Monday, January 31, 2011

Academic Interlude

How to Tell if Your Professor is Really A Bond Villain

1) He teaches Political Science. This is obviously part of his cunning plan to take over the world.
2) He wears a black turtleneck. Every. Single. Day.
3) He has a mysterious accent that cannot be tied to any specific country or region
4) His name is Dr. Lovelace.

'Nuff said.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day Eight: The d'Orsay

Day Eight: The d'Orsay
Jan. 7th 2011

Well I'm home, as I'm sure most of you have figured out by now. Sorry for the delay, I'm doing my best to catch up on these. Only a few days to go!

This one should actually be pretty easy because I have absolutely no pictures to show you from the d'Orsay. Why? The museum simply doesn't allow it. In retrospect, I probably could have snapped a few here and there without being noticed, but I really didn't want to get yelled at by museum security. And did I mention the soldiers carrying uzis at every national monument? Ok, so the d'Orsay wasn't really important enough to merit an armed guard, but Dad seems to think that the French police regard Javert as their patron saint and that's enough for me to be wary.

That being said, the d'Orsay is absolutely gorgeous and pictures probably wouldn't have done it justice anyway. Well...maybe a little. Here's the website: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html so you can ooo and ahhh to your heart's content.

The d'Orsay is a very specialized museum in that it only covers a specific time period. The works of art range from 1848 to 1914. What we're dealing with here is a basically the impressionist period. There's a bunch of Renoir, a shit ton of Degas, and more Monet than you could shake a water lily at. Speaking of Degas, I was never a huge fan until I actually saw his works in person. Up until then it was always, "Yeah, ok, we know you have a ballerina fetish. Yes, they're very pretty. No, of course I'm not implying anything."

I didn't fully appreciate Degas until I saw his work up close. Pastels are something you really have to see in person. A photograph in a book or on the internet just can't convey the same texture and shading as the real thing. And like everything else in the museum, these pastels were fucking gorgeous.

But my favorite part of the entire museum has to be the the decorative arts. Let me start by saying that I love art nouveau. I love it so much I want to marry it. It is my wish to have my entire house remodeled in that style in the event that I become an eccentric millionaire. As it turns out, the d'Orsay has several art nouveau furnishings on display. I just had to be careful not to drool all over them.

Now, I'm going to post a link here for you to look at. Just go and stare at it in appreciation for a good ten minutes or so. It's ok, I'll see be here when you get back.


Is that not the most beautiful room you have ever seen? Is it not just exquisite? You want me to come up with more adjectives to describe this piece of art, but I can't. I'm too busy staring at the majesty of it all.

As I gazed into the loveliness of this room and struggled not to just stand there with my jaw hanging open, it suddenly dawned on me that this must be where the people who worked on the visuals and sets for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings got their inspiration. I dare you to look at that room and tell me it doesn't remind you of Rivendell. No wonder I'm so in love with the art nouveau style.

Somehow we managed to spend the whole day in a museum that was actually fairly small. We moved very slowly, appreciating each individual piece of art until we eventually found ourselves in the museum tea room where I had some of the best earl grey ever and a delightful salmon salad.

Next time: Rodin's house

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day Seven: Le Louvre

Day Seven: Le Louvre
Jan. 6 2011

Today Timmy went to the Louvre. See?

That pyramid thingy is the entrance. Don't ask me why, cause I don't know.

It was a cold and grey day but luckily Dad and I had our raincoats. Timmy stayed in my purse for the most part while we waited in line. You guys see this?


Yeah. That was the line. I have come to conclusion that Paris is basically just Disneyland for the haute couture.

So we waited outside for a while, which wasn't too bad as it wasn't raining very hard and I got to stare at this giant gorgeous building around me. The Louvre palace used to be the residence of the French monarchy until Louis the XIV up and moved everything to Versailles. As far as I know, the building was still used as government offices until the revolution and Napoleon III was the last person to live there. As with other French national monuments I've noticed, soldiers with uzis were on standby to deter any would be terrorists.

Once we made it to the pyramid they xrayed my purse and we went down an escalator into the main lobby which springs off into three wings. Dad and I decided to start on the medieval level. Somewhere along the way we saw this.

No...Jewish photographers? OH! Oh, no flash. Riiiight, gotcha.

