Dec 302011
Musée d’Orsay, October 2009

One of several big clocks at the Orsay (a former train station), this one is over the entrance.

Clock at Musée d’Orsay

I rediscovered this picture while looking back in my files for images relating to the Orsay’s new photo policy.  This was shot in 2009.  The museum now believes that allowing normal people to produce images like this is too disruptive, probably not dignified, and ultimately harms the museum.

The camera was a Leica M8, and the lens was the incredibly sharp Zeiss 25mm f/2.8.  Shot at ISO 320 and 1/45 second exposure.

Nov 272011

27 November 2011 — Last Day

Cité Metro Station

This is an interesting piece of engineering.  These photos were taken inside what is essentially a big underground steel tank that the tracks pass through.  The station serves Île de la Cité — the island where Notre Dame Cathedral is located.

Cité Metro Station

Another view of the Cité Metro Station, with a train arriving

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral

Looking towards the organ

Around Île de la Cité

"Love Locks" on the Port Archeveche Bridge

An American group performs on the St. Louis Bridge

Looking into the chamber at the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation -- in memory of over 200,000 people deported from France by the Nazis.

A last view of Notre Dame Cathedral and Île de la Cité

[All photos in this posting taken with a Fujifilm X10 camera.]

Nov 262011

26 November 2011 — Musee Rodin

A return to this gem of a museum and grounds.

The Hotel Biron is the centerpiece, housing almost 300 pieces of art from Rodin’s collection — including a trio of Van Goghs.

Hotel Biron and the grounds (Fujifilm X100)

On the grounds (Fujifilm X100)

Detail of "Pierre de Wissant Naked Figure" (Fujifilm X10)

Outside looking in... (Fujifilm X100)

...And inside looking out. "Paolo and Francesca in the Clouds" (Fujifilm X10)

Two busts of "The Man with the Broken Nose" (Fujifilm X10)

Statue merges with visitors (Fujifilm X100)

Self portrait -- lower right corner of the mirror. (Fujifilm X100)

Outside, a tradition of leaving the admission stickers on posts and poles.

The Louvre

Almost too big.

Ascent to the "Winged Victory of Samothrace" (Fujifilm X100)

The mob in front of the Mona Lisa (Fujifilm X10)

Nov 242011
24 November 2011

Actually arrived on the 23rd, but arrival days are recovery days.  Of note from the arriving flight:  (1) The White Cliffs of Dover really are white in the morning sunlight (sorry, but no picture), and (2) that ugly green de-icing stuff (from Toronto) sticks.

Green De-Icing Goop…

First Stop was the Musee d’Orsay.  One of my favorite museums, but recently saddled with a rather unfortunate “No Photography” policy. This is baffling.  I’m not convinced that the museum management is in touch with visitors and the 21st century — and how visitors interact with museums these days.

There are a few places where it seems to be tolerated, most notably behind one of the two big clocks that face the Seine.

Photos at one of the d’Orsay’s clocks

Oct 272009

Heading home — So some closing comments:

Paris Museum Pass: Extremely handy.  They come in different denominations (days).  It doesn’t “start” until your first visit, and you can re-visit a museum or site any number of times within the span of days for your pass.

Metro/Bus/RER Passes and Carnet: I was going to get a Paris Visite multi-day pass, but usually started my days walking, and then taking the Metro back to the hotel on a single journey ticket.  I finally did get a carnet (10 tickets) but ended up carrying 4 unused ones home.  Your ticket is read when you board a bus or enter a station — keep it with you throughout your journey in case an inspector asks for it.  The RAPT web site has good information.

Pass Bundlers: Some services will bundle the Paris Museum Pass and the Paris Visite pass and either mail it to your home, or deliver it to your hotel.  However, they charge a hefty fee for the service.

Hotel: I stayed at the Best Western Hotel Eiffel Segur.  Small but clean rooms.  Close to two metro stations.  A little market diagonally across the street, and a convenience store a block away next to the Midas Muffler shop.  The room was booked through Expedia.

Airport Transportation: I didn’t want to use the Metro or the RER lugging my suitcase. camera case, and knapsack.  It makes you a “mark”, and with a case full of Leica gear, represents a pretty good chunk of money.  Taxis are expensive from CDG, so I booked a door-to-door shuttle in advance.  I used Paris Airport Shuttle.  The total cost for both trips was 54 Euros.  The confirmation e-mail is very detailed and gives you a toll-free number to call after you land at CDG.

