Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Room With A View

The bad weather this week has not bothered us, nor interfered with our plans. Nonetheless, there has been less walking, and more use of the Paris Metro, than we had anticipated.

We knew, when we booked our trip, that January weather in Paris might be less than ideal.

Friday, January 25, 2013

“Miss Peters May Have Had A Bad Night, But The Paris Opera Has Had A Bad Century”

The Grand Staircase (and I believe such is the correct proper name) of Palais Garnier, whose interior I saw for the first time yesterday.

Performance quality notwithstanding (and there was perhaps more wit than truth in Rudolf Bing’s famous rejoinder, a dose of acid flung at Paris’s music critics), the Paris Opera is a remarkable institution simply because Palais Garnier is one of its two homes (the other is L'Opéra Bastille, where we caught Tuesday night’s performance of “Khovanshchina”). The building makes a “statement”, inside and out, wherever one looks.

In fact, the entire city of Paris makes a “statement”.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Grande Galerie 1942

In anticipation of the coming conflagration, French authorities began removing artworks from the Louvre in early 1938, more than eighteen months before the onset of war. By late 1939, six months prior to Germany’s invasion of France, the Louvre was empty—aside from artworks too heavy to transport.

Frames shorn of their canvases remained behind and were left in place in the galleries, all for the purpose of matching artworks and frames once the war had ended.

Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading The People” was not to be found in The Grande Galerie yesterday; the painting is currently on view at the satellite Louvre in Northern France.

I was not disappointed, given all the giant Jacques-Louis David masterworks on display—but Andrew and Alex immediately noted the Delacroix’s absence and directed inquires to a guard, who said that the painting had been transported to Lens for a few months.

Monday, January 21, 2013

As Andrew Predicted . . .

As Andrew predicted at the time we acquired our tickets more than six weeks ago, Colin Davis has backed out of Thursday night’s Orchestre National de France concert. His replacement: Neeme Järvi. The program remains unchanged.

The result: on Thursday evening we shall hear Järvi père and on Friday evening we shall hear Järvi fils. (Second son Kristjan is not presently appearing in Paris as far as I know. Kristjan appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra last season, but we did not bother to go.)

Wherever We Go . . .

Wherever we go, we take Minneapolis weather with us.

By Minneapolis standards, yesterday’s snowfall was nothing—and it has certainly not interfered with our activities.

In fact, I think Paris is more beautiful than ever with a thin blanket of snow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


The photograph above is from 1916, the third year of the war.

On the left is Le Petit Palais, the quintessential Art Nouveau building erected for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. On the right is Pont Alexandre III, also in Art Nouveau style and inaugurated at the time of the 1900 Universal Exhibition. In the far distance may be seen the dome of Les Invalides, a triumph of French Baroque architecture.

The captivating photograph below, taken atop Le Petit Palais, is a current French Tourism Authority photograph depicting Pont Alexandre III and Les Invalides at twilight.

If the photograph below cannot entice persons to Paris, nothing can.

Minneapolis, not a bad place to live all in all, seems bland in comparison.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I am becoming more and more excited about our upcoming trip.

I have been to Paris only once, on a whirlwind tour of Europe with my Dad when I was in high school, and we did not spend much time in Paris on that trip (two days and three nights).

On this trip, we have available only eight full days (not including travel days)—but eight days in Paris is better than no days in Paris, and we have prepared an itinerary that interests us and, by and large, is not dependent upon good weather.

On Saturday, we intend to remain out and about all day, weather permitting, in order to ward off fatigue. We intend to explore six churches: Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, Eglise Saint-Louis-en-I’lle, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, La Sainte-Chapelle, Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and Église Saint-Séverin.

On Sunday, we shall spend the morning in Le Marais. We plan to attend Sunday Service at Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis (which recently completed a multi-year restoration) and explore the church afterward. We intend to spend the rest of the morning at Musée Cognacq-Jay. After the museum visit, we plan to assemble a lunch at the many excellent Jewish delicatessens and bakeries in Le Marais.

On Sunday afternoon, we have tickets for a performance of Charpentier’s “David et Jonathas” at l'Opéra Comique, which performs at Salle Favart. (Charpentier was for many years Master Of Music at Eglise Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, the church we will have visited that morning.) After the opera performance, we intend to explore two more churches: Eglise Saint-Eustache and Basilique Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (the latter is Lully’s final resting place; Opera Of The French Baroque is definitely the theme of our day). Our Sunday dinner will be at Chez Chartier—Andrew says everyone must go to Chez Chartier at least once, and I have never been to Chez Chartier.

