Saying Goodbye to Académie de la Grande Chaumiére

Today was the last day of drawing at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére, and I felt quite sad when I left.  I really loved the time I spent here, and this week I have had several conversations with some of the artists drawing there.  I guess it took a while for me to feel comfortable enough to do so, and today several people came and initiated conversations with me, which was really nice.  Here is ‘my spot’ in the studio

imageI came back for one final look around before heading to the Musee d’Orsay. The stools get stacked at night so the studio is ready for a painting class in the morning.

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I am really going to miss being here.  This intensive life drawing experience has convinced me that  I need to do this more than once a week when I am home.  I often  didn’t even manage to go every week, but I am determined to change that.

I made my way to the Musée d’Orsay, which used to be an old train station and now is the home to an impressive collection of art, especially the works of the Impressionists and the Post Impressionists.

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The museum is open till nine tonight so I have almost two and a half hours, which isn’t all that much time.  Two of the floors of the museum were closed for renovations, which in a way was good, as there was less to see!  There are a lot of Monet’s paintings here.  One of the things I realized as I walked around was the sheer number of paintings these artists produced, and this is just one museum, their works are in so many other museums around the world.  It shows that it is essential to actually make art if you want to get good at it.  Completing two or three pieces a year just isn’t enough to make a difference in the quality of your work.

imageimageSome of the paintings are surprisingly small and then there are those that are vey big! I managed to see most of what I was interested in, but realized I could easily spend at least a couple of days here studying the work more closely and doing some drawings as a way of studying as well.

My focus this trip was life drawing, but I am thinking that I could very easily come back and spend more time in the museums in addition to the life drawing.  Maybe one day in the not too distant future….

I discovered that it is possible to go out on the roof of the museum and take some pictures.  It was getting dark but they give an idea of the view.  Here is the Louvre across the Seine, and Sacre Couer in the distance. You can see that it is definitely on a hill!

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I asked someone to take my picture, so here I am with the Louvre behind me.

All too soon it is nine and the museum closes, so I head home.  It is late and I am busy drawing on the metro and I miss my stop!  I have to go quite a bit further to connect with a line than will take me home and it meant many more flights of stairs and a long walk, probably two blocks at least, through underground tunnels until I got to the station I needed. I counted stairs today and on the trip to the Academié there are over one hundred stairs to climb or go down, and that is just one way!  And it is also probably the least number of stairs of all the trips that I make on the metro.  No wonder there aren’t many overweight Parisians!

imageI took this picture in a mirror on a corner, (so people don’t crash into each other? ) and didn’t realize there were lines all over my face till now!  It is after midnight, so I will post the last of my drawings at the Académie tomorrow  morning when I am not so tired and there will be better light to take the pictures.

Une Belle Journée

When I was looking for an apartment in Paris I corresponded with a lady who lives in Paris. We made arrangements to meet and today was the day.  We met by the Académie de la grande Chaumiére at 11:00 and we spent the day together.  Anne-Francoise showed me her neighbourhood, and some of her favourite secret places.  We had a wonderful time together, and walked from eleven till six o’clock, with only three stops: for tea at the Jardin de Luxembourg, lunch at a sidewalk  restaurant beside a little square,

imageand then sorbet at the famous Berthillon Ice Cream Store.  We sat in their gorgeous little tea room and had the most delicious sorbet, I chose raspberry and peach and they were both delicious.

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We saw so many beautiful buildings and places and it was very interesting as Anne-Francoise was able to tell me all about them.  She is very knowledgeable about the history of Paris so I had my very own tour guide!  I tried to speak French as much as I could and she spoke English as much as she could and it was just fine.  We got along so well and we like many of the same things, so we had lots to talk about.

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This is the back of a fountain by the Palais du Luxembourg, and the next picture is the front.  I remember seeing this fountain when Bob and I were in Paris, but had no idea there was a back side to it as well. This is one of the many ‘secret places’ I was able to visit today.

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We strolled through an interesting flower market with lots of beautiful plants, flowers and garden accessories, and saw store that only sold orchids, big beautiful orchids of every colour and shape.