We got to see original foundations of the fortress. That was neat. For some reason they had all this modern art crap in the same area. I hate when they mix periods/genres like that. Drives me freaking nuts.
Here's Timmy in front of a model of the original fortress.

After that we wound our way over to the Greek and Roman relics where Timmy made friends with the Venus de Milo.
Heya, toots.

And now here's something people rarely see in their lifetimes...the backside of Venus.

Nice tokus

But my favorite part of the Louvre was probably the objects d'art and the apartments of Napoleon III. These are some niiiiiiice digs, people.

I like taking pictures of mirrors...


Now this is a dining room. I think somebody finally beat my grandmother's Christmas table.


Here we have the parlor

Timmy approves of the decor.

Speaking of Timmy, guess who got lost in the Louvre? Yes, that's right. Timmy got lost and I nearly had a fucking heart attack. It happened when Dad and I were looking around the Mesopotamian exhibit. I reached into my purse so I could take a picture of Timmy in front of a giant sphinx when I suddenly realized he wasn't there. Panicked, I turned to my father.

"Dad, Timmy's gone."

Dad looked just as alarmed as I was. "Don't even joke about that."

I hurriedly walked back to the previous room and retraced my steps around the corner and back to the stairs we'd walked down earlier and found Timmy sitting on one of the steps. I snatched him up and just held him in my hands for a good five minutes to reassure myself that he wasn't going anywhere. Timmy remained buried deep in my purse for the rest of our visit unless he was needed for pictures. Needless to say, Timmy was grounded for the rest of the day and did not get any pastries.

And now it's time to play the caption game. This is where Dad and I take a famous or not so famous work of art and add a caption to it to make it more interesting. Ready? Go!

I been here five years! They only hung me the right way up yesterday!

C'mon, guys! We got the hookers for the whole night!

And I will hug him, and squeeze him, and pet him and name him George.

Does this horse make my ass look big?

Jesus, I'd go blind painting in all those numbers...

Ahhhhhgod! I found Edward Cullen! KILL IT! Kill it with a stick!


And now what you've all been waiting for, the piece de resistance, the Mona Lisa herself!


Well, sorta.

That's Dad working his way toward the Mona Lisa. They only let you get about seven feet away from her and there's always a crowd of gawkers ooing and ahhing over a piece of art they can barely make out the detail on.

I will say this, though: finding the Mona Lisa was really easy. Unlike Pere Lachaise, there were signs everywhere saying, "This way to the Mona Lisa!" with handy little arrows pointing which direction to go. Why couldn't they do that for Jim Morrison's grave? The least they could do is tie some helium balloons to the tree so you know where the party is.

I finally worked my way through the crowd and got Timmy up to the front. Here you are.

Say "cheese," Timmy!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day Six: Pere Lachaise

Day Six: Pere Lachaise
Jan. 5 2011

It was actually sunny today so Dad thought it would be a good day to visit the cemetery. I had to visit Oscar Wilde at some point while I was in Paris and Mom had asked me to pay her respects to Jim Morrison. So we took Le Metro to Pere Lachaise.

The Metro is kinda cool because it runs on rubber tires so it's quieter and bouncier than BART. There are also more trains so you don't have to wait very long. There used to be first class seating on the train but now it's like any other public transit--everbody climbs aboard and holds on to something. One thing's for sure though, the beggars in the Paris metro are very persistent and are willing to risk bodily injury for a couple euro. We saw one guy hang onto the outside of the train as it was leaving just so he could get a euro from someone inside. Crazy!

Anywho, we finally arrived at Pere Lachaise several stops later and walked right into the cemetery without stopping at the entrance to get a map. Bad move. We then got lost looking for Jim Morrison's grave. How could we get lost in a cemetery, you may ask? Just look at this place.

Now this is what you call a necropolis

Jesus o.o

I did manage to get some rather nice pictures along the way though.

It's all very pretty actually, in a gothic kind of way

Spooky

Oh, and apparently Pere Lachaise is guarded by cats.

Hey, Cat! Do you know where Jim Morrison is?

Laissez-moi! Fucking tourists...

I think we walked all the way around to the other side of the cemetery before we finally found another map. I took a picture of it this time, goddammit. We went back to where we started and tried again.

