Fenton & White Do The Musee d’Orsay

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IN PARIS YOU CAN RENT A CAR THAT PLUGS IN

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We had departed Toronto on a Monday night, and now it was Saturday and there was still so much to explore.  We had seen amazing  art and history, but we were really only at the mid-point of our trip.  Everywhere we turned we saw new and interesting things such as the posts for the above rental cars.  In Toronto you can rent a bike and get a magnetic card that allows you to remove the bike from the rack and take it for a spin.  In Paris, you can rent a car in a similar way … and the cars are all electric.  Pretty cool.

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For our Saturday excursion we had a full day planned.  We were going to spend the morning at the Musee d’Orsay, then relax at a famous restaurant, go to the Rodin Museum in the afternoon, take a quick visit to Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides and then walk to the left bank where we had booked a dinner cruise on the Seine at sunset.  The pace of the day was set at stroll.    We took the Metro and arrived at the first museum around 10 AM.

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THE MUSEE D’ORSAY WAS ONCE A GRAND TRAIN STATION

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The Musee d’Orsay is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a decommissioned train station.  It houses work that was created between 1848 to 1914 with a large collection of sculpture, impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

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LOOKING AT THE MUSEUM FROM ONE OF THE CATWALKS AT THE END OF THE BUILDING

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The central corridor of the main level is a wondrous sculpture gallery filled with fine works of art.  On each side there are rooms devoted to a particular part of the collection.  The main floor has over 25 rooms to explore.  The second floor over 30 small galleries and then you go to the 5th floor which contains a smaller number of rooms and a restaurant.  The 3rd and 4th levels are offices which are on the perimeter of the building on the far end. While there were many fine paintings in the classical style, it was the portraits that interested us most.

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THIS PORTRAIT OF THE FAMOUS ACTRESS SARAH BERNHARDT BY  CLAIRIN GEORGES JULES VICTOR WAS PAINTED SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 1884 AND 1902

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THIS PORTRAIT WAS PAINTED BY LOUIS WELDON HAWKIN IN 1895

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At the end of the main level, there were also several scale models of famous buildings, and indeed, a scale model of the central part of Paris itself.

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AT THE FAR END OF THE MAIN FLOOR YOU CAN LOOK DOWN ON A SCALE MODEL OF CENTRAL PARIS THROUGH A GLASS FLOOR

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THIS IS A SCALE MODEL OF THE BUILDING THAT HOUSES THE OPERA GARNIER

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On the second floor, we loved the colour and texture found in many of the works of art.

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SOMETIMES IT WAS THE COLOUR OF THE IMAGE THAT DREW OUR EYE, SUCH AS THIS SPECTACULAR PAINTING BY JAMES TISSOT CALLED EVENING

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THERE WAS SOMETHING REMARKABLE ABOUT HOW THIS IMAGE EVOKED SO MANY EMOTIONS.  WOULD THIS MAN GET BETTER, OR WERE THESE HIS LAST DAYS ON EARTH? THE PAINTING IS BY CAROLUS-DURAN AND IS CALLED LE CONVALESCENT

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We wandered the two lower floors over the course of about 2 hours, and then paused for a coffee break at the cafe before heading into the upstairs area where the impressionist and post-impressionist exhibits are housed.

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THE GLASS CLOCK FACE AT THE TOP OF THE MUSEUM IS POPULAR WITH VISITORS

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THIS OCTOPUS SHAPED LOUNGER SEEMED LIKE AN IDEAL SPOT TO TAKE A REST

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The restaurant at the top of the museum has a terrific ambiance. It was still a little early for lunch so we walked past but took a picture of the decor and thought … perhaps on another trip.

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THE RESTAURANT AT THE MUSEE D’ORSAY HAS A WONDERFUL ATMOSPHERE

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We continued our journey through many paintings from the late 19th century and came upon some lovely work by Vincent van Gogh

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THIS VAN GOGH IS KNOWN IN ENGLISH AS THE CHURCH AT AUVERS  THE BRUSH STROKES ON THE CANVAS ARE TRULY REMARKABLE

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THIS IS ONE OF MANY SELF-PORTRAITS BY VAN GOGH

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SOME OF THE ARTWORK IS FRIGHTENING AND LIFELIKE, SUCH AS THIS MEDUSA BY ARNOLD BOCKLIN

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We were about to leave the top floor but a small hallway caught our attention with a series of what appeared to be stark black stick puppets.  To our delight, we had discovered an exhibit about Le Theatre d’ombres du Chat noir.

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MANY PEOPLE ARE FAMILIAR WITH THIS IMAGE CREATED BY TOULOUSE-LAUTREC

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Le Theatre d’ombres du Chat noir, or the Black Cat Cabaret was founded in Montmartre in 1881 and became known for its  free-flowing wine on the lower floor and the second floor entertainment known as the theatre of shadows.

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THESE TIN AND LEAD METAL CUT-OUTS FORMED THE SETS FOR THE SHADOW PLAYS PRESENTED LE CHAT NOIR

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AS A NARRATOR SPOKE, A PUPPETEER WOULD BRING THE IMAGES IN FRONT OF A LIGHT CASTING A SHADOW ON A SCREEN

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THE NARRATIVES WERE OFTEN POLITICAL PARODIES MEANT TO COMMENT ON THE WEALTHY.

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This exhibit is an amazing display of the artistry of the cut-out puppets.  They are exquisitely detailed, and well worth a visit of 15 to 30 minutes.  Le Chat Noir still exists on the Boulevard de Clichy just down the street from the Moulin Rouge, but now it is more of a bar and restaurant.  We spent close to 3 hours total in the Musee d’Orsay and then strolled a fair distance to the Saint-Germaine area of Paris to dine at a famous restaurant called Les Deux Magots.

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WE WERE FORTUNATE TO GET A TABLE ON THE BOULEVARD

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Les Deux Magots was known as a hang-out for the intellectuals of Paris and writers of the early 19th century.  Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso were regulars.  But what about that name?  Does it stand for the two maggots?  The answer is clearly … NO.  The name was borrowed from a fabric and novelty shop that found its way into a popular play  in the 1800s called Les Deux Magots de la Chine.  The play involved two Chinese magicians, and the term “magot” translates to “stocky figurine from the Far East”.  Inside the cafe, you can see the two figurines  of the mystics which sit on pillars watching over the cafe.

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THESE ARE LES DEUX MAGOTS

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As we took our seats outside, we were amused to discover that the chairs were set on a small groove in the paving stones.  We assume they are there to allow the servers in the morning to set the chairs out in the right line and also ensure that patrons didn’t slide the chairs too far into the boulevard.

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GROOVES IN THE PAVING STONES ENSURE YOUR CHAIR STAYS IN LINE ON THE BOULEVARD.

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The waiters are in tuxedos and we knew the prices were going to be steep, but we ordered a light lunch including a fine fois gras, cheeses, a light salad along with a pichet (a small jug) of wine and of course … a chocolate eclaire from the pastry tray.  The afternoon was sunny, and I struck up a conversation with a gentleman sitting beside us from Athens.  I learned he was an architect that designed the interiors for Chanel stores across the world.  It was a delight to fumble through a 20 minute conversation entirely in French.  We talked about the weather, our work, and the cost of living in Paris.  Pete chimed in from time to time, and we had a wonderful visit.

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LES DEUX MAGOTS WAS A DELIGHTFUL WAY TO RELAX ON A SUNNY AFTERNOON

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 It was good food, highly priced, but we both felt that the experience had been worth it.   We bid adieu to the restaurant and began walking towards our afternoon stop … The Rodin Museum.

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 Fenton & White (or in this case … White & Fenton)

 

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