Sunday, April 01, 2012

Looking Back at Venice and Paris 2012: For my Grandson Ian and Samantha McNett

Venice and Paris and the Places In-between:  February – March 2012

Our journey begins on a cramped flight from Dulles to Amsterdam.  Fitful sleep but good beef bourguignon and breakfast.  Schiphol to Venice – Venice from the air is amazing – canals cut through the coastline, houses built right next to them.
Our hotel Bellini just off the Grand Canal next to Rail Station.  After unpacking we walk to canal and take #2 vaporetto to Academia to go toward San Marco and see the Carnevale in progress.  People in costume – big time.  Vino Brule (mulled wine) served from a fountain.  

Some of the costumes we saw I categorized as Glinda the White Witch, the King, a Tree, Death, Pashas, Cleopatra, Dalmatians (a whole pack of them but not 101), The Sun (Lady in Red).

The costumes are outrageous and grant.  But many people sport a half-mask or purple or orange hair.

We went into the Cathedral of San Marco.  People there take pictures despite the X signs not to.  Beautifully tiled 11th century church.  Also loved the horses on the portico above, looking toward the elaborate bell clock on next building.

We walk home, stopping at a small bistro for vegetable soup and grilled veggies – zucchini, pepper, eggplant.  Very tired now and ready to sleep

Alex and Portrait of Peggy
Sunday, February 19:  Rose at 8 for a quick breakfast of cappuccino next door.  Then a vaporetto to Peggy Guggenheim’s for show “Avant Garde from Picasso to Pollock.”  Peggy Guggenheim was married twice to Dadaist Lawrence Vail and then to Max Ernst.  Marcel Duchamp taught her about art, and she began to collect.  Great sculpture in the Garden, one with concave surfaces reverses images (like camera) so objects are upside down. 
Inside:  Braque, Picasso, Mondrian, Pollock, Magritte, Duchamp, Ernst, Arp, Tanguy, Bacon.
Upside Down Portrait

Lunch at Peggy Guggenheim's and on to Accademia Museum and 13-15th Century Art.  Medieval paintings of Jesus and Mary and we especially became enamored of the Bambini Rossi.

Bambini Rossi at Accademia
Dinner tonight – Fresh sole coated with artichokes.  Very good.

A stroll in the evening en masque.  Yes, we purchased masks after Guggenheim and before Accademia.

Back by 10 p.m. and ready for bed.

Monday, February 20:  Woke late.  Went to rail station after coffee and sandwich to get Vicenza to Lyon tickets.  Success!

Then off to the Modern Art Museums at two different locations, including the Palazzo Grassi and another that was like a warehouse of some sort.  Lunch at a small restaurant near Accademia.  I had (Eggplant) Managelle alla Parmesan.  Later, we spent an afternoon at the second museum Punto Della Dogana da Mar  before walking back to Accademia over bridge and on to San Marco.   The bull effigy was located near the museum in this wide area of the Grand Canal that leads to larger bay on which the other Venetian islands are located.

In our favorite trattoria near the Accademia

Masqueraders in a Vaporetto
Dinner of Pizza and salad before going to an evening of opera selections – Vivaldi, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti.  Wonderful tenor and soprano.

Bull Effigy on mouth of Grand Canal
Tuesday, February 21:  We slept not quite as late – breakfast in the hotel and then vaporetto to San Marco and another to Isolo de San Giorgio – the last Palladian designed church before he died.   We then returned to San Marco and the masquerade and visit the Palace of the Doges.
Lunch at our favorite trattoria – wine and fruit des mere in tagliatti – we walked the back roads from Accademia.  Tonight we'll go to San Marco area of the Grand Canal and watch the effigy burn.
The Bull Burns in the Grand Canal:
The end of Carneval and Carne
Wednesday, February 22:  Left Venice.  Race to get 10 a.m. train to Vicenza – no validation of ticket so Alex worried we would get fined 250 euros per posted sign.  But we didn’t.
In Vicenza at Hotel de La Ville, we met Claudio Nascimben.  We visited the Villa Rotondoa with him.  The third floor of the Rotonda was completed by another architect (Muttoni) who was the architect for Villa Valmarana ai Nani next door.  The Villa Rotondo and other Palladian buildings have as a hallmark the points of roof facing the points of the compass.

Villa Rotonda: Jefferson's Inspiration

Another Palladian Villa
We also drove to Monte Berico where there is a church and a beautiful view of the City, river, etc.

Sergio, Alex and Laura
Thursday, February 23:  We met other cousins of  Alex’s friend, Sergio and Laura, who took us on a tour of the city within the walls of Vicenza – a church built on Roman foundations (mosaic floors exposed in some areas), other buildings by Palladio.  Basilica de San Felice v Fortunato.

Villa Valmarana ai Nani
More Palladio
Sergio took us into the library where he works and showed us a number of rare manuscripts:  Michelangelo’s letter with a drawing of a “bird”; illuminated pages of the Psalms; and a messa, a missile illuminated.  It had lettering in black and red, done as a print from a stamp.
We had café with the pair and walked back to the hotel stopping in the market to buy a chicken that the saleswoman quartered for us.  We also purchased beer at a Macedonian store and had our own feast.  We napped in the afternoon and read more about Palladio (surname provided by another architect/mentor in honor of Pallas/Athena because of his obvious genius; his original surname was Gondola -- his father was a boatmaker). 
Dinner tonight was risotto alla gamberetto y pesce; bistecca manaquale and cheesecake/biscotti chocolate and rum – very creamy – and red wine.
Palladio, The Man Himself

Vicenza modern sculpture
Friday, February 24:  Today we had the architect Claudio’s wife and daughter, Elena and Sara, as our guides.  Sara spoke excellent English, her mother, mostly Italian.  She was very elegant and very Italian.  We really saw the palaces this time; you need a couple of days to absorb the buildings and the layout of the town.   The Teatro Olympico was fantastic, but the pictures will tell that story better than I – it was the first time I really understood what a Roman stage must have looked like; for the most part we see only the barest remnant of a stage in front of the amphitheater.  
After we left them, we had lasagna at a café and then visited an archeological and natural history museum and sat in the park.
We got to the train station several hours in advance, went to the gate (biu) 10 minutes in advance where Alex chatted in French and English with a cute Tunisian guy also going to Lyon.  When the train stopped, the Tunisian indicated we should go further down the cars.  So after a long haul (no conductors in sight) we got onto the dining car and the woman told us “five cars down”.  We got off again and the conductor then appeared and said “car 96” (which was on our ticket in a cryptic fashion we didn’t interpret) so we were literally racing with the conductor shouting something indicating the train was leaving. 

After the Great Race to the Train
I had my roller bag and two carry-on bags.  I shouted Alex,  "I can’t run any further; I’m getting on.”  Fortunately it was car 96 – she got on the next car, and at last we were reunited.  I was muttering  as I ran:  “I can’t do this.  I’m 72 years old.”  I also said to Alex later that it was like we were in that TV show "The Great Race," only we were not anticipating winning a prize.

The ticket said “couchette” which was a four person shelf system – I was on top, Alex below.  In Milan, two young men got on.  Tres intimate!  Too much so – I didn’t really sleep.

Stage designed by Palladio
 Amphitheater in Vicenza

Roman Theater in Lyon.  In front would be an
elaborate stage like the one on left.
Pig Gouda in Vicenza market
Saturday, February 25:  We arrived in Lyon early at the Hotel des Artistes, but they welcomed us with open arms, fed us breakfast and let us in our room early.  Then we went exploring. This was the day we discovered the clock in Cathedral of St. Jean that was most amazing: 
On the hour, the cock crows and flaps its wings; the Swiss guard marches out; doves descend to Mary and an angel announces the conception of Jesus, little angels play music, bells ring, and an old man (Alex said he was God but I think he must be Peter) blesses the whole scene.  The clock tells the time, the date, month, day, year on the Gregorian and Roman calendars; the current astrological sign; the phase of the moon and the constellations seen in Lyon.
Beautiful Stained glass windows.  Two of them tell the parallel stories of St. John and St. Etienne (Andrew) about whom there are many paintings and commemorations in France. 

We had dinner at a popular bouchon in the old part of Lyon.  Alex had Andouille, I had steak and potatoes au gratin and verre Bordeaux.  We walked around the town after dinner.

Sunday, February 26:  Up early for breakfast of café au lait, egg, fruit, cheese and bread at Hotel des Artistes.
Then across the bridge to the funicular and up the hill to the Roman Ruins of an odeon, amphitheater, town and baths.  Then we went into the museum which was fabulous.  I liked the information about the various Roman provinces.  Lyon – Lugdunum – was a major city because of the confluence of the two rivers.  The amphitheater was commissioned under Tiberius who ruled 14-37 AD.  By 177 AD Christians had been persecuted and martyred there.

Lyon was a center for making and distributing goods, metals, tools, glass, pottery – pots plates censors, glasses, cups.  Beautiful mosaics found and displayed at the museum.

For the first time I could truly envision the Roman theater with the stage like the teatro olympique of Vicenza, a curtain/screen that descended below the stage by a series of pullies, the orchestra and then rows of seats.  In the Lyon theater, 11,000 could be seated.

We walked up to the church – Basilique de Notre Dame de Fourviere – took pictures but did not go inside.  Then we walked back down the hill (picture to prove that) and dined at La Petit Glouton (that name needs no translation), where we had previously gotten a very nice crepe prepared outside.  I had the Maxi Salade Complexee – carrots in strips, onions slightly cooked, hearts of palm, tomatoes and romaine with a most delicious mustard vinaigrette dressing – my second course was crepe de champignons.  And a whole carafe of Vin Bordeaux.

After lunch we went back to watch the clock chime at 3 p.m.
We then walked north along the river to Beaux Arts Musee – called the best collection outside the Louvre.   The 20th century art was on loan.  We saw a Rembrandt “Stoning of St. Andrew” (Ste. Etienne) that I had never seen before.

We came back, soaked in tub and foreswore off dinner.  Leave tomorrow for Besancon.
Mercury:  God of commerce, communication, languages, travel, trickster, patron god of thieves, often associated with rooster, goat, turtle.  Mercury is a “patron” god of Lyon, and he has been   
 one of our gods on this trip.  [Here's but one statue of him.]

Monday, February 27:  After breakfast we left by cab for railroad Gare Port Dieu, Lyon and got train to Besancon and we arrived at noon expecting to see a Besancon tour person but we didn’t get to her correctly on internet.  Oh well.
We got to Hotel du Nord and then went to lunch at Brasserie du Commerce (with Mercury in stained glass looking over us).  I had fish with tomato sauce, Alex pork, polenta and mélange of veggies with expensive red wine and crème brulee.
Then we went to St. Jean Church and the clock there:  eclipses, lunar and solar, time zones, ecclesiastical calendar; 8-10 time zones including Moscow and New York; leap years, centuries, millennia, astrological signs, phases of moon, planet movements.  At 12, Christ rises from the tomb.  At 3, when we were there, he goes back into the tomb, the guards come out when Jesus goes to the grave.  Charity shows a chalice to Hope and Faith and of course Mary is also there.
The designer of this clock was Verite in the late 19th century - a great name for a clockmaker, n'est-ce pas?

After the clock we visited the Musee de beaux arts as both the church and the museum will be closed on Tuesday.  There we saw modern photos – on the road type in Mexico; surrealistic Bosch like medieval pictures upstairs including one of Noe (Noah?) and his 3 sons, he as an old man, two sons showing respect in covering him and one ridiculing his nakedness), scenes of the life of the Virgin.  There was a collection of modern art by a husband and wife, George and Adele Besson.  He had been an art critic and both had had their portrait painted by masters, he by Matisse and Bonnard, she by Auguste Renoir.  Can you imagine?
Then we went to grocery for fruit, cheese, water and bread.  Back to hotel for pix downloads to computer and Facebook posting.

Walked about tonight – there’s a downtown mall, but like ours, a bit sketchy in places with beggars and homeless people.

Tuesday, February 28:  Last day of February.  But wait, it’s leap year and tomorrow is the final day, 29th.

