Claude Monet said after donating his water lily paintings to France, that to fully enjoy his works, one needed to decompress. Specifically he said "Nerves overwrought by work would relax there just like the relaxing example of those stagnant waters...". Entering the L'Orangerie's The Water Lilies begins in a stark white room, quiet and still. Light is diffused and only a small window allows natural light to invade. You suddenly move from noise to nothing. It is both wonderful and unnerving.
This room was designed by Monet to help visitors still themselves before contemplating the nature he painted. Of which he said "...this room would offer asylum for peaceful meditation amidst a flowery aquarium." And it works just that way...from the white meditation space one moves into an aquarium. Water everywhere...you are surrounded by gigantic paintings of water...no land...you float consciously through Monet's views his water gardens at Giverny.
The first room surrounds you with water in the morning's light; clouds only seen through reflection on the water's surface; reflections of the greenery surrounding the water; and, finally, reflections of the setting sun...warm and inviting. From this rhythmic flow of light on water, you move into the second room where he punctuates the water flow with willow trees...placed spatially, but without concern for a relation to horizon or perspective. You never see the top or the bottom of the willows. Nor do you see land, no place to safely put your feet, but who cares? All you need to do is float quieting.
The Musée de l'Orangerie hosts a second floor below the Monet level where you can lose yourself in the collection of Paul Guillaume. Renoir, Modigliani, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, and on. Sadly, we were too early for the exhibit of Chaïm Soutine's works. But I heartily suggest a visit to this museum should you find yourself in Paris. Make sure you include a trip to the Musée Marmottan to compare their large Giverny based paintings. Then head to Giverny to see what influenced this master of light.
Besides a visit to a couple of museums, we planned this trip to Paris around finding and enjoying a few of the over 400 gardens that populate this busy metropolis. Our first hunt took us to the Palais Royale. Well actually just past it about half a city block is a white marble statue dedicated to the poet Alfred Musset. Just before the statue there are narrow, cracked stairs that take you down to a hidden garden below street level. The Jardin de la Vallée Suisse (Garden of the Swiss Valley) is an amazing hideaway. One would have thought Hollywood had created it as a set stage. Quiet and cozy, it's surprising to know/remember that the Blvd Roosevelt with it's ever present traffic hurries past above you. A waterfall, pond, and a wooden bridge passing overhead are just pieces of a small slice of heaven that is this garden. Love this enchanting, comfortable little place...
After a passing some relaxing time in the garden, we were off walking along the left bank of the Seine to the Rue Cler where lunch was waiting. The Rue Cler is a tourist nightmare, but also interesting and full of lovely places to take dejeuner (lunch). Today Chinois was the choice:
- Curried rice & Poulet caramel
- Riz Cantonaise & Poulet Ginger
Quickly catching the Metro at Ecole Militaire, we headed to the Hotel de Ville area to locate the restaurant for Saturday night's dinner. Bistrot Benoit was located, so we hopped on the Metro and headed to the hotel to pick up the laptop and the Orange (telecommunications company in France) broadband stick I purchased last year to see if it would work again this year. Got to Orange and time purchased, but getting all sorts of errors. Sales guy once the purchase was complete was, well, less than helpful. Finally he said to go to technical support "down the street". Let me explain the length of "down the street" in French terms...a long flipping way that's what. And of course it started to rain to boot.
Made it to the Orange at 43 Rue du Rivoli finally and lovely Monsieur Florian assisted us. A bloody long walk for a five minute discussion. Luckily there was a Metro station close and we were able to escape the rain and head back to the hotel. We dried off, I worked a bit on the laptop, then we headed to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés and our dinner at Le Relais de l'Entrecôte. We arrived at the time noted on our documentation from previous visits, but of course, things change and opening was to be an hour later. So, off for a saunter down the Rue des Beaux Arts and surrounding small streets.
Back to the restaurant for our steak with black pepper sauce and pommes frites (french fries). It was not the same, but it was tasty. Everyone is packed into the restaurant such that you might as well visit with your neighbors and we did. A lovely Australian woman and her daughter were seated next to us on one side and two gentlemen (one American, one French) who assisted in our selection of wine for the meal. It was a pleasant evening full of conversation and comaraderie.
Then it was back on the Metro from stop St Germain to our stop at St Paul and a slow walk back to the hotel. Our legs were feeling the day's walk.
So ends the second day...