Monday is built around Les Invalides. We shall first explore two nearby churches: Basilique Saint-Clothilde and Eglise Saint-Francois-Xavier. At Les Invalides, we shall visit the two Invalides churches, Église du Dôme and Cathédrale Saint-Louis des Invalides, and then spend the rest of the day exploring Musée de l'Armée.

Early Tuesday morning, we shall visit two churches, Eglise Saint-Sulpice and Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and afterward spend the rest of the day at Musée d'Orsay. On Tuesday evening, we have tickets for a performance of Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina” at L'Opéra Bastille.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday shall be devoted to Musée du Louvre. According to Andrew and Alex, we should be able to visit approximately forty per cent of the Louvre in three daylong visits. (In 2004, during a spate of very bad weather, Andrew and Alex spent six consecutive days at the Louvre, from open to close, and managed to see approximately eighty per cent of the collection. During those six days, there were portions of the Louvre Andrew and Alex visited over and over and over, and we probably shall do much the same on this trip: lots of backing and filling.)

Andrew and Alex have a system for visiting the Louvre, and we plan to observe the formalities on each of the three days.

We shall have breakfast at our hotel promptly at 7:30 a.m., and leave for the Louvre promptly at 8:15 a.m. On our way, we shall stop at a particular bakery/café Andrew and Alex like, and sit down and have a hot chocolate and a warm chocolate muffin fresh from the oven, both of which apparently are to die for. From the bakery/café, a short walk will place us at the Carrousel du Louvre entrance at 8:50 a.m., and we can get in line at the underground portal and be among the first persons admitted to the museum once visitors are allowed in at 9:00 a.m.

Our first two hours every day will be devoted to painting, an art form that requires maximum attention and concentration. Around 11:30 a.m., after two hours of viewing paintings, we shall take a break and go have an early lunch (to avoid lunchtime crowds) at a very specific restaurant near the Louvre. The restaurant is geared toward Parisian office workers, offers only half-a-dozen fixed menu selections each day and features lightning-quick service, all of which is precisely what we require. For our 11:30 a.m. lunch, we shall order soup and a “plate”.

After our 11:30 a.m. lunch, it will be back to the Louvre for another two hours. For this segment, we shall explore antiquities. After two hours viewing antiquities, we shall head back to the very same restaurant for a second lunch at 2:30 p.m., once again avoiding the lunchtime crowds. For our 2:30 p.m. lunch, we shall order salad and a “plate”.

After our 2:30 p.m. lunch, it will be back to the Louvre for a final two hours. On our last visit, we shall explore sculpture until the museum closes.

Leaving the Louvre, we shall go back to the very same restaurant we have already visited twice and have an early dinner. On our third and final visit to the restaurant, around 5:30 p.m., we shall order a “plate” and dessert.

On each of our three Louvre days, we have tickets for evening orchestra concerts, two at Salle Pleyel and one at Théâtre du Châtelet. Between dinner and concert, we intend to explore Eglise Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois on one day, Palais-Royal on another and Palais Garnier on yet another.

On our second Saturday in Paris, we intend to visit three churches: L'église Saint-Augustin de Paris, Eglise Saint-Roch and L'église de la Madeleine. After our church visits, we shall spend the rest of the day at Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, housed at Petit Palais.

In the early evening, we shall return to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris to hear the Saturday evening organ recital, which according to Andrew lasts only 35 minutes. The evening’s recitalist will be an organist and organ professor from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

After the organ recital, we shall go to the Latin Quarter and have dinner at Alex’s favorite Paris restaurant, Café Procope, an ancient and very historic establishment. In 2004, Andrew and Alex had dinner one evening at Café Procope, and they loved the place, probably more for its history and atmosphere than for its food.

We shall go to Café Procope in order to convene Alex’s birthday dinner. Alex will turn 35 the following day, when we shall be on our way back to Minneapolis and unable to conduct a proper celebration—so we shall be exceedingly pleased to hold Alex’s birthday dinner in Paris.

It should provide a fitting conclusion to our trip.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

These Are Fighting Words

Despite the scruples and delicate complexities, his work suffers from a major defect: the absence of life.

Jorge Luis Borges, on the novels of Henry James