01.11.2011

Breakfast was what you’d expect at a Paris two star hotel: baguette, fruit juice, coffee and croissant. Unfortunately they get their baguettes in the night before and they taste like they are twelve hours old when served. This morning I visited a nearby boulangerie and got my bread to pack a lunch to take with me on my outing.

One of the first things I noticed upon my arrival in Paris yesterday was how mild and dry was the weather compared with Sweden and Germany. Last night I was out in just a shirt, scarf and jacket on top, and this morning I walked to the boulangerie in
sandals. However, the dry weather did not last. As I climbed the short distance from the hotel to the Basilica Sacre-Coeur it began to rain and kept raining until mid afternoon. I was without my umbrella, so, like so many others I purchased a €5 number at one of the dozens of tourist shops. I love Paris, but I refuse to walk around with an umbrella or wearing a poncho declaring that fact. I took refuge in the basilica for half an hour while a mass was in progress before joining a line of tourists walking an inside circuit of the basilica.

My next destination was the Rambuteau metro station which is near the Pompidou
Centre and near my favourite vegetarian restaurant. I wanted to check opening
times of each. Both were closed. I walked the short distance to Musee Picasso. It had been closed since September for twenty months of renovations to the building in which it was housed. However, part of the exhibits will be displayed at the Art Gallery of NSW starting 10 November. The remainder will go to Taipei, Montreal and a Californian city.

I decided to return to the hotel for an early evening sleep, something I rarely, if ever do. I ate at a brasserie close to the hotel. What is it with the French and their sauces and oils? I ordered a vegetarian salad which floated around the plate. It’s a
near impossibility in France to get a simple, unadorned vegetable salad. They should move a little to the east to see how the Italians do it. (For anyone traveling anywhere overseas and looking for a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, go to the Happy Cow website: www.happycow.com)

02.11.2011

I had a relaxed start to the day after which I went straight to the Musee d’Orsay arriving around 11.00am and not leaving until around 5.30pm during which time I think I took in nearly every square metre of exhibition space.

Vincent van Gogh is one of my favourites. So many people don’t see it to old age and we are denied their genius. One wonders what he might have gone onto paint had he not cut short his life at age 37. I was reminded today when I read some of his history that after he spent a relatively short time in Paris he visited places like Arles and Saint-Remy-de-Provence, two cities I passed through on my walk, both of which claim a connection with th artist. In fact, he spent time in an asylum in St. Remy.

I also loved the impressionist painters of which Monet is probably the most famous. I was fascinated to see the contrasting styles between a large two panel painting of Monet’s from the 1860′s (which is hung in a little out of the way space to the left of the ground floor) with those in the impressionist section of the gallery, quite a number of which were painted in the 1870′s.

There is a richness about spending time in a gallery like d’Orsay with thousands of pieces on display. I always take time to read the name of the artist, when the work
was painted and it’s name. I also like to read the short introductions to the artists and descriptions of the particular style in which they painted. Some paintings draw me into them: I just have to get up very close and examine the brush strokes.

I did notice that some of the museum’s acquisitions resulted from their former owner’s having handed them over in lieu of taxes owed to the State. Also there have been many bequests, some involving large collections.

Tonight I made it to my favourite vegetarian/vegan restaurant. I arrived late and left after 11.00pm. Since my last visit in 2009 it has expanded into the buildng next door. I’ll return there tomorrow night for an early meal after visiting the Pompidou Centre.

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