Sunday, October 21, 2007

9/10 - 9/15 City of Lights

After a long flight from UB, I arrived in Paris in the late afternoon on 9/10. The bustling streets could not have been a greater contrast to the humble Mongolian countryside.

My hotel was in Montparnasse, best known for having hosted expat American writers such as Hemingway. Its bars, restaurants and metro access made it a great neighborhood to stay in for the week. I'd been to Paris once before but for a very short stay. My friend Amy and I visited one of her friends who had returned to France after living in Boston. Laurent was a fantastic host and during our three days there, I fell in love with Paris. This week was a chance to find out more about this incredibly beautiful and lively place.

I spent most of my time walking in neighborhoods and visiting museums. Almost everyone suggested I visit the Musee d'Orsay since I missed it on my first trip. Their collection is indeed very impressive but I was annoyed by the layout of the space. For those unfamiliar, the d'Orsay is in a converted railroad station. The central space is dedicated to sculpture while small rooms to the side house paintings and drawings. It was a treat to see so many works by French masters in one space though. Of all the museums I visited, I was pleasantly surprised that my favorite turned out to be Musee de l'Orangerie. The building itself is so plain, it's easy to overlook it walking through the Jardin des Tuileries on your way to the Place de la Concorde. Its main attraction is Monet's water lily series. Two large oval-shaped rooms each feature enormous paintings on three walls. The genius is in the presentation since the l'Orangerie is flooded with natural light provided by wide skylight windows. It was a fantastic way to look at the seminal works. The basement is home to Walter Guillaume's collection of paintings by artists of the Ecole de Paris, from the late Impressionist period to the interwar period. It was incredible to see choice pieces by Cezanne, Modigliani, Picasso, Matisse and others.

As easy as it is to explore Paris, it can get lonely going it alone. To give myself a chance to say more than "bon jour" and "merci" for a few hours, I joined a free walking tour. In approximately four hours, the tour highlights the major points of interest. Our tour guide Sara, a British expat studying French lit, was hilarious and had an impressive knowledge of the history of the city. I highly recommend New Paris Tours as a way to quickly familiarize yourself with central Paris.

Knowing I had an additional week in Paris at the end of the month let me take it easy the first week. I was looking forward to meeting my parents on Saturday for our walking tour of the Loire Valley.

No comments: