Monday, July 26, 2010

Voulez-vous que je vous accompagne?

These are the artisan marshmallows (which I have now finished--thank god!!) which were the bane of my existence for so long. To be completely honest, though, the last couple were not so bad. They were almost good.

Anyway, this entry is about Saturday. My fabulous Saturday. As of Friday night, I had been planning on going to Centre Pompidou and Les Invalides (all by my lonesome) before joining my friend Maria for the Fat Tire Bike Tour. However, a friend of mine, the Belgian Isabelle, was sitting next to me in the reception area and told me about the YSL (Yves Saint Laurent, a very famous French designer) exposition currently going on at the Petit Palais (a Parisian museum, one of about 1000). It also turned out that we both wanted to go to Les Invalides! So we decided to spend Saturday together.

I woke up pretty early, had breakfast with Isabelle and then we made the 40-minute trek (very beautiful in the morning, just along the Seine, nice cool weather, all the beautiful buildings all around us, very calm and quite) over to the Petit Palais. The place hadn't even opened yet and yet there was already a line of ticket holders and non-ticket holders. Sigh. We though we'd never get in. Thankfully, we only had to wait half an hour and then we were in! Lucky us!

Well so we went into the exposition...and it was absolutely amazing. Very beautifully crafted. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, photography was not allowed. So I couldn't take pictures of the reconstructed Yves Saint Laurent workdesk, his many sketches, and over 300 pieces that had been put on mannequins, lining about 20-30 rooms. There were pieces in glassed showcases, videos playing on screens (of interviews of friends and the designer himself), framed prints of magazine photos of models wearing his clothing, walls reprinted with newspaper article excerpts talking about his shows, plaques on every room describing the era and theme of the set of clothing within the was just so so well done. My favorite room was the one with the ballgowns. Very haute-couture, high fashion, exquisite looking. The room of exposition itself looked like a high-society ballroom, where an actual ball would take place. I took a very sneaky picture:

Yes, it sucks. Deal. The last room featured hanging gradient dresses, made of the softest chiffons and silks and completely airy materials. The room was covered in squares of fabric in all color palettes, lining the hanging dresses that were blowing in the breeze of built-in fans. Very nice effect. Couldn't picture very well, but you get the idea:

So after the exposition, Isabelle and I decided to explore the rest of the Petit Palais, which is basically like any other museum, just smaller. Paintings, sculptures, precious metals, the like. I got bored pretty quickly and decided to wait for Isabelle (an art student) in the garden (which I infinitely preferred to the paintings). Look how pretty!!

Okay, on to Les Invalides. Les Invalides was basically a ten-minute walk from Petit Palais, a straight walk across the most beautiful bridge I have ever seen, Pont Alexandre III. Seriously, this bridge is spectacular:

And then we continued to Les Invalides. Basically, Les Invalides is a collection of buildings that, together, pay tribute to soldiers and wars and the victims of wars past. It has a hotel, a hospital, a church, and several museums commemorating wars and war relics past. We started out by visiting the L'Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides, which is absolutely breathtaking church dedicated to fallen soldiers.

And then it was on to the many, many museums of Les Invalides. First was Le Musee de L'Ordre de la Liberation. Basically, a hallway playing old war documentaries on giant screens, and then several rooms and hallways displaying war diaries, war propaganda, uniforms, tributes to actual soldiers, war medallions, Nazi swastikas...basically a ton of paraphernalia from World War II. The upstairs of this museum contained a particularly frightening (but thankfully very small) memorial to the I never, ever want to see again and little plaques of information, as well as artistic representations of the horrors in camps.

And then...on to Napoleon's tomb! So awesome. It's a gigantic building with several small circular rooms dedicated to other, very famous fallen soldiers (like the other Napoleon...who no one really hears about) and generals and the like. They all have very large coffins, all of which are blocked off from the public. Beautiful though. Napoleon's is in the very center of the building, set in a large circular crypt with a viewing gallery, columns, and walls covered in sculptures and bas relief art.

After a bit more wandering around the tomb and the rest of the amazing church and the gardens right in front of it (also very beautiful are now on Picasa), we went on to the Musee de L'Armee, my personal favorite part of the entire Les Invalides experience. The musee is essentially a tribute to World War I and World War II. It's incredibly well-made, with artifacts, reconstructed war artifacts, letters, propaganda, newspaper article reprints, videos, walls covered in murals, war banners, medals, uniforms, artillery...I thought I had died and gone to heaven. (I'm a big non-fiction war story fan.)

It was so so so cool. Unfortunately, I had to quickly skim most of the rooms, as we just did not have enough time to see everything there was to see in detail. The rooms were cluttered with things to watch and look at and read. I could have spent days just in the war museum. However, by then, our feet were tired and we were both quite hungry. So we went to our last stop: the arms and armory museum, which featured ...arms and armory from several different countries and many different centuries. Bayonets, swords, guns, pistols, horse armor, Chinese warrior gear, descriptions of the many, many layers of armor a soldier had to wear...we saw it all. Pretty neat stuff. Most of them were donations, so it was all authentic, as well. So cool.

>Afterwards, we wandered onto a side market street well-hidden from tourists, with a ton of cafes and bakeries and other little shops. I got the worst crepe I've had since I've been here (turns out it wasn't as well hidden from tourists as I thought, as they charged the same price for crepes that weren't freshly made, which I guess makes no difference to unsuspecting tourists) and was upset. It was still pretty tasty though. Isabelle got flan from a gourmet bakery. Much better choice. I decided I need some salt, stopped at a supermarket and bought a ready-made frozen tuna sandwich. I had to get back to the Foyer at that point for the Bike Tour, so Isabelle dropped me off at the Metro and we parted ways.

Bike Tour: next entry!! Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Sneaky sneaky sneaky pictures :P.
    And you didn't like the paintings? You spent like 1984276587236487168472 hours in the louvre the other day...