Finally. After a week of clouds and rain, we finally saw the sun! A little sun goes a long way. We spent the morning with Patricia, the grandmother of one of Lena’s classmates at school. She gives architectural history tours of Paris, and she agreed to meet us on Saturday morning and do a casual walk around.
I think I’ve given enough history lessons in previous blogs, so I will try to refrain…but let’s just say we started in the Place de la Concorde near the Louvre. Lots of history in this place, but this is where many folks were beheaded during the Revolution.
From here you can look down the Champs-Élysées and see the Arc de Triomphe. Everything is decked out in French flags because tomorrow is July 14th (which the French do NOT call Bastille Day)…their version of July 4th, when they celebrate the Revolution. Interesting side note…our apartment is steps away from the site of the Bastille…the one that was stormed and pulled down during the revolution. All that remains is a celebratory column put up in the 1800’s.
Patricia then walked us around and pointed out all of the interesting architecture in the area from different time periods. We passed the Grand Palais, a sort of grand crystal palace, built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris.
She also showed us several Art Nouveau buildings. According to Patricia, Art Nouveau was started by a group of artists, architects and designers at the turn of the 20th century because they hated the shoddiness of mass-produced, machine-made good and wanted to showcase the decorative arts to the level of fine art by using only the highest standards of craftsmanship and design to everyday objects. They embraced fantasy, myth and natural objects.
We visited Jules Lavirotte’s 1901 masterpiece, an apartment building very near the Eiffel Tower. It is very fanciful…with everything from lizards to cats chasing a bird…female figures, and not a straight line anywhere. You don’t see much of this style of architecture in the United States…we mostly see the style in decorative household objects like Tiffany vases and lamps, etc.
We also saw the building where the famous Rene Lalique lived and worked…Lalique desigend all of the glass work, including the front doors. My sister will appreciate this.
And then we headed over to Montparnasse and Patricia showed us where famous artists and writers lived in the early 1900’s, including the favorite cafe hangout of Ernest Hemingway (where he got plastered every day).
And we ended the day at the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.
The gardens were actually once the palace of Marie de Medici, the widow of Henry IV. She wanted to re-create a palace reminicient of her hometown of Florence, Italy. The building now houses the French Senate, and the grounds are a public park.
Josette and Lena went to see a marionette show (very popular with Parisian kids) while I went to the Cluny Museum.
The Cluny Museum houses Paris’s most famous collection of medieval art, including jewelry, tapestries and sculptures…it’s located in a former (town house) that was built in the 1385.
After dinner, we took a nighttime cruise down the Seine River. It was hard to photograph things at night…but I got a few shots. Not to sound cheesy, but it was pretty magical.