Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009 Heading home

Another great day in Paris.  The weather has been unbelievably great for us.  Only one day of any rain at all.  We began our last night in Paris with a picnic overlooking the Eiffel Tower and a good time was had by all.  Up early in the morning and off to Charles de Gaulle Airport for our flight to Chicago and then on to Kansas City.  A great end to a wonderful trip.  We will see you soon.  Hope you have enjoyed the blog.


Sunday, May 31, 2009


Today we shared Versailles with about a million other people. Versailles was upgraded from a mere royal hunting lodge in 1661 by Louis XIV. Louis LeVau (architect) was responsible for the chateau and Andre LeNotre (landscape architect) was responsible for the gardens. LeBrun, Chief painter to the King was responsible for the interior design. Versailles was created initially in the French Baroque style which was actually a bit more restrained than Italian Baroque. In 1677 Louis XIV transferred both government and court to Versailles. Smart king knew to keep friends close and enemies closer! Court etiquette was rigidly followed and there were parties, events and fireworks to keep everyone entertained. Cuts down on plotting, scheming and overthrowing government!

After Louis XIV died Louis XV continued working on the chateau adding furnishings and buildings making the chateau more sumptuous and more comfortable. Louis XVI came to the throne with his delightful young bride Marie Antoinette and they went about making their own changes and additions to the Chateau. The parties continued and the royals distanced themselves from the court. As the money began to run out, the people became very disatisfied with their King and soon sought to overthrow them and thus the French Revolution began. Let them eat cake, indeed! Silver and gold furnishings were melted down and furniture was auctioned off.

Fortunately for us (and a million or so other people) it was decided that Versailles should be preserved and maintained at the expense of the Republic of France. It wasn't until the reign of Louis-Philippe, however, that Versailles was dedicated as a museum to display to the world the glory of France!

Later in the evening Mick accompanied our scholars back to the Pompidou Center to see the temporary shows dedicated to Alexander Calder (inventor of the Mobile) and Wassily Kandinsky (painter and Bauhaus educator). These were excellent shows with more than 100 works of art for each artist encompassing in each case a lifetime of excellent works. The works for these shows were gathered from museums and private collections from all over Europe and the US. What a treat these shows were!
Top picture - Gardens
2nd pic - Hall of Mirrors
3rd pic - Garden and fountain (from inside)
4th pic - Katie Parker and Kailey Mills, interior design majors soaking it all in!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

30 Mai, 2009

A walking tour of architectural features in the Beaubourg area this morning, then the Pompidou, National Museum of Modern Art.  Photos:  (1) what was at one time the King's church, St. Germain Auxrois, (2)"The Colonnade,"  Louis the XIV's idea of a facelift for the side of the Louvre facing Paris (at least at that time in the 17th century), (3) St. Eustache, a French Classical facelift on what is essentially a Gothic layout, the organist was practicing while we were inside WOW!, (4) Time out for a picture on the 70 ton "Ecoute" sculpture, (5) The flamboyant ceiling of St. Eustache, (6) the Pompidou Centre.

Tomorrow we go to Versailles.   

Friday, May 29, 2009

29 Mai, 2009

We began the day at the Orangerie, the former royal garden house in the Tulleries Gardens near the Louvre that was originally used to house sensitive potted trees (like various citrus trees) during the winter months.  It now houses the two 360 degree Monet Nymphea series (water lilies), painted near the end of his life and donated to the state.  They are quite breathtaking and  as the close up detail shot illustrates, precursors of the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell and Willem deKooning that would come in the mid-20th century.  

Next we walked up Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe for a fantastic view on this beautiful day.  Above are views toward La Defense, the business center of Paris with its modern steel and glass buildings; the Eiffel Tower; Sacre Coeur Basilica on Montmartre; and back down Champs Elysee toward the Tulleries Gardens and the Louvre.

After taking in the Arc, we visited the Musee Marmatton/Monet, with a pause to climb around on a sculpture in the nearby park.  The museum has just undergone some remodeling that shows off more of its collection of Monet's work, much of it coming from the estate of Monet through his son Michel Monet who was the museum's prime patron.  No pictures though, they don't allow photography inside.  More water lilies, particularly from the last years of his life, and a nice cross-section of Monet's body of work makes this a little known jewel of a museum.

After leaving the museum I tried to find the location of the Roland Garros French Open tennis tournament going on this week and next here in Paris.  Found it but it was impossible to get inside.  Sold out and tightly controlled.  I did find a place where I could see a doubles match at one of the small courts (court 17 I later discovered).  Lots of people everywhere!!

Tomorrow:  The Pompidou Centre and the National Museum of Modern Art.  It is a fabulous collection and one of the most interesting buildings in Paris.  It is "inside out".  More on that later.  

à bientôt!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28, 2009

Went to Les Invalides (golden domed church, tombe de Napoleon).

You can see  he was a bit of a cranky guy.

Also, went back to Musee d'Orsay for their evening hours.  Study in Grey and Black by James McNeill Whistler, I believe he is the only American painter with a work in the d'Orsay.  He became an important member of the rebellious generation of artists and writers that spawned the impressionist movement in the 1860's and spent essentially all of his adult life living and working in Europe. 

We also went to the home of Auguste Rodin, the acclaimed French sculptor.  Got to see The Burghers of Calais (no, there's no cheese on these burghers), Le Pensur (the Thinker), The Kiss, 
The Gates of Hell, Balzac, and many other great works.  That's his home, Hotel Biron.  A very nice place.  The gardens are fabulous as you can see.  It's so quiet and peaceful behind the stone walls that surround the garden that it's hard to remember you're in the middle of a city of 7 million.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A couple of days worth of pics here.  Our first day back after a free day for everyone.  Images from today from our walking tour of architecture in the Marais district.

There's a picture of one of two cathedrals we visited today, St. Gervais-St. Protais, an example of the French classical style from the "Grand Century" of French culture (1600-1700 roughly). Gervais and Protais were two Roman generals, converted to Christianity, and martyred by Nero.  The church stands near where an old Roman road lay.  There has been a church on this spot in one form or another since the 6th century.

  Then there's Hotel de Sens, a beautiful gothic mansion.  Along with the Cluny that we visited on our first full day, one of two prime examples of medieval residences here in Paris. 

Also there's Maggie posing next to a Picasso's green-haired "Marguerite" (Maggie says her Mom sometimes calls her that).  We just thought with the red hair next to the green hair we should have a picture.

We also saw the largest surviving chunk of old Phillipe Auguste's city wall, which evidently makes a good basketball court as well.  You can see the remnants of the wall as well as two towers on the left side of the picture.

Then lastly, three pics from my day off.  Billy Owen took my picture down in the catacombs during a moment of thought with a couple of my new friends.  There are the remains of several million French within these old quarries near Montparnasse.  Most of the buildings in Paris are made from limestone quarried from directly beneath the city.  The ground is supposedly honeycombed with tunnels.  We came up out of the catacombs about a half a mile from where we started.

Then there's an example of street art for former student, Jackie Nott who taught me to be on the lookout for this new phenomenon.  

Lastly there's the church of Val-de-Grace abbey that I finally found after a protracted search.  At age 37, Anne of Austria made a promise to build a church if she was blessed with a child after 23 years of marriage.  Voila!  A little Louis resulted--number 14--the Sun King guy.  Little Louis got to lay the corner stone.  Mansart designed it--finished by Lemercier and La Muet in 1667, but not consecrated until 1710 when "little" Louis XIV was 72!  Beautiful French classical Baroque design.  The the adjoining area evidently houses a military hospital/school.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Oops!  Here's those mustachio twins.