Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Paris, Day 3: Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens, Left Bank, Musée de l’Orangerie, Eiffel Tower.

Luxembourg Gardens
After resting for a day in St. Germaine, I started off early to visit the Luxembourg Gardens. It was a chilly morning, and I arrived about 9a.m., so there were few people enjoying one of Paris’s favorite places to hang out. The gardens were built by the Medici family when they ruled the city, so there’s a definite Italian influence to the design of the expansive gardens. As part of the overall plan, Marie de Medici ordered the planting of some 2000 elm trees. These gardens turned out to be one of my favorite places in Paris, and I would have liked to have had time to linger there later in the day. (It's no wonder I enjoyed it so much, since it was patterned after the Medici gardens in Florence.) Obviously, I'll need to return to Paris, so I can spend more time in the Luxembourg gardens, as I missed seeing many of its statues and fountains. 
Café Procope
Next, I used information from a Rick Steve’s book to take a walk along the Left Bank. One place of interest is the Café Procope, said to be the first place in Europe where coffee, at one time considered to be an exotic beverage from Morocco, was served. The cafe is now a restaurant, but has been open since 1686, holding the record for the longest time a restaurant has been in continuous operation in Paris. I then headed for the Tuileries Gardens, next to the Louvre. I took a gander at the crowds waiting to get in the Louvre, but passed on, as I decided to save it for my last day in Paris, when rain is forecast.

Tuileries Garden, with the Louvre in the background
The Tuileries is another formal garden area that Parisians often hang out in, but even thought it's expansive, it’s less attractive  than the Luxembourg Gardens. It was originally ordered built by Catherine de Medici, when she was living in the Louvre as a palace, to mirror her gardens in Florence, but over the years it's been through many transformations that have detracted from it's original impressive beauty.

Here I am, bundled up in the Tuileries Gardens.
Besides visiting the garden, I was headed to another art museum that is located in the gardens, Museé de l’Orangerie. The main attraction of this museum is to be able to view Monet’s eight panoramic paintings of his gardens in Giverny. 

Originally built to house orange trees of the Tuileries Gardens during the winter, in 1918 Monet chose the building for the Waterlilies paintings that he intended to donate to the State. In fact, he designed the room where they were to be installed. As one enters the exhibit, there is first a white room, a transition room, where one can leave behind the chaos of the world so as to be freer to focus on the beauty and serenity of nature shown in Monet’s paintings. Monet’s intention was to create a refuge that would restore one’s spirit.

There are four paintings in each room, with walls that curve, so as to offer an experience of submersion, as if one were actually looking at the ponds in Monet’s garden. The paintings show scenes of waterlilies and weeping willow trees at different times of the day. Other than the paintings, all is white, except for the benches provided in the middle of the room, where visitors are invited to linger and gaze to their heart’s content. I spent long moments looking at each painting, and then repeated the cycle. The experience was exquisite, peaceful, restorative, just as Monet intended it to be. This exhibit was the most impressive of the many that I saw in Paris during my stay. 

A view of one of the Waterlily paintings

To take a virtual tour of the Waterlilies series, go to this site and click on the "visite virtuelle". 

 After Monet, I decided to walk towards the Eiffel Tower, which was much further away than I had anticipated, and took more than an hour to reach. Along the way, I bought some takeaway Chinese food, spring rolls and a fruit salad, instead of having crepes again.  I reached the Eiffel Tower about 2:30 pm, and since it was a sunny day and the lines weren’t very long, I decided to ride the elevator to the top, rather than wait until sunset. I’d heard such horror stories about the long lines, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I was admitted and on the elevator going up to the third level. What an impressive sight! On the way back down, I stopped at levels two and one, to see Paris from different heights. I have really lucked out having such good weather during my stay in Paris so far!

Eiffel Tower
By then, it was 5 p.m. and I was weary from another long day of walking, so I headed for the metro and St. Germaine. I walked over to the Trocadero Metro stop, enjoying the lovely gardens and fountains on the way.
The Palais de Chaillot and the Gardens of the Trocadéro as seen from the Eiffel Tower.
I have to include a few words of gratitude to my friend Monica, who dropped me off at the Metro and picked me up each day. It was a good 10-minute drive from her house, when she also had to deliver each of her three children to school at different times! In the evening, when I got to Nanterre, a few stops before St. Germaine, I’d send an SMS to Monica, who would then drive to the Metro stop to pick me up. I am so fortunate to have such a considerate friend!

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