Musée Rodin

The Rodin Museum is a lovely place in Paris, and it wasn’t too far from our Airbnb. So when we had a couple of hours to spare one morning, it was the perfect place to visit.

The gardens are well and truly amazing. They used to sell garden-only tickets (no longer an option), and it was worth it to bring in a lunch and relax for an hour or two. It’s a proper indoor-outdoor space.

Fierce.

Aristocratic.

Famous.

In all seriousness, Rodin had a thing for hands – there are so many disembodied hands that he sculpted. There’s a great one in the Legion of Honor in San Francisco that we always joke is the Zombie Hand.

But I love that they’re his thing. Everyone needs an obsession, and sculpting realistic hands, with their knuckles and muscles and gnarliness, must have brought him great joy.

There is a story to be written about how this woman got trapped in this block of marble. If you look closely, the marble surrounding her face is all her hair, some braided, some not. It’s just incredible.

I’m a fan of the Rodin Museum and it makes a great stop on a longer tour of the Left Bank.

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a chapel, not a cathedral or even a full church. It’s not that big, but it is striking. The first floor – which was where the servants had their services – is lovely, but nothing to write home about.

I love the colors and patterns – that deep, rich blue and the brick red. There’s also an emerald green that gets used that’s not in that particular photo.

The detail is amazing, and this is how they decorated for the servants! Sainte Chapelle is beautiful.

But the upper floor is where your breath gets taken away. I love the gasps and wows that you hear from people entering the chapel for the first time. There are 15 HUGE stained glass windows (that’s one of them, above), all dating from the 13th century. (The wikipedia page gives a brief overview of its history.) The richness and color and light are striking and sublime.

It is one of the places where the beauty of the building might be enough to make me religious.

A friend once told me that he had a head cold when he was visiting Paris. He went into Sainte Chapelle for the first time, and sat down to rest and relish the beauty of the place. After about 20 minutes, his head cold was gone. It’s neither a traditional miracle nor a big one, but I’ll take it.

My recommendation always and forever is, if you’re visiting Paris, make sure to stop by Sainte Chapelle. It is worth it.

Le Musée de l’Orangerie

The Musée de l’Orangerie is a small little museum in the corner of the Jardin des Tuileries that you would miss if you didn’t know it was there. It serves two different purposes. First, to house Monet’s Water Lilies paintings. Second, to house the art collections of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume.

Monet’s Water Lilies are ginormous paintings that were some of Monet’s last. They’re all of his gardens in Giverny; he donated them to the French government when they were finished because of WWI – he wanted to honor peace. When we went to the Monet exhibit last spring, I wrote that I didn’t like them that much – lots of blobs of color. But here’s the thing: I enjoyed them way more for having been to that exhibit. I learned a lot more about Monet’s later life, his frustrations, his gardens, and how he worked.

So, lesson learned: the more you know about a subject, the more you’ll like it. Or at least be able to react to it in a smart way.

The rest of the collection is of late impressionism and early cubist paintings. They work together in a personal-taste kind of way, not because they’re all of the same artist or the same style of painting. It’s one of the reasons I like the Orangerie better than some of the other museums in Paris. It’s not overwhelmingly big and the collection is more eclectic.

Marie Laurencin is a painter that I’ve not seen displayed elsewhere. I enjoy her works, mostly of women and dogs. Stuff You Missed in History Class recently featured her on their podcast, and I was glad to learn more about her and her style of painting.

This painting is by Chaïm Soutine, and I love the Loony-toons quality of it. This looks like it should be in a cartoon of a town that’s being blown around by a storm.

So, like I said: the paintings aren’t the most famous and it features some less-well-known artists, and I quite enjoy it. The Musée de l’Orangerie is a good one, and I would recommend setting a couple of hours aside to visit it.

Le Louvre

The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and certainly a huge building. I’ve been there a number of times, and this was somehow the first time I went to the exhibit on the history of the building itself. True, that’s not necessarily the point of going to the Louvre (and we spent only a small amount of time on that part), but it was interesting to learn about how it changed and grew over the years.

These are the original walls that date from the 1100s, when the Louvre was a functioning fortress as a part of the Philippe Auguste walls.

But, the art is the point of the Louvre, and here is a small selection of the not-super-famous works that we saw:

This is a sculpture of Hermes that is in the sculpture gardens under glass in the Richelieu Wing. I’ve been on a bit of a Hermes/Mercury kick lately, so it was good to see him in his silly, Flash-esque hat, putting on his winged sandals.

I am forever and always in love with the blue in this mosaic.

