Friday, June 24, 2011

Paris, Ahh Paris! 4

As I have said, this trip was to see some less visited parts of Paris. We had planned to visit some of the covered passageways which contain shops and cafes so we marked a few on the map of Paris and off we went. These types of passages, called shopping arcades in Australia, are fairly common in our big cities, often joining several streets in the central shopping district. Think Strand Arcade in Sydney and even more in Melbourne. Paris has quite a few.

The ones we visited in Paris ranged from very high end shopping with smart and unusual stores, like the amazing scarf shop in the Passage Vivienne, (prices from E240) to rather esoteric shops selling stamps and coins or comic books, to downright ordinary, selling things such as cheap shoes.( These ones reminded me irresistibly of Parramatta, one of our local areas in Sydney). Just loved the gorgeous toy shop in (I think) passage Jouffroy, and the tiny gift shop in Vivienne which had just a few choice things, some jewellery, paperweights, witty prints of Paris.

Passage Verdeau
Passage Panorama
Passage verdun comics
Old “Graphic novels”
The elegant Gallerie Vivienne

Another sight, long planned but never seen, was the Musee Jaquemart Andree. My sister had recommended this, a gentleman’s home filled with the treasures he and his wife had collected. All I can say is “Oh, to be able to collect like this”.

The house is stunning, arranged internally so walls could be dropped to open up rooms to cater for 1000 of the elite of Paris. Walls hung with beautiful art, the Wintergarden has beautiful sculpture, mirrors and the prettiest of staircases. There is gorgeous fresco that nicely fitted the area at the top of the stairs, by Tiepolo, and of course, the private collection available only to a few close friends, of Italian Renaissance gems.

Garden area
The amazing stairway
JA 1
Wintergarden and music room
JAmedici bust
Bust of Catherine de Medici

JA TiepoloThe Tiepolo fresco

At the same time an exhibition of the Caillebotte brothers’ paintings and photographs was being shown in some other rooms of the mansion. I had not heard of these before, brothers of independent means who enjoyed representations of their environment, one by photos, the other by painting, much in the style of the Impressionists. No photos allowed unfortunately. The rooms were cramped and crowded with visitors but again, it was a glimpse into a world where one could just do as one pleased, paint, perhaps build and sail yachts, take long holidays at the seaside, maybe have an extra house or two.

We followed this with a visit to the Musee Arts et Metiers, all about the history and development of scientific instruments and machines. The exhibit drove us mad! For a place that specialises in the development of technology it could use a bit more technology itself in informing the visitor. Audio-visual machines at the exhibits were primitive and often did not work. There were occasional books to read at stations around the museum but the labelling on the exhibits named them only and even in French, had few explanations. Many screens that presumably gave explanations did not work.

One could get an audio-guide but a museum which requires a guide to gain any understanding of the exhibits should include the guide in the admission price. In the end, after visiting the Foucault’s Pendulum and Bleriot’s plane, we gave up and left. Could do better!

Pere Lachaise was another “must do sometime” visit. We weren’t in search of famous graves particularly, but wanted to see some of the monumental statuary and get an idea of the place. It was very peaceful unless we crossed with a tour group.

A street in the cemetery
She died at 18
A portrait of its time. Many show people with their dogs
Angel face
A Gill, caricaturist. Love the moustaches.
Oscar Wilde’s monument, defaced by kisses and messages

In nearby Belleville we found the graffiti street but were a little disappointed after seeing streets in the Mission area in San Francisco. Nevertheless, some stunning work, just not a lot of it and to us, without any message of importance (but we may not be able to “read” what was written).


Belleville graffiti

I promised myself to hunt down some “Space Invaders” mosaics in Paris. These are tiny mosaics stuck on unlikely places such as the corners of buildings above the street names. I didn’t see any, despite there supposedly being many in Montmartre (one doubtful one that looked more like a tram at Pigalle) but I think these, edging a step at Belleville, may be the real thing. But maybe not…


As a final treat for this particular day, we hunted the dragon. This is the last work of the Chinese artist Chen Zhen before he died young in Paris and is a magnificent beast, ripping into the pavement as he dives and turns in Place Augusta Holmes. I know my middle son, Cameron, will particularly enjoy it.

See how he comes out of the wall…

and dives into the pavement again and again

There is a fountain inside and it is lit at night (which we did not see).

Enough for today! Last post on Paris next time, our more touristy things like Notre Dame and the Louvre.

No comments:

Post a Comment