City of Light

By now everyone knows what happened the evening of 11/13/15 in Paris.  We’ve watched as the bodies were removed and the memorials were held and the perpetrators were hunted down and captured or killed.  It’s unfathomable and heart-wrenching that some individuals could harbor such terrible hatred for innocent people going about their ordinary lives.

Friday the 13th in Paris

Paris is known as the City of Light.  Sadly, this night the lights were flashing blue and red, accompanied by shouts and shots and sirens and screams.  We mourn with our former neighbors and friends, very thankful that no one we knew personally nor any of their families were involved.

French Revolution

This is not the first time Paris has seen bloodshed, but it’s certainly the most significant for us as we were very recently there enjoying those same cafes and clubs.  In fact, in late May we used our very last long weekend break to make one final trip to Paris to visit the museums and enjoy our favorite Bistro one more time.

Soldiers on patrol at the Louvre

The focus of this post is not to belabor the horror but instead to remember better times.  Thankfully during our visit we were not met by armed soldiers at the Louvre.  In fact, the weather was drop-dead gorgeous and it was almost a shame to spend the day inside.  But after three years and change we still hadn’t been to any of the museums in the city and we thought it would be a serious omission to return home without seeing some of the famous paintings and sculptures.  Sarah was dreading it.  Ever since a particularly long day at the Berlin National Gallery she had been telling us how much she hated going to museums and how boring they were.  We offered her the choice to stay home in Clermont, but in the end she decided to go with us (for the last rail voyage and the food, I’m guessing).

Mona and me.

The trip up was uneventful but hot.  It was 94 in Clermont when we left and as it turned out the air conditioning was broken in the train car we were in.  And since it was 1st class the windows didn’t open.  Thankfully about 45 minutes into the ride the conductor came through and told us there were some empty seats in the next car.  That one was better!

The next morning we headed directly to the Louvre right as the doors opened at 9 am.  A friend had tipped us off that we could buy tickets ahead of time at the FNAC in Clermont (think Best Buy), so we were able to go past the ticket line and right into the huge museum.  We picked up a guide brochure and headed straight for the Mona Lisa before the crowds arrived.  Our strategy worked and we were able to get close with no waiting.  Here are some other Louvre pics.  Click on the thumbnails for a full-size image.

After all that moaning about visiting museums, Sarah loved the Louvre.  In fact, we almost had to drag her out of there as lunch time came and the crowds got thick.

We got a little silly at times.  Probably upset the more serious art aficionados but we tried to be discrete.

Winged Messengers
Winged Messengers

We didn’t see it all, of course.  But we at least saw some of the more famous exhibits and spent some time with the ancient Egyptian and Greek stuff that really fascinates Sarah.

Egyptian Galleries
Egyptian Galleries

We finally bailed out to go find some lunch and get off our feet for a bit.  The crowds had been building as the morning went on and I was starting to get slightly weary of dodging Japanese tourists with selfie sticks.

Parisian outdoor lunches are tres sympa (very cool)!

We found a small cafe in the Saint-Germain area and enjoyed a light lunch and some quality people-watching.  After lunch we strolled down the river Seine to the Musee D’Orsay.

The weather was still fantastic.  In this picture you can see all the “love locks” which have become somewhat of a nuisance tradition.  Lovers buy them and attach them to bridges as a sign of their never-ending affection.  I hear cities are now cutting them off because all the extra weight is starting to become a structural issue.

Built in 1898-1900, the Musee d’Orsay was originally a train station for the 1900 Exposition Universelle (world’s fair).  Later it fell into disuse because the platforms were too short for the longer modern trains.

Musee d’Orsay was once a train station.

Used as a mailing center during WW II, it was almost demolished in 1970, but instead was converted to a museum to bridge the gap between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art.  Today the Musee d’Orsay boasts the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world by famous painters such as Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gough.

Van Gough at the Musee d’Orsay

Again we were able to bypass the lines at the door thanks to our pre-purchased tickets.  We started in the impressionist galleries and wandered through the paintings and sculptures and carvings and…  stuff.

Art comes in many forms

Sarah decided that she liked the Louvre better.  I think she liked the sculptures and ancient mythology themes better than the impressionist paintings.  Or maybe we were just getting tired.  That was definitely part of it.

Art can be scary

One thing we decided by the end of the day was that whatever the ancient people did, they normally did it naked.  At least that’s what the artists must have thought.  Fighting monsters, starting revolutions, riding horses, eating food, whatever.  Naked.  Or maybe naked art just sells better.  Either way after two huge museums we were getting a little tired of looking at naked people!

Time for a twirl in the ballroom

So after two or three hours of d’Orsay-ing we headed across the Seine to the Jardin des Tuileries (park) for a snack and a beverage.

Jardin des Tuileries and the Musee d’Orsay

That night we visited or favorite Parisian bistro, le Mesturet, for dinner, and the food did not disappoint!

Coffee in the Park

The next day we had time for one more cafe in the Jardin des Tuileries before catching the train back to Clermont.

Paris in better times
Paris in better times

It’s horrible what happened in Paris the Friday before last and what happened back in January at the Charlie Hebdo offices.  It’s horrible that it’s also happening in Mali and Beruit and Syria and Kenya and all over the globe.  It’s hard to explain to our daughter why these people are so bent on slaughtering innocent citizens in the name of their God and their ideology.  I am sure Paris will recover.  I just hope the light still shines and the magic still dazzles.  Vive le France.

Note: some pictures were borrowed from the Chicago Tribune and Getty Images.

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