Tag Archives: books

The Land of Balisto

I arrived late Thursday night in Paris and so I didn’t do much. My first full day consisted of sleeping in (something that would characterize the majority of my recent trip to Paris) and then headed out into the city. First I went to Saint Denis to buy some slacks for my upcoming appointment at the Louvre, but after that was taken care of, I took a long walk along the Seine. There are a bunch of vendors set up along the river selling old books and it was fun to leaf through their moth-eaten pages. I ended up at Notre Dame as the sun came out and I sat in the gardens around the back on a bench in the sunshine. I walked to the other end of the island to have an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by my guidebook. I sat next to the window sipping French onion soup and watching the sunset behind the cathedral. It was so beautiful. As I left I heard a clarinet/guitar duo playing on the bridge that really hit the spot. I wish you had been there.

When I got home, Elyse and Hugo took me out to a bar that the local preteens frequent. I made a friend on the bus ride home and interviewed him using a twix candy bar as a microphone. (Don’t worry. He was not a preteen.) The next day, I was feeling a little under the weather and slept in again. However, I was determined to see the Musée d’Orsay. So, I turned on my iPod, tuned out the other visitors, and gazed at paintings I have only seen on flash cards. A dream come true!

Me with Manet's Luncheon on the Grass at Musee d'Orsay

Five hours later it was back to Asnieres where I met up with Hugo and Elyse. We then headed back into the city for some much-needed greasy food. Cuisine of choice? Chinese, of course. Hugo led us to the best Chinese restaurant in Paris, Chez Shen. It’s located at 39 Rue au Maire near the Arts et Metiers metro station and it’s absolutely imperative that you dine at this fine establishment when in Paris. I ate there nearly everyday and have no regrets. After dinner we walked to Hotel de Ville, which is where the mayor lives. There is currently an ice skating rink set up in front of his modest home. Elyse, Hugo and I watched wide-eyed as the most talented ice-skaters I have ever seen in person (this includes many years of attending Disney on Ice at Arco Arena) engage in a game of sharks and minnows. It was insane. We found ourselves rooting for strangers and pointing out close calls. We left as soon as there was blood on the ice. Ick.

The next day, we failed to wake up early enough to go to Versailles, so I headed out to the Pompidou instead, which is a modern art museum. Sadly, the 1905-1960 section was closed, which was really what I came for. That means no Matisse, no Picasso, no Rauschenburg. The disappointment goes on and on. I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire floor full of works by women artists. This featured Eva Hesse, the Guerilla Girls, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Krueger, Louise Nevelson, etc., etc. Needless to say, I spent hours at this museum as well. One memory ingrained in my mind: a video of a nude woman hula hooping with a hoop made of barbed wire. She was a damned good hula hooper, that poor girl.

Elyse and I at Chartres Cathedral

The next day consisted of another failed attempt to go to Versailles, but this is because it is closed on Mondays. Soooo not our fault. Still feeling the itch to get out of the city, we took the train one hour to Chartres, home of Chartres cathedral. I read in my guidebook that as you get closer and closer to Chartres, all the eye can see for miles and miles is wheat fields and the cathedral poking out over the top of them. Apparently, you’re not even supposed to notice the rest of the town until you’re practically in it. Lies, lies, lies. I saw no wheat fields. I saw town and lots of it! Stupid guidebook. Aside from the disappointing lack of wheat fields, however, Chartres was amazing. I’m a much bigger fan of small-town France than I am of Paris. The cathedral, which is the town’s main attraction, was our first stop. It was actually really creepy. Most churches have added a lot of artificial light, which really modernizes the viewer’s experience with a church. Chartres cathedral had just a few very dim lights added, which made it seem very close to what you would have experienced at the time it was built. It was dark and dusty inside. It smelt like old, if you know what I mean. Even the chandeliers and pulpit were covered in plastic gathering dust. It was eerie to say the least. It felt like an authentic gothic encounter to me.

After exploring the church, Hugo grabbed a map from the tourist office and took us on a walk throughout the town. Chartres looks a lot like the town that Beauty and the Beast takes place in. I had “Look, there she goes. That girl is strange-no question.” stuck in my head the whole time. We crossed the cute little river a few hundred times before it started to rain. We found a pub for shelter and played cards before hopping on the train back to Paris.

