Tag Archives: Tourist places in Paris

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)

 

 

Musée Marmottan Monet

This is one of my new favorite museums in Paris. A few weeks ago, my parents came to town to visit. A professor (the same one who advised me about the Sainte-Chapelle) had recommended this museum to me a couple of years ago, and I always remembered it. Both of my parents are big fans of impressionism in general and Monet in particular (as am I), so we went to this small gem of a museum together.

First, the museum is not in the center of Paris. It’s way out in the fancy-schmancy 16th arrondissement. I’ve been mostly in the center of Paris for the last several months, where the sidewalks are as tiny as the apartments bumping up against them and there is no grass. Everything feels very compact and squished and slightly dirty. We hopped on the RER C to go to the museum (it’s not too far, only about a 10 minute ride), and as soon as we stepped out into the 16th arrondissement, I felt like I had stepped out of the center of the city into a huge clean park. There are trees and grass and the sidewalks are wide and the buildings are gorgeous and clean and sturdy-looking. It was a nice change of scenery. We walked about 7 minutes to get from the metro to the museum, and it was lovely, even in winter.

The museum was started in the end of the 19th century with a collection of paintings, furniture, Renaissance sheet music, illuminated manuscripts, etc. Frankly, the original collection is not that great, and it’s all upstairs. But in 1966, Claude Monet’s second son died in a car crash and left a large bequest of his father’s work to the Académie that owns the museum. The museum has over 130 of Monet’s paintings, watercolors, pastels, and drawings. Other impressionist work is featured there as well. If you like impressionism, you must see this museum. Its collection is impressive. They even have Monet’s palette, which I thought was cool. You could also see the dialogue between the impressionists in their paintings of one another and their paintings that they made for each other. It felt like a very personal glimpse into the impressionist movement.

They have an entire hall dedicated to Monet’s paintings. They have several waterlilies, and many other works. They have some famous paintings and some less famous but no less beautiful paintings. My parents and I spent a lot of time looking at Monet’s huge paintings up close, then stepping back and admiring how the blobs of color come together to form a clear picture. Going to museums with my dad is always fun because he’s an artist at heart and always has the most interesting explanations of techniques they used to make certain effects, or he’ll notice something you never would have seen if he hadn’t pointed it out.

I really enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the museum. It is in a mansion, and seeing it felt a lot like wandering through a really rich person’s house. It still has all of the decorations you’d find in a rich art collector’s house (in my imagination, anyway).

Downstairs they have a temporary exhibit, and when we went it was a neo-impressionism exhibit. It was interesting to get to see examples from the development of impressionism upstairs, and then go downstairs and see where things went after that. But I personally prefer impressionist paintings.

If you like impressionist art, of course go see the Musée d’Orsay (watch for an upcoming post about that). But this museum should be a definite second on your list.

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 de la Musique

A few weeks ago, a certain Maestro came to visit me. We had a wonderful time, and one of the highlights of the visit was the best musical museum I’ve ever been to.

Cité de la Musique is not in the center of Paris. It’s way out in the 19th (which seems impossibly far, but is really only a short metro ride from the center—it’s easy to forget how small Paris really is). We trekked out specifically for the museum, and WOW! It was worth the trip.  The entire complex is situated on the Parc Villette, which is a very popular area. I’ll have to come back in the spring when it’s warmer and check out the park. Anyway, there are theaters and performance halls, and in the midst of it all is a museum dedicated to music.

You have to pay to enter the museum, but the price includes an audioguide (available in English if you ask!). The building itself is new and very modern and nice. They have instruments on display from ancient times until today from all over the world. The collection is organized by time period, and each floor houses one century, from the XVI century to XXI century.

You enter the exhibit, and you see some incredible instruments. They are beautiful, sometimes strange, and sometimes completely different from today’s instruments. You can listen to the audioguide to hear about the history of the instruments you’re looking at, but my favorite part was that each exhibit had another number you could enter to just listen to the instruments. They had recordings of many many instruments that you could listen to, and it was so great to see these interesting instruments and actually hear the music they make.

The museum also has concerts everyday for visitors. They have workshops for kids where they can conduct musicians or play many instruments. The whole museum is very kid-friendly. They have a special audioguide for kids, and books and games and things. The museum hosts master classes for musicians to work on pieces with experts. They have concerts, lessons, and all kinds of other activities.

