Good Travel Timing and Monet in Paris

Posted on January 4, 2014. Filed under: Art, France, Paris, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Paris - Monet ExhibitWe happened to be in Paris in November, 2010, right in the middle of the biggest exhibition of Monet’s works to be shown in France in 30 years.  160 paintings were gathered from around the globe; private collections and museums as far away as Russia and Australia.  We discovered the exhibit by the absence of Monet paintings at the Musée d’Orsay and the sign telling us that the Monets were all at the Grand Palais for a special exhibit.

So we wandered over the bridge to the Grand Palais to find out that the exhibit was sold out months ago.  There was a 1/4 mile line of people waiting for a chance to get in without advance tickets, but after waiting for hours it was still iffy whether they’d get in.  We spoke to one of the guards for advice.  What could we do to get in, we asked him.

Ha, ha!  He told us if we came back in the evening we would only have to wait a short time!  So, we came back the next day about 9:00p.m. and almost waltzed right in!

And then our eyes almost popped out.  We got to see Monet paintings that we would never see again nor would we have had the opportunity to ever see if we hadn’t made it into this exhibit.  We saw groups of paintings he did in different light right next to each other.  I loved to think how some of these paintings probably hadn’t been right next to each other like that since they were with their creator.  I got to see some old favorites that I had seen in the Chicago exhibit of impressionism several years back.  My heart broke to see his portrait of his wife, Camille, as she lay dying in bed, but I was lifted to see his depiction of a Magpie in the snow.  It was great, too, how we were walking through the galleries with no crowds.  There were barely any other people there to block our views.

There were only two downsides.  We weren’t allowed to walk backward through the exhibit which we love to do one time to play our game of picking out the one we’d take home if we could.  Also the curators included some Roy Lichtenstein paintings perhaps as a more modern progression of what Monet started, but really, they looked so out of place here.  We just ignored them, though, no problem.

This show was an icing-on-the-cake experience for us.  We were in Paris, so we were seeing amazing art every day, but to have been there for this show and to have gotten in was truly magical.  We will never forget it.  Here’s another travel bonus:  once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

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Marie Antoinette’s Play Village

Posted on November 10, 2013. Filed under: France, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Marie Antionette

Marie Antoinette had a small village built on the grounds of the palace at Versailles in 1783 where she could enjoy the “charms of country life” as explained by the Versailles website.  This small village allowed her to escape the pressures of court life as she could pretend to be an average maiden in the country.  I wonder if it fueled the hatred for her by the common people who came to see the royals not as benevolent leaders, but as rulers who exploited them and indulged in decadence.

I also wonder why the buildings seem to be crumbling badly.  I first saw them in 1985 and even then visitors could not enter the structures.  Looking through the windows it was interesting to see them in their unrestored state, just a mess.  The mind pictures the elegant queen and her ladies-in-waiting strolling about the marble floors, balconies and spiral staircases.

I went back in 2010, expecting that by then there had probably been restoration and maybe it would even be possible to enter the buildings.  But no, they looked to be in much worse shape than when I had last seen them.  I even checked my photos from 1985 to confirm my suspicions.  After a little checking I see that the main building, the Queen’s House will begin restoration in 2014.  Perhaps enough funds have finally been raised (it seems Dior has pitched in financially).  I’m glad because the hamlet represents an interesting time in France’s history.  It’s also just darned cute and I’d like to see them preserved!  I think this may warrant another visit in 2016, perhaps, as the project is expected to take 18 months.  I always like having an excuse to travel!

The Queen's House

The Queen’s House

Travel - Marie Antionette 2

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Ancient Roman Road

Posted on August 27, 2013. Filed under: France, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Roman RoadHere we are beginning our hike on the stretch of the Tour du Mont Blanc that is an ancient Roman Road.  This climb was strenuous, but the old paving was interesting to think about.  I pictured chariots, horses, and Roman soldiers making this arduous trek through the mountains to their conquests.  And then I forgot all about that because, as often happens on the TMB, it just kept going up!  Don’t kid yourself, the TMB is quite a workout no matter how fast or slow you do it.  Every night I was sore, with aching hips and thighs.  Self-talk is important, though, so every night I literally told my “boys” (thighs) to heal up because we have another day of hiking tomorrow.  And miraculously, they did!  I would wake up feeling much better and ready to go.

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Paris – The Musée de l’Orangerie Basement!

Posted on August 17, 2013. Filed under: Art, France, Paris, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 1The spectacular Musée de l’Orangerie has the enormous Monet waterlily series of paintings and it blows you away to walk amid his ponds.  But that’s upstairs!  Don’t miss the light-flooded basement, the Walter-Guillaume galleries, reopened after extensive construction in 2006.

There are some jewels here:  Renoir and Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse.  22 Soutines!  And a particular favorite of mine:  Kees van Dongen who I love because of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Woman with Cat.

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 5What a great place to learn about art by reproducing it.  I remember my last year of high school at the Milwaukee Art Museum where there is a painting I hated (Fragonard’s The Shepherdess.)  My teacher had me spend several hours with it, drawing it, and I fell in love with it.  There is much to be learned from copying another’s work.

