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Tabula Rasa | Paris: A Moveable Feast

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

– ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Although not a young man now, I consider myself very lucky indeed to have lived in Paris – even just for 7 glorious days. So, wherever I now go for the remaining days of my life – my Parisian experience will always stay with me – for ah yes, Paris is truly a moveable feast. Unlike Marcel Proust partaking of his Madeleine – I drink with gusto my San Mig Pale Pilsen to recall my remembrances of things past in Paris. After a three-hour train ride from Barcelona, we arrived at the Paris station. Looking for our hotel was our first adventure – we thought it was just walking distance, but we ended up taking a taxi – a Mercedes driven by a woman. Our hotel, “Tres Poussain”, was a pleasant small local hotel – neat and well-located in a quiet neighborhood. We went around iZt and finally found what we were looking for – a Parisian Chinois resto – nothing like eating rice and viands.

The next few days were spent going to the museums – the LOUVRE and MUSEE d ORSAY. The Musee d ‘Orsday is a beautifully renovated Victorian building with a tall glass sunroof like a green house. At the time, the d ‘Orsay was featuring Picasso’s paintings from his Pink and Blue periods. The museum has a permanent collection of French IMPRESSIONISTS: Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and Seurat – which are my favorites. The line to enter the museum was about 1 ½ to 2hours – which could have been avoided if we had booked ­online in advance. But the wait was well-worth it. Even though we spent practically the whole day inside the museum – it was not enough. But then Paris is a moveable feast so we had to move on.

Art lovers, especially painters and sculptors, troop daily to the Holy Grail of Art – the LOUVRE. It’s easy to get to the museum, the bus drops you in front of it. The metro subway has a station under the Louvre which is situated on an expansive city square. It’s a lot bigger than imagined from photos. As we entered the museum complex, we noticed many art students sketching the surrounding statues near the imposing I.M.Pei the American architect’s clear glass pyramid. The lines were long – we must have spent about 3 hours which seemed the norm because we did not reserve on-line in advance.

When we finally got in, we (like most) asked where the Mona Lisa was. But on the way, there were several CARAVAGGIOS and equally renowned Renaissance paintings by Spanish, Dutch, and German masters. It’s easy to spot the Mona Lisa – the small painting is mounted alone on a wall – unlike the others, it has the most number of onlookers in one spot. Although the Mona Lisa is one of the world’s most photographed painting, seeing it in person is still a very memorable moment. I hope my friends, Daryl and Brando’s paintings look as good – 500 years from now!

We had lunch in the Lourve’s French resto – which we did in many of the museums we visited. Equally impressive was its art shop where posters and repros are sold. Paris – like most European cities – is a city for leisurely walks and strolls. Nobody seems to be in a hurry. When one walks along the Champs Elysees, Paris well-known avenue, one cannot help but wonder about the thousands of strollers walking along the same route over hundred years ago. And behold – there’s the Eiffel tower! On the way, we discovered a golden-domed Russian Orthodox Church which at the time had an excellent solo art exhibit by a young Russian impressionist.

We did a lot of walking and thus was able to see what life was like for the ordinary Parisians. The neighborhoods around our hotel have many cafes, galleries, bakeries, restos, mini-markets. The “creative economy” exists in European neighborhoods because the residents patronize their neighborhood’s small businesses (and not those in a mall). This insight is also what I observed in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid and Lisbon.

The LOUVRE was built between 1852-7 during Napoleon II’s reign. Between 1871-1989, the palace was the Ministry of Finance. This was completely renovated and re-opened in 1993 as a museum for works of ART. One enters the museum through I.M.PEI’s glass pyramid which helps illuminate the building. The LOUVRE has 4 floors, divided into 7 art categories: Oriental; Egyptian; Greek, Etruscan & Roman; Decorative Arts; Sculpture; and Painting. We focused on the Sculpture and Painting- so that we can view the works on a single day. The sculpture works included Michaelangelo, Donatello, and vintage French sculptors. Thought of Brando Cedeno – wish he could see these.

The painting wing included the Mona Lisa (da Vinci), Italian masters Giotto, Mantegna, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian. European masters like Durer, Bruegel, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ingres, Corot, Gericault, David, Delacroix, plus many more. FANTASTIC! I know Daryl has been here.

Located not too far away from the LOUVRE, the ORSAY museum on the left bank of the River SEINE is our favorite art museum in Paris. It features the works of the FRENCH IMPRESSIONISTS (Cezanne, Renoir, Sisley, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Seurat) and POST IMPRESSIONISTS (Van Gogh, Gaugin, Lautrec) and other schools (Klimt, Rousseau, pre-Raphaelites). Since these are my favorite artists, I could spend the rest of my life viewing their works. The museum started its life as an elegant TRAIN STATION and 390-room hotel in preparation for EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE of 1900. The train station was stopped in 1939 while the hotel continues until 1973. Gradual transition towards a full-time museum started in 1980 until completed in 2011. Of the many museums, we say in our month of European travel, the Orsay is a stand-out – the most beautiful museum building of all.

Paris weather in late September is much like Davao’s – the 32-34 degrees summer temperature ideal for strolling, which everybody does in Europe.

PARIS, Jet’aime!     By Dinky Munda Jr.

 

Photos from top left: Dinky at the LOUVRE Museum. Behind him is the glass pyramid. Dinky and wife Queenie at the river Seine with the famous Eiffel tower at the back. The couple at the room where the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is displayed in the LOUVRE Museum. The restaurant at ‘Tres Poussain’ where Dinky and Queenie stayed during their stay in Paris.

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