We could have spent all day in this museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t know it would be so cool until we got there, and it closed just a couple hours after we got there. We rushed through the last half hour, and we still only got to see about half of the museum. We will definitely be coming back.

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)

Musée Carnavalet: Histoire de Paris

Sorry for the lack of posts! I have been getting settled into my routine with classes and general busyness, and I hadn’t ventured out on any excursions until yesterday.

On the way home I decided to go to the Musée Carnavalet. I’d been meaning to go for quite a while, and finally yesterday I had some spare time. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how vast and amazing the museum would be, and I didn’t allot myself nearly enough time. The museum was much more wonderful than I expected, and I had to hurry through a lot of it. I will surely return  soon to see more and hear a concert.

First, this is a FREE museum! That immediately merits points in its favor. Also, the museum is in Le Marais, a very chic right bank neighborhood near the center of Paris. The neighborhood is full of very high-fashion boutiques, art galleries, cafés, and shops. It’s always a fun place to walk around or grab a bite to eat. So before I even got to the museum, it already had potential.

Link Gallery

I came to the museum, which is housed in two old hôtels connected by a bridge. The entrance is through a courtyard. The buildings themselves are impressive, and they make a grand backdrop for the collections. The hôtel Carnavalet was built in 1548 and showcases fantastic architectural features. The hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau houses an incredible orangerie (greenhouse) and surrounds a beautiful garden. There are over 100 rooms in the museum, and each shows a different period or aspect of Parisian history. The overall feeling of the museum is like being in a miniature castle (but this comparison is not intended to imply that it’s small!).

"Les retardataires" (The Latecomers)

The premise of this lovely museum is that it is dedicated to the history of Paris. Therefore, visitors can walk through rooms with collections from prehistoric Paris and the Roman era all the way through the time of the monarchs, the revolution, and modern day.

Sign Gallery

When I walked into the fantastic sign gallery at the museum’s entrance, I asked the man at the table in French if I could take one of the guides. He said that I certainly could and handed me one in French. I picked up one in English and told him that it was my langue maternelle, and he said “But you speak French! Here, take the French one too and you can switch between the two.” (This is a very loose translation.) I was happy to have the compliment, and told him “Thank you, that will be good for me since I am learning.” A compliment on my French from a Parisian stranger! Happy day! (It was a very basic conversation, and not too much to brag about, but a small triumph is welcome nonetheless.)

My favorite parts of the museum were the buildings themselves and their beautiful rooms (some decorated with furniture collections), the Roman ruins in the orangerie (It’s easy to forget about the Gallo-Roman period in Paris, but there were temples, baths, an amphitheater, and everything else Roman here for about 400 years!), and the paintings in the link gallery (the bridge connecting the two buildings). Also, the concise descriptions of each historical period were good (but they are in French, so bring a Francophone friend or get a listening guide). I was a bit disappointed by the revolutionary period rooms. They mostly contained models and smaller mementos from that time.

L'orangerie

As I was getting ready to leave the museum, they announced that there would be a classical concert with piano, violin, and singing. The cost was €10. I didn’t have time to stay and enjoy the music in this incredible setting (and imagine that I was

Roman Collection

here in another era being entertained at a party), but I will try to come back for another concert later on.

Highlights of this museum include: the gallery of shop signs from the 16th-20th centuries at the entrance, a chess set Louis XVI used to distract himself while awaiting the guillotine, a recreation of Marcel Proust’s bedroom with his bed and other furniture, carved stones from the Roman period, Neolithic dugout canoes from 2800-2500 BC, paintings of Paris’s belle epoque in the link gallery.

New Words: grève (strike), soutien (support), chausson (a fruit-filled pastry, often in apple: pomme), les cuivres (brass instruments), salarié (salaried employee), prestation (performance)

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Last Friday, the weather was beautiful. Actually, come to think of it, the weather has been perfect for a couple of weeks now. Anyway, my fellow foreigners and I went to our morning class and then had lunch as usual. After lunch, we came back for our afternoon oral language class, and the teacher announced that the copy machines were all broken and it was beautiful outside, so we were going to the Père Lachaise cemetery. We were all happy to be outside in the sunshine.