Dad started making remarks about tying party balloons to the gravestone so other poor travelers wouldn't get lost like we did. We paid closer attention to the street signs this time and found this clue written on a nearby bench.


We found the plot where Morrison was buried and did a circle around it before we realized he must be somewhere in the middle. So we walked carefully between the graves until we found a small flock of groupies clustered around what had to be Morrison's grave. Turned out it was.

Tada!

Huh...I don't know about you guys, but I'm not that impressed. Dad though, did not pass up his chance to lean over the railing (did I mention that there was a railing? There was a railing) and put in his two cents. "Just for the record, you weren't that good." He then added, "You were good, but not Pere Lachaise good."

There was also this nearby tree that everyone wrote on. You can see some of the railing behind it.

And now you will all have that song stuck in your head. You're welcome

After successfully locating Jim Morrison (finally) we set off to find Oscar Wilde. I'm an English/History major, you see, so I was kind of obligated to stop by. I'm pretty sure it's a rule.

On the way there we ran into Marcel Marceau's grave--zee famous French mime. Dad and I stared at it for a minute until Dad leaned over and said, "Best 'man trapped in a box' evar." Yes, it's true. My father has no respect for the dead.

So we kept on heading in the direction of Oscar Wilde's grave. This time we looked at the map and actually made it to the general area where Oscar was supposed to be...and then got lost.

I think I got the number wrong and we kept wandering around a huge plot with much more recent graves until Dad finally said, "Hey, let's look over there where all the old stuff is." The next plot over looked a lot more aged and it wasn't long before we found another small group of people clustered around what I recognized as Oscar Wilde's grave. At least this time we were in the right area and I actually knew what the gravestone looked like beforehand.

So without any further ado, allow me to present the man himself, Oscar Wilde! Wait...what's all that stuff on his headstone?

Kindly ignore the small child

Oh my god, that's a lot of smoochies o.o Had I know I would have brought my lipstick. How many of those do you think are women anyway?

So, with my quest now fulfilled, Dad and I got back on the Metro and took the train up to Montmartre so Dad could walk through hippie land. You have to remember that Montmartre at the height of the Bohemian era was basically the first hippie commune. Let the good times roll, baby.

We went to this tiny museum that had a lot of Toulouse Lautrec stuff and Bohemian memorabilia.

Look! Stuff!

Oooo china

And a shot of Timmy outside the museum with Dad in the background

I bought more souvenirs while we were there. Though try as I might, I could not find a shirt that said, "I froze my ass off in Montmartre and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day Five: Fucking Tourists

Day Five: Notre Dame Part Deux
Jan. 4th 2011

Today I dragged Dad all the way up the towers of Notre Dame. It was literally freezing outside and we stood in a long line that stretched all the way down the block just to climb what seemed like an endless spiral staircase of doom. An endless spiral staircase that you have to pay money for the privilege of climbing. Dad and I were able to use our museum passes to get in.

It was so cold that I nearly chickened out just as we were getting to the front of the line. My toes started hurting as I fidgeted to keep the blood circulating and I started to wonder if I was getting hypothermia and would need to have my toes amputated to save the rest of my legs. Dad kept encouraging me to hold out just a little longer until we finally made it inside.

There was a gift shop a couple flights up where we stopped to buy souvenirs before going up the rest of the way. My breathing was pretty ok, but at one point I was sure my quads were going to give out and I'd have to be dragged back down the tower. I think Dad was feeling the same way.

The stairs became narrower and more worn as we reached the top and I was extremely glad that Mom had rubber soles put on my boots for Christmas. Each step was worn down from centuries of climbing so that it curved in the middle. Someone was nice enough to install a railing, however, which made the journey slightly less treacherous.

Just as I thought I wouldn't be able to climb any further, the stairs ended and we reached the top. Finally, I had completed my quest. Now that I made it to the top, I had a job to do. I had to find...this guy.
Fucking tourists...

Mom and Dad took this same picture about 20 years ago and now I have finally duplicated it. As always, Timmy was there to lend a hand.

This was as much of Timmy's safety as I was willing to risk

Here are a few more of my favorite gargoyles.

This one reminds me of my doggies

Chicken is made of what?!?

I swear this one is Rob

Oh, and we also got to see the bell.