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 4  Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 2

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 3

This place was quite a feast for the eyes.  Next time you get to Paris don’t miss it!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Mountains and Lakes

Posted on August 13, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Mountain Beauty

I was surprised at how few lakes we did see on our hiking adventure of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  There seemed to be water everywhere with streams running with lots of water many times requiring us to hike right through them.  But lakes, there were not as many as you’d think.

This particular morning, though, the trail went right along this beauty.  The air was so still that the surface of the water made for the most perfect reflection of the crystalline clear ultramarine sky.  Wow.  Here we have mountains, snow, sky and water more perfect in the reflection so I moved the land line up to showcase it.

This is one time the word awesome is an actual good description!

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Tour du Mont Blanc Panorama Photography

Posted on August 3, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB panorama

I loved my new Sony NEX-5N camera for its panorama capabilities on the TMB.  I had to learn to use it, though, as the camera was new for the trip and I hadn’t had a lot of time to experiment before we left.  To operate the feature, you choose it from a menu, then hold the shutter release down while panning to the right.

Travel - TMB panorama 3

Any angling, though, will shut off the feature right then and there and the camera reports an error to you.  I found that I was prone to angling as I panned because the mountains go up!  So I learned to plan the sweep of the camera, starting high enough to capture the peaks that come into view as the pan progresses.  Whew.

Travel - TMB panorama 2It was worth figuring out this feature because some of these photos have made spectacular prints to frame.

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Tour du Mont Blanc and Beaufort Cheese

Posted on August 2, 2013. Filed under: France, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB La Ville Des Glaciers La Ville Des Glaciers is a sweet hamlet along the TMB that offers gorgeous views of both big scenery and close-up farm life.  This is the epicenter of Beaufort cheese, the luscious stuff produced right here.

I’ve heard that some of the residents will take you into the buildings and show you the small scale production here of this local delicacy, but we didn’t see any signs of human life on the day we came through.

Travel - TMB La Ville Des Glaciers 2

It was September, after all, and something like 10,000 people had just traipsed through this region so I wonder if the locals had had enough.

No matter, we found the cheese available almost every day afterward and we enjoyed it to the fullest!  It made a fine pack-along for the trail as well as post-day hike/pre-dinner snack.

Travel - TMB La Ville Des Glaciers 3

I know imported Beaufort cheese is available in the states, but really, how can it be the same?  I know how I feel after making that trip across the big pond – dang tired!  I think having this product here, right where it’s made, without any travel at all has got to be the best!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – The Refuge Dining Room

Posted on July 31, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Refuge Dining Rooms

An interesting dynamic can happen in the refuge dining rooms along the Tour du Mont Blanc.  Here we are in the Refuge Bonhomme after dinner.  You can see the terra cotta pichet of wine on the table readying everyone for a great chat!  Within a short time we had about 6 people all from different countries exploring world views well into the night.  It was like an impromptu united nations meeting!  There were some uncomfortable pointed questions at us as Americans, but we found the whole experience very interesting.  Keeping a respectful approach while explaining when we disagreed worked to allow conversation to flow and everyone ended with a clap on the back, a handshake and big smiles.  If this happens to you take the opportunity to learn about other peoples’ views, just remember to be pleasant. Just think about how incredible the Tour du Mont Blanc is that it brings people from all over the world together for one purpose, if just for a short time.

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The Image Thief at the Musée d’Orsay

Posted on July 30, 2013. Filed under: France, Paris, Photography | Tags: , , , , , |

Travel - Musée d'Orsay 1Ok, so l have no beef with the Musée d’Orsay as far as the building and the collection goes.  How could I?  This museum houses some of the most important works of the period 1848 to 1914 especially of the impressionism movement in a refurbished train station designed in 1900.

You want to know my beef?  No photography.  Ok, I get that a lot of people are really stupid with their cameras and they don’t know how to turn off the flash.  I used to work in an art museum and I know that people don’t understand the harm that can be produced when millions of people flash a super bright light at artworks, if only for a split-second.  It’s a very destructive force over time.    But a flat-out ban on photography turns people like me into an image thief.

So here is the best I could do with the over-the-top beautiful clock at The Musée d’Orsay.  I had to stay somewhat behind the wall there to be out of view of the guards.

Travel - Musée d'Orsay 2This was a bit better because the sculpture was already behind this wall.

Taking pictures in museums is great fun and I understand the rock and hard place museums are in.  I just protest the stance of no photography!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – The Middle of Nowhere

Posted on June 29, 2013. Filed under: France, Health, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Out in the Middle of Nowhere

One of the best parts of the Tour du Mont Blanc is getting out in the middle of nowhere.  This picture here shows you two really happy people because we have left our normal cares behind.  There is nothing like abandoning normal life to get out among giant mountains, fresh air and sunshine to get some perspective and a real break.  It was an arduous task we had set for ourselves, this 105 mile trek, but it was different work, environment, and people and just what we needed.  I loved the break myself and I was delighted to see my husband thoroughly enjoy himself as well.  If you are considering such an endeavor and you are under some stress in normal life, I would encourage you to do it.  The restoration a time like this provides to body and mind is priceless.

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