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We crossed the Seine several times and I took pictures of some of the many interesting bridges in Paris.

image imageThis view is looking towards the newer business area to the East.

We dashed across the middle of the street on one of the bridges so I could take this photo of Notre Dame.  I really think it is most interesting from this angle, as the flying buttresses that support the walls are visible.

imageWe walked mostly in the 4th, 5th and 6 th arrondissements, and we walked a lot, so I am very tired tonight, but a good tired.  I think maybe speaking and trying to understand so much French was a bit tiring too, but we managed to communicate quite well.

This is the St. Etiénne du Mont Church, du Mont means on a hill.   It is not vey big but is very ornate inside.  I never tire of these beautiful places of worship.  They are all so amazing.  This church took about 150 years to build!  Just imagine…..

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I thought this picture might give some idea of how popular motorcycles are here in Paris.  These were parked near the Pantheon, alongside yet another big beautiful building.

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I should have been taking notes so that I could remember the names of the buildings, I am afraid they all seem to have disappeared from my head tonight.   I thought this apartment was particularly pretty with all its matching window boxes.

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All too soon it was time to say good bye to my new friend.  It was a bit hard to do.  We had such a good time, and I don’t know when we will have another chance to spend time together.  Strange how it is possible to just meet someone yet it felt like we were friends right from our first greeting.

There is so much more I could write but I really need to get to bed.  Tomorrow will likely be my last time drawing at the Académie and I do not want to be too tired.  My days in Paris are fast coming to an end.  I fly home on Monday.

Scary Metro Ride Home

Tonight coming home on the metro about 8:00 I had an rather unsettling experience.  I could hear someone speaking very loudly and than a series of loud bangs. Soon I see what it is all about, a very large, very upset man is walking through the metro cars yelling and slamming shut all the vents at the top of the windows.  He is either drunk or deranged, perhaps a bit of both, to judge from his appearance.  He is strangely dressed with all sorts of things tied into his hair and his pants appeared to have not much of a bottom in them, his bottom was quite visible.  To make matters worse he stepped into the area between me and the passengers facing me and almost fell on the lady beside me!

I was worried he was going to stay here, but he moved on, slamming more window vents. Everyone looked a bit upset, people were looking at each other with raised eyebrows or other facial expressions that clearly showed they did not like the situation.  A few minutes later he is walking back the way he came from, still slamming windows, as some people had opened them after he passed by.  This time no one reopened the windows!

He disappeared towards the back of the train and then a whole lot more people got on, so I figured he would not be able to make his way back to where I was sitting.   This is honestly the first time in Paris that I have felt uncomfortable, or worried about a situation.  In hindsight, I think the best thing to do would have been to get off the train and wait for the next one, but I was rather shocked by the situation and didn’t think of this until after it was all over.

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I did do some drawing on the metro today, but wasn’t able to do any after this incident.  I actually got a terrible headache, just the stress of it all I guess.

Then when I arrive at the metro station at the end of my street there are a whole lot of metro security and they are in a semi-circle around a man who is wearing an old jacket that says ‘Security’ on the back.  He has a very big muscular doberman and it appears that he wants to take the dog on the metro?  Not exactly sure, but the dog is wearing a muzzle and he is getting agitated, as is the man, who appears to be trying to explain something to the metro police.  The man ties the dog to the exit booth, so the metro people have to open a special gate so people don’t have to go through the booth.

I decide that I need to get home and shut the door on all this!  I even checked the internet to see if it is a full moon, but it isn’t, so can’t blame it on that.

There is a soccer match on tonight that Paris is playing in and they appear to be winning as there is a lot of cheering and noise periodically.  I couldn’t figure out what all the noise was about but when I went out to get a few groceries I saw a bunch of men standing outside and inside the cafe on the corner.  I go see what they are watching on TV,  turns put to be soccer, and I ask who is playing.  A man tells me, and says Paris was up by two points.  That was almost an hour ago and there is still lots of noise every now and then so I assume they are still in the lead.