The cemetery is vast, and it is full of graves of Paris’s elite. It is still used as a cemetery today, but only the really rich or famous can be buried there. It is very hilly with cobblestones everywhere, so if you’re planning a trip you should wear comfortable shoes (I speak from experience; since this was an unplanned impromptu trip, I was wearing heals and it made the trip less pleasant). Since I didn’t know we were going on the trip, I not only wore uncomfortable shoes, but I also didn’t bring my camera. Sorry for the lack of photos in this post. I’ll make up for it in upcoming posts.

We visited the graves of Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Frédéric Chopin (who was not French, but Polish), Molière, Oscar Wilde (who’s grave was covered in red lipstick kisses and notes written in red lipstick in spite of a sign forbidding it—the French don’t really follow rules that conflict with tradition), and Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison’s grave is closed off because people would go smoke on it. I don’t think that was a huge issue initially, but then people started writing on the nearby graves, which is disrespectful. There were actually a few nearby graves where people had written “I <3 Jim” and things like that. Who does that? Who writes on someone’s grave about someone else? I was disturbed.

When we visited, around 2pm on a Friday afternoon, there was a group of Americans sitting on a grave near Jim Morrison’s and drinking and listening to music and jumping onto other graves to take pictures. Out of our class, I’m the only American, and I was so embarrassed by them. I said, in French (partly because I didn’t want them to know that I was American), “those are not my compatriots,” and my teacher responded “Ce n’est pas à toi,” (“it’s not for you,” literally, but in this context it was more like “it’s not your fault”). When one guy jumped onto a grave, my teacher said to them “this is someone’s grave” in French. The guy who had jumped on the grave was sarcastic in responding “pas Jim Morrison’s grave.” Then the teacher said, in English, “Yes, but someone else is buried here, this is not a bar, it’s a cemetery.” Then the offenders just nodded and said “you’re right,” and kept drinking. It was disgusting. The French are generally tolerant of crazy partying, as far as I’ve been able to tell. But jumping on graves and listening to music and drinking on someone’s grave in a cemetery is just downright disrespectful. Maybe if they were on Jim Morrison’s grave, it would be okay, but they were on some random person’s grave nearby. The whole thing was weird, and I think everyone who came to visit the grave was put-off by them.

Other than the awkward exchange with the rude Americans, the cemetery was beautiful. It was very peaceful and FULL of famous people’s graves. We could have stayed all day and enjoyed the lovely weather and seen the graves of many other incredibly famous people (I wanted to see the graves of Georges Bizet, Francis Poulenc, and Gertrude Stein), but it was such a massive place and we were all hot and tired by the end of our long walk.

If you’re looking for a good walk on a nice day with interesting and historical scenery, come here. Overall, it’s very peaceful and beautiful.

Shakespeare & Company Bookstore

I just went to the most wonderful place. I have a few posts I need to catch up on, but this place was so incredible that I need to write about it right now, before I forget anything! Photos were forbidden, so you will just have to come and see it for yourself.

Today I am free as a bird, with no classes and no immediately pressing business to take care of. (This is my first such day in Paris.) I am getting over a cold, so I had a very lazy morning sleeping in, reading a book, and catching up on NPR podcasts. It’s a beautiful day, so I eventually decided to venture out. I went to a park across the street to read a book for a while in the shade from Notre Dame, but then it got a little too warm and I wanted to go inside. I decided to go to Shakespeare & Company, which is just around the corner from my apartment.

I had originally heard of Shakespeare & Company years ago, when I was studying abroad in Italy. We were nearing the end of our program, and my friend was planning to travel to Paris afterward. I asked where she would stay, since we were all out of money at that point. She told me she had heard that artists can stay at a famous bookstore there in exchange for helping out in the bookstore. She told me all about the bookstore and the bohemian artists there. I always remembered the name of the bookstore, Shakespeare & Company, and today I finally visited it.

When I first walked in, I was immediately struck by the endless amount of books covering every imaginable surface. Wooden bookshelves cover every wall, above every doorway, and underneath and along the staircase. Even the walkways between rooms are narrow because one side is covered in bookshelves. The books are lined up on the shelves, and if there is room left at the top they are stacked horizontally on top of the books. Oh, and they are in English, which is wonderful for a bibliophile ex-pat like me.