Today, after breakfast of coffee and roll we went to the Musee du Temps – looked at all the clocks and explanations of clocks and timepiece making a la Galileo and others.  Also interesting art, including thumb Sculpture, beautiful cabinetry and views from the top of the building (formerly Grandville Palais).  Horrible picture of Roman siege of Besancon and slaughter of women and children.

After closing down the boutique (at its regular 2 hours lunch break), we had lunch at a restaurant.  I got sweet potato soup, and Alex, beef with light tomato sauce and cream vinaigrette on salad and pommes frites.
Then we walked across the bridge to the Citadelle, former fort from the Franche – Comte period (13th - 18th c) with architecture designed by Foucault.  On a high hill, the museum was closed for day but zoo of exotic animals was open, including orangutans in moat area.  Walked back down hill and went into St. Jean’s church.  Paused at Roman Ruins.

Saw where Victor Hugo was born.
Looked around square at carousel and then walked across to old town on north side.  The church there was closed for renovations.  Back to the square for a compare and then dinner of bread and cheese.  We thus began looking for other carousels in Paris (more later).

I updated my FB page and read what others are writing.  Charlottesville friends mostly concerned on FB with politics.

Tomorrow – on to Paree!

Clock in Train Station-Besancon
Wednesday, February 29:  Today we set out for Besancon Viotte Train Station only to learn that we had to go to another one – some half hour away.  Then a quick two hour trip to Paris, a long slog through metros to Sandy’s apartment.  With her neighbor’s help, we got in, but we went up three sets of stairs in the wrong wing before coming back down and going up 5 more.  I thought I would have a stroke.  Alex actually went down and climbed back up with my bag – the darling.
After a rest we went to the Louvre and spent the afternoon and early evening there – quiche and salad for a mid-afternoon lunch-dinner. 

That night, Alex reported I cried out in my sleep “Le Louvre, Le Louvre” as though in a nightmare.  I used the cry to good advantage the rest of the week as we returned two more times to Le Louvre, Le Louvre.

Thursday, March 1:  Today we set out for Musee d’Orsay meeting a small snafu when the ticket taker noted I had put 2/2/2012 on my Museum Pass card.  I meant to put 29 of course for the 6 day pass.  She was most unpleasant, but the information staff corrected it and returned us to the line where she again perused it, still not satisfied by the correction until she could restamp the card.

That done, without any more problems, we spent two plus hours in the Musee looking at sculptures and paintings – early French David et al to Impressionists Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne.  And of course the beautiful water lilies of Monet.  No photos allowed but check out the website:
I loved the paintings Renoir did in his old age of young girls.  He said he loved the pinkness of their skin.  He was painting to the end, despite the pain and crippleness in his hands, due to arthritis.

We took a respite mid-day for steak, fries and wine at the restaurant and late afternoon, chocolate mousse and lemonade.

Shopping in our neighborhood, we bought Clementines, cheese, break, chicken and veggies and for dinner.  I worked on Face Book posts and albums this evening!

Today, in our pedestrian journeys, we passed the Thomas Jefferson statue so we stopped to take pictures.  While we were frolicking and taking pictures with TJ, a woman asked if we’d dropped a ring, a male wedding band.  I said no.  She said it was good luck and appeared to move along while I showed it to Alex.  Then she returned and asked for money.  Alex gave her 5 euros.  I said it was too light to be gold.  When we got home, Alex googled and found a Paris gypsy ring scam.  Still, Alex said the story was worth 5 euros.
Friday, March 2:  Slept well.  Legs rested! 
Walked to Parc Monceau and reminisced about Alex’s experiences at an adjacent school.
Guy de Maupassant
Wandered in the Park and took pictures of statues, including this one of
de Maupassant and a woman reading one of his novels.

