Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Day After

It was a rough start to Friday morning...with me having caught a nasty case of The Wine Flu and all. I was so overcome with my...er...symptoms...that the only breakfast food going down was bread, nutella, and coffee. Neal volunteered to lounge around the hotel until I began to feel a little more human, but there's just no time to waste when you're on a Museum Pass, people...the clock is ticking. Besides, Neal was already showing signs of the actual flu and he was still willing to attack the itinerary...dripping snot and achy joints be damned! I hardly had an excuse...on account of mine was self-induced.

So we started moving toward The Rodin Museum, which was actually high on my list considering I had written a 5-page paper on Rodin in high school. And how do you visit Paris without making a stop to see the original Thinker? Museum pass holders skip right to the front of the line, which was fortunate as people stretched out the door and halfway down the block. Even on a Friday. Even in autumn. You can carry a purse through the museum, and you may carry a backpack, as long as it's strapped to the front. I assume they don't want you to get distracted and, while spinning to answer your wife when she says, "Honey, look at this! What do you think it is?", knock a priceless work of art from its freestanding pedestal with your NorthFace hunchback.

The ticket office/baggage check building empties out on the gardens. It's worth a walk around, especially when the Parisian weather is cooperating. You'll see a pensive The Thinker...
Rodin once declared that this was a statue of himself...evolving beyond an animal nature, to think the first thought, to reinvent the self into something better. Sitting still with the mind moving faster than the speed of light.

Then there's Balzac...as he finally came to be in Rodin' repertoire...although there's an earlier version of Balzac in the museum that I like much better (all I'm saying is...penis...).

and then there's the occasional blonde...

Be careful....she bites. 

While the gardens do wrap around the house, to the back, we decided to meander on in to the museum and then finish with the back gardens on our way out. In the Rick Steves book, he details the main pieces of each room and there are 2 floors to the house. We decided the best place to start was Room 1

As the story goes, when you are a fresh-faced artist in Paris, you are generally poor. And live models cost money...especially the pretty ones. So, when deciding where to spend your money, it makes total sense to eat well and hire the ugly people. Such is the case with this gentleman who, although hard to see here, had some sort of nose deformity. Rodin sculpted him anyway. After leaving the finished product in his studio overnight, he returned to find the back of the head had frozen and broken off under the bitter cold conditions. Rodin loved it and kept it....the critics freaked out and demanded he fixed it. So there are 2 heads on rotation at the Rodin museum. This one happens to be the original. The titles are all in French so I'm calling this one Lobotomy

We could truly appreciate this sculpture, The Bronze Age, after having seen Michelangelo's "slaves" in the Louvre. So similar in pose and realistic features. Rodin created this while he was living in Brussels and was accused of not sculpting it, but instead simply casting it from a live body. Pft! Critics! Nope...he was just that good. 

This always has been (and probably always will be) my favorite Rodin sculpture...The Kiss. It's like sitting on the jagged rocks of a California beach and, just as the sun sets, turning to wrap your arms and your lips around the person you've chosen to see it with. Er...except for the whole nudity thing. Although...in California...This was the first of Rodin's work that the public actually adored, but he came to hate it...claiming it was too simple and sentimental. Silly man. We love sentimental! 

These 2 hands, which form The Cathedral, are actually 2 right hands. I don't know the story on this piece, I just know that sometimes I enhance our photos with Photoshop and sometimes I butcher them all to hell. This would be the latter. On my screen it looked amazing and haunting so I hit "save and replace" and got this...which looks like a skin disease. So, my apologies to you...this is such a breathtaking display of art that you really do just have to see it for yourself. 

Although it is primarily Rodin's work in the Rodin Museum, they also feature pieces by Camille Claudel...who began as Rodin's muse and ended as his lover (of course. And this is why the only nude Neal will ever paint is me. I've seen How I Met Your Mother...I know how this all works out in the end). This sculpture, titled Maturity, depicts a scene (probably more realistic than we realize) of Rodin ultimately choosing to stay with his wife (who stands behind him and whispers into his ear that if he sees that skanky little bitch one more time, she will cut off his balls and feed them to him) and Camille, just as he breaks free from her desperate clench. Somehow, I found myself both rejoicing for Rose who has won her husband back, and feeling utterly heartbroken for Camille as she loses the only thing she loves. 