There are nooks and crannies everywhere, and the little kid in me immediately wanted to explore. The store is somewhat of a small labyrinth; the floorplan is haphazard, leaving you to discover the poetry, fiction, mysteries, art, etc. as you wind through the store. The random layout of the store is probably due to the fact that the owner kept extending the store by purchasing apartments and stores next to and above his original small shop. The walls are stone (although you can’t see much of them behind all the books), and the ceilings have exposed beams, as many places in Paris do. The floors are stone with tiles laid in them in a kind of random mosaic. The rooms have cool names like “The Blue Oyster Tearoom” and “The Old Smokey Reading Room.” There is a covered hole in the ground where you can throw coins for the starving artists at Shakespeare & Company.

The downstairs is where all of the new books for sale are kept. When you climb the stairs, you reach the library. None of the books in the library are for sale; they are there for anyone to sit and read. There are many couches and chairs and books. The windows in the front room open out onto a view of the Notre Dame. There are beds up there where artist/guests stay, a chess set, and even a piano. The owner’s motto is painted onto a wall: “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.” There is also a kind of “writer’s hut,” which is like a child’s fort. There are walls built around it maybe four feet high with an opening. There are small colorful lights on the outside, and inside is a chair and a desk with a typewriter on it. There is also another typewriter in a room with couches. Anyone is allowed to use the typewriters in the library.

The upstairs rooms encircle a courtyard that begins on the second floor and uses the roof of the first floor as the ground. Today there was an artist who had climbed out into the courtyard and was gluing model airplanes suspended from fishing wire in the courtyard. She was chatting up to another artist who was staying in another room on the other side of the building.

The entire shop was quite an experience. I will definitely be back, probably frequently. I highly suggest coming here to look around, read a book, buy a book, and maybe even write a book. This place is so unique. Visitors to Paris should definitely experience it.

Le Panthéon

Last weekend I went to the Panthéon with a friend. I had never been before, and it was definitely something to cross off the list, since I walk by it frequently. It’s hard to miss, as the building towers over much of the 5th arrondissement and many roads seem to lead to it. I knew nothing about it, so I went out of curiosity.

The building has a fascinating history. In 1744 king Louis XV was ill and vowed that if he recovered he would build a church to honor St. Genevieve, who was born in Nanterre and lived in Paris. He recovered, and the church was begun. However, it was not completed until  the early stages of the French Revolution, and the revolutionaries were not great fans of the church, to say the least (that’s The Church, capitalized; I read somewhere that they liked Jesus because he was poor and also railed against the man, but they killed a lot of priests because anyway because the clergy was the First Estate under the Ancien Régime). They turned it into a place for the burial of great Frenchman. It has gone back and forth over the years, sometimes becoming a church and then returning to a civic building.

The feeling inside is strange because it has the feeling of a church, but instead of alters and such there are statues of revolutionaries.

One of the most interesting features is the Foucault Pendulum. It’s a huge pendulum suspended from the top of the Panthéon almost to the ground. The pendulum was an experiment to demonstrate the phenomenon that the earth (and the Panthéon) revolves around the path of the pendulum’s swing, which remains the same. There is a “clock” that doesn’t move and marks the 24 hours of the day below the pendulum, and by looking at the pendulum’s swing, you can tell what time it is because of the earth’s rotation.

I was immediately confused by the large gap between the 24th hour of the clock and the top (the start of the next day). I watched the video in French and English (just to be sure I hadn’t missed the explanation), and they didn’t discuss it. I flipped through the books they were selling and didn’t find an explanation about the gap. Wikipedia saved the day by providing the answer (as usual). The article also contains a nice animation of the phenomenon. I am not smart enough to completely understand it, but the basic explanation for the gap is that the latitude of France causes the rotation of the earth around a single point in France (such as the pendulum) to take 32.7 hours. If we did the experiment at the North or South Pole, the earth would rotate around the pendulum in 24 hours. This is possibly more information than you wanted to know, but it drove me crazy for the rest of the day.

The main event for the Panthéon is underneath it, where many of France’s finest are buried. To be interred there is an honor, and it takes a Parliamentary act to get a resting place down there. We saw the graves of Rousseau, Voltaire, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Louis Braille (who invented–you guessed it!–braille). There are many graves down there, but we breezed through it relatively quickly. Graves all look mostly alike.

Rousseau's Grave

New Words: tromé (verlan for métro), les flics (style familier for police), une cible (a target), l’effroi (fear), soupçon (suspect), en douce (secretly), misérable (poor, but not just poor, extremely poor, without any money at all), rogner (to cut/make smaller/reduce), moitié (half/halfway, as in half of the bill)