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paris trip report part 2

2005-02-03 - 1:43 p.m.

All photos 2005 by Elaine Radford
tour eiffel

This is part 2 of my trip report from Paris. To start with part 1, click right here.

Jan. 27, 2005

Today I bought a real French croissant and coffee breakfast from a real French, non-English-speaking person -- OK, the phrase book and a bilingual customer helped a little bit. Then I headed for the Musee d'Orsay just in time for the opening. Don't ask me what it is, but there's something faintly ridiculous about photographing paintings. But I'll try to hit some high points anyway.

painter at musee d'orsay

All over the museum, painters were set up to copy various famous paintings. I think they pay for the privilege, and or they're taking a class or something, because they all had badges.

painting by pisarro painting by sisley

The Impressionists have been severely injured by the over-commercialization and over-reproduction of their work. In fact, I'm pretty sure we had a bad print of a Renoir in our house growing up. I know D. did. And everybody's house in the 60s had those gag-a-maggot Van Gogh sunflowers. However, and you just have to trust me on this, most of the paintings are better in person. Well, not the Renoirs. He needs to be buried in a deep cave somewhere and forgotten for a few decades before he can be enjoyed again.

But the Pisarros and the Sisleys provided endless hours of amusement. Up close, you can see the brushstrokes. Step back and back and back, and suddenly it's very nearly photo-realism.


Monet is an impressionist no matter how far back you stand.

van gogh van gogh

Van Gogh provided a welcome burst of color that wasn't so precious, especially considering all those pink Renoirs. But then you happen on a painting like this, and you have to ask yourself if Van Gogh was a put-on after all:

van gogh

I remember that in my art history class in college we pondered the question of what possible purpose this botched perspective was supposed to express, but I don't remember what the conclusion was -- whether we decided that Van Gogh was having an off day or just playing with our minds.

The jewel of the museum to my mind was the hall of Odilon Redons, with their marvelous color, energy, and intelligence. Unfortunately, they are delicate and kept under low light, so I couldn't sneak any photos. But he seemed to have the freedom and color sense of Van Gogh, without leaving you with the sneaking suspicion that, hey, this dude is just messing with me mentally.

detail, paul signac

Possibly my favorite new-to-me artist was Paul Signac.

There's lots of other stuff in this museum, from a glassed-over model of the museum and other nearby buildings that you can walk on, to any number of sculptures and art objects, but maybe I'm posting too many pictures from this one place already.

Oh, and a warning: The carafe of wine that came with the lunch in the cafe was twice as large as the one in the Louvre. I was walking on clouds for awhile after that.

It was Thursday, the late day at D'Orsay, but I decided to leave around 4 o'clock or so to be in place for the sunset at the Eiffel Tower.

approach to the eiffel tower

You would be surprised at how close you can get to the Tower without being able to see it for all the several story buildings in the way. In fact, when I first left the Musee D'Orsay, I turned the wrong way and walked a couple of blocks before I got that dark suspicion of being lost. In the above photo I'm walking toward the tower past a drugstore. They all have these flashing blue, green, or sometimes both blue and green crosses outside.

When I reached the Tower, the elevator was broken, so I had to take the steps. As I walked up, four or five workers all wrapped around with harnesses and tools came walking down. That was a little scary. But I guess they were on the job, because at the end of the night, when it was dark and snow flurries were starting to come down, they shut down the stairs and had all the tourists come down on the elevator. Anyway, I spent a long time up there checking out the view from all directions and taking endless photos of the sunset.

view from eiffel tower

You have just read Part 2 of my Paris trip report. For Part 1, click right here. To continue onward to Part 3, please click right here.

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