Tag Archives: Free the First Sunday of the Month

Musée national du sport

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to do something a bit special and completely different: I am going to have a guest blogger write this post. You see, it involves a visit to the sports museum, and while I am a casual sports fan, I am definitely not a major sports fan and I’m not a fan of every sport. Fortunately, the maestro is both, and he came with me to the sports museum a few weeks ago when he was visiting. So with that, I’ll let the maestro take you through our tour of the Musée national du sport.

The Musée National du Sport was, in a word, disappointing.  I was extremely exciting upon our entry to the museum because we quickly discovered that we were the only two people there.  In my mind, this meant that that would be no long lines to see all of the awesome artifacts and read all of the informative placards.  Well… there was a serious lack of awesome things to see and read.  Now this is not to say that there was nothing cool on display.  There were several Olympic gold medals (although not from Olympics held in France), a bicycle from the turn of the century, Tony Parker’s French Olympic basketball jersey, and a pretty sweet miniature replica of a French gym from the early 1900’s.  Other than that however, and I kid you not, the vast majority of the museum was about skateboarding.  Room upon room of skateboarding paraphernalia, skateboarding videos, a “street course” set up for guests of the museum to practice their finger skateboarding skills.  Each successive room brought us another dizzying array of skateboards and skateboarding information.

When I think of French sports I think of several different things.

The most storied bicycle race in history, the Tour de France.  One display case in the museum contained a slightly battered yellow jersey from the mid 1970’s, and did not even explain it’s significance.

The French Open.  One of tennis’s four major championships.  Not once was the French Open so much as mentioned in the Musee National du Sport.

French Soccer.  One display case contained a soccer ball.  The guests are left wondering what this soccer balls means, or if it was simply placed in said display case at random.

For a country steeped in such rich athletic history and tradition as France, the Musee National du Sport falls well short of representing French sport in the way it deserves.  Ultimately, I had an enjoyable time at the museum, but almost entirely because of who I was with, and not what I got to see.

Olympic Torch

Musée du Louvre: Ancient Egyptian Collection

The Louvre.

The most visited art museum in the world. One of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument as well. At least, according to its wikipedia article. I’m not surprised. It’s . . . overwhelming. So I’ve decided to break it down and present it to you in pieces. Collection by collection. That seems much more manageable. I have a Louvre card, which gets me into the museum for free without waiting in line, so I’ll make many smaller trips every so often and report back. This will be much more pleasant for me (because to try to see it all in one day or one weekend or even one week would be insane and would result in a lot of stress, a very sore back and feet, a foggy brain overwhelmed with all of the information I’d taken in over such a short period, and a very poor idea of what to write about the millions of items I’d witnessed) and for you (because any article I wrote afterward would surely be disorganized, too long, and insufficient on all of its many subjects). So we will take baby steps. I started with my favorite: Ancient Egypt.

I have been fascinated with Ancient Egypt ever since the sixth grade when we finished the Mesopotamia unit and started learning about the pharaohs, gods, pyramids, and mummies of Ancient Egypt. It captures the imagination. It’s fascinating. Plus, they had mummies; need I say more? The maestro came to visit this month, and we went to the Louvre a couple of times. It’s the kind of place that you could go to many times and still constantly be making new discoveries.

The Louvre has over 50,000 pieces in its Ancient Egypt collection. The thing that struck me most about every single item, as obvious as it is, was its age. We saw beautifully made objects that are 5,000 years old. 5,000 years old! And they’re still so impressive. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around how old some of these objects and statues and artwork are. I am also amazed by how long Ancient Egypt existed.  As a point of reference: America has been a country for less than 250 years; Ancient Egypt lasted for almost 3,000 years.

I won’t try to catalogue all of the incredible things we saw, because they’re too numerous. I will just say that some of my favorites were the statues. Many of them were larger than life. They have statues of pharaohs and gods and animals. They have a temple you can go inside of. A giant sphinx greets you as you enter the Ancient Egypt collection. It’s amazing.

They have a lot of sarcophagi, which are stunningly detailed with many layers.

They have incredible objects from daily life as well, including jewelry and clothes and mirrors, and even musical instruments.