Oct 262009

Thought I’d drop by the Eiffel Tower this morning and see what was happening.

How about a mob of people?  It didn’t take much internal argument to figure out hanging around for a couple of hours in line just for the first elevator ride was not going to be a productive use of my leisure time.

As I arrived, a group of trinket sellers and some of the Roma women were hightailing it out of the crowd of tourists as a couple of police officers on bikes rode through.

Under the Eiffel Tower

This shot barely gives an impression of the crowds, likely made worse because one of the four pillars was shut down — the tower is undergoing its once-every-seven-years repainting.  The Roma woman (foreground, long dress, left side of frame) approaches targets with a piece of paper and asks if you speak English.  This is to get you distracted, get you to reveal where your cash is, etc.  I gave an oddly accented “No Ainglesh” to the first one I encountered and she moved right on.  The second one got a fully Americanized “F___ Off” from me, and I got an equally clear “F___ Off” in response — but she did keep moving.

Eiffel Tower

The mandatory Eiffel Tower shot.  A little later, the Leica-toting Japanese guy and I traded shooting positions, and I did the tourist shot for Japanese girl.  An Italian guy insisted that the picture I took of him with his camera be just right — which included making a redo.

What turned out to be the last stop of the day was the Luxembourg Gardens.  I arrived around noon after picking up a bag of Vietnamese Oolong tea at a little shop I spotted on the way from the Metro.  It was a beautiful midday, and being a Monday, the crowds were moderate.  These are the gardens of the French Senate, which meets in the Luxembourg Palace.

Luxembourg Gardens

And those chairs?  I have no idea how many hundred there are.  Most are straight back, but a fair percentage are kinda slouching.  People group them, single them, read, sleep, eat lunch, visit, etc.  I grabbed one of the slouch models — and proceeded to take a nap in the sun.  Much better use of my time than waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower.

Medici Fountain

The Medici Fountain.  There are sculptures all through the gardens, activities for kids (puppets, rental model sailboats, play areas), tennis and basketball courts, and specified lawns where you can sit on the grass (sounds regulated, but it does allow the grass areas to be cycled).

Other Observations:

  • The only place I saw police “on the ground” were the two bicycle cops under the Eiffel Tower, and a pair of officers on foot (one with a FAMAS rifle) at the Louvre.  I didn’t see one uniformed officer in the Metro.  At the Eiffel tower and the Louvre there were also 3-person military patrols (two with FAMASs and the senior member following), but they don’t bother with crime…The trinket sellers, pickpockets, and Roma women pay them little notice.
  • Both the Mini and the Fiat 500 are contemporary “comeback” cars.  The originals (the Mini-Cooper and the “Cinquecento”) are rarely seen in the U.S., though my family won a Fiat 500 in a raffle and several friends have had the original Mini.  It’s only in Europe where you are likely to see them all together.  Then you realize how tiny the originals were.  The current Mini is really a “Midi” — and the Fiat 500 is a 500 in name only.
Oct 252009

Today started across the street from Saturday’s first stop.  The Musee Rodin is a nice place to visit — almost a refuge.  The Hotel Biron, though a little frayed around the edges, has two floors of sculture, some paintings (including some Van Goghs).  Small wonder the floors are creaky and show patches, when you consider the amount of bronze, marble, and plaster.  The free museum guide is well done and concise.

The Gardens of Musee Rodin and the Hotel Biron
The Gardens of Musee Rodin and the Hotel Biron

The grounds are peaceful and well maintained, though I expect that on nice spring and summer weekends it can get crowded.

Rodin:  Jean de Fiennes
Rodin: Jean de Fiennes

Bronze works are distributed around the grounds and there are even free telescopes so you can closely examine the details of his famous doors “The Gates of Hell”.

The next stop was the other part of FIAC 2009, taking place in a temporary building erected in the Cour Carree de Louvre.  For those who have been to the Louvre, that’s the courtyard to the east of the Pyramid.

For FIAC, a temporary building in the Cour Caree du Louvre
For FIAC, a temporary building in the Cour Caree du Louvre

I didn’t find as much to like with this collection of galleries and artists.  One guy was eyeing my Leica, though…At least I think that’s where he was looking.  His wife finally dragged him away.  (He was probably trying to figure out what it was, since I usually cover the “steal me” red dot and model engraving with pieces of black tape.)

My biggest surprise was the Centre Pompidou…The place was crawling with people.  Also surprising was the number of kids — little kids.

