Saturday, April 12, 2008

Visit to France March 2008

I have not been Blogging for a while, because we took a vacation trip to France. Our first leg was to fly to Paris for three nights.

While in Paris we were able to visit the Louvre, d'Orsay, and the Rodin Museums. Our visit to the Louvre was assisted by a lovely young personal guide, made available to just us through the generosity of our daughter and son-in law.

We spent over 4-1/2 hours in the Louvre with her exploring the Flemish and French painting collections. We were particularly lucky that she has specialized in this area of art history. She told us she was training
at the Louvre's own school to become a curator.

It was wonderful to see so many famous paintings "in-the-flesh" as it were. I was astonished by the Louvre's size. Also, of the great condition of the paintings and the care in their presentation. The galleries (which seem to go on for ever) are so bright and airy. It was a memorable visit.

Both the d'Orsay and the Rodin museums were very enjoyable. The d'Orsay is within a renovated railway terminal. But here I was surprised by the poor condition of so many of the well known impressionist paintings. Many I had seen as slides where apparently the colors had been enhanced. In the original the colors of the paintings were often dull.

The Rodin is an old house set in a sizable garden. Sculptures are scattered though the building and garden. It gives one a feeling of the productivity his workshop and school. My wife (who sculpts herself) was particularly enthralled. Unfortunately the garden was closed due to the bad weather.

The second part of our trip began by being bussed to Chalon-sur-Saone in central France (with a few hours stop and tour at Dijon) to meet a river boat – our home for the next week.

The plan was to cruise
down the Saone to join the Rhone river at Lyon and then on to Provence. On the way we would pass through the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions, finally stopping at Arles and then back-trackeing to Avignon.

Once on board the boat, we were given many side trips to places of interest along the way. One trouble that we soon uncovered was that the various local guides tended to offer a lot of discussion about the various Roman ruins and other "old" structures.

With both my wife and I growing up in Great Britain, ancient ruins are very common.
All around where we lived there were many examples of such remains, often a lot older than the Roman period. But of course, the many other American tourists travelling with us found them all of great interest. We solved the problem by wandering off from the crowd, and looking at what we found interesting - often the local scene and particularly the people.

But on these trips we saw several great museums. At Beaune we visited Hotel Dieu, a former hospice dating from the 15th. century. Apart from the building itself which is beautiful and well preserved, it contains some very nice paintings. The facility was set up centuries ago with vineyards, salt mines, and productive land that still today provides a considerable private endowment.

Lyon there were some interesting buildings with trompe l'oeil mural paintings of balconies, shop fronts, and people, both famous and unknown. Here, as in many towns across France, were numerous public art sculptures.

Arles is famous for the time spent there by painter Vincent Van Gogh. Apart from walking past (and photographing) some of the landmarks memorialized in his paintings, there is a small museum of the Vincent Van Gogh D'Arles Foundation. Here many contemporary artists such as: Arman, Bacon, Rotero, César, Combas, Debré, Fromaner, Rauschenberg, Lichstein, Saura, and many more, have provided paintings, sculpture, music, photography, and writings to express how Van Gogh has influenced their personal development as an artist. It is small, but very interesting.

Avignon there is the magnificent Papal Palace. This enormous building with its many rooms, is adorned with frescos, murals, sculptures, tapestries, and paintings, developed and collected over many years. The artwork is astounding and from many periods.

We left our boat at Avignon, and were bussed to Marseille airport, to catch a series of planes back to Los Angeles, and on to home. The westward journey was long – over 30 hours. It took us over a week to recover from the jet lag and to resume normal life.

The weather, starting in Paris, was terrible with rain, sleet, snow, and driving wind. Living for so long in Southern California, I and forgotten how cold it can get. But we had anticipated the bad weather and had all the right clothes. Inside the Museums we were well protected. By the time we reach the south of France, the weather improved with occasional periods of sunshine, and even warmth.

I took over 1,500 digital photographs, mostly of people, store fronts, window shutters, and narrow passage ways. People walking, sitting, battling the rain, and occasionally sitting outside cafes enjoying a glass of wine or a beer during a break in the weather. I have enough source material to last me over several years.

A wonderful productive trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are appreciated: