Musée d’Orsay – The Building

Musée d’Orsay is housed in Gare d’Orsay, an old train station (and hotel) that served as the terminus for the Paris-Orleans Railway.  Gare d’Orsay was the first electrified rail terminal in the world and opened just in time for the 1900 World Fair (Exposition Universelle).  By 1939 the station’s platforms were too short to accommodate the the longer trains now used for long-distance travel; however, it was still used for some suburban trains.  The hotel closed in 1973; the building was reopened in December 1986 as a museum, Musée d’Orsay.  The building is beautiful, and after learning it’s story, I’m so happy that the French government decided to give it new life.

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Musée d’Orsay – Van Gogh Collection

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I’ve loved Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings since I was in elementary school.  My elementary school P.E. coach, Georgia Moore, was passionate about art and literature, and all of her students benefited from her knowledge.  I have vivid memories of our Friday Humanities classes (Humanities replaced P.E. on Fridays).  I remember learning about Shakespeare, Matisse, and Van Gogh.  I remember going home and telling my parents about The Starry Night — they bought me a framed copy of it shortly there after for getting all As on my report card.  In addition to The Starry Night, I specifically remember learning about his sunflower paintings, Bedroom in Arles, and Self Portrait with Pipe and Straw Hat.  At the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam I learned that he painted so many self-portraits because he wanted to practice painting people but couldn’t afford to pay people to model for him.  His work didn’t become highly regarded until after his death.

I had never heard of Paris’ Musée d’Orsay, but upon finding out about their many Van Gogh paintings, I know that the Musée d’Orsay had to be part of our itinerary.  We visited Musée d’Orsay on our second day in Paris, and the museum, as a whole, was fantastic.  We got there right when the museum opened, so it wasn’t very crowded.  I relished being able to examine the Van Goghs in near-solitude (much unlike when I saw The Starry Night at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City).

The photographs in this post were all taken at Musée d’Orsay.  Someday I’ll have to write additional blog posts about the other Van Gogh paintings I’ve had the opportunity to see.

This self-portrait (below) is suspected to be Van Gogh’s last self-portrait.  He painted it during September 1889 and gave it to his beloved brother, Theo.  He died on July 29, 1890.


Self Portrait
September 1889

Bedroom in Arles [third version]
September 1889


Portrait of Dr. Gachet [second version]

1890

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Arromanches-les-Bains – Mulberry Harbor

One of the main reasons for planning our trip to France the way we did was so that we could see several sites related to the D-Day invasion of Normandy (a.k.a. Operation Neptune).  The first stop on our D-Day road trip was Arromanches-les-Bains to see what remains of the British mulberry harbor (a.k.a. Mulberry B and Port Winston).

Mulberry harbors were designed by the British during WWII.  They were temporary harbors that were used to facilitate the unloading of troops and supplies — a truly brilliant feat of engineering.  The mulberry harbors were designed to be able to offload enough supplies to sustain Operation Overlord for three months (the amount of time they thought it would take to capture a French port for more permanent use).

The British built Mulberry B (the Gold Beach mulberry harbor), which remained in use for ten months, at which point the Allies captured Antwerp and were able to use its port instead.  Mulberry B had 10 miles of floating roadways that were used to bring both supplies and troops to shore.  It took 600,000 tons of concrete to build Mulberry B.  According to Wikipedia, Mulberry B was used to offload over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies — the numbers definitely make it easy to see how important Mulberry B was for Operation Overlord.  The Americans were responsible for building an additional mulberry harbor (a.k.a. Mulberry A) at Omaha Beach; however, it was destroyed by the storm that hit the Normandy coast on June 19, 1944.

Portions of Mulberry B can still be seen in Arromanches today.  Several sections of the 10 miles of road are washed up on the beach.  You can also hike up a nearby bluff to get a better view of the Phoenixes (concrete caissons) that remain there today.

Prior to arriving at Gold Beach, it never really dawned on me that the Normandy beaches are actual beaches — beaches that people swim in and play on and use for boating.

Gold Beach at Arromanches

Mulberry Harbor Remains at Arromanches

Mulberry Harbor Remains at Arromanches

Children Playing


Mulberry Harbor Remains (Arromanches in the Background)

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The Louvre – Egyptian Antiquities

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We spent a small amount of our time at The Louvre looking at the Egyptian antiquities collection.  I suspect that we would have spent more time in that area of the museum had we not spent so much time in the Egyptian antiquities section at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art just five months earlier.  I find objects from Egypt fascinating and wanted to share the a few of my favorite photos from The Louvre’s collection of Egyptian antiquities.


Statue du dieu Horus


Statue du dieu Horus

The Seated Scribe (bel0w) has intrigued museum-goers for years. It was carved from white limestone, and its colors have been fairly well-preserved given the age of the statue.  This video provides interesting commentary on the statue.


The Seated Scribe

2600 – 2350 B.C.


Grand Sphinx

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The Louvre Palace

While most posts about The Louvre are probably about the art (like my Mona Lisa post and Sculptures & Statues post), I decided that The Louvre Palace is pretty enough to deserve its very own post.  The Louvre Museum is housed in The Louvre Palace.  The palace is 652,300 square feet and holds nearly 35,000 artifacts.  The museum is the most visited museum in the world.

Construction of The Louvre Palace began in 1202, though it was renovated throughout the years, including the controversial addition if the infamous pyramid (completed in 1989).  How the Louvre was named is unclear, though some think it is a form of “leouar,” a Latin-Saxon word for castle.  The Louvre served as the seat of power in France until Louis XIV moved to Versailles.  It continued to be used as a formal seat of government until 1789, at which point it became a museum.  Following the 1870 renovation, Napoleon Bonaparte III became the first ruler to live in The Louvre since Louis XIV.  You can visit Napoleon’s apartments at The Louvre.

Looking back, I wish I had taken more photographs of the buildings, but it was hard to remember to pay attention to the building when you’re surrounded by so many beautiful works of art.  In addition to the photographs in this post, I also took some nighttime photographs of The Louvre.

We ate lunch on a terrace overlooking the area enclosed by The Louvre Palace.  It definitely offered a neat perspective of the buildings, and I enjoyed getting to see the statues up close.

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Mona Lisa

It just didn’t seem right to write a blog post about The Louvre without mentioning the Mona Lisa, so I decided that this painting needed its very own post.

We arrived at The Louvre just after it opened and made a beeline to the Mona Lisa.  The museum gets more crowded throughout the day, and the Mona Lisa is the main-attraction, so we wanted to go ahead and get that out of the way.  Given how crowded the Mona Lisa Room was when we arrived, I’m glad that we didn’t wait until later in the day to see it.

Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa between 1503 and 1506 (while living in Florence), though several people believe that he continued working on it as late as 1517 (while he lived in Ambois).  The Mona Lisa is an oil painting on a white, Lombardy poplar panel.  Though much mystery used to surround the painting, it seems to be fairly well accepted that the Mona Lisa is a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, a member of the Florence & Tuscany-based Gherardini family.  Her husband was Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine silk merchant.  The Mona Lisa is currently valued at $782 million USD.

Seeing the Mona Lisa without a huge crowd present just wasn’t a possibility, so I decided to embrace the craziness and tried to take pictures that captured the experience of seeing the Mona Lisa along with hundreds of other tourists.

When you enter the Mona Lisa Room, this is what you see.  There are several other paintings in the room, but we didn’t take time to see them because there were too many people in this room for our liking.

After you wade through some of the people, you’re able to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa.  I thought that this photograph of someone taking a picture of the Mona Lisa with an iPhone would be a fun picture to look back on in 30 – 50 years (will iPhones still be around then?)!

A few people, like me, still use stand-alone cameras to take pictures.  Notice the lady on the right-side of the photo taking a selfie with the Mona Lisa.  I’m always amazed at the amount of people taking selfies with artwork.  To each, his (or her) own.

I tried to be polite and spent several minutes waiting for a clear path to the front of the group of people staring at the Mona Lisa, but it became evident that manners weren’t going to get me very far.  Sooooo…I gave up and started acting like everyone else and pushed my way to the front so that I could get an unobstructed photograph.  They don’t let you anywhere close to the painting, so this was the best I could get.

Mona Lisa
by Leonardo da Vinci
1503 – 1506, oil on white poplar panel

After I managed to get out-of and away-from the crowd, I snapped this photo of people viewing the Mona Lisa.  Not exactly the calm, serene, life-altering experience one would hope for while viewing the most popular painting in the world.

The painting across from the Mona Lisa is The Wedding at Cana (1563) by Paolo Veronese.  It is the biggest painting in The Louvre.  This painting depicts the New Testament wedding during which Jesus performed His first miracle by turning water to wine.  The painting hung in the refectory of a Benedictine monastery in Venice for 253 years at which point it was stolen by Napoleon (in 1797) and shipped to Paris.  The painting measures 21.8 ft by 32.5 ft.

I took one last shot of the crowd and the Mona Lisa before we (gladly) vacated the Mona Lisa Room.

The Louvre – Sculptures & Statues

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I’ve been debating whether or not to write a post about our visit to The Louvre.  I have to admit, I’m struggling with whether or not a post consisting solely of photographs of artwork will be interesting.  In the end, I decided to start off with photographs of statues.  Statues seem to photograph better than paintings…maybe because they’re three dimensional…or maybe because I have a soft spot for statues.  How sculptors can take something rock-solid and turn it into something that looks flowing and full of life is beyond me.