I’ve saved the best for last. In my opinion, the pièce de résistance in the entire collection is the mummy. Yes, you read that right. There is an actual mummy in the museum that can be viewed from 360 degrees. They even have the jars containing the organs with it. Ahhhhh! I will admit, I was delightfully freaked out by the mummy. It’s incredible. You can see the shape of the 5,000 year old face and where the nose protrudes. The person was quite short, not surprisingly. You can see every tiny finger individually bandaged. It’s all evenly and carefully wrapped and preserved. Even the ears. If, like me, you have a vivid imagination, you half expect the mummy to bolt upright and look at you with its blank bandaged face from behind the glass. I was very jumpy as I circled it and bent down to look more closely. Thank goodness the maestro was there. I made him stand between the mummy and myself while I had my back turned to read the sign on the wall. I got the chills from looking at this former person from ancient times. I was completely freaked out (though I played it mostly cool) and yet the maestro practically had to drag me away because we were late for a friend’s birthday dinner. How awesome. An actual mummy.

I am probably biased because I love Ancient Egypt so much, but you MUST visit this collection. Leave yourself plenty of time. It’s extensive, and it’s all well worth seeing. There’s a small temple you can go into, and tons of statues and objects to see. They have the book of the dead spread out on a wall. They have rows of statues, and many hieroglyphics  in stone and on papyrus. It really captures the imagination. The whole thing is impressive.

New words: décalage horaires (time change), désormais (henceforth), en tant que tel (as such), au-delà (beyond), quant à (as to), jumeaux (twins), la chute (fall), chut (hush), le fusible (the fuse), la candidature (application, like for a job)

 

 

Sainte-Chapelle

This is one of my favorite treasures in Paris. I have been a handful of times, and it never fails to awe me.

A year ago, I was in Paris under the pretense of an academic program (okay, so we actually did do a lot of work, but that didn’t slow down our fun). A professor suggested that I visit the Sainte-Chapelle, and I had never been. I went with a couple of friends on our first free day, and here’s what I wrote in my private blog:

First, we went right across the bridge to the Sainte-Chapelle. It’s in the Palais de la Cité (or what’s left of it), which was the royal residence and seat of power from the 10th to 14th century. Louis the IX ordered the tiny chapel to be built for the use of the royal family. He spent twice as much money on the relics (including some of the Crown of Thorns) as he did on building the chapel. We went in and walked around, and I was thinking, ‘okay, this place is nice, but it’s not that great. It’s not in great condition or anything, and the stained glass windows are not as impressive as advertised.’

I was just about to leave the chapel, thinking that my Professor had led me astray, when I saw a sign on the way out in the corner that said “Haute Chapelle” with an arrow pointing to a staircase in the corner. I thought, ‘why not’ so I went up the stairs. Wow. Oh my gosh. I stood there for a few minutes just staring up and circling. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Ever. Our best guess is that the chapel is at least 3 stories high with gorgeous intricate stained glass windows covering the walls. Like, 50 feet high stained  glass windows.
That was my post from over a year ago, and now that I’ve been a few more times, the stained glass still has the same effect on me. There’s just so much of it! And it’s so beautiful! There are 1,113 biblical scenes depicted on the 15 stained glass windows, and they start on the left with Genesis and go all the way around the room, finishing with a huge rose window that shows the Apocalypse. It’s breathtaking. The building and windows are from the 13th century. I was surprised to learn that about 70% of the windows are still the originals! They’ve done a lot of work to restore and preserve them.
In the lower chapel, there used to be beautiful statues, but I believe that a lot of them were victims of the revolution. However, you can go over to the Musée Cluny to see the what’s left of the original, medieval statues. They are still quite impressive!
I cannot recommend this place highly enough, even if you only have a short time in Paris. If you can come on a bright and sunny day, even better. You have to pay to enter (except on the first Sunday of the month), but the price of admission is well worth it. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. In the summer they host concerts here. That’s on my to-do list.

Musée National du Moyen Age (Musée de Cluny)

Yesterday was the first Sunday of November, and on the first Sunday of the month here in Paris, many museums that normally charge to enter open their doors for free visits. I chose to go to the Musée Cluny for the first time yesterday. It is a favorite of one of my friends back home, so I thought I’d go see what all the fuss was about. Now I think it’s one of my favorites, too.

The building that houses the museum is very impressive. It was begun in the 14th century, and in 1843 it was turned into a museum. It is located right at the intersection of the Boulevard St-Michel and the Boulevard St-Germain, which is a busy area on the left bank. The hôtel is surrounded by really beautiful gardens that are always free to enter. Since it’s getting to be winter, the gardens were not at their most spectacular yesterday so I’ll definitely be back in the spring to see them at their finest. They were still nice though.

