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Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Disappointment -- and a Surprise

So, when I said I was going to France, everyone said, “Are you going to the Eifel Tower?”

“Of course!” I replied. “Who wouldn’t?”

The Eifel Tower is a visual symbol of Paris to the world, I think. Built for the World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle) in 1889 by Gustave Eifel, it symbolizes love, technology, design. It is a landmark, and I have to admit, when I saw it from the plane, my heart beat a little faster.

And, when I overshot my bus stop on the second day in Paris and landed on the front of it, I was in awe of its power, its beauty, and its height.

And when I saw it by night, I was a bit breathless at its beauty, lit by hundreds of thousands of lights.

As one of the world’s most visited landmarks, it must be a well-run machine of efficiency. Easy in, easy out. Elevator to the top. Great view. They must have a system.

Not.

I arrived at the tower at a reasonably early hour. True, not the crack of dawn, but nonetheless, I wasn’t dragging that day!

And the line… well, I’m not sure where it started or even if I got to the right end of it. I just hooked on to an unending snake of tourists speaking every language and waited for (I think) the ticket line.

And waited. It was a lovely sunny day, with a brilliant blue sky and every tourist who ever wanted to come to France was here at this very moment.

I gazed at my map and guidebook. I could be here for hours. And I’m terrified of heights. Do I really want to go up, up, up and be in what is looking more and more like a rickety structure just to say I did it?

After about 40 minutes, I decide to take my lunch of bread and cheese to the adjacent park and come up with a new plan!

That plan involved visiting the Musee Carnavalet (the Paris museum) and the Place des Vosges, a square near Carnavelet that was built 400 years ago in perfect symmetry, with 36 houses of brick and stone (nine on each side).

My friend Laura had recommended both -- she was right.

Victor Hugo lived and wrote "Les Miserables" here (although I didn’t visit his rooms).

And the park itself was lovely, again filled with people enjoying shady benches and sunny lawns, some with books, some with friends.

I took a few minutes to feed the birds that gathered at my feet as I finished off my lunch bread, glad that I’d saved some.

The Musee Carnavalet is devoted to the history of Paris and is comprised of adjoining mansions. A small but formal garden greets you.

I know I keep harping on the gardeners I see in Paris, but really, they do a marvelous job on often massive tasks.

Entire rooms are decorated with the paneling and elaborate ceilings (similar to Vaux le Vicomte)...

...rooms include furniture vignettes (this blue and white room particularly charmed me)...

(Isn't this screen great?)

...while galleries feature paintings and artifacts depicting Parisian life and history.
Others demonstrate daily life, like this depiction of the tools of the apothecary's trade.

I am fascinated by beautiful rooms. This would be a lovely one to spend some time in -- although I can't say that sofa looks all that comfy!

I was impressed by the groups of school children in their red hats, clustered around a teacher who told them about certain pieces of art.

(I would see these red hats elsewhere!)

The museum was immaculate, but I had to chuckle at this little diarama -- note the position of the little dog! Someone (perhaps one of those school children!) jostled it!

Elegant marble stairways with elaborate murals move guests from floor to floor.

The wrap-around murals were especially beautiful.
And I love accessories -- the clocks, the paintings.
One of my favorite rooms was the Hotel d’Uzes Reception Room (1761) and the Louis XV room,which included much art and paneling.

These prints were part of a very large (and funny) series about the crinoline!
But my favorite was the Ballroom of the Hotel de Wendel, an early 20th century ballroom interior reconstructed to depict the retinue of the Queen of Sheba.

Of course there were numerous paintings from the era of Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries, as well as those of Josephine and her pals.

Carnavalet was a little gem and a free one at that. I was especially delighted that it was so close to Jerry’s, for by the end of the day, I was pretty tired!

Things I Learned Today:

Some of the best things in Paris are free – and those included Carnavalet, Place des Vosges, picnics in the park and the wonderful walks to get there.

Some things with admission end up not being worth the wait – at least to me.

A picnic in the park is a lovely way to watch people. (I was intrigued by a nanny and her charges. I wouldn’t have wanted to mess with her.)

Photographs – have I mentioned that in most museums in France you can take digital photos as long as you don’t use flash? They must be losing a fortune on post cards.

19 comments:

Quiltmoose - Dagmar said...

You were right not to waste your day waiting! I never understand the hype about this rather ugly steel construction. It's beautiful from far away but in my opinion you didn't miss anything by not climbing it!

Dagmar

ols1 said...

Great photos as usual - I love the angles you captured. I enjoy hearing about your travels.

Beth said...