Ready to research!

The next day I had to wake up before noon because I had an appointment at the Louvre for special research. I met my escort, a cute, short old woman with glasses, frizzy hair and clogs, at Pavillion Mollien where the Department of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities is housed. I started out by apologizing that I don’t speak French and she said that she didn’t speak English……. As it turned out, she did speak a little English. We weren’t having serious, deep conversations or anything, but we were able to communicate when necessary. She first took me to the storage facilities where MA 412 has been sitting in a crate awaiting the reorganization of the Greek, Roman and Etruscan wing. I saw so many famous sculptures boxed up and plastic-wrapped. It was like an artwork graveyard.

MA 412 all boxed up

The next stop was the Wounded Gaul, but wait! I’m sorry, Rick Steves is filming in that room. You’ll have to come back later. So, it was on to visit the Venus Pallas of Velletri which now stands across from the Venus de Milo in a long corridor. Since they are remodeling the antiquities, these were the only two sculptures in the room save for a headless togate figure. I think few people have ever found themselves alone in a room with the Venus de Milo. Okay, so I wasn’t really alone. Agnes, my escort, was there and so were some men fixing light bulbs, but it still made my heart skip a beat.

Way back there is the Venus de Milo

I next visited the Captive Barbarian duo taken from the Forum of Trajan before heading back to the Wounded Gaul. Ahhh, Rick Steves has vacated the building. Another empty room at the Louvre. Incredible. It’s an experience I will never forget.

The Wounded Gaul and company

After finishing up the research, I popped by the opera house before heading back to Elyse’s place. That evening Elyse and I took the metro to Moulin Rouge and then went on a walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is pretty damn far. Then we forced our tired legs to take us up many flights of stairs to the top of the Arc for a 360 degree view of Paris. It was beautiful, but windy and it was soon time to head back to Asnieres for our homemade fiesta–fajitas, guacamole, salsa made from Uncle Sil’s recipe and mojitos a la Hugo.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe

The next morning I was able to drag Elyse and Hugo to my fourth and final museum of the trip, the Pinacotheque de Paris, for the Edvard Munch exhibition. I’m getting very tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading, so suffice it to say that it was great. They had the Madonnas Julia and I so loved freshman year.

Pinacotheque de Paris

After the exhibition, we did a little tourist shopping and I came out with a beret. Then we sat together in front of Notre Dame watching children scare the pigeons. My trip had come to an end.

Beret + Notre Dame

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Asnieres, Chartres, France, Paris

Ce n’est pas comme ça.

Disclaimer: Prepare yourself for art dorkiness. I apologize if some of my ramblings don’t make sense to you.

After months of waiting, weeks of worrying and days of preparing myself with movies set in Paris, I finally arrived last Wednesday night! Elyse and her Parisian boyfriend Hugo met us at the bus station and escorted us all the way to Asnieres, the suburb where Elyse lives as an au pair for an adorable family with triplet 5-year-old boys. Since it was a late flight, we had a little wine and cheese, pulled out the futon and called it a night. The next morning Leisha and I met up with Mia at St. Denis. An amazing little church that spring boarded some of the Gothic architectural style’s claims to fame, namely ribbed vaulting. After exploring the church, we walked through the flea market and nearby stores where I purchased my first set of heels that aren’t attached to some kind of event, such as prom. We decided to continue our heavenly theme and headed towards Notre Dame. We met up with Elyse here for some lunch before exploring the depths of the church. It was so beautiful. I hope to go to the top next time I am in Paris.

