Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dallying With Dali and A Walk along Canal St. Martin

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Paris, France

Since I had to leave for my NEH session this morning, I suggested to Llew that he spend the morning at the magnificent Musee Jacquemart-Andre which has become one of my favorite places in Paris. I left the house at 9. 15 am for my 10.00 am session on France's Memorial Laws (created in the wake of the Holocaust denials and the Algerian War) and arranged to meet Llew at the Miromesnil metro station at. 1.45 pm. As our session went on way beyond schedule, I was late by 15 minutes--but Llew waited patiently for me.

Llew Does the Musee Jacquemart-Andre:
It turned out that he adored the museum and was really thrilled that I had sent him off there. In fact, he spent more than two hours in the museum and through the use of the audio guide was able to glean heaps of information about the collection and the owners of the mansion. I was so pleased that his lone venture had been a success. We spent the next hour discussing our new discovery and vowing that we would tell everyone going to Paris that they should not miss this venue for the world!

Glimpsing the Champs-Elysses and Arc de Triomphe:
We found ourselves on Rue de la Boetie where we had stayed with our friends, three summers ago, just off the Champs-Elysses. For old times' sake and because we had such happy memories of our stay there, we decided to stroll over to take a look at the building. Our friends have since moved to Switzerland and no longer live there, but it was lovely to stroll from there to the Champs-Elysses and watch the world go by. We then walked to Marks and Sparks to buy our friend Sylvia in Canada the Battenburg Cake she has requested (after reading about it in one of my previous blog posts I presume!), but alas, the store was out of it. We will go back and try another time. This detour gave Llew a chance to enjoy the vibrance of the Champs-Elysses and catch a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe.

Dallying in the Musee Dali:
We then took the metro from the George V station and headed off to Montmartre to see the museum that is called Espace Dali--the reference bring, of course, to the Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali. Neither one of us had ever visited this museum; so we were very pleased indeed to have the opportunity. We got off at Abbesses and climbed about 250 steps (I am not exaggerating!) to get to the Place de Tertre. The Dali Museum is right off this colorful, busy square with its energetic artists.

 It cost 6 euros each to get in (discounted price for museum guides!). We descended into the basement into a darkened space and then spent the next hour and a half perusing the works. Most of the items on display are sculpture and several series of illustrations that Dali did for a vast number of books. Dali's most important paintings are in the world's greatest museums including his Persistence of Memory which is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The sculptures draw on the same theme--the elasticity of time as demonstrated by the 'bendability' of his clocks. Through Surrealism--the yoking together of unlikely objects and contradictory ideas--Dali presented lobster-handled telephones and dancing pianos adorned with the frilled skirts of cancan showgirls. His genius is evident in the uniqueness of his vision, his imagination and his creativity--so far-fetched are his ideas, in fact, as to seem bizarre; but they influenced scores of his contemporaries and he garnered many disciples. The collection is very clearly curated with just the right amount of explanatory notes to help the viewer make sense of the objects on display. At the end of the day, we left the exhibition thinking, "OK, I get it. I now see what he was trying to do. I think I understand what Surrealism is all about--a going beyond Realism, for in French, it literally means Above Realism".

Off to Explore the Canal St. Martin:
When we exited the Espace Dali, about two hours later, it was still bright daylight on Montmartre and the crowds hadn't yet thinned. In fact, most were getting ready for an evening meal. Still full of beans mentally although a tad fatigued physically, we took a long rest in the square of the Bateau-Lavoir further down the hill, then decided to take a long walk in a little-known part of Paris known as the Canal St. Martin.

From the Pigalle metro station--we saw the sails of the Moulin de La Galette as well as the Moulin (mill) of the Moulin Rouge rotate redly in the sunset--before we disappeared down the stairwell as Pigalle came to life. In a short while, we were exiting at Jaures and beginning our walk down the Canal. Who knew that the city of Paris could boast a canal? Well, it does. It stretches in an arrow-straight line punctuated by picturesque iron bridges (similar to Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge) along an area that was once lined with industrial warehouses but today has apartment buildings galore. Although there is nothing visually appealing about this walk, two things fascinated me: the many 'locks' that regulate the water level in the canal (Llew explained to me the principal upon which they work--the 'doors' that shut the water out need to be opened and shut by sailors as they pass by in their boats); and the marvelous Hopital de St. Louis, a hospital that dates from the 1600s and which is similar to the Chelsea Royal Hospital in London in that it is spread out over vast acreage, contains colonnaded arcades and has a beautiful chapel in which the inmates worshipped. The architecture completely charmed me and I ended up taking a ton of pictures. We then returned to the Canal to end our walk at the Place de la Republique which is undergoing a major overhaul and will not be ready for the next few years.

Back on the metro we went to get home in time for dinner (melon with smoked ham, ravioli in a tomato cream sauce with haricots vert and figs and ice-cream for dessert). We were completely creamed by the end of the day and spent most of the evening vegetating on the couch while watching tennis at Wimbledon on TV.

Tomorrow we plan to spend the day at Fontainebleu--so we better call it a day!

A demain!

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