I would be the same way, not worth that long of wait. The pictures you took of it were excellent, espiecally the one at night! I so enjoyed the Carnavalet, it was beautiful. And you can't beat free!
I would love to sit in the park in Paris and people watch and picnic with the birds. So awesome!
xoxoxoxoxoox

Joanne Huffman said...

great news about being able to take photos - just in case I go to Paris. I'm not sure I'd go up the Eifel Tower; I think it would be enough to get great photos like you did.

Joanne

anno said...

Heights make me queasy, so that line to the Eiffel tower is one that I would gladly skip.

Hooray for free indulgences! You certainly found some lovely ones.

JC said...

That looked like a marvelous place to visit.

I think our trip to the Tower took a while too and was so so crowded when we were up there.

I don't like heights either but the view was nice.

Thanks for sharing your photos ..

Linda said...

Great pictures..as usual. I would've been right there with you.....no way would I have stood in lines like that to go UP HIGH! ha! It's prettiest from groundlevel!

Julie H said...

Thank you so much for sharing this journey - love the nanny and the tour of that which is free, what abeautiful visit.

Annie said...

Hi Jeanie. I entirely agree with you about waiting in line. Even Disneyland doesn't do that to you much anymore. The museum is impressive, to say the least, but OMG, that mini maze hedge the gardners were trimming is just gorgeous. It's living artwork. And of course, the other living artwork I especially liked was your reflection in the mirrors. LOL

joyce said...

I liked the paintings and drawings. Just my style. I don't think I would even attempt to go up the tower....it just wouldn't interest me. (Besides, I'd be afraid it would pick that time for some crucial poece of steel to break off!)

Mae Travels said...

Did you see the cork-lined room where Proust hid out and wrote?

I think you should lose the background -- it makes your words very hard to read and distracts from the photos.

Mae Travels said...

The background is just light brown when the browser window is narrow, but when the browser window is wide (on a large screen) then distracting sidebars interfere with the text.

jet1960 said...

What gorgeousness! I would say that you visited the Eiffel Tower. I don't think I would go up in it either. I'm afraid of heights, though, especially when I don't feel securely enclosed. So glad you are sharing your photos to enable me to see Paris through your eyes.

BTW, the magazine issue I got the painting technique from was the Somerset Apprentice one, I'm pretty sure.

~*~Magpie's Nest said...

Your pics of La Tour Eiffel are fabulous....perhaps it's meant to be....something to try again when you return to Paris some day?
Your reflection pics are fun and those gardens....looks like they use tweezers to clean up to...oh my back! I am SO enjoying your travels, thanks again for sharing. I know you must have skads of photos, you are doing such a lovely job of sharing some with us Jeanie!!!! These kinds of blog posts can be very labor/time intensive!

jfrancis said...

~Eiffel~
Cold steel
warm hearted
a French affair
with many lovers.

Herzblatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Herzblatt said...

Hello Jeanie,
oh...I am so disappointed because a minute ago I wrote a long long commend but suudenly it was away and now I have to try to write everything again.
First I have to tell you, that I am not Dagmar`s opinion....I love the "Eiffel Tower" and I think it is a masterwork of the former engineers. It must be a magic moment to stand on th top with the marvellous view on Paris, but I understand you very very well....I never had waited such a long time in a snake of tourists and that is the reason, that I never was on high or in important buildings wherever I was....I am much too impatient.(We do that all in our next life!!!...*lol*...)

So well done!!! It was cleverer to spend this time with visiting other things.
I have another question: why can`t I click on your pictures to enlarge them?? I squash my nose against the computer screen to see every detail..:-))
It is a pity that I didn`t know that you went alone through Paris...I would have accompanied you!! Paris is not far away from where I live and the funniest fact is, that I never was in Paris, we only drove around on our ways to South France or Britanny.
And I love Paris very much!!
When you come to Germany we will visit everything together and you hopefully bring Rick with you....we even will go with you to Berlin, where our son is studying!
You write that you were not allowed to use flashs. I suppose that another reason was, that flashs can do damage to old exhibits.
I often take pictures without flashs because its colours are much nicer than with a flash...like your wonderful photos, too!!!

When do you come????
Best wishes
Iris

shoreacres said...

A little detail I love - hand clippers in the hands of the gardeners. Mechanical clippers tear rather than cut, and leave ends shabby and brown - not at all appropriate for such lovely places!

paris parfait said...

Inside Paris, SOME museums allow photos without using a flash; others will not. The policy varies from place to place. In other parts of France, it is often strictly forbidden to take photographs inside a museum or castle. Lovely images here - isn't it a wonderful museum and park? As for the Eiffel Tower, you don't have to go to the top to appreciate its beauty. :)

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