Wednesday, October 15, 2008

France 2008 Day 4 Musee d'Orsay, Musee du Louvre, Church of ST-Gervais-et-St-Protais

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Some of the following is based on fact, and some is not.
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We meet at the same place for breakfast as the first day and received a very warm welcome from both the host and waiter. I have always heard people say, “Parisian are not friendly”, but so far we seem to always make friends with people we come in contact with. We are not sure if it is our personalities or our tipping habits. Most Europeans tip 0-5% while we tip 15-20%. In Botswana most people would tip 10%, but the 4 of us tip closer to 20% as it is a way to give some of the villager’s money without them feeling like they are taking handouts. Since we are accustomed to 15-20% that is what we have been doing here and we have been making/buying lots of friends. Breakfast was as great as the first day, both the food and service.

Bebe mentioned the weather forecast said it would be nice today and rain for Friday and Saturday. Up to this point we have had great sight seeing weather high 60s to low 70s and clear skies. I suggested we do outside stuff today and the museums tomorrow. My thought was museums would be a good rainy day activity. My idea/plan was met with an emphatic “NO!". I should have known better then to make a suggestion about what to do when I am a card carrying member of the 100% wrong club. So the plan was to visit the d’Orsay Museum (Musee d’Orsay).
This is the same Museum we tried to visit the day before but was closed. Off we went the plan was to take a taxis or subways most of the day Bebe and “The Rock” were sore from all the walking we had done the prior days.

As we left the cafe heading toward the metro station we ran into the same Frenchman that had helped us with direction the first day. He asked us where we were heading. He then explained we were heading toward the wrong metro station. He saved us again! We thanked him and introduced ourselves. His name was Tom, and is an international travel guide. He gave us the directions we needed and again we were off to the museum.

The Musée d'Orsay is on the left bank of the Seine. It holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography, and is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist masterpieces by popular painters such as Monet and Renoir. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986.

The museum building was originally a railway station, Gare d'Orsay, constructed for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans and finished in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle to the design of three architects: Lucien Magne, Émile Bénard and Victor Laloux. It was the terminal for the railways of southwestern France until 1939.

By 1939 the station's short platforms had become unsuitable for the longer trains that had come to be used for mainline services. After 1939 it was used for suburban services and part of it became a mailing center during World War II. It was then used as a set for several films, such as Kafka's The Trial adapted by Orson Welles. In 1977 the French Government decided to convert the station to a museum. Architecture (Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc and Jean-Paul Philippon) were the designers and the construction work was carried by Bouygues.
The work involved creating 20,000 sq. m. of new floor space on four floors. The new museum was opened by President François Mitterrand on 1 December 1986.

The museum is beautiful the center has a vaulted ceiling giving the museum a very dramatic look and personality. It was clear Bebe and Margarite enjoyed the art more then “The Rock” and I. Next on the agenda was the Louvre one of the largest collection of art works in the world.

We could walk from the d’Orsay Museum to the Louvre just half a kilometer away across the Seine. The Louvre has a large park in front filled with wonderful gardens. In this park are a couple garden cafes so we stopped for lunch. What a great setting. Our waiter was wired either on too much French coffee or something illegal, he was moving at well over 100 mph. We ordered and realized the chef must of been on the same substance because no sooner had we ordered our food we had our food, all prepared perfectly.

After lunch we continued onto the Louvre. The ladies promised “The Rock” and I if we were good they would get us ice cream later.

The Louvre Museum (French: Musée du Louvre), is the world's most visited art museum, a historic monument, and a national museum of France. It is a central landmark, located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the neighborhood of the 1st arrondissement.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre), which began as a fortress in the 12th century under Philip II; remnants of which are still visible. In the 14th century Charles V converted the building into a residence and in 1546 Francis I renovated the site in French Renaissance style. The 460-metre (1,509 ft) Grande Galerie, used today to display paintings, was begun by Henry IV in 1594. Under the Bourbon dynasty the building increased in size and was renovated frequently by a string of architects. The Grand Louvre Project added the Pyramid and La Pyramide Inversée, finished in 1989 and 1993 respectively.

The museum officially opened to the public on 10 August 1793, during the French Revolution; the exhibitions' core was primarily drawn from appropriated Church property and royal collections. Holdings increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon's armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was augmented through the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings grew steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic, although growth slowed during the World Wars.

The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Paintings; Decorative Arts; Islamic Art; Near Eastern Antiquities; Prints and Drawings; Sculpture; and Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities. Roughly 35,000 pieces are displayed, exhibited over 60,000 square meters (650,000 sq ft). The broad collection spans from the 6th century BCE to the 19th century.

In 1983, President François Mitterrand proposed his Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building, and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid for the central courtyard that, he argued, created a "strong symbolic element ... delicate and stable, correctly proportioned so as not to overwhelm the architecture of the Louvre, but rearing its point there... “The pyramid and its underground lobby, which enclose the entrance area, were inaugurated on 15 October 1988. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993.As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.

