Back from Paris for nearly a month and I still have stories to tell! In the interest of making way for other, more current projects though, I’m going to start wrapping the trip up. Here are quick looks at what we did the last couple of days.
Arc de Triomphe. Grand and glorious, this massive monument stands at the center of what has to be one of the craziest traffic circles in the world. To actually walk around the Arc, you must walk through a long tunnel leading under the traffic – to walk across the street would be madness! The Arc stand aloof from all the chaos, somehow creating a serene atmosphere – this is where France’s Unknown Soldier lies.
Evening was approaching when Michelle and I left the Arc; the weather was lovely so we decided to walk back to the hotel. We stopped briefly at the Flame of Liberty, which sits next to the Seine River. This is a full size replica of the torch held by the Statue of Liberty in New York City, but it has become an unofficial memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales who died in the tunnel beneath here. When we were there, there were many love locks on the decorative chain surrounding the Flame, candles, flowers and many pictures of Diana, her children and her grandchildren.
The Cluny. Officially named the Musee National du Moyen Age (National Museum of the Middle Ages), the Cluny is one of my favorite museums, second only to d’Orsay. Here you will find intricate wood carvings, stone statues that were originally part of Notre Dame (most were destroyed or damaged during the French Revolution; these were found being used as foundation for new buildings), stained glass some dating back to the 12th century, intricate jewelry and fine pottery and, most of all, the tapestries, most especially the magnificent Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
Consisting of five very large woven wall hangings, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are masterworks of skill, beauty, complex details and symbolism. I don’t think I will ever get tired of studying them. (Photography of them is strictly forbidden, but believe me, they are beautiful).
The Pantheon is, basically, where the French bury famous dead people. Built to be used at a church, is quite large with soaring ceilings and domes, but it had the misfortune of being finished as the French Revolution broke out. Although it had a couple of brief stints as a church, it never fulfilled its original purpose. Now it houses exhibits and its very large crypt is the final resting place of personages such as Voltaire, Dumas and Louis Braille.
The Orangerie was designed and built specifically for Monet’s giant water lily paintings, some of his last works before his death. The huge curved panels (there are eight of them) adorn two connected, oval rooms. The light is bright but diffused, creating an atmosphere of calm. Unfortunately, it was very crowded the day we were there and the relatively small rooms were crowded. It made it difficult/impossible to stand back and absorb the full impact of the paintings. Nevertheless, they are very beautiful.