Paris-Ooh la la

Eiffel Tower, Paris France
Old Town Street, Stockholm

16th – 28th February 2010

Ostasiatiska Museet
The Museum of Far Eastern antiquities (Ostasiatiska Museet) was the hot spot for us last Tuesday night. Walking through the city to get to the island of Skeppsholmen is absolutely no chore, even in the freezing cold. It's just so stunningly beautiful all the time even at night and you just don't mind the cold at all. The museum itself was a surprise inside because there weren't a lot of exhibits in it compared to Australian galleries, especially the Sydney one which has a wonderful collection, but what it did have was perfection. Hiie went into a swoon at a turquiose vase from the 1700's. I didn't feel quite the same way but I was still impressed. We had chinese tea there served with the usual Swedish hospitality.

Looking across the water from Skeppsholmen at night, Stockholm

Prince Waldemarsudde gallery
Located in Djurgarden (the former Kings hunting ground) is the one of the most beautiful houses. Visiting that Sunday it was minus 13. You start getting a bit blaze with the cold here so I thought I'd be fine with less clothes on but it wasn't a good idea. The bus stopped early because it was too dangerous to continue so we had to walk the rest of the way to the gallery. My nose and fingertips went numb and snot was streaming down my nose because I couldn't feel it- not a good look. But it really was worth it. This is one of the best places to visit in Europe. A magnificent former home of Prince Eugen which is now a gallery. Cameras were banned so I could only sneak in one photo which is a bit dark unfortunately. It was magic.
Crossing the bridge into Djurgarden

Gate at Djurgarden
Me looking  frozen on Djurgarden
One of the Royals on horse, Djurgarden
Cool little birds
Prince Eugen's house (gallery)
The landscape on Djurgarden
 Looking outside from Prince Eugen's sitting room.

Gamla Stan (Old Town)
Travelled to Gamla Stan again on 22nd Feb, the beautiful old town, home to so many great Stockholm attractions - the Royal Palace, museums and lots of medieval streets. It's so gorgeous especially when it's sunny which it wasn't but cleared up for us a bit later in the afternoon, creating a beautiful crystalline atmosphere of reflected light. It was freezing walking around (minus 10) so my fingertips eventually started to ache and we went into the Royal Armoury museum to warm up. It was a happy accident as this is a brilliant museum which I hadn't planned on visiting. It's located in the vaults of the palace cellars and contains armour, guns, swords, helmuts, royal costumes, stuffed horses, the usual paraphenalia of royal life. Plus some beautifully ornate carraiges. It's really dark and atmospheric and kind of chilling. Unfortunately some of the photos are out of focus but you get the idea.

 
Street in Old Town
 
Soldier guarding the Royal Palace

Looking towards the island of Blaisieholmen
Statue on facade of Royal Armoury
 
Looking towards Stockholm National Gallery

 
Armour, Royal Armoury, Old Town

 
Armour, Royal Armoury, Old Town
 
Royal Jewellery

 
Out of focus photo of a Royal Carraige

Paris
The Swedes are so polite and courteous plus they nearly all speak English and they are happy to do so. A complete contrast with the French- well those in Paris anyway. Though we did experience some hospitality from Parisians they were nearly all from somewhere else. Oh well, comme ci, comme ca!
 
Eiffel Tower at night
Me and Eiffel Tower


Paris is an incredible, monumental city full of light and dark and of course one of the best places to visit in Europe. Overall though I found Paris more dark than light. There is a very pronounced police presence everywhere. Cars were continually speeding around the arrondisements with horns blaring day and night. You wonder what's going on. And certainly at all the public sites you were thoroughly checked by security guards. Even at the Notre Dame cathedral.
We spent a lot of time on the metro getting about and it is truly awful with the smell of urine all over the place, rickety, dirty old trains and toilets and unhappy people. There are lots of beggars and people sleeping in the streets and in the metro as well. I felt sorry for the Parisians having to put up with it. On the last day we decided to catch the airport bus from the Paris Opera. We were waiting for the bus to come and I walked off to have a look around while Hiie looked after the bags. When I got back to my surprise she'd been accosted by this attractive young woman with gold filled teeth. This girl had managed to slip a gold ring on Hiie's finger and wouldn't leave until she got some money. Unfortunately the ring wouldn't come off Hiie's finger so there was a bit of mild panic for a minute. She must have realised she wasn't going to get anything out of me more than the 2 euros I gave her and eventually left. But you have to be forceful that's for sure.

Carnival near Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower close up

The Eiffel Tower
Fortunately it stopped raining in the evening of our first day so we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower at night. I really didn't expect much but it's actually quite beautiful. The ironwork creates harmonious patterns of light and looks finely wrought and quite elegant at night. I found it really inspiring and uplifting to be there. It's filled with tourists and the atmosphere is really positive with an old fashioned carnival nearby. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant and the waiter was charming and actually spoke a little English which made us feel a bit more relaxed.

 
Restaurant near the Eiffel Tower district we had dinner at.

 
View down the Seine
Sculpture in middle of roundabout

Paris is actually overwhelming in its size. There are endless historical monuments and museums and churches. Even if you visited something everyday of your life you'd still never get through it all.

The Louvre
The Louvre nearly killed us. It's gigantic. There are thousands and thousands of artworks in one of the greatest museums in Europe. There are also thousands of tourists even though we got there reasonably early (9.30) but it was ok. In fact I quite enjoyed it (I think as a defence against the French people) though it does effect your ability to appreciate the art. We did have a plan and followed it for the first two hours visiting all the artworks that you must see, ie the Aphrodite, Dying Slave, Leonardos etc. Highlights. Seeing Botticelli frescoes. The Italian primitives. Rembrandt landscapes. I never thought that much about Leonardo da Vinci but the paintings are actually incredibly magical in real life. They're like looking into the depths of a pond and seeing someone materialise magically on the surface of the water. They deserve their status. You're half a mile away from the Mona Lisa and behind bullet proof glass (the painting not me) but it still emanates beauty and harmony and it is worth going to Paris for.