Anyways… I attended two life drawing sessions today and then went for drinks with my two new friends and met a friend of theirs as well.  This gentleman is an American who came to visit Paris with his wife for three months and is still here, more than a decade later.  That seems to happen to people when they visit this city!

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Here are a few of my drawings from today.  The first model was older, probably at least my age, and very thin, so interesting to draw.

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I could see bones and musculature very clearly, so I concentrated on trying to sort those things out, especially in the neck and collarbone area, trying to sort out the shapes and shadows in this area.  They are over emphasized a bit in these drawings but I was concentrating on a study of bones and muscles.  This model was wonderful for that.

 

Our second model was rather voluptuous, so quite a contrast from the first session.

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Sorry for the long rant about the trip home, I think I just needed to talk about it.  Thanks for listening.

 

Sublime to Strange

Earlier this trip I visited Giverny, so I really wanted to see Monet’s water lily paintings.  The metro stopped at the Concorde Station, which has walls covered with the text of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, one letter per tile, no punctuation or spacing between words.  I knew about this see this, but wasn’t sure where it was located, so it was a nice surprise to find it completely by accident.

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I headed off to the Orangerie today and although there was a bit of a line it only took about half an hour before I was inside.  I was going to have a cup of tea and a bite to eat before taking a look at everything but was surprised to find that there were no facilities here for eating, or even getting a tea or coffee, so I was out of luck.

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There was a special exhibit of Emile Bernard’s work so I headed there first.  No photographs allowed in here, but there were eight rooms of his work and it was an excellent collection.

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The permanent collection also featured Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Modigliani, Derain,  Laurencin, Rousseau, Utrillo and Soutine.  Unfortunately most of the Modigliani’s were not available for viewing today.  There was  a hallway full of Renoirs!

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Some of Picasso,s earlier works.  The Orangerie isn’t a huge place but it still took a while to see everything, and then I went to view Les Nymphéas.  No photos in here either.  I tried a sketch to get a feel of the size of these paintings but it wasn’t very successful, so I sneaked a photo from the entry to one of the two galleries. I am going to have to practice some architectural drawings, not having much success with them at all.

imageMonet designed these galleries himself and I couldn’t imagine these paintings  displayed any other way.  I knew they were huge works and I have a beautiful book at home with great close up views of the paintings but I was certainly not prepared for the impact of actually being in their presence.  There are seats in the centre of each gallery to sit and contemplate, and I certainly did that.  This a monumental work.  I could picture Monet painting these canvases, and there are so many layers of paint that the surface of the paintings are actually quite heavily textured.  Looking into the layers of paint was much like looking into the dark reflective waters of lily pond at Monet’s Giverny.

I planned on going to the Louvre for of a couple of hours but on the way there were a lot of people milling about near some big white tents.  So I went to see what it was all about.

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This is Fashion week in Paris, a very big event, and a fashion show had just ended.   The attendees were leaving and posing for photos.  There are photographers with huge lenses everywhere, it was rather chaotic and surreal.

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I have no idea who the lady in the black coat is, but she generated a lot of attention and was pretty much mobbed by professional looking  photographers who seemed very pleased to have taken photos of her.

There were the certainly lots of very beautiful people and then there were some rather strangely dressed people as well.

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And, perhaps one of the strangest of all!  He posed for a lot of pictures and seemed very pleased with himself.

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By the time the crowd was thinning out it was too late for the Louvre, so I found a cafe in the Jardin des Tuileries and ordered a salad and a pot of tea.

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It was good, but it was also 21€, which is thirty dollars Canadian!  Having my own little kitchen and preparing meals has certainly saved me some money!

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Stopped for one last photo on the way home beside one of the dozens of big tents erected for Fashion Week.

Parc Des Buttes Chaumont, Organ Recital and the Marais

This morning was slow and relaxed as I was a bit tired after yesterday’s drawing class and the evening at the ballet. I finally got myself out the door after noon and set out to walk to the Parc Des Buttes Chaumont which is a 25 hectare park in the 19th arrondissement. imageIt is a beautiful place, and although it has many man made features this park does not feel as though it is in the city. Most of Paris’ parks are carefully manicured, laid out geometrically and have paved or gravel surfaces with benches or chairs. There are not many parks that actually allow people to walk or sit on the grass, which I found strange at first, but when I once I thought about the density of population in this city and realized how many people use the parks I realized that this is a necessity, or the grass would be trampled and dead.