The Louvre is HUGE, and I’m honestly not sure how many hours we spent there.  We purchased our tickets ahead of time, which allowed us to wait in a shorter line than the normal line.  We had a general game plan as far as the things that we knew we had to see — The Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo.  It was a rather short list because I’m not terribly familiar with artwork from the time period featured at The Louvre.  I read several different “10 Things You Must See at The Louvre” articles before our trip, and most of the items in those lists didn’t really interest me.

I’m fairly detail-oriented, so in addition to taking photographs that show entire statues, I also like to take up-close photographs of certain portions/parts of the statue that caught my attention.  I think this love of and appreciation for detail is part of what fuels my interest in statues.  The building that houses The Louvre is visible in the background of several of photographs in this post — be sure to take in the beauty of the building itself!

Disclaimer: Nearly all of the information placards accompanying art on display in The Louvre are entirely in French.  I did my best to correctly identify the titles, authors, materials, and time period of each of the statues showcased in this post.

Here is a link to an Imgur photo album containing all of the photos in this post.

Winged Victory of Samothrace
by Pythokritos of Lindos
2nd Century B.C., marble

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Diana of Versailles
Bronze

Venus de Milo
by Alexandros of Antioch
Between 130 & 100 B.C., marble

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Jardin des Plantes

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After leaving Luxembourg Gardens, we walked 1.4 miles to the Jardin des Plantes.  The Jardin des Plantes is a large botanical garden located just to the east of the Seine in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.  It covers 69.2 acres and was the first botanical garden to be created in Paris.  Though it was founded in 1626, it did not open to the public until 1640.  It was originally planted by Louis XIII’s physician, Doctor Guy de la Brosse as a medicinal herb garden.

I am currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and I’ve enjoyed the many references to the Jardin des Plantes.  I can picture Marie-Laure and her father traipsing through the gardens on their way to the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of locks.  If you, too, are reading this wonderful book, I hope that my photographs will help bring the Jardin des Plantes to life for you.

There were many plants that I had never seen before, and I didn’t do a very good job of taking photographs of all of the name placards (shame on me), so there won’t be much information to share in the post — only pictures of pretty flowers.

Here’s a link to the Imgur photo album containing the photographs in this post.

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Russell Hybrid Lupines

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The Eiffel Tower

I haven’t been doing  a very good job of posting regularly to my blog but did want to go ahead and get at least one more post out before 2016.  The Eiffel Tower is definitely a site to behold!  The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair; it was not supposed to be a permanent structure.  It was supposed to be demolished in 1909 but was turned into a radio tower and was saved.  It took 300 workers, 18,038 pieces of wrought iron and 2.5 million rivets to build the Eiffel Tower.  When the Eiffel Tower was built, it passed the Washington Monument as the tallest man-made structure.  At 1,063 feet tall, it was the tallest man-made structure until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was built.  During WWII, when Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that Hitler would have to climb the steps if he wanted to reach the top.  The Eiffel Tower Wikipedia article is worth reading.  The History Channel website also has a good article on the Eiffel Tower.

The first glimpse that I got of the Eiffel Tower as we were walking through the city was magical — it made being in Paris finally feel REAL.  It was neat to walk around the city and be able to see the Eiffel Tower peaking in and out between buildings.

We chose not to go up into the Eiffel Tower while we were in Paris for two reasons — the lines were very long (and our time was limited), and you can’t see the Eiffel Tower if you’re in it.  In order to make the best use of our time we chose to only “see the city from up high” from one place, and that was the towers at Notre Dame, which offered a great view of the Eiffel Tower.  If we had time to go up into another building/structure, we would have gone up into the Montparnasse Tower.

During our short stay in Paris we were able to see the Eiffel Tower against many backgrounds (stormy skies, sunset, night) and from many different perspectives.  Here are some of my favorite Eiffel Tower photographs.

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux

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We drove from Paris to Bayeux.  We wanted to use Bayeux as the starting place for our day of Normandy WWII site-seeing. Bayeux was a beautiful city, and we were lucky enough to have a great view of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux from our hotel room window (we stayed at Churchill Hotel and highly recommend it). I photographed the cathedral two nights in a row – the first night was foggy, so I couldn’t resist taking more pictures of the cathedral against a dark, clear sky on our second night in Bayeux. On our way out of Bayeux we stopped at the cathedral so that we could walk around the inside of it – it was fairly early, so I was surprised and thankful that it was already open. I would have been sad had I not gotten to see the inside of the cathedral that I had thoroughly enjoyed photographing the exterior of the building.

The cathedral was consecrated on July 14, 1077, and was rebuilt following extensive damage during the 1100s.

The fog provided both a nice challenge and a beautiful, blue backdrop against which to photograph the cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral – Bayeux

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