Here is the entrance

The bell

And the view looking up into the tower

Dad thought we'd go to the archaeological crypt under Notre Dame when we finally made our way back down the staircase. They have ruins down there dating back to the Romans. Much like Ankh-Morpork, most of Paris is built on Paris.


I took a lot more pictures of the ruins, but I figure you guys are probably tired of staring at bits of rock. On to the food!

From left to right: bouche noel, macarons, apple tartes, and an almond galette. Behind Timmy is a bottle of apple cider. Omnomnom

Yeah, that was pretty much our dinner. Dad just pointed out that if only the French had been able to hang onto all of Canada and not just Montreal we would have fabulous French food just across the border...le sigh

Day Four: The Latin Quarter

Day Four: The Latin Quarter
Jan. 3rd 20100

Morning comes slowly in Paris due to the buildings blocking the sun. I'm sure the fact that it is winter also had something to do with it.

This is the view from the balcony of our hotel room.

Bonjour, Timmy!

Today I ate the best ham sandwich I have ever had in my entire life. It had a fried egg on top and was broiled and covered in gruyere. Omfg. My taste buds thought they’d died and gone to heaven. I also had French hot chocolate for the first time and I may be forming an addiction. They serve it to you as a pitcher of steamed milk and a small container of melted chocolate with a few packets of sugar. You then mix it to your preference of chocolate and sweetness.

After that we walked over to Notre Dame where Dad made me cover my head with my scarf to go inside because he’s all Old World like that. Just for the record, I was the only woman with her head covered, though there was a sign outside asking men to take off their hats. At some point when Timmy and I are feeling more fit we will climb up to see the gargoyles.


Impressive, non?

There is also a society of mutes that hang out around Notre Dame trying to get you to read their mission statement and donate money. There are a lot of them so I learned how to say “merci, no” pretty quick. Here are some more pictures of the inside.

Dad lighting a candle

Mary looking pretty good after giving birth without an epidural.

Pretty

Scroooooooge...
Ok, not really

After Notre Dame we walked over to the Musée de Cluny, which houses the unicorn tapestries and a great deal of medieval things. Part of the museum is built on Roman ruins that are still standing, which kind of makes my internal history major turn into a mass of gaping, awe-filled jelly. I kept wanting to touch everything, but didn’t because I know better. Part of the ruins you could touch, like the walls and the stairs. I may have laid hands on those more than once…

Without further ado, here are some pictures from the Cluny.

Outside courtyard. If I remember right, the Cluny was a Roman villa which was later converted into an abbey and then converted into a museum.

Wall detail of scallop shells

Well in the courtyard

Part of the Roman ruins inside the Cluny

Hey, I found someone with hair longer than mine!

The frigidarium where more artifacts are kept

I found a Cernnunos!

The unicorn tapestries. These are kept in low light to preserve the fabric. Let me also state that they are huuuuuuge and the detail is just astounding. The only way to fully appreciate them is to see them in person.

Medieval fireplace

Armor and weaponry. I know some of it is supposed to go on the horse, but don't ask me where.

Later we walked over to the Conciergerie and saw where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned. It's really spooky when you realize that you're walking through the same place where hundreds of prisoners were kept before they were guillotined.

Fun fact: I was born on the same day Charlotte Corday was executed. Neat, huh?

This is where people would have been led out to the guillotine. Dad looks rather cheerful.

The Hall of the Guards, normally an empty room according to Dad, was filled with all this neat film memorabilia.
I may have watched part of that on youtube.

Have I mentioned what a beautiful space this is?

Film set from Jeanne d'Arc.

Oooooo...

I want this dres, plz.

We walked around some more after that and Dad bought me a crepe ^.^ I got nutella and Dad had sucre et canelle (sugar and cinnamon). It is now official btw that crepes > churros.

The ham sandwich I had for breakfast kept me full for lunch so we stopped at a Chinese/Japanese restaurant and picked up some cheap pre packaged sushi for a snack back at the hotel. It actually turned out to be slightly better than what you usually find prepackaged stateside.

After a little nap Dad took me to a nice casual restaurant he's been to many times before. We each had a three course meal. I had steamed mussels in a white wine sauce for starters, roast chicken with green beans and french fries, and an upside down apple tarte for dessert. Dad had a niciose salad, steak (also served with green beans and pommes frites), and profiteroles drenched in chocolate for dessert. I can definitely say that I have yet to eat something I don't like.