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The Parc des Buttes Chaumont, however, is a  park that welcomes people onto its many grassy hills. There were lots of people out enjoying the warm day. I saw everyone from individuals relaxing, sleeping, reading, or playing the guitar, couples having a romantic picnic complete with a bottle of favourite wine, families enjoying the sun with their children to large gatherings of family and friends, sharing a meal and visiting in the sunshine.

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Because it was once a quarry there were lots of hills to climb, including one up to a ancient looking little structure on an island which is also the highest point in the park where it’s main attraction can be found, the Temple de la Sibylle, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy.

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Sacré Coeuer is visible in the distance from here and there is quite a good view.  If you are interested, Wikipedia has a very interesting write up about the history and construction of the park.

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There are also a couple waterfalls, and a swinging bridge that crosses the man made lake to the island, and lots of flower beds which have signs describing what is planted in each bed. I spent a couple very pleasant hours wandering about and then decided that I should go to St Sulpice for an organ concert at 4:00.  The organist was from Thomas Dahl, from Hambourg and the music was incredible.

imageI sat with two Susan’s, one from California and one from Newfoundland who were two friends spending a week together in Paris. They had both been to Edmonton and St. Albert, which was rather surprising.

imageThey were sitting in a special area with comfy red cushions and they made room for me to sit beside them. It was much more comfortable than the chairs that are used for the congregation and guests visiting the church. I was sitting in the raised box at the back of this picture, right in front of where the white statue is located.

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The concert was about an hour long and I tried to draw part of the cathedral while I listened to the music, but was not very successful. I think buildings are more difficult to draw than people. At one time you were allowed up the stairs to watch the organist playing but this is no longer allowed due to security measures. A pity…

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Next stop was the Marais. This was the area where I had first reserved an apartment, it was behind the red door in this picture, but the reservation was canceled because one of the neighbours was having some ‘mental’ problems and the owner was not comfortable renting her place until things got settled. I actually think that I like the area I am in better. It is further out, but it is a real Parisian neighbourhood.

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The Marais has become a tourist attraction, lots of shops and bars and tourists everywhere. I went into one store and the clerk didn’t even look up when I entered. In ‘my neighbourhood’, I am greeted with Bonjour madam, and a smile.

imageThe Marais has also become a centre for gay tourists and residents, which made for some interesting sights.
imageI made a friend though.  This little girl ran away for her mother, whose arms were full of groceries.  I stopped her and told her to go back to her mother, and actually did this in french without thinking too much about it at all!  She ran back to her mom but turned around to look at me, so I waved to her.  We then played peek a boo and waved to each other for several minutes.

I headed home for supper and a FaceTime chat with my son at eight. I must say that I love how easy it is to stay connected with family and friends while travelling.

Montparnasse Cemetery and the Catacombes

An interesting day but also a day of of reflection.  I walked to the Gare de l’Est and caught the number 38 bus which took me all the way across Paris to Denfert Rochereau area.  This is a bit past where I go to draw and is the location of the Paris Catacombs.  There was a very long line, down the block and around the corner.  I ask one of the attendants, in French, if the line is better in the afternoon, and he tells me to that 4:00 is good so I decide to go visit the Montparnasse Cemetery first.

It is smaller than Pére Lachaise, where Bob and I visited several years ago, but it is still very large.  I spent a couple of hours just wandering about, taking lots of pictures.  I was hoping for angel pictures but there were very few angel statues.  That kind of surprised me.

imageThe cemetery is such a mix of old and new.  There are lots of the little house like structures that are very old, and sometimes right beside one of these there will be a modern tomb, where someone was very recently buried.

