Jul. 8th, 2002 07:49 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[transcribed from paper diary]

27 € lunch, 14 € dinner, 5 € groceries

A wandering day, with few specific destinations. We started by taking the Metró to the Jardin des Plantes, where we spent several hours doing nothing much: seeing and smelling the flowers, talking, enjoying the warm sunshine (a rare occurrence hereabouts!) The adjacent zoo looked interesting, but we felt it required more investment in attention (and Euros) than we wanted to give it. So we wandered across the Latin Quarteer, visiting the Arénes de Lutece (a Roman gladiatoral amphitheatre, restored to something approximating its original appearance and now being used for plays and concerts, as well as picnicking) and a remnant of the 10-meter-high city wall built in the 12th century. And we kept wandering, running into three or four more small medieval churches, until we found an appropriate Metró stop and came back to the hotel for a nap, dinner, cards, ...

Tomorrow, we're rising early to catch the TGV to Angers, where are (in addition to the usual 13th- and 14th-century castle and cathedral a complete cycle of late 14th-century tapestries representing the Apocalypse. Should be good....


Jul. 7th, 2002 07:19 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[transcribed from paper diary]
The plan from here:
Sunday (today): Musee d'Orsay
Tuesday: Angers 08-36-35-35-35
Wednesday: the Louvre, yet again
Thursday: Senlis/Chantilly
Saturday: Provins
Sunday: wander Paris
Monday: fly to NYC, see Dorothy, Charles, Odo & Basbeaux, etc

Lunch & snacks: 11€. Dinner: 30.50€ (card) Boat tour: 19€

Museé d'Orsay today. There was a long line, because it's the first Sunday of the month, when this and many other museums are free.  We saw a variety of 19th-century Romantic sculptures, Arts & Crafts furniture, models of architecture, and a special exhibit on Piet Mondrian's early years, which showed quite clearly the path he travelled from realist with touches of Impressionism, through luminism, cubism, to (not included in the exhibition) his later pure geometric figures of pure colors.

We also wandered around the Jardin des Tuilleries, since (mirabile visu) the weather was clear, warm, and sunny.  But by 4:00 [ profile] shalmestere was exhausted, so we returned to the hotel and, without meaning to, both took a two-hour nap.  We then went out for dinner, walked to l'Ile de la Cité, and took a guided boat tour up and down the Seine.  Touristy, yes, but quite enjoyable, and not obscenely expensive.  The guide mentioned that "if you spent twenty seconds in front of each item on display and the Louvre, day and night, it would take you three months to see everything" in the "18 km of hallways".  She also pointed out the oldest house in Paris (on the northeastern side of l'Ile St-Louis) and the smallest (just east of the Museé d'Orsay, facing the river).


Jul. 6th, 2002 07:29 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[transcribed from paper diary]

c. 12€ dinner, 22€ lunch (on card), 15€ exhibit catalogue, 5€ admission, 20€ guided tour, 36€ (on card) SNCF, c. 40€ pilgrim badges & gifts.
Chartres Cathedral is amazing.  And the rest of the town is nothing to sneer at either: another 12th-century church built on the ruins of a Gallo-Roman amphitheatre, a former Benedictine monastery whose 1000 AD bell tower survives, along with 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th-century sections, and a large section of town whose surviving houses and shops have been restored to an incredibly picturesque tableau, while still functioning in the 21st century.
La Chemisette de la Vierge is actually a two-foot piece of a formerly 18'-long rectangular piece of white silk, which apparently has been dated to roughly 2000 years old by scientific means.  But the artifact we really went to see is a later 14th-c. red silk pourpoint: I took about ten photos of it in available light, then gave up, scrapped that roll of film, and switched to 1600 ASA, which made it a little easier.  We also bought an exhibit book that includes several pages on the restoration of the pourpoint.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
c. 23€ lunch, c. 31€ dinner

We returned to the Louvre to see some halls that had been closed on Monday.  After at least half an hour of "I can see it, but I can't get there from here" through the labyrinthine corridors, stairwells, escalators, and elevators of the Louvre, we found an employee who explained that most of the halls we wanted to see were closed again (although they'd been open the day before).  However, we saw Mona Lisa, a bunch of Renaissance Spanish paintings, a bunch of other medieval and Renaissance Italian paintins and the Winged Victory.  After lunch, we sat down in the gardens in front of the Louvre to release the frustration and watch old Frenchmen playing baci.

A perennial problem over the past few days has been the inability to use ATM's to get cash: they keep saying "Non autoriseé" otr "Your bank has not authorized this transaction."  So I wanted to call the Credit Union to straighten out the problem.  I had an 18-year-old memory that the phone system and the mail were run by the same quasigovernmental monopoly, so we started looking for a post office.  [ profile] shalmestere was extremely tired and frustrated, however, between the Louvre, a minor altercation with a fromager this morning, and our general difficulty making ourselves understood.  When we found a post office, there were long lines and no obvious sign of pay phones, so we returned to the hotal.  On the way, I asked a travel agent in bad French how to make a phone call to the U.S.; she replied in bad English that I would have to go to the post office.  So, while [ profile] shalmestere recuperated in the hotel room, I returned to the post office, explained "Je voudrais appellez aux Etats-Unis," and had somebody behind the counter trying to sell me stamps before pantomime cleared matters up and he sold me a phone card instead.