Camille was quite talented and this room is full of her art...which does sort of look like Rodin's. But Rodin returning to his wife ruined her and her ability to create anything at all. She went mad with jealousy and grief and spent the rest of her days institutionalized...probably sculpting the most beautiful mashed potatoes. 

This version of The Thinker was created for a massive project Rodin began but never finished (you see a lot of that in here. Mama Virgo would not approve), titled The Gates of Hell and filled with characters from Dante's Inferno. They are outside in the gardens...beautiful but ultimately unfinished.

The Thinker(s). I couldn't help it. He is most handsome when he has no idea I'm hiding behind art and taking pictures.

And this brings us to my favorite sculpture Rodin did of Balzac...headless and holding an erection. I wish there was a series of these...say...with all politicians.

These are all pieces that I loved and wanted to remember. I don't know the stories or even the titles. But they speak to me all the same.

The garden view from the second floor of the museum. I did very little tweaking on this one. It truly is that green. Maybe they should hold The Masters here.

This is looking at the back of the museum...in the opposite direction as the above picture. When you come out and walk around the side of the house, you will pass several food carts as you stroll to the back. The area is also littered with sculptures and fountains. I'm sure if you were starving, you could eat here, but we had plans to grab something on Rue Cler.

The Gates of Hell...as seen in the garden.

As we exited the museum and started toward Rue Cler, I realized that I should have peed back at Rodin's place. We were fairly close to the Army Museum and still on our Museum Pass so we decided to stop at Napoleon's tomb so I could use the bathroom. And, of course, to see the tomb...which Mama Virgo insisted we visit. If you make a pit stop at Napoleon's Tomb, you should know that it's in the cafe, down the stairs, and it costs 40 cents to use. I just saved you a lot of hassle at a time when you'll be needing less hassle and more privacy. You can thank me later.

So, while we were there...
OK...yes...it's several nested coffins inside of each other (oak coffin holding an ebony coffin, housing 2 lead ones, then mahogany, then tinplate). But really?? Is this necessary? He was like 5'2". And this thing was freaking huge. I mean compare it to that chick standing to the right and it will sort of give you an idea of the scale of his final resting place. Although if you want to preserve anything, ask the French. When they exhumed him to move him here in 1840, he was still perfectly preserved...even after 19 years of being 6 feet under.

And because it's the Army Museum, there are other famous military leaders entombed here.

You can visit the crypts and view it all from downstairs, but by this point we were starving. And we still had to walk the 6 blocks or so over to Rue Cler and search out food. So, we blew a kiss to Napoleon and head out the gates.

If you are going to piece together a picnic while you're in Paris, Rue Cler is the place to go. The marches (imagine there is an accent mark over that e, will you?) put out delectably fresh fruits and vegetables everyday, the charcuterie displays delicious cuts of meat, and of course there are the boulangeries for all of your bakery needs. We decided to grab a sandwich, dessert, and drink from one of the takeaway stands in the middle. I think this was the first time we had eaten lunch outside of a cafe...and we were hooked. There is not a single meal at a cafe that can compete with picnicking in Paris when the weather is nice. I don't believe we lunched in another cafe (except at museums) after that. With plastic bags of goodies in hand, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for an afternoon of people watching and relaxing.

As everyone knows, chocolate lava cake is the perfect cure for the wine flu.

The entire day had been warm, but overcast. Heavy clouds threatened eventual rain. But in the late afternoon, after we had seen literally busloads of tourists flock to the tower for pictures and picnics, the clouds finally started to break apart and the tiniest patch of blue shown through.

I had downloaded several of Rick Steves podcasts of what I guess is his radio show. Who knew?? And the guests were 2 French gentlemen who discussed everything from off-the-beaten path walks in Paris to cafe etiquette to the history of the Eiffel Tower. During one of the call-in segments, they discussed how Parisians have a lot less personal space than Americans. When an American walks up to a sidewalk cafe and sees maybe 1 or 2 empty tables, they deem it too full for dining and look for something emptier. French walk up, see a lively joint with just enough space for them..how lucky! And they pop a squat to join in on the madness. And, I must admit, we had been choosing our cafes like that. The quieter, the better. Well, when in France...