Notre Dame

Mia and I at Notre Dame

On a tip from Mia’s dad, we headed over to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, which is where they filmed a scene from Before Sunset. The walls were stacked floor to ceiling with books and the entire store was a labyrinth of literature. My favorite part was the small reading room on the second floor where there were books to be borrowed, not bought. After downing some crepes we walked up to the Pompidou and then to the shopping center…

The next day Leish and I met up with Mia at the Louvre. Wow, a full day at the Louvre for an art historian is like heavenly torture. It is ecstasy seeing things you’ve written about and studied for years. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but imagine only having seen something on a 3×5 flashcard suddenly blown up to 20 feet wide on the wall before you. It’s so surreal. Anyway, we spent hours looking at art. I made some progress on my research and in general filled my heart with happiness.

louvre

Mia, Leisha and I at the Louvre

After the Louvre, we mustered up enough energy to walk the Champs Elysees, seeing the Vogue cover sidewalk and doing some shopping before ending up at the Arc de Triomph, which is way larger than necessary, in case you were wondering. That evening when Leisha and I returned to Asnieres, Elyse had prepared a wine, cheese, bread and fruit spread for our dinner. Yum! Later that night Elyse took us to meet another one of her friends who attends the most prestigious school in Paris. There was a bit of a party at the school, so Hugo, Elyse, Leisha and spent the evening meeting Parisians.

I spent the next day getting some well-deserved rest. In the evening we went to Belleville, which is like the international district of Paris. We ate at this Chinese restaurant called Salon de The Wen Zhou, which I read about in a magazine article. Afterwards, Liesha, Mia and I went to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower. Then we met up with Hugo and Elyse again and went to a bar with some of Hugo’s friends.

On Sunday Leisha, Elyse, Hugo and I visited Pere Lachaise, the famous cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. His grave is actually not very impressive. My favorite gravestone was that of Oscar Wilde. Going against tradition, I did not kiss the grave, because being an art nerd, I know that lipstick is destructive towards stone.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's kiss-covered gravestone

After Pere Lachaise, Leish and I headed to Sacre Coeur. A scene from Amelie, the one with the carousel, was filmed here. We also went inside the church where booming organ music was playing. I sat and ate roasted chestnuts and we watched some street performers. We ended the evening at KFC (for you, Mom!).

Monday morning was my dress-like-a-professional-and-pretend-you-know-what-you’re-doing day. In other words, I headed to the Louvre with the intention of visiting the research center. When I reached the offices, the receptionist did not speak English and I do not speak French. After a few minutes of confusion, he called my Louvre contact, but she didn’t answer. I waited for an hour and a half, but she never showed. So, I decided to visit the galleries again to catch all the things I missed. Yes, one day in the Louvre is not enough. I also learned that two days are not enough. I still haven’t seen the Egyptian collection, which is about a quarter of the museum! There’s always next time I guess. After lunch I met up with Leisha and she took me on a surprise trip to the park where Before Sunset was filmed. We walked through the park and then caught a bus back to the Notre Dame neighborhood for dinner. We had a three-course meal in a rustic-lodge themed restaurant that began with French onion soup and ended with creme brulee. I still think Momma Skeers makes the best creme brulee!

Fun Eiffel Photo

Elyse and I goofing off at the Eiffel Tower

On Tuesday, it was finally time. Elyse and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. Dare I say, the perfect day to visit the Eiffel Tower. We had fun goofing around with our cameras and making jokes about other visitors and the city below. Leisha met up with us afterwards and we visited the bridge from the opening scene of Last Tango in Paris. We ended our half day in Paris with a crepe and then said our goodbyes as we headed toward the airport. It was a wonderful week away from Rome, but I was also very grateful to be back in my beautiful city.

Eiffel Tower

At the Eiffel Tower

2 Comments

Filed under Asnieres, France, Paris

463 steps and no wheelchair.

This past weekend Jenn, Joey, Patrick and I went to Florence. We hopped on the cheap train and hours later ended up in the city. On our walk from the train station to our hostel, we saw almost the entire city. We stayed at Soggiorno Pitti across from Palazzo Pitti, which is actually a fairly ugly palace concealing gardens that cost ten euro to go see. We did not see said gardens. On Friday evening Jenn, Joey and I met up with Patrick, who was staying at a different hostel, and we walked to the loggia outside of the Uffizi gallery and listened to a one-man-band play covers.

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Saturday was a sight seeing marathon. Jenn and I woke up early and waited in line to visit the Uffizi gallery. It’s one of my favorite museums because it has one of my favorite paintings in it, Titian’s Venus of Urbino. For the same reason, it is also a very frustrating museum to go to. For some reason, tour guides like to think (and tell people) that the painting is a private portrait of a faithful wife made for a loving husband. Why can’t people accept that she’s a courtesan?! Argh.

