Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paris, Day 4: Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, Musée Jacquemart-André, Batoboat

Arc de Triomphe
I got a late start into Paris on the fourth full day, with a long list of things I still wanted to do and see. Rain was forecast, but even though it was cloudy in the morning, it never rained. I took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, which turned out to be a very impressive sight.

Le Marseillaise
The Arc stands at the west end of the Champs-Élysées, in the midst of a hectic roundabout of never-ending traffic, and visitors reach it by means of underground passageways. The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and the names of all French victories and generals are inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath the vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. There are four sculptures at the base of the arch, and the most famous, Le Marseillaise, is an allegorical representation of France calling her people to arms.

Next, I walked down the Champs-Élysées, which was another kind of thrill. The Champs-Élysées is perhaps the most famous street in the world. The name is French for Elysian Fields, and the street was once fields and gardens. The avenue is often called the most beautiful street in the world. But I have to admit, seeing these landmarks in person was nothing like I had imagined. In my imagination, they were so "magical" as to be unreal. But seeing them in person, you realize, well, okay, it's real, not magic at all. I don't mean to say that it's disappointing: in fact, it's quite the opposite. It simply gives me perspective, and these icons thus become more acceptable as a normal part of life. Not magic, or unreachable: they are now quite real to me.

Museé Jacquemart -André
My next goal for the day was to locate another art museum, the Musée Jacquemart-André, which I had not heard of before going to Paris. One day in the Metro, I noticed a banner describing an exhibit of two Venetian artists, Canaletto and Guardi, starting that week at the Musée Jacquemart-André. Looking for the museum took me to another part of Paris that I would not have otherwise seen.
The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute, by Canaletto (1730)
I'm a big fan of both artists and their paintings depicting life in Venice during the 1700's. Canoletto was first on the scene, and inspired Gaudi's style. I was fortunate to happen upon this exhibit during my stay in Paris.

Piazza San Marco in Venice, by Francesco Guardi (1760-1770)
I really enjoyed walking around different areas of Paris this day, which included Avenue Montaigne, where many fashion houses seem to have their headquarters, including Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Prada and Chanel.
An upscale apartment or condo building?
My last adventure of the day was to take a boat ride on the Seine. Since the sun didn't set until after 7:30, and I knew Monica would be making dinner by then, I took my boat ride in the afternoon about 4 p.m. I chose the Batoboat, which has eight stops along the Seine and you can get on and off as you like for an entire day, or for 2-3 days, if you want to pay more. I had already been to most of the stops, but wanted to see the view from the Seine. There are other boats, more expensive, that offer lunch or dinner, which would be fun or romantic with someone special to share it with.

Eiffel Tower, from the Seine.
During my journey that afternoon, I spent more time near Notre Dame and Rive Gauche (the Left Bank), and got some great photos from the river of places I'd already visited.
Rive Gauche, with Notre Dame in the background.
When I got back to Monica's, she was preparing a French meal called Moules-frites, or mussels with fries. She prepared the mussels in a bit of milk, with onions, garlic and wine, making a broth. Then she made french-fried potatoes, to dip in the broth. It was incredibly delicious and I ate too much of it! This was my last evening at the Ruggeri household, and Monica made it special. 
Eating moules-frites with Tommaso and Virginia
I still had another day in Paris, but I'd made reservations at a hotel near the train station for my last night, where I would get the TVG train to Torino in the morning of the following day.

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