Last day in Paris. We were museumed out. So much to see is a problem—you can’t appreciate the yang when there’s no yin. Yin in this case being space, a chance to slow down and reflect.
But we didn’t let that stop us—who knew when we’d get another chance? Off to the Musee D’Orsay where we went for the full overdose discount package that included the nearby Rodin museum.
Over 20 years earlier, I’d been to the D’Orsay and loved it. Now, it was even more spectacular. A five-story super-spacious central area, surrounded by galleries chockfull of masterpieces. It was like a football arena in the US but for superstars of the art game. We ogled all the paintings by the famous Impressionists and were able to see many relationships because of the sheer volume of work in one place.
Just as at the Louvre, throngs of visitors merely snapped pics without even looking at the art itself. I wondered what would they do with all the photos later? Why wouldn’t they just buy an art book to peruse at home? This brought to mind Sister Wendy, the PBS expert art commentator whose religious vows prevented her from visiting museums so she never saw the art in person, only in books. But these tourists had no such vow yet when given the chance to see the real thing they passed it up. Maybe they were just Instagramming. Pure folly.
Also as at the Louvre, there were many spots to park your posterior. Given that both our brains and bones were weary, we especially appreciated the most comfortable chair ever—really, I want one. It was near the giant window clock that allowed a great view of the city. And this location had an outdoor patio where we got a snack and looked down at the Seine, across to the Louvre, and much of magnificent Paris. Truly a perfect museum!
The end of the visit was a harried sprint through a special Rousseau exhibit. Folly as well and an insult to Henri. That we ended up with almost as many clock photos from the D’Orsay as the artwork itself is telling.
By then it was late afternoon and we scurried to the Rodin Museum. The D’Orsay had SOOOO many Rodins that we really didn’t need to go to his museum, but the tickets were already bought. Michael and I love him, and though Michael had been a long time ago, he wanted to go again because it had just reopened in new location, a renovated old palace/hotel Rodin had lived in at some point of his life. Fancy architecture, spacious rooms, and an exquisite garden perfect for his larger sculptures.
It was interesting to go to an artist’s museum like the Dali and the Rodin, as compared to the artist-country-period potpourri that is the Louvre. You can focus and see the growth and depth of an artist. From passionate lover sculptures to great portraits plus sketches and paintings he made. Though to me it was over the top with lots-o-versions of the same piece: the sketches, the set of clay maquettes, the endless variations of the same hands, the countless castings, the castings of castings. A brain overfried on art didn’t help.
So I welcomed the visit to the garden. We spent a long time with the Burghers of Callais, which I’d seen at the Met before, but it was better in the natural outdoor light with few people around. Also wonderful was having Michael tell the story to the kids and me, allowing us to contemplate the people portrayed and that moment in history. The large Thinker, somewhat tucked away, which we’d just seen at the Louvre. Plus, the Gates of Hell, which has a small version of the Thinker near the top of it. It was exquisite weather so finally, the kids and I just rested on a bench, soaking in the sun, waiting for Michael. Once again, they had to close the gate behind us.
I had thought we’d try the Latin Quarter for a restaurant as that’s where I’d eaten every night during my previous visit to Paris, when every night was an inexpensive and luscious feast. As we started walking through the area, a man asked if he could help us. He talked and walked with us but we had trouble communicating with him and it all was a bit off. Nothing came of it, good or bad. After a bit, he scurried off and we continued our trek. None of the restaurants caught our fancy and finally, famished, we were lured into a nondescript place with very average food. Afterwards, we went to a sweetshop and had gelato fashioned into a rose shape, a treat for the palate and the eyes! When we finally arrived back at the apartment, I looked longingly at the restaurant directly across the street from us. It is the oldest in Paris and has a fabulous reputation. We didn’t think it offer choices for our children so we didn’t plan to go there. After the Latin Quarter experience though, I deeply regretted our decision. If I get back to Paris, that restaurant will be the first place I eat.
Every iota of a trip is special. The mind is a huge sponge, soaking up each sight, expanding with new experiences as a dry sponge does when wet, reading all the plaques, noticing the extraordinary in the ordinary things, lingering, considering similarities and differences and meaning, holding on to them. Then over time, life slowly squeezes the impressions out, drop by drop, until the sponge is dry again and needs the waters of another renewing vacation trip.
Traveling when young and single is so different than with a family. For the most part, my days of touring B.C. (before children) were bliss: it’s fairly easy to take care of only ones’ self. With four people, the planning and organizing increase exponentially in trying to keep a diverse, small group interested and intact. While traveling with family, I am almost numb, with only enough energy left to let the sponge soak it up but not dwell on it. B.C., there was enough downtime to savor it in the moment. And in the downtime, I wrote extensively in travel diaries. With a family, there is almost no alone time, except in the mornings before anyone is awake, but that’s when I’m busy planning the day. For this trip, when everyone went off to their own devices, I didn’t object because I needed that wee bit of me space to jot down experiences to explore later. After returning home and taking out my photos and notes, I can contemplate it all, mostly through writing about it.