Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Paris, Day 1: Musee D'Orsay, Musee Rodin, Rue Cler

Place de la Concorde, with the Eiffel Tower in the background
Though rain had been forecast, my first day in Paris turned out to be a lovely, sunny day. I headed out on the Metro to central Paris, which involved changes on several lines, ending up at Place de la Concorde, one of the major public squares in Paris. It was an awesome introduction to the size and intensity of the city, with views of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe in the distance.

A view of the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe from Place de la Concorde

 It took me a while to get my bearings, but using my map and the Seine as a guide, I figured out that I needed to cross the Seine in order to get to Musee D'Orsay, the first art museum I wanted to visit. The museum is known for its collections of impressionist paintings, including works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Gaugin and Van Gogh. The museum is housed in a former train station, and the building itself is beautiful, a work of art.

Musee D'Orsay
In addition to the usual exhibitions, there was a special exhibit on Impressionism and Fashion, which included displays of clothing worn during the time of the impressionists, accompanied by paintings that illustrated the clothing. One room was set up in a "plein air" or open air theme, complete with fake grass and the sound of birds in the background. Oversized paintings were placed around the room, giving the feeling that one was walking in a park, observing the subjects in the paintings in their natural habitat. Quite lovely and effective! I spent several hours in the museum, and was able to see everything, but would like to have time to linger the next time I go. For more information on the musem and its exhibits, try this link:

Musee Orsay

Next, I headed to Musee Rodin, a museum I've wanted to visit since I was young, after reading Naked Came I, a novel by David Weiss about the sculptor Rodin's life. More recently, I'd learned that the museum also features some works by his student and mistress, Camille Claudel. After seeing the movie of her life (Camille Claudel), and reading her diaries, I felt a special kinship to her, and wrote an article about that connection for a magazine in the 90's, which you can read here:

Divine Madness

Camille Claudel's sculpture, The Wave
The museum had a special exhibit, Rodin, Flesh and Marble, in addition to the usual collection of his work, which includes many drawings and bronze pieces, along with paintings by Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh. Seeing his sculptures in marble, mostly unfinished, was truly impressive, and really gave you the sense of how the creations "came out" of the blocks of marble. The museum is housed in Hotel Biron, where Rodin once lived and used as a workshop, and he left his art to the French State on the condition that they turn the buildings into a museum dedicated to his works. In addition, many of his sculptures are displayed in the museum's extensive garden, which was a pleasure to visit on a sunny day.

The Thinker, in the garden at Musee Rodin
I was especially pleased to see the work of Camille Claudel, and to see some recognition given to her talent, recognition that was denied during her lifetime. For more info on the museum and its collections, click on this link:

Musee Rodin

Once I'd seen both the museums, I wandered for awhile on the nearby streets and came across a park outside Les Invalides, an area of buildings devoted to military history, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans. Napoleon's tomb is also located in this complex of buildings. 

Les Invalides
After that, it was nearing evening, and I still wanted to visit Rue Cler, a nearby street noted for its shopping area. It was Monica's birthday, and I wanted to get some flowers for her. Here's a photo of one of the flower markets on Rue Cler.

Rue Cler flowers
Armed with a bouquet of fragrant yellow roses tinged with pink, I made my way on the metro back to St. Germaine-en-Laye, satisfied with my first full day in Paris.

Metro signs are a common sight, providing easy access to the best subway system in the world.

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