As we strolled back to the hotel, keeping an eye open for a cozy dinner place, I spotted a cafe across the street that was happening. Tons of tables out front were full of young Parisians, smoking, drinking, and eating the most delicious looking salads. We stuck a pin in our personal space bubble and crossed the street to grab the last open table on the sidewalk. The waiter quickly came over to take our drink order ("Happy Hour" over there starts at like 3 and goes all night...but I would not consider the prices to be anything similar to back home...where 2 for 1 is the ideal. Most beers were still $5-$6 for a pint...) and explain some of the menu items. He was quite pleasant and easy to understand. We waited patiently for our drinks to arrive and discussed how glad we were that we had chosen such a bustling cafe. This was the way to eat in Paris...why hadn't we done it sooner??

Not 2 minutes later, our charming waiter got into a screaming match with his co-worker over a table of his guests who had skipped out on their bill. Hands were flying, curse words (I'm assuming they were curse words...apparently today's young Parisians have moved past "Mon Dieu!", which is what I learned in the 8th grade) spewed forth. Our waiter stormed inside the restaurant, leaving us a little puzzled but not concerned....until he clopped back outside, man-purse in hand and headphones on his head. He was ranting and waving with his free hand and headed off into the sunset.

"What are the chances that it's shift change?" I asked Neal.
"Not great. He was awfully mad about something. I think our waiter just quit."

Now we were concerned.

We had been waiting almost 20 minutes for our drinks to arrive and had seen the tables around us served drinks and dinner. A lovely managerial-looking woman appeared outside and began waiting tables. She flitted about, checking on drink levels and how dinner was tasting. It was time for action. I followed her into the cafe, to the register and kindly asked if she spoke English. Of course she did. I explained that we had given our order to our waiter, but not had received drinks or dinner yet. She nodded in understanding and then spouted, "My waiter! He just....PSH!" and made a dismissing motion with her hand.

"He quitter??"


He had managed to quit after taking our order but before actually putting it in the computer. What are the odds?? So they had no record of us at all. She was so frazzled and seconds from having a full come-apart in my presence that leaving now seemed inhumane. I gave her our order again and returned to Neal to confirm his suspicions...he had just PSH!

They didn't comp our meal or really even apologize...like they would have (or we would have insisted) in the states. But the salad and burger were divine and the story is priceless. I would say, in the end, we might actually owe them.


  1. What an amazing time you must be having!!!

    I love art... I am so jealous!!!


  2. Well, all's well that ends well, right??? Paris...such a dream!

  3. Phil and I are not exactly "museum" people, but I would drag him to the Rodin musee. It looks fabulous.
    As did your lunch under la Tour d'Eiffel (although, is it wierd that when I saw your picture, my first thought was "Hey! I have those shoes!"?)
    Oh, the French waitstaff...if they aren't trying to set you on fire, they are quitting before bringing your drinks! I almost don't know which is worse...

  4. Well, I'm with you on that Balzac statue, and some day will return the favor with a blog about the statue we have downtown - complete with a frontal photo! Just for us girls.

    How have I missed the pretty tat on your wrist? Bet it hurt - a lot! - but I really like it. Keep writing...

  5. How exciting! I want to see a french man fight!
    I would expect slapping though.

  6. Somehow when I first see your post, I think "my goodness...Ally wrote a novel...oh well, I'll read some now and some later" but you're such a terrific writer that I finish it every.time!

  7. I'm so glad you know a lot about art. So glad. I have loved reading these posts, but this one makes we want to hop the next flight to Paris so I can go hang out with Rodin and his mostly unmerry band of characters. I also want chocolate lava cake.

  8. I really enjoyed this post, and I fondly remember picnics in Paris and other places. Even just bread, cheese, and fruit is a gourmet meal outdoors.

  9. I love all these pictures. I wish I had the chance to see more museums while I was in Paris (or just A museum!) but this one in particular looks amazing. I love the Kiss, too :)

  10. I love her explanation of it... he just PSH! But way to go taking it all in stride and obviously recognizing how frazzled she was. I hate when folks get bitchy in those type of situations you and Neal handled it with grace, I would expect nothing less from the 2 of you.

    This museum looks amazing and kudos to you for all your knowledge. I took 2 years of Art History in college and can only remember bits n' pieces but I bet if I went back to a museum it might flood back... I need some culture. ;) Can't wait to read what induced the wine flu! ox


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