Napoleon III was as over the top as you might think he was. The rooms that they’ve preserved are kind of incredible.

It’s also vaguely ridiculous that so much excellent Flemish art is in a French art museum (why, exactly?), but you should enjoy this Rembrandt.

And this Vermeer. I’m a big Vermeer fan.

I am forever and always here for the Winged Victory of Samothrace, aka the statue that Megan Rapinoe reminds me of when she celebrates goals. She is athletic and in shape and she is celebrating because she has just won. And there are so few statues of women, especially from antiquity, that celebrate strong women.

I like this Da Vinci that you can get close to and enjoy – a portrait of Anne, Mary, and Jesus – without the insanity of the Mona Lisa.

Here is an actual famous piece of French artwork, Liberty leading the troops to victory.

The Louvre is full of amazing artwork, but the Tuileries gardens (just outside the museum) are also amazing and worth your time. Especially at the end of a day that you’ve spent on your feet in a huge museum that could be the basis for a semester-long art history class.

It’s full of tourists, but it’s full of tourists for a reason. Visit Paris in an off-season, make your plan of attack ahead of time, and then go enjoy the amazing artwork.

Chateau de Chillon

The Chateau de Chillon is a gorgeous castle outside Montreaux, Switzerland on Lake Geneva. Disney used it as inspiration for the castle in The Little Mermaid. I mean, look at this:

The day was both beautiful and hot – it was a good day to spend inside a cool stone castle.

There were loads of courtyards. I mean, how else do you get windows that let in light? This was the days before electricity.

The tour starts in the castle keep, a place that was used as both a storage area and a place to hold prisoners, depending on who was in charge and what was happening. This is the original castle, and was built largely in the 1100s.

The keep was also an escape hatch – this was the door the Duke of Savoy’s man escaped out of when the Bernese took the castle. (Lake Geneva is an incredible color.)

When people started visiting the castle in the 1800s, Lord Byron showed up. He wrote a poem about one of the castle’s religious prisoners, Francis Bonivard.

There are lots of picturesque courtyards at Chateau de Chillon. It is lovely.

The building is lovely, and it’s set up for amazing views. These are window seats for sitting and talking or sitting and reading or sitting and thinking.

In addition to there being lots of courtyards, there were also lots of dining rooms. This is one of at least three grand dining rooms that we saw.

Views and defensive towers coexist.

Some of the tile and decoration that was used throughout the castle. This is a high level of pattern matching.

It’s a passageway at the top of the castle, to get you from one tower to another. There are lots of these, too. They were fun because the day was hot and sunny, but I can see how on a rainy winters day, not having these enclosed would not be fun.

It’s another courtyard! This one a little quieter. If I lived here, this might be the one to go hide in with a book.

That was it! Lots of courtyards, views, and dining rooms. I would recommend spending a day at the Chateau if you’re on Lake Geneva. We took a boat ride – also a great thing on a hot day – to get there and back.

A walking tour of old Lausanne

I mentioned in an earlier post that old Lausanne is partway up the hill/mountain – that when the Roman Empire collapsed, the remaining people moved up the hill for safety. So the old town, which is very picturesque, is also very hilly. Be prepared for a walk.

This is the view outside the Cathedral, looking back down towards Lake Geneva.

The Cathedral itself is very plain on the inside. When the Calvinists took over in Lausanne, they destroyed the decoration inside the Cathedral. Which isn’t to say it isn’t still lovely. Just lovely in a different way.

After we visited the Cathedral, we walked down a covered stairway (that is part of an official pilgrimage path) that had this little park off to the side about halfway down the hill. It was a little gem that we just stumbled across.

This was a square that we came across, very colorful. It’s near City Hall, and this was the neighborhood fountain, where you would come to collect the water you would need for the day. It was hot the day we were there and I filled up my water bottle at this fountain.

Durig Chocolatier has delicious, yummy chocolate. Would recommend.

All in all, this was a good, albeit short day. We rounded it out with a good long lunch, and it was a relaxing vacation tour.

The International Olympic Museum

I enjoyed The International Olympic Museum more than I expected to. Lausanne is where the IOC is headquartered; ergo, the museum makes sense. (Lausanne in general is a very sporty town, we found.)

This is one of two olympic flames that never goes out. The other is in Greece.

This is the entrance to the museum; it’s also the current high jump world record. That is, someone has jumped over this bar (that most people can easily walk under) without anything like a pole or trampoline to help them along. It’s 8′ 0.25″, and the record hasn’t changed since 1993, according to Wikipedia.

There is a lot to the museum, like the history of the Olympics and what its goals are, the torches that have been used – the design retrospective through the years is fascinating, how different body types are good at different sports, but my favorite is the costumes. These are the costumes that Torvill & Dean wore for their famous Bolero routine.

This is Jim Craig’s sweater from the Miracle on Ice in 1980. (This is when a team of college kids from the US beat the all-professional team of Soviet hockey players in the 1980 Olympics. You can assign all the Cold War significance to this event that you want.)

Usain Bolt’s jersey if for no other reason than he is fast.

A basketball that every member of the 1992 Dream Team signed. That’s the year that the US finally sent its professional basketball players to the olympics – the team that included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson – and won their games by an average of 44 points. (Dream Team was a fun book to read about their journey, but the narrative arc – the golden team that stayed golden – isn’t the most interesting.)

Jessie Owens‘ shoes from the 1936 Olympics, when he definitively proved that Hitler was a racist asshole. (I mean, didn’t everyone already know that? But still, keep shouting down racist assholes.)

The gardens outside the museum were full of statues (as well as Olympic sports to try, including a 100m dash course), mainly of sports. But there was this tribute to abs, which I found amusing. Yes, it’s all about power and performance. But also: abs.

This was the most out-of-place sculpture – it’s a gentleman holding an umbrella that’s made of water. It is whimsical, if a bit out of place in a place that is a tribute to sports.

The Olympic Museum is a bit on the expensive side, as is most of Lausanne, but it was totally worth it. I really enjoyed the visit. But then: the Olympics has so many good stories, and I am a sucker for a good story. Recommended.

Switzerland is pretty, aka, an introduction to Lausanne

The early morning, jet-lagged view from our apartment in Lausanne/Ouchy.

We went to Europe! Our family (me, my husband, our daughter) traveled in Europe for two weeks. First, we went to Lausanne, where it was hot and we had a lovely 4th floor apartment near Lake Geneva. The view was great, and being near the water kept things a little cooler than they might otherwise have been.

The first morning there, while my husband and I were up and ready to go and our teenaged daughter, um, wasn’t, we went for a walk to see a bit of the city. We actually mostly stuck to the shoreline. It was lovely.

I personally enjoyed this fountain of three horses fighting over who has the best access to the water.

This is apparently the hotel you stay at in Lausanne if you are royalty, rich, and/or famous. We did not stay there.

There were lots of wild swans. I chose not to get to close. Swans are dangerous.

There is a lot happening on the shoreline at Lausanne. When the Romans founded the town, this is where they started things. But after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 400s CE, the people remaining moved up into the mountains. (Lausanne is incredibly hilly. Being in the Alps will do that.) So the Old Town isn’t here, and there was plenty of room for development when the time came around.

I’ll be spacing out posts from our trip, with a different thing to do on different days. I’ll post restaurant recommendations as I come across them. Enjoy!

Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest #2

After we went to Victoria, BC, we hopped the Washington State Ferry to travel to the San Juan Islands, specifically, Friday Harbor. We didn’t have a car, so the biggest town made the most sense. We spent another three relaxing days, one of which was even sunny!

This was not the sunny day, but probably was my favorite picture of the trip. It makes you understand why coffee and books are so popular in the Pacific Northwest.

Look, coffee and books are two of the things I really associate with Seattle. It has the most coffeeshops per capita in the US, and there are lots of bookstores and local authors. But we really didn’t do a lot of coffee and books.

This is the bookstore I wasn’t allowed to go inside because I basically already had a book per day for the trip. And look! They sold coffee!

I did read a lot on the trip though. In Friday Harbor, we went bike riding around the island on the beautiful day and to the Whale Museum on the day that was gross and rainy.

One of the beaches we visited on the lovely day.

I got A LOT of reading done on the trip and we ate VERY well. Overall, it was lovely and relaxing.

Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest, part 1

I expected Victoria, BC, to be more like Seattle, honestly. Vancouver and Seattle are so similar in many ways. But Victoria was different. It’s smaller, and I think because it’s the capital of BC, it’s definitely got a touch of old world glamour, as evidenced by the parliament building above.

I have a thing for old fancy street lights.

It was a good walking city – a small city, but a city nonetheless. We ate very well.

Three days was about the right amount of time to spend. We saw the Royal BC museum, hung out in some of the city’s parks, went shopping, and watched A LOT of hockey.

A stuffed peacock from inside the Craigdarroch Castle

Overall, it was great for a long weekend. And hey, I only bought one new book – from Munro’s Books, a lovely local bookstore. No pictures of the store, though. I was too busy browsing.