Joey and I on the top of Brunelleschi's dome.

Joey and I on the top of Brunelleschi's dome.

After the gallery Jenn and I met up with Joey and hiked 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome on Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main cathedral in Florence. Don’t worry, I made it with my ankle brace! The view from the top was amazing, but one thing made it very special. There was a big yellow butterfly pacing (if something that flies can pace) next to the dome. All three of us kept snapping shots back and forth, trying to get a photo of the butterfly. This is my best one.

Florentine Butterfly

Florentine Butterfly

After the dome, I went into the baptistery while Joey and Jenn waited outside. Even though I have been to Florence twice before, I have never been inside. The ceilings are decorated with gorgeous mosaic work. If you go, I highly recommend it!

Baptistry Ceiling

Baptistery Ceiling

Then somehow Jenn and I convinced Joey to go to the open air market. She bought scarves for herself and her mom and I bought leather gloves. YES! In the evening we tried to find an English bookstore for Joey, but ended up heading to Piazzale Michelangelo instead, another place I have never been to. Unfortunately, it involved another huge set of stairs. Fortunately, it offered a wonderful view of the entire city from a hill top. After that we all crashed. Jenn even fell asleep in her clothes!

Panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo

Panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo

On Sunday morning we had Italian coffee together at a bar, spent some time on Ponte Vecchio and did a lot of shopping before catching our (delayed) train back to Rome. It was a wonderful weekend for sure.

1 Comment

Filed under Florence, Italy

Joey sarà Giovanni, un romano.

On Sunday I woke up bright and early because the Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of every month. A few boys living across the hall, Brian, Chris and Tye from the U of O Architecture Program, joined me for their first trip ever to the museums. I kept trying to explain to them how large the museums actually were and if we expected to finish any time today, we would need to speed up, but it didn’t really hit them until we reached what I like to call the “halls of no return”. There’s a point in the Vatican were you can no longer roam around at leisure, but you have to follow a one-way-only track with a group of delusional, exhausted tourists packed in like sardines. My dad equated it to being driven like cattle when we visited two years ago. It also doesn’t help that there’s no AC. By the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, the boys were ready to leave. We snapped a few photos, Chris yelled, “NEXT!” and we were on our way.

The Sistine Ceiling

The Sistine Ceiling

On Monday morning, I finally had to address my sprained ankle from Greece. The swelling had simply not stopped, so Jennifer, my boss, made a doctor’s appointment for me. After running all over town and spending too much money getting meds and xrays, I now have to wear a brace for a month, a MONTH!

That afternoon, Joey flew into Rome and I met him at the airport. He said he wanted a “decadent night”, so I took him to get gelato (of course), which we ate by the Pantheon. Then I took him to Piazza Navona where an Estate Romana (festival called Roman Summer)  event was taking place. We saw a group of opera singers performing on a stage in front of one of the smaller fountains. After the opera singers, a group of dancers came on stage.

On Wednesday Joey and I took a short walk to the Trevi Fountain and ate the best gelato of our lives–San Crispino. In the evening Leisha and Jenn, the new library intern at the UW Rome Center, met up with Joey and I to go to Letture d’Estate at Castel Sant’Angelo. It was a book fair that surrounded the castle with vendors selling new and old books alike. I didn’t bring money on purpose.

On Thursday, I had the morning off, so Joey became the tourist and I became the guide. First I took him to the Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo. Then we walked out the back to see the beautiful view of the Forum from the Capitoline hill. We walked along the Forum (you have to pay to get in now) all the way to the Colosseum. We sat up on a hill there, looking at the Arch of Constantine. On our walk back to the apartment, we saw Augustus’ Forum and Trajan’s Forum. What a full morning! After work, Leisha, Jenn, Joey and I went to Scholar’s Lounge, an Irish Pub to see a Beatles cover band play. Italians faking Liverpool accents. Wonderful.

Arch of Constantine (note the ankle brace)

Arch of Constantine (note the ankle brace)

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Rome