Two children and the Christophe Berdaugeur/Marie Pejus installation "7th Continent"
Two children and the Christophe Berdaugeur/Marie Pejus installation “7th Continent”

These two are looking at an installation called “7th Continent” by Christophe Berdauguer and Marie Pejus…That is, until their mother told them to get out of the way of the guy taking pictures.  But we worked that out, and now Mom is expecting a file with the picture. (That will take a little bit of time back home — this is a tricky image.)  It does make you wonder about “children’s art”…It really shouldn’t be just about clowns and bunnies.

There is quite a lot of activity around the Centre (it is much more than just a museum).  The shot below was taken just after sunset, and you can see the glow of the Eiffel Tower at the upper right.

Place Georges Pompidou just after sunset
Place Georges Pompidou just after sunset

Even as I left a little after 7:00 pm, people were still coming in.  Why aren’t those people staying at home on Sunday evening watching TV and training their kids to be couch potatoes?

Footnote:  The Musee Rodin has an excellent guide to the museum’s collections.  “Guide to the Musee Rodin Collections” is a compact and concise 256-page book and provides insights into not only Rodin’s sculptures, but also his painting, drawings, and works of others that he collected.  The price is 15 Euros and you can find a little more information here:

Oct 242009

First stop today was Napoleon’s Tomb.  This is indeed a national shrine…Perhaps the French are more willing to celebrate a leader’s accomplishments, and not focus too much attention on his shortcomings.  The sarcophagus likes in the tomb that was excavated and build under dome of what was once the Royal Chapel.

Napoleon's Tomb

When the dome was regilded in 1989, about 25 pounds of gold was used.  The tomb is part of the Hotel National des Invalides, which also houses the Musee de L’Armee.  I was pleasantly surprised to see an exhibit honoring Poland’s story and contributions in WWII.

Poland:  First to Fight

There is a series of displays down a corridor (shown) with French text, and a series of large photos and text displayed in the museum’s main courtyard (English and French) giving a much more accurate view of events than the history I learned.

One little gem in the Musee de L’Armee is the Musee des Plans-Reliefs.  These are formerly classified relief map models of French fortifications along the Atlantic coast, the Pyrenees, and the Mediterranean.   You have to climb up to the 4th floor, where the 24 models in the collection are kept in a dark, climate-controlled room that runs pretty much the length of the courtyard.

Models of French Fortifications

It is very dark in the museum, but you can manage photos if you have a fairly fast lens, a steady hand, and can manage high ISO digital images.

FIAC 2009 (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) is a pretty significant contemporary arts exhibition.  In the booths are the big name galleries, and sitting in the booths or mounted on the wall are some pretty big name artists.

The FIAC in the Grande Palais

This picture is just the part that is set up in Paris’ Grand Palais.  The other half is located in the Cour Carree de Louvre…I guess you could see both in one day.  Contemporary art isn’t for everyone, and I can easily disregard the vast majority of what I saw today.  However, every once in awhile…

Oct 232009

Might as well use some of those miles.*  Flew out on Wednesday — Arrived Thursday morning.  And I admit to dogging it on the arrival day and just crashing for the rest of Thursday.

Friday I hoofed it from my hotel (near UNESCO) to the Musee d’Orsay.  This remains one my favorite art museums mostly because of its content — art from 1848 to 1914.  The building is an old train station saved from the wrecking ball.  As a result, the main hall is spacious and airy.  There are plenty of places in the main hall to sit and relax, a good restaurant with a wonderfully ornate dining room, another restaurant overlooking the Seine, and a snack bar.  (Some snooty architecture critic was praising NYC’s Guggenheim, remarking that it was unique in that it didn’t look like an old palace or a train shed.  Would that more museums looked like the d’Orsay.)

The Main Hall of the Musee d'Orsay.

Along both sides of the main hall (the former train shed) are exhibit rooms.  On the River Seine side (the right side of the picture) are several levels of galleries.  The museum’s impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work is on the 5th level (picture taken from what would be the 6th level), stretching the length of the building and across the end behind the clock.  Additional rooms hold pastels in special controlled lighting.  My only critique is that while the galleries are great, vertical access in the building is a totally bizarre mixture of ramps, stairs, and escalators.

A four day Paris Museum pass gets you access to about 60 museums and attractions, and avoids the longer lines.

For Saturday?  Probably FIAC 2009. (Look it up.)

* Actually, it only took 40,000 Alaska miles to get a flight on American from Washington National (DCA) via Miami — the first time I’ve taken DC’s Metro from home to an airport for a European flight.

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