Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Big Bang Theory, Evolution or Intelligent Design

How the Universe was created and evolved or how many Museums can you visit in 6 days before resting on the seventh?

Thurs Mar 12, Day IV

It was a dark, dreary, drizzly, gray day. Clearly, that’s not how the world was created, but it was the weather when I left home after my delicious customary breakfast. (For anyone not following the first few days of breakfasts, I take a few steps down the block for a fresh croissant, then back home to make my own coffee with an orange and banana previously bought at the Marché.) I headed north to acclimate and begin my Museum trek. It seems that everything written about visiting Paris strongly suggests getting a Museum Pass. You have a choice of 2, 4 or 6 days. By far the best value per day is for 6, so I went for it. Now, I really enjoy museums, but I didn’t want to overdo it. There’s the diminishing returns aspect of any one visit and how much it can wear you out. Plus, I wanted so much to experience the life in Paris and I have been to so many great Museums in my life already, so I won’t bore you with a list. My plan was to visit two museums a day for the six days and, but not spend more than an hour or two in each.

First on my list was to get the Keys to the Cité. This was the cute title on the brochure for the immense science and technology museum: “Cité de sciences et de l’industrie”.

I had read it was interesting and has not so many tourists visiting. After wadding through a sea of school children, I purchased my pass and looked around. It is almost overwhelming in size, and most of the presentations are only in French.

I picked out my first exhibit to see: “Man and His Genes”. I was really excited to learn about this anyway, but I had also recently seen something on a related court case:

  • Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts against a public school district that required the presentation of "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution as an "explanation of the origin of life." The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The (2005) judge's decision has sparked considerable response from both supporters and critics. -Wikipedia

I had learned a bit about this subject in school, but the advances since then have been, well evolutionary. What a great presentation! Check this out for a short flash synopsis.

Then, I headed over to see “The Story of the Universe”. I have always been fascinated by every aspect of space and am a sky watcher at home. I especially loved the section “From the Big Bang to the solar system”. After spending enough time to absorb what I could from these two exhibits, I was beginning to get that saturated feeling, but I did wander through a few other areas just to take a quick look before departing.

Off I went on the Metro to Place de La Madeleine, just long enough to discover the Valadon/Utrillo exhibition (I planned to see) is not covered by my Museum Pass. Feeling like I had just paid enough to see Museums and “There’s more where that came from”. I decided to visit the Musée d’Orsay, which is open late on Thurs.; get a bite now and do the St. Martin Canal Walk. I walked a few blocks, right over to # 8 rue Capucines and “Le Petit Vendome” for some fast food to go. This was not by happenstance.

On Le Petit Vendome: Jambon-beurre. A classic fresh crunchy baguette with some special meat, butter and a dash of mustard. Put together all these ingredients of the highest caliber, and you have one great sandwich. Everyday locals line up at the takeout window. Many have called this the best in Paris.

With my Jambon-beurre safely tucked in my case, hopped on the metro towards my canal walk. Arriving at the Place de Stalingrad, I sat down in a park between the 18th century “Barrière de la Villette” (toll booth) for the canal and the Basin de la Villette, and had my sandwich. What a meal, what a view and Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men -“the hits just keep on coming”.

Barrière de la Villette

After my relaxing snack, it was my travel book, my trusty camera and another of their 90 minute walks. How charming is this, the buildings the footbridges, the locks, the small parks with new blossoms.

Here is one of the few surviving brick-and-iron industrial buildings that used to line the canal in the 19th century.

The Canal heads underground to reemerge at the southern end of the Place de la Bastille

To finish off my walk, I headed over a few blocks to the Hôspital St-Louis, whose grounds have been called by some, a duplicate to the most perfect square in Paris, the Place des Vosges (where I had several restful visits) This, I had to see, and so can you.

More Hôspital St-Louis pics

Then, it was home to nap.

Refreshed and cleaned up, I headed out to Musée d’Orsay. One of Paris’ most beautiful buildings, it was originally built as a railway station and opened on Bastille day in 1900 for the World Fair. As a railway station, it was outdated by 1939, went through a series of uses, was threatened with destruction and finally opened again as a museum in 1986. And as a great museum, its mission is to show the great diversity of art in the western world between 1848 and 1914. It probably houses the greatest collection of Impressionist paintings, which is fortunate for me as that is my favorite genre. I radiated in the glow of old friends, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley as well as Van Gogh.

Alfred Sisley, La barque pendant l'inondation, Port-Marly en 1876

More painting pics

I signal out these as they are my favorites, but I thoroughly enjoyed many other works, too numerous to mention. I left at closing as if on a cloud, sat outside in the calm night air for a little reflection by the Seine.

I planned for dinner at one of John Talbot’s recommended spots and (not surprisingly) hopped the metro for a ride to within easy walking distance. Soon I was seated at a table in La Table d’Eugene, #18 rue Eugène Sue in the 18e. This was a fairly small, lovely elegant restaurant with an original old ceiling, yet just a hint of modern flair. My assessment was that I was the only tourist. Maybe it was the subdued atmosphere, the tables were just far enough apart, the clientele for the evening, whatever the reasons, I was not able to make any human contact other than the two wait staff. Since, I was still in the afterglow of those miraculous paintings, and feeling the effects of a very busy day, it was just fine to leisurely dine on delectable dishes of pork and then some kind of beef. All the while, sipping another splendid Cote du Rhone. Of course, I had a spectacular chocolate dessert and café. This dinner was perhaps the most relaxing and the food the most pristine and refined of my entire trip. What a delightful way to spend the evening and end the day.

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