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January 31, 2005

Six Degrees of Seperation at the Louvre

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We went to the Louvre. Who in their right mind wouldn't when they were in Paris. Of course what you don't know is that it would take half a lifetime to fully appreciate all of the treasures in this magnificent complex of buildings. I have read 'The Di Vinci Code' and lots of articles that complain about the glass pyramid in the forecourt but it is really quite beautiful and is a perfect counterpoint to the period buildings of the rest of the Louvre.louvreart.gif

So where do you begin to see all that you can in one day. There is so much to see! Ancient art like this Etruscan sycophacus decoration, breathtaking sculpture galleries, even the buildings themselves are works of art. We sat to eat fabulous bagette sandwiches under this wonderful ceiling.

Naturally when in the Louvre you have to see the Mona Lisa. Having done so, all I can say is "I have seen the Mona Lisa". I was disappointed. It is small and dark and you have to aggressively shoulder your way through the crowds to get anywhere near it. What these sad people miss in their adoration is the much nicer Di Vinci paintings not very far away in the Italian gallery.

It seems that a the six degrees of seperation are alive and well. I was standing admiring a group of figures in a sculpture gallery when I heard behind me -

"Hello, Mrs Smith. Remember me?"

I turned to see a former Loreto student from 3 or 4 years ago. There is no escape! Even in Paris, half a world away, they find you.

Posted by robynls at 8:17 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2005

Tour Eiffel - only the brave

invalides.jpgOK, back to the Eiffel Tower. Every tourist to Paris has to ascend the Eiffel Tower so we did too. Even though we were there in the winter, the queues at the lifts at the bottom of each of the pylons were long with people shuffling forward through barriers similar to those used to control queues at the bank. At least it gives you a good chance to see the people around you as they weave to and fro through the system and you can pass time muttering remarks to each other about their clothes and hair does.

Finally, you get to pay your entry fee, move through the security search and enter the first of two lifts that will take you to the top. The first lift moves up the 45 degree slope of the pylon – no big deal, as you watch the lacy steel structure move slowly past you until you reach the first level. Here you can eat at a restaurant (not open today) or buy yourself a souvenir of your bravery. The view is spectacular, Paris laid out at your feet.

The timid can stop here but the bold pay the premium and board the lift that goes up the centre of the tower to the top. I’m no wimp! Bring it on! Of course, no-one mentions that the lift is glass sided and the ground quickly disappears below your tingling toes. I chose to look toward the inside of the lift and carry on an animated conversation with the DH about nothing important.

Unlike the first level, which is open to the elements, the top viewing platform is, thankfully, enclosed so that even the acrophobic can feel some sense of security. Paris looks so ordered and regular from here. All the buildings seem to be of a similar colour and the streets run so straight. This picture shows the Parc du Champs de Mars and way over there, just to the left of the one tall black building, is the area of St Germaine where our hotel nestles.

The really, truly brave can go up a short flight of stairs to another viewing platform which is open to the elements, where Gustave Eiffel had a small parlour for entertaining dignitaries. Yes, I did!

Posted by robynls at 5:53 PM | Comments (2)

January 29, 2005

Musee d'Orsay

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  "You just have to see the Musee d'Orsay"

This was the reaction from my Paris-wise friends when I said that I was really looking forward to seeing the Louvre. I am so glad that they put me straight. In my extraordinary ignorance, I didn't know that most of the paintings that I really wanted to see had been moved there.

Where do you start when you have only one day and 100 years worth of fabulous art works to see! At this stage of our journey, I had not yet come to the realisation that discrimination is the only way to cope with such a cornucopia. We started at the front door and then just tried to see EVERYTHING! Such babes in the woods! It is an impossibility.

No burly security guards here to stifle the need to capture memories on a flash card, only benign officials to make sure that your nose doesn’t actually come in contact with the canvas as you lean in to take a closer look.

Manet, Monet, my beloved Van Gogh – here I discovered a kindred soul in Degas who worked in a flurry of pastel dust like me. Degas lives in semi dark to preserve the delicate pigments of the pastels but Van Gogh is here in all of his brightness and darkness.

‘Culture vulture’ my dear Detlef? You bet!

