Monday, December 25, 2006

Paris Trip - Day 3

We started using the museum pass from Day 3 and so we wanted to see as many as possible. We seem to be always leaving the hotel later than planned but still we make up for it during the day. We first went to Musee d'Orsay which has a lot of impressionist paintings and covers the period from 1848 - 1914 (Louvre covers the period before this). While I am not an art connoisseur by any means, I can appreciate the beauty and creativity in art well. Since I like impressionist painters like Van Gogh and Monet, I was quite excited to see this museum.

There is a clock in the main museum lobby which is supposed to be the one of the oldest clocks and it was still working fine. This museum used to be a train station and the clock is from that time.

We saw a lot of impressionist paintings by some known and lot of unknown painters. It was good that they let everybody take photos as long as we don't use flash. I unknowingly used flash once and was chastised by one of the museum employees. There were lot of people in groups and their guide was explaining the paintings in different languages. There were some student groups as well, like the one shown below. It was amazing to see young kids being exposed to such images. I can't imagine such a thing happening in the US or in India. These kids were looking at the painting just like any other painting and were not making any crude jokes or comments. It seems like the culture is more open and kids are exposed to various themes when they are young.

There were a lot of painters trying to paint a famous drawing in the museum and it was interesting to compare their paintings with the original. The original is in a museum because the painter has paid so much attention to detail and the color combinations are so good. It was fascinating to see how difficult these paintings are to reproduce even when one has the original in front of them.

We spent about three hours at Musee d'Orsay and then went to Notredame cathedral. Because I thought it was nearer than it really was, we ended up walking a long distance before we reached Notredame. The architecture of this cathedral was very impressive. It is called Gothic architecture and the place had a calming spiritual effect even though there were lot of people. There was a mass scheduled in a short while but we didn't stick around for that.

Our next stop was Arc de Triomphe via Champs de Elysses. Champs de Elysses is the most famous street in Paris where there are lot of fancy stores and restaurants. We walked by there and it didn't appeal much to me, except for the nice car showrooms. Champs de Elysses seemed like Pondy Bazaar in Chennai or Times Square in New York City. So we walked down the street just window-shopping and made our way towards the Arc de Triomphe. This is the arc that Napoleon built to commemorate his victory.

As we were walking towards the Arc, it was getting dark. We could see the Arc but could not figure out how to get there as there were cars all over the road and there was nowhere to cross the road. Someone told us that we had to go through an underpass but we couldn't find it. So we were walking around the Arc in a somewhat dark alley, when a guy came and asked us for directions to go to Eiffel Tower. That felt weird as you could see the Eiffel from where we were and all he had to do is either walk over there or catch a metro. But anyway, we were giving him directions when another guy showed up and started saying French Police and flashing his badge. Even though he was showing us his badge, there was no way for us to know whether it was a genuine one. Now I am all anxious even though I've not done anything wrong or have anything to hide. I just don't like to be in such situations. The cop wanted us to show our passports. He didn't seem to care about me but more about the other guy and my husband. We all showed our passports and then he wanted us to show the money we had and tell him if we had US dollars. Now this was getting very fishy. My husband asked why and got the answer that some people were trying to buy drugs with US dollars. None of us had any dollars with us and we showed the euros we had and then he let the two of us go. He was still talking to the third guy but we got out of there. I am not sure what to make of this incident, as both the guy asking for directions to Eiffel and the guy claiming to be a cop seemed very suspicious. But regardless, I was very relieved to get out of there.
Finally, we figured out how to get to the Arc and made our way there. I was so hoping for an elevator but did not see one till we climbed the stairs all the way to the top. My legs were hurting real bad after all the walking in the museum, but still I didn't want to miss the sights from the top of the Arc. Below are pictures of the Arc de Triomphe and Champs de Elysses (from top of the Arc) on a busy friday evening.

We were ready to head back to the hotel after the Arc de Triomphe. I made sure we got the elevator to come down. We took the metro to go to our station (Nation). While our ticket worked in the turnstile to go inside, it wouldn't work in the one to get out. And the only way to buy new tickets was after we got out. So we went from one turnstile to another as there were several exits, but our tickets didn't work anywhere. While we were explaining our predicament to a store employee, a passerby (Pascal) with flowers was generous enough to take the time to help us. He took us to a turnstile and this time one of our tickets worked and the other one still didn't. Since we couldn't find any metro agent nearby, he said that our only option was to jump and that is what we had to do to get out of there.
Day 3 turned out to be an interesting one and we got to see both the good (Pascal) and bad (the guy who called himself French police) of Paris. We were quite exhausted and so turned in to get refreshed for another day of museums (we had a two day museum pass) after getting some take-out Chinese food.


Sundaresan said...

Wish you happy New Year. Have been a silent reader for quite sometime.

The Avenger !!! said...

wish i could get the time to travel for pleasure. i am just going for a wild life camping trip this weekend and that too after 2 years.

i liked the post, i do hope to present a similar one when i get back :)

Anil P said...

Difficult to figure out the relation of drugs to dollars. Euros would work as well. Can be scary.

It must be wonderful to see the paintings in person.