The entrance to the museum is located just off a nice medium-sized courtyard that immediately transports you back in time. I entered (for free!) and got an audio guide for €1, but I quickly abandoned it (you’ll see why later).

The first thing I saw was a room of stained glass from the 12th and 13th centuries. It was really beautiful, and I was surprised that it was in such good condition. The glass is from medieval churches in France, and it was illuminated all over the small room that housed it.

Next I moved on to a large open room that had the original sculptures from the Notre Dame de Paris. They were fantastic. Several massive heads representing the Kings of Judah were there; they had been plundered from the Notre Dame during the revolution because they represented monarchs. They were found in 1977 buried during excavation to build a garage. There were also many saints, but they were missing their heads. I believe these statues were also victims of the revolution. Fun fact: all of the original sculptures on the Notre Dame (and many other medieval locations around town) were originally done in color! You can see some red pigmentation on the lips and cheeks of the statues if you look closely, and some darker colors in the eyes. I had no idea. The room is vast and contains all types of original sculptures from Notre Dame. It also hosts concerts throughout the year, which would be a really cool venue to see some classical music. Yesterday they were getting ready for a concert of medieval chant music when I was there. Fantastic.

The next room I saw was quite a treat: the building is partially built on the site of 1st-3rd century Roman baths! The cavernous room is still intact, and you can see where the pool was, some baths, and large indoor sporting area. How amazing.

Then I went through rooms and rooms of medieval sculptures, books (they have some very nice illuminated manuscripts), art, tapestries, artifacts, and anything else you can think of. Some of my favorites were a chapel in the building with incredible vaulted ceilings and some medieval wooden chair stalls, a collection of rings, some shields and armor, and a collection of kitchen apparatuses and knives.

Ring Collection

Tapestries

Chapel Ceiling

 

Shields at the top of the Display Case

Armor

At some point you come to the absolute highlight of the museum: La dame à la Licorne tapestries (“The Lady and the Unicorn“). They are six tapestries from around the year 1500 that are huge and magnificent. They portray a woman with a unicorn and lion surrounded by flowers, trees, and other animals (my favorite is the monkey). They are considered one of the most important works of the middle ages in Europe. I sat for a while on a bench just trying to absorb them all. There is a lot to look at in them. I couldn’t take pictures of these gorgeous tapestries because they’re in a dark room (I assume for preservation purposes). Click the underlined title in the beginning of this paragraph for the wikipedia article, which contains pictures of all six tapestries.

My favorite part of the trip was a complete surprise. There were at least a couple of art students in each room to talk to the visitors about the art in the room. I don’t know if this was a special event, or if they always do that on the first Sunday of the month, or why they were there, but it was fantastic! The students would talk to a group of people, and you could walk over and listen to them explain a certain piece or collection, or sometimes if they didn’t have a group and they saw you take a particular interest in something, they’d come over and ask if you wanted an explanation of the piece that interested you. This happened to me, and I of course said yes, and I had a wonderful discussion with an art student about the array of influences on the statues from the Sainte-Chapelle and how the revolutionaries cut off the heads of the statues. I was able to ask all kinds of questions, and she was very knowledgeable. I learned so much from the students about the museum’s collection that I never would have known if I’d been listening to the audio guide, which only had short descriptions of the highlights. The students were able to tailor their discussions to the particular audience, and I saw a very patient girl talking to some well-behaved children that couldn’t have been older than about 5 all about unicorns and answering their questions. It was a really fantastic way to experience the museum. The discussions were all in French, so Anglophones should bring a Francophone friend who is very patient and able to translate. I am assuming that they had the students there yesterday because it was the first Sunday of the month, so a lot of Parisians come to the museums. That’s just a guess though. If anyone knows more information about the art students at the museum, please leave a comment; I’d love to learn more about the program.

I highly recommend this museum. It was a great collection. I could have stayed much longer than I did.

New words: créancier/débiteur (creditor/debtor), un point-virgule (semicolon), une virgule (comma, math: decimal point, because they use commas instead), selon (according to), selon que (depending on whether), s’agir (to be about), à défaut de (in the absence of/lack of/failing), rattachement (unification, incorporation), concubine (partner/cohabitant, but you only use this if you live with someone with whom you are in a relationship, also it doesn’t have the same connotation as in English as far as I can tell), alimentaire (dietary), gestion (management), le chômage (unemployment), exprimer (to express)