Saturday, April 25, 2009

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone

I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright Sun-Shiny day.

Sun Mar 15, Day VII

On Wed, we had sun but it was quite hazy. Maybe it was lucky number seven. Or for Star Trek fans, maybe it was Gary Seven. If you want to read more about lucky seven theories:

In any case, my seventh day in Paris was the first truly clear sunny day and I wanted to take full advantage and see some great views, but with a song in my heart, a message from our sponsor:

I needed some supplies, so fairly early Sunday morning, I walked around the Marché Bastille. There were (Joni Mitchell) miles of aisles and a throng of people. Add the hawkers behind the booths and you have some kind of bombastic entertainment!

Colonne de Juillet in the center background

After dropping my treasures off at home, I hopped on the metro for two stops, exiting at Hôtel de Ville. Walking a few blocks north, I was at The Pompidou Centre, which was constructed from 1971 to 1977 and named after the past French President (1969-1974) Georges Pompidou. This unique structure is almost like a building turned inside out and has been compared to an oil refinery with its color coded pipes and ducts.

The views on the outside stairway are incredible even if you have to look through a curved Plexiglas like material.

More views

Outside, street artists perform

Inside is the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Now, just over 30 years old, this museum has blossomed with a collection representing over 60,000 pieces from more than 5,000 artists. I have seen modern and contemporary art before and had trouble comprehending a lot of it. This collection features a whole floor which I just didn’t get. Take for example, an exhibit called “Vides (voids) A retrospective” with room after room that was empty with a lengthy commentary as to why it was art. If you want the full explanation:*Categorie1bis&count=999&sessionM=2.10&L=2
Thankfully (for me) the next floor up had great paintings I loved including those from Matisse, Picasso and Braque.

Henri Matisse
Portrait of Greta Prozor
Nice, France 1916

After absorbing my museum limit for the moment, I sat outside in the glorious sunshine to reflect on what I had seen and be entertained by street performers as I periodically shut my eyes to truly bask in the sun.

Feeling complete, I began walking down toward the Seine; at Chatelet, I came across a small Brazil dancing group

who were passing in front of the Tour St-Jacques.

This ornate, imposing late Gothic structure dates from 1523 and is all that remains of an ancient Church.

I walked over the river at Pont au Change

to Ile de la Cite and the magnificent St-Chapelle

It is in the Palais de Justice, so intense security is required to enter. Sainte-Chapelle has been hailed as one of the greatest architectural masterpieces of the Western world. I visited this on my trip in 1995, but I just had to see it again. Built in 1248, it is ethereal and magical with 50 ft soaring columns of stained glass windows on three sides and a huge rose window on the fourth. One cannot help but be moved, enthralled as you are bathed in the kaleidoscope of colors.

After leaving St-Chapelle, I walked down the Quai of Ile de la Cite until Notre Dame

and then back to the mainland and down the Quai on the Left Bank filled with permanent touristy stands on the upper Quai

and I did some walking on the lower Quai.

You may remember this view of Notre Dame and the tip of Ile de la Cite from the first Paris scene in the Bourne Identity.

More Quai pics

I continued walking down to the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute)

and took the elevator to the 9th floor observation deck.

Built from 1981 to 1987, this structure is spectacular. Its outside river façade is curved to follow the waterway while the inside has a large public square and is dominated by a metallic screen of geometric motifs.

The motifs are actually 240 motor-controlled apertures, which open and close every hour to control the light entering the building. I just had to sit and watch this for awhile.

Then it was a walk home across the Pont de Sully,

Opéra National de Paris Bastille in the background

and beside the Port de l’Arsenal (adjacent to the Pl de la Bastille), where local pleasure boats dock, and the underground entrance to Canal St-Martin.

Youngsters on skateboards at the Place de la Bastille

Following my traditional late afternoon nap, I took one of my longer metro rides south to Alesia and a dinner with Jim Haynes & “friends”. This is something else I had found out about in my research and made reservations in advance. Since the mid 1970’s, Jim has been having this English speaking dinner for random people to get acquainted at his home. Well, it was packed yet everyone seemed to be in a good mood and dinner was being served buffet style as I arrived. I met quite a number of nice people and had many interesting conversations, although it felt a little strange to hear so much English being spoken. Now, parties have never been my favorite scene, so I think I tried a little too hard and wore myself out after about an hour and a half. I gave myself points for effort and headed home. Even with a longish metro ride I was able to turn in early; something I think I really needed. I had been staying out late (for me), so a good nights rest was (On a clear day, you can see forever) just what my inner doctor ordered.

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