After half an hour or so of trial and error, I reached what I thought was the MCU's phone number, and heard the familiar three tones and the English message "The number you have reached is no longer in service."  So I tried calling New York directory assistance and couldn't get through.  So I called my mother, told her voicemail we were alive, asked her to call New York directory assistance.  Back at the hotel, [ profile] shalmestere pointed out that our ATM cards have a phone number on them, so I traipsed back out to the pay phone, called the number, and discovered what I should have realized long before -- the bank was closed for July 4.  But no matter: I knew how to call them, with onlly 36 keystrokes.  I called my mother back, told her to ignore the previous message (which she hadn't heard), and returned to the hotel.

Paris stuff

Jul. 2nd, 2002 08:06 pm
hudebnik: (devil duck)
We got a late start this morning: two other maudite Americains were ahead of me in line for the shower, and we spent some time looking for a bank to cash a traveller's check. So by the time we reached Notre Dame, there were enormous lines of tourists -- one for the tower tour, and one for the church proper. The latter line, however, moved fairly quickly, and we got inside within a few minutes. Several photographs -- the end of the first roll and the beginning of the second -- of tombs, early 14c. painted wooden sculptures of the life of Christ, stained glass windows, etc. We stepped into the line for the towers, but when after 15 minutes we had only moved a fifth of the way to the door, we gave up and went in search of lunch. It was drizzling, so we sat indoors until, all at once, four people at three adjacent tables lit up, and [ profile] shalmestere asked the waiter to move us outside, where there was only traffic noise and car exhaust to deal with (much preferable to both of us). After lunch, we returned to l'Ile de la Cité to visit the Crypte Archaeologique (the Gallo-Roman and medieval ruins underneath the square in front of Notre Dame), the Sainte-Chapelle, and the Conciergerie. I hadn't been to the Conciergerie on my previous visit to Paris: it started life as a Gallo-Roman fort, then a Merovingian palace, then Capetian,... The visible remains are largely 14th century, but were re-used as a prison for centuries, most notably during the French Revolution.

At some point we realized that the Notre Dame Treasury, which we had skipped because it had an admission fee and a guidebook said it was mostly ecclesiastical vestments, also contained St-Louis's shirt. So we'll have to go back to Notre Dame some other day, first thing in the morning before the lines form.

Lunch c. 30€
Books & cards c. 30€
Dinner c. 13€

Paris stuff

Jul. 1st, 2002 08:14 pm
hudebnik: (devil duck)
The Louvre is a really big building.  Not one of these picayune museums like the Natural History or the Met in New York; this place was a medieval fortress, then a Baroque palace larger than Versailles, before becoming a public art museum.  Much of the medieval and Renaissance stuff was closed today, so we toured the medieval foundations (rediscovered in the 1980's while they were digging the foundations of the new pyramid underground entrance), wandered through a few rooms of Greek, Roman, & Etruscan antiquities, and saw the medieval "objets d'art" collection (enamelled boxes, bishops' croziers, ivory mirror cases and writing tablets, encaustic floor tiles, etc.)  We were starting to wear out, even after leaving for lunch and coming back, but we managed to see the collections of 15th-16th-c. French and Low Countries painting, before giving up and returning to the hotel.  The Louvre is organized oddly (to my mind): first into the categories of "antiquities", "sculpture", "paintings", and "objets d'art", then by nationality, and only then by chronology... so if you want to see 14th-century stuff you have to look in a dozen different parts of the museum.

I took 20-25 photographs in the Louvre, almost using up the first roll of film.

We've encountered a few practical problems in Paris.  The one we expected is the amount of cigarette smoke: only in heavily touristed areas is it even possible to sit in a "no smoking" section of a restaurant.  And the beverages: by volume, water and soda are sometimes as expensive as wine.  But we didn't anticipate a cash shortage: all the guidebooks say the most convenient source of cash (and at decent exchange rates) is ATM's, most of which are on the same networks as most ATM's in the US; but we've tried half a dozen different machines at different banks, and not one is willing to give us cash.  I brought travellers' checks (5x$100, Amex starting RA289-384-825), but $500 won't get us through two weeks.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
€3.20 ice cream
€ 7.50 dinner
€33 lunch
€9 Provins book
€8 Picasso museum admission
c. €3 cards
€2 shower
€45 for the day's room
= c. €110 for the day

Picasso museum: housed in a 17th-century hôtel (i.e. mansion), of which the Marais is full. The collection was Picasso's own, donated to the government upon Picasso's death in lieu of inheritance taxes. As such, it includes trival masks and thee works of Picasso's friends and mentors, as well as a lot of his own (mostly lesser-known) works. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been tired, sleepy, and hungry, but I got a lot out of it nonetheless.

€39 lunch (card)
€8.60 dinner
€117.50 Museum cards & Metró passes

Lunch at a a crêperie, followed by a visit to the Musee Carnavalee, which covers the history of Paris. Unfortunately, the medieval rooms are closed for renovations for the next year or so, and the real emphasis is on the 18th to 20th centuries. But we saw some interesting Neolithic and Gallo-Roman artifacts. Back to the hotel for a nap, then out to an Oriental take-out place for dinner on a park bench, after which we crossed a bridge to the Isle St-Louis and strolled along the waterside. We passed the Hôtel des Sens, a 15th-century mansion with medieval turrets and overhangs, and learned (too late) that it's closing toomorrow for summer vacation, to re-open the day after we return to New York. So we won't get to see much of that one on this trip (although I took some photos of the outside).


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