 
 Close up of Leonardo painting 

 Close up of Virgin on the Rocks
 Inside one of the Louvre galleries
Michelangelo's Dying Slave
 
Fra Angelico

 
Egyptian statue

 
Botticelli Virgin and Child

 
Murillo Holy Family
Me outside The Louvre

St Chappelle church
It was going to be raining most of the day so we decided to visit churches. The first stop Saint Chappelle a 13th century medieval church on the island of Ile de la Cite- the heart of Paris. But first we had to get through the security checkpoint which was about as strict as the Melbourne airport. They are serious scary dudes. Once through we entered the church and you climb this very narrow staircase to get to the main church (If you were very fat or had claustrophobia you couldn't climb it). The church is dazzlingly rich in stained glass, quite narrow and high in typical Gothic style with a beatiful rose window in the western wall. Rose windows are actually shaped like the petals of a rose and contain various biblical stories and themes as well as historical subjects. I love them.
Rose Window, St Chappelle church
Stained glass windows St Chappelle
 
St Chappelle

 
St Chappelle
St Chappelle
St Chappelle
St Chappelle looking skywards
Notre Dame
Notre Dame cathedral is incredible. You would go to Paris for the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is an incredible record of human artistry and geniune spiritual feeling and passion. It has the same kind of natural effect on you as an underground cave. Dark and mysterious and kind of claustrophobic. You're drawn into the depths but you've also got your eye on the exit. It was time travelling back to the 13th century.

Amongst the throngs of tourists outside there were people begging as we entered and then a blind man on his knees with outstretched arms as we exited. It's full on but incredibly beautiful and pulls on your heartstrings. I shed a tear when I first saw its facade. And at the rose windows inside which I read about 20 years ago and always wanted to see and finally did.

Notre Dame facade
Notre Dame facade

Notre Dame facade
Inside mysterious Notre Dame

 
Stained glass Virgin Mary and Child, Notre Dame
Rose window, Notre Dame
 
 One of the amazing windows in Notre Dame Cathedral

 
Wood sculpture panels, Notre Dame

Main altar, Notre Dame Cathedral
The O'rangerie Museum
No it's not a place that sells oranges the L'Orangerie is actually a beautiful 17th century building full of light (because it's been modernised) perfect for paintings, part of the Tuilerie Gardens and which houses some impressionist paintings and the famous large Monet waterlily paintings. Hiie cried at the Monet's. I didn't but I did love them. It's like being submerged in green and violet and pink. Of course to get in their is worse than getting into a fortress and the guards in their are serious about not having your flash on your camera.

Cezanne
Part of the Louvre's Gardens
Tuilerie Gardens
I was a bit disappointed with the Tuileries. It is winter but there's a few spindly trees layed out in the sparse and orderly French way. Paris does not look beautiful in winter unlike Stockholm which is dazzlingly beautiful. It looks dirty and old and is. There was only a hand ful of us wandering in it and you felt kind of abandoned and lonely in this enormous unnurturing garden.

 
 Maurice de Vlaminck

The Musee D'Orsay
After the Louvre I suddenly thought I've got to see the Impressionists. I thought they'd be in the Louvre for some reason but they're not they're in the Musee D'Orsay, some of whose collection is in Canberra at the moment. It's a gallery that was originally a train station so it has a huge semi circular transparent roof. It's got a good vibe and is much easier to manage as a gallery goer. It's one of the best art galleries in Europe. Some of the staff actually speak English. Shock, horror! The revelation was the Van Goghs which I've never seen in real life. I always loved Van Gogh as everyone does but I also thought some of his portraits were garish and lacking in harmony. But they are just magical. I shed a tear and would have sobbed but thought it might be a bit much. I was just overwhelmed by their life and sensitivity and passion.They are deeply spiritual and full of love. I'm definitely going to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam now.

Inside Musse D'Orsay
 
 Gauguin

 
 Me inside Musee D'Orsay

 
Van Gogh
 
 Van Gogh

 
Bonnard
Pantheon
We visited the Latin Quarter one night, they recommended it in the travel guides but mainly I wanted to see the Pantheon ( it's in the the Da Vinci code), an 18th century church (now a civic building full of tombs of famous people ie. Voltaire) in Neo-Classical style. It kind of looms over everything, this giant dome echoing the moon in the distance. There was a group of 20-30 guys drinking out the front having a great old time shouting things in French. We kept on the other side of the road. It's a scary building so maybe they were attracted to it. Neo-classical style is severe and unadorned and is meant to intimidate you and does. It reminded me of the buildings in the backgrounds of the old epic theatre films about the fall of the Roman empire that used to be on television in the 70's.

 
 Pantheon

Arc de Triomphe
We went to the Arc de Triomphe on the day we were leaving. Maybe it was symbolic- we survived Paris? Napoleon built it and it commemorates French battle successes. It's imposing and kind of exhilarating being there as it's like you're the centre of the universe because it's designed in the centre of 12 main avenues which all radiate out from it. It says a lot about the French. I'm glad I saw it but was happy to march of into the distance.

Arc de Triomphe
 Artemis on the run, perhaps off to the Charles de Gaulle airport. The Charles de Gaulle airport takes the prize as the ugliest most inhospitable building in the world.
 

Home sweet home.


Comments

  1. I borrowed one of your beautiful shots of the Notre Dame stained glass window but I linked back. If you'd prefer I took it down, please let me know! I love your blog, by the way!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's fine about the photo Mariella. Glad you enjoyed the photo and the blog.

    ReplyDelete

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