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There was a funeral today, the hearse driving slowly down one of the cemetery roads with a very old man in the passenger seat, and the mourners all walk following the hearse.  I wondered if it was his wife that died?

imageIt actually was the small personal touches that affected me the most.  A group of angel figurines on the tomb of a young boy named Luca who was only here for eight years, and flowers left on a tomb, even though the last person buried there was in the early 1900’s.

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I wonder about the ‘sepultures’, the little houses, some of them are so old that their doors are rusted shut, and the insides have not been cared for in many many years.  Who still has the keys to all these doors?  Does anyone come to visit anymore?  I wonder about the stories behind these tombs.

imageMany of the tombs or sepultures have several people interred in them, quite a few I saw had ten or twelve plaques with names and dates.  These tombs have been in families for hundreds of years.   There is no grass here, the plots are side by side with just enough room to walk between them, just as densely populated as the rest of Paris!  Some of the tombs are so old they have moss growing on the them and their words have been obliterated by time.

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I look for the tombs of some famous people, but no luck other than this one.  I tried to find Brancusi’s but it just wasn’t where it was supposed to be!

I had a bit of a picnic here, some tea and snacks and sat for a little while.  I saw a young man enter the cemetery carrying a big bouquet of white flowers. He stopped to fill a watering can and then headed down one of the cemetery roads.  Was he going to visit the grave of his wife, or mother, or perhaps even a son or daughter?  Seeing him made me feel quite emotional.  Cemeteries tend to put one in a pensive mood.

But then there were the tombstones that made me laugh!

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The only inscription was ” Il fait son choix d’une anchois et dine d’une sardine”. And was signed Berdal.  As near as I can make out, something like ” He made his choice of anchovies and dined on a sardine” The really funny part was when I walked around  to the other side to see if there was anything else written.  What does this look like to you?  I know I have been drawing the nude model a lot, but am I the only one who sees breasts?

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This one was quite strange.

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And then there was this fellow in bed with his wife and child!

I headed over to the Catacombes around three but there was still a long line so I wandered up and down a few streets, just looking at all the shops and people.  I have no urge to actually do any shopping, peering in windows Is quite adequate, at least for now.

I decide to get in line at 4:00, and although the line is considerably shorter than it was at noon it still takes 45 minutes before I am at the entrance.  I chat with a couple of guys from Georgia, who are visiting Paris for a birthday as well, while waiting and the time passes fairly quickly.

It is pretty hard to describe the Catacombes.  After walking down 130 steps and through long galleries I reach the ossuary.

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Although I had seen pictures and read a bit about the Catacombes, they really didn’t prepare me for the actuality of corridor after corridor and room after room of human bones, stacked on all sides, deep beneath the streets of Paris.

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I used a an attendant’s chair to take this photo.

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A barrel shaped pillar made of bones.

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Over 150 cemeteries in Paris and the surrounding areas were emptied and the bones brought here.  At first they were just dumped in huge piles, up to 11 meters high but they were later organized into the displays I saw today.

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There are the bones of over six million people in these catacombes.  I spent almost an hour and a half walking past their remains.  It was impossible to not be deeply affected.  We all die sooner or later, it is one of life’s few certainties. Of course I realize that, but seeing the physical remains of six million individuals was staggering.  I think that is something I kept thinking about, that these are not just piles of bones, they were people with families and they each had a story, a life.  Now they are a tourist attraction.

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Most people were very quiet and respectful but of course there are always some who are not.  I even overheard one girl ask her friend if he had pen as she wanted to write her name on the wall, hard to believe how some people think.  Luckily he didn’t have one, although there was some graffiti written on a few skulls….

On  the way hime saw more metro police.  Not sure if something has been happening.  I didn’t see any of these police the first ten days or so I was here, but have been seeing groups of three or four and up to ten at a time every day since then.

 

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I am really quite tired tonight, both physically and emotionally as well.  I didn’t get home until after 8:00, it was a good day, just a different one.  This ended up being a very long post, but considering I took over 250 photos today it was hard to whittle it down.

imageI also managed to get some drawing done today, I drew people on the metro.  It is a challenge, usually there are just a couple of minutes to try to get them on paper, they are often moving and sometimes my subject gets up and leaves just after I begin to draw!

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