Posted by robynls at 7:37 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2005

Van Gogh and the security guard

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I just had to see Van Gogh! I have more books of his work than I think that we have in the art section of our library at school. I have read all about his tragic life and just love his paintings. So, in this frame of mind, we set off for the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

To make life easier for the 'old man', we used the lift instead of the stairs and this lead to a tiny little problem for me. I had noticed that although lots of my fellow travellers were carrying their cameras, none seemed to be collecting photographic mementoes of their visit. Never mind, I'm not backward in coming forward so I started to click away at a couple of examples that interested me. Ahh! The Potato Eaters, one of my favourites! Got to have a photo to show I was here.

A voice behind me made me turn.

  "You are not allowed to take photographs here. Didn't you read the sign" said the rather burly female security guard.

  "No," says I, in great innocence "Where was it?"

  "On the stairs where you came up" she said.

  "Oh, well then. That explains it. We used the lift. My husband has difficulty with the stairs" - play the sympathy card.

  "No more photographs" she said and turned away.

Good thing they don't teach the security personnel about digital cameras. I still have the photographs.

Posted by robynls at 9:37 AM | Comments (5)

January 25, 2005

Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam

RijksmuseumIn my excitement to share my photographs and travel tales I have left Amsterdam without talking about some of the wonderful things that we saw so let's go back there for a little while.

The DH and I decided to go to Amsterdam for different but complementary reasons. He wanted to search out Dutch pottery, especially Makkum examples, while I, having seen the movie 'Girl with the Pearl Earring', had fallen in love with Vermeer so I was going to see Dutch paintings. At the Rijksmuseum we found them both.

When we walked up to the museum we saw a sign outside that said that it was closed for refurbishment until 2008. My heart sank! All this way to be turned away at the door, but then the rest of the sign said that there was one wing open. The curators of this museum very cleverly used some of the most wonderful artworks to document the Goldern Age of Dutch history. We had an art lesson and a history lesson in the same afternoon.

Despite having come here to see the paintings, my favourite item in the whole display was the Delft violin, shown in the slide show here. I would love to be able to take it home to look at it every day. In place of the real thing, I have a little bookmark with a picture of the violin on it so that every time I open the page of my book I can see it.

Posted by robynls at 9:25 AM | Comments (3)

January 24, 2005

Paris

tower.jpgThe second port of call on our holiday was Paris. I had never been to Europe before and my French teacher colleague had been extolling the wonders of this city to me for years. I was so excited that I could almost not breath when we left the Garde du Nord and took our first taxi ride to our hotel on the left bank - all that art and only 4 days!

While the Metro is known the world over, we found that the buses were much better for getting around the city. It is much better for seeing the streetscape and they are also much more user friendly for disabled people. We were pleasantly surprised by the courtesy of Parisians, both young and old. They were very quick to notice my DH’s walking difficulty and insistent on making space for him in the special places on the buses.

France makes special arrangements for the disabled at museums and art galleries. They allow entry free of charge for both the disabled person and their carer. Once we were made aware of this generosity, we made good use of it. It did not, however extend to the Tour Eiffel, which was quite expensive, and the queue was very long, even in the winter. It was well worth the wait and the money, though. This photograph was taken as we were leaving the Tour. It was late afternoon and the light show had just begun. It was beautiful!

Posted by robynls at 7:41 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2005

Amsterdam icons

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I took hundreds of digital photographs during our holiday to Europe and England. I suppose that because I don't have to pay to have every one of them printed then I just get carried away. I like being able to see what I have taken straight away so I can do it again if I make a mess of a particular shot.

We arrived in Amsterdam on 20 December. After we settled into our hotel, we went for a bit of a walk and straight away found the canal boat tours. We have used the open top buses in London before to get our bearings so it seemed a good idea to use the canal tour for the same purpose. It was SO cold but no snow. We saw the tall narrow houses of the city, the bridges over the canals and lots of bicyles. I can't imagine how they don't have lots more accidents with cars driving into the canals because the little fences along the banks are so short.

This photograph is the one that I have chosen to represent the Amsterdam part of our holiday. It contains all of the things that are to me the icons of the city - bicycles, canals, canal boats and the tall, narrow houses. I enjoyed our stay in the city which was made pleasant by the people who are friendly and welcoming.

Posted by robynls at 9:49 AM | Comments (3)

January 4, 2005

Robin by Robyn

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I get really excited every time I see a robin since it is my name bird and we don't have them in Australia. I tried to draw this one from memory, having seen it on a shed at the farm in Beck Hole where we stayed in Yorkshire. I sketched it in pencil first and then used my watercolour pencils to colour the bird. I am not sure that I got the shape quite right and I know that the beak is not exactly what it should be but it's a start.

Posted by robynls at 11:21 PM | Comments (2)