The entrance is very dramatic and contemporary compared to the rest of the buildings. You enter the glass pyramid which is 40 feet tall, the pyramid is in the center of a court yard surrounded by older more traditional buildings. Once inside the pyramid you descend a stair case that is three stories tall. You are now in the under ground lobby. From here you can choose what wing you of the museum you want to see.

Bebe wanted to see the Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda is a 16th century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The work is owned by the French government and hangs in the Musée du Louvre with the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a woman whose expression is often described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the sitter's expression, the monumentality of the half-figure composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the painting's continuing fascination. Few other works of art have been subject to as much scrutiny, study, mythologizing and parody.) “The Rock” wanted to see Venus de Milo (Also known as The Aphrodite of Milos, is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Created some time between 130 and 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite (called Venus by the Romans), the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6.7 ft) high. Its arms and original plinth have been lost. This contributed to the mystery of the sculpture. From an inscription that was on its plinth, it is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch; it was earlier mistakenly attributed to the master sculptor Praxiteles.) So we routed our path based on those two pieces. The interior of the Louvre is spectacular and the detail and size of the art work is unreal. Well worth the visit and we only saw maybe 10% of the museum.

Next on the list for the day was the church of St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church a friend of Margarite’s had told Margarite about this church. Services were daily at 6:00pm. Music during the service was provided by Georgiana Monks that Margarite was told she could not miss. Since it was 4:00pm we decided to walk the 4km from the Louvre to the church. “The Rock” and I were hoping we would find a gelato or ice cream shop on the way. It had been 36 hours since we had had either, withdraws were starting to kick in. Fortunately for us we found 2 shops and indulged ourselves at both.

We made it to the church thirty minutes early. The St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church of Paris sheltered one of the most famous dynasties of French musicians during more than two centuries since 1653: the Couperin family.

On the side of the church still remains the house of the famous harpsichordists, organists and composers as well as a plaque commemorating their address. The organ of Louis and François Couperin exists still today inside the Church. Built by the most famous organ builders of the time, it is a fine example of the French Baroque.

This church is one of oldest of Paris. Its existence is mentioned at this place starting from 4th century. Dedicated to Gervasius and Protasius, it was formerly the seat of the powerful brotherhood of the wine merchants it took its present appearance starting from 16th century. Its frontage would be completed much later, about 1620, testifying to a perfect control of traditional esthetics.

The square located at the foot of the staircases of the church was for a long time called "Crossroads of the Elm" since the Middle Ages a centuries-old elms grew at its centre. The inhabitants of the neighborhood would exchange money there. Several pictures of this elm still remain, in the stalls of the Church and on some nearby buildings.

The side of the church is skirted by François Miron Street, where two of the oldest medieval houses of Paris remain, at numbers 11 and 13. They date most likely from 14th century. One can see their structure of exposed wood, which was prohibited at the time due to the risk of fire.

On March 29, 1918, a German shell fell on the roof of the Church, killing a hundred people. (My Birthday not the year but the day)

The St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church was a beautiful church for a local neighborhood church. The description we got of the music sounding like Georgian Monk chants in French was not exact, it was more like a church choir. We enjoyed it but nothing real special. “The Rock” said the best part was being off his feet for an hour.

After church we decided to find a sidewalk cafe to have a drink and relax. We walked over to Ile Saint-Louis which is an island in the Seine River. In the heart of Paris and near City Island, the small Ile Saint-Louis (Saint- Louis Island) is one of the loveliest districts of Paris: nice and romantic river banks, 18th century houses, village like life. The whole island retains its 18th century outlook. Recently, the Ile Saint-Louis has become very fashionable and expensive. Look for Bertillon, the best French ice-cream maker, at 31, rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile. This always crowded shop is a nice stop a few hundreds meters away from Notre-Dame. Unfortunately since “The Rock” and I, did not behave in church the ladies forbid us from getting ice cream.

As we hung out at the café clouds blew in and a good hard rain storm formed. So we moved inside for dinner. After dinner we decided we would take a taxi home. To get to a taxi we had to walk about 10 blocks. Luckily the rain had let up at this point. Our walk took as right by Notre Dame, which at night is even more elegant and dramatic then during the day.

The pope was coming to town so there was quite a bit of activity getting the church grounds ready for his visit. It was interesting seeing all this going on at 9:00pm. The taxi ride home was uneventful except he took a very long way back to the hotel we think he was running up the meter and not lost. The fare was 12 Euros I gave him a 20 Euro bill and asked for 4 Euros back. That is a 30% tip. He handed me back some coins and we left. There are 1 and 2 Euro coins so I figured that is what he gave me. When I got to the hotel he had only given me about 75 cents. Lessoned learned count your change before you tip the taxi.

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