Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paris Day 2: Rodin and Army Museum -Tuesday

Again we caught the 8am bus and train-We toured Rue Cler. It was a little early for lunch, so we tried the Eiffel Tower a km or so from us. I saw the sign that said 30 minutes wait from this point and the line was 2 or 3 times past that point, so we decided to try again on a day more favored by museum schedules.

After a Chinese lunch, we headed in different directions. I went to the Army Museum/Napoleon's tomb. The tomb is inside a church where politics and religion are closely intertwined. A free with admissions audio tour does a good job of explaining this. On the ceiling, King Louis XIV, who commissioned the building to show his approval by previous kings and God, is shown giving his sword directly to God (no need for the church to be involved here). At one end of the church is a cross with Jesus hanging on it, and he faces the opening to the lower level where lies Napoleon. The tomb looks much bigger than the cross, so we know who's in charge.Christ calling kings to be his faithful servants is one thing, but this place gave the feeling that God was endorsing kings and generals. Although it's a very complex topic. I'm starting to understand some of my friends at church in their hesitance to mix patriotism and Christianity closely together. It's easier to see this odd juxtaposition in another country.

The Army museum was impressive. It walks through 1870 to 1945 to explain how many forces kept Europe at war. It was honest about France's shortcomings, such as not modernizing its military after the exhaustion and massive destruction of WWI to the point that Germany could conquer the country in 40 days. But it was also proud of its expatriate and resistance forces operating during the war. It also noted how Japan inability to surrender in battle led to horrendous casulties on both sides even on battles for small islands. This led to the decision to use the atomic bomb to avoid a gruesome mainland invasion. I had expected an exorciation of the US. I guess I shouldn't paint all of Europe with one broad stroke. The exhibit ends with a picture of checkpoint Charlie, showing not everything was finished.

L:We actually began our day walking down Rue Cler which is full of fruit and vegetable stalls, cheese shops, bakeries, chocolatiers and gourmet food shops. I loved it, but D. was less than enthralled. Then we went to the Effiel tower. After oohing and ahhing and taking some pictures we decided the line to go up was too long so we'd try again another day. It was not a complete loss, though, as we discovered free restrooms there!

I've been wanting Chinese food since Florence, and the neighborhood we were in afforded several options. It tasted like heaven to me even if it was not the best Chinese I've had. We've been dying for our variety of ethnic food we enjoy in Durham. Still no taquerias to be found, but I did find an Ortega taco kit at the store we tried for dinner last night. Something about it was just off, though. It might have been the Holland cheese that looks like cheddar but actually tastes nothing like cheddar. I know, I know-I'm in France. Why in the world am I eating Chinese food and what even at home I would consider sub-par tacos. Not to worry, we have already had crepes, baguettes, pastries, and soft cheese galore. However, we have yet to eat out at a French restaurant just because they are so expensive. Even your normal fast food lunch that runs you about $4 at home is 7 euros here, and that doesn't include a drink which is usually at least 2 euros. Even the cheapest set price menu for lunch runs about 16 euros. We will eventually have a fine dining experience or two.

As usual, food has distracted me. While D. went to the Army museum, I went to the Rodin museum. He's most famous for his statue The Thinker, but after seeing his other works, I'm not sure why. The Thinker is nice, but Rodin was amazing at capturing emotion and movement in his sculpture. I have always had a soft spot for sculpture, although only my friend Kevin never seemed to understand how I could be moved by how the sculptor made a tiny tendril of hair or made a marble robe look soft. Rodin worked mostly in cast bronze, a lengthy 10-step process where I have no idea how they got the bronze to ever look like the original plaster model. Still, somehow he did and the results were breathtaking. I think I have found my favorite sculptor. It was nice, too, because there were beautiful gardens with some of his larger works scattered throughout in addition to the building full of other sculptures.

The Rodin Museum is tiny compared to the massive fortress of the Army museum, so I had extra time while D. was reading all those little plaques. I went to Bon Marche, France's oldest department store. It was beautiful inside and I could have looked at all the beautiful things for days. They had 5 floors of clothing, furniture, china, gourmet food and tea, stationary and art supplies, books, toys, luggage, perfume and makeup, two cafes, and more. It was like having an entire mall, but in one department store. They even had an entire counter and set of jars just dedicated to buttons. It was a feast for the eyes, but all I really did was "lick the windows" the charming French way of saying window shopping or just looking. While the store may mean "inexpensive" as my guidebook tells me. I'm thinking that was true years ago, but with the racks filled with the likes of Chanel and Armani, that is not the case anymore. It was well worth the visit, though, and I discovered another free bathroom. We got a less crowded train on the way home, and a jovial bus driver, so I was thinking much kinder thoughts of the French after our second trip to Paris.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you had a better experience in Paris on your second day. I'm a BIG Rodin fan, too. They have some of his sculptures (well, molds of them) at Stanford and I remember wanting to spend hours looking at and touching them. Holding the insanely large hand of one of his sculptures felt strangely spiritual, like it would feel to be holding God's hand.
    I can't wait to see your pictures!