From Camondo window: Homage to
Spring and to Monet
Then on to the Musee Nissim Comondo.  “Bourgeois” Alex thought, but "touching" to me because M. Moise Comondo so loved the 18th century that he made his home a tribute to it through his furnishings and the style of the house.  His wife ran off with a jockey; his only son was killed in World War I; his surviving daughter, her husband and two children were shipped to Auschwitz and killed (this after M. Comondo’s death).  A tragic family history.
Continuing the Clock Theme at Musee d'Orsay
Next,  we had lunch at Musee de Jacque Marc Andre – another beautiful house.  He, a rich banker, met Nellie Jacquemarc when she painted his portrait.  Nine years later they married.  They collected lovely paintings – medieval as well as early French and Italian pieces.  I love especially Canaletto’s of Venice.   Lunch was salmon et terrine de troute on salad.  After JacqueMarc, we came home – Alex shopped for bread, and we took naps.  After a rest, we went to Notre Dame but it was closed and then on the Louvre (slight glitch as I had forgotten my pass and had to buy another ticket – oh well, more financial support for “La Louvre, La Louvre!”)

Tonight we saw many beautiful sculptures in the Richelieu section and then went into Sully for paintings.
We came home late and tired but got a good night’s sleep.
Saturday, March 3:  Today we went to the Eiffel Tower, took pictures and looked at the carousels at the Tower and across the Seine near the Trocadero where I also pictures of the bull (one of the recurring symbols on the trip).
We found the Hotel des Invalides where I bought Army soldiers for collector son Ian and on to Napoleon’s tomb and crypt which was quite grandiose.

We ate at a small brasserie in that neighborhood where I had fish and mussels.   Afterwards, we toured the Sewers of Paris, which play a role in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.  Very interesting, except as I told Alex, you see one sewer, you’ve seen them all (I’ve seen Charlottesville’s and New York City’s, and come to think of it, many years ago, Arlingon's).  But truly the sewers of Paris do have more cultural value.  (and it was on our pass.)

We next sought out the Rodin Museum where the garden was open to view sculpture (the house is closed for renovations). Home for dinner.
Rodin Garden Photo by Alex Searls
Sunday, March 4:  Visited L’Orangerie.  Looked at Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures of hands in the Tuileries.   Monet’s Water Lilies in all shades and tones of light and darkness.  Some with bright gold reflections of the sun, willow trees whose branches looked like the wet hair of young girls hanging in ringlets. 
Debussy music in the background.  Debussy exhibit was great.  So involved was he with all artists/writers of the time.

Interesting pictures from L’Apres Midi du Faun and talk of Nijinsky’s “perverse” interpretations.  Set designer and costumer Leon Bakst.  Perverse, I think, because he as the Faun caresses or makes love to a scarf of the girl in the forest.  It’s very sensuous.  Later I watched Nureyev’s reconstruction on You tube.

Debussy wrote the piece based on Mallarme’s poem.  He wrote to Le Monde that the ballet was beautiful and that he wished Stephen Mallarme could have seen it (he died 1898).  Debussy had been influenced by Mallarme's symbolism  as well as by the work of Henri Rousseau, Odile Redon, Gustave Moreau,  Paul Gauguin and Edward Munch.

You can see this via the internet  Many beautiful paintings in the permanent collection also, including Renoir’s “Jeune Filles au piano” one of which shows two Degas paintings on the wall behind (one of dancers and one of horses).  The write-up says he painted six versions of these girls.
They have listed Matisse, Picasso and Derain as modern; Cezanne and Renoir as Figures tutelaires and Modigliani and Rousseau and Primitive Modern.  Between Rousseau and Picasso, there was also Marie Laurencin (Picasso's contemporary) and Andre Derain “Le fils revolte de Corot.”

Fashion Week photo by Alex Searls
We had lunch with John – anchovy salad, veal with gravy and creamed spinach and red wine.  Very delicious and at the very chic Brasserie Lipp – where the waiters have attitude and everyone vies to be on the first floor not “sent up stairs” with the tourists, as John said.  John looked very dashing in a coat with a half cape.  Leaving, we saw Charlotte Gainsbourg, a French singer and actress (only because Alex could recognize her).
Kay with Paris in the background photo by Alex Searls
Walking home, we came across the Fashion Show for Hermes and stopped to gape at the people entering.  Saw actress Jane Birkin (mother of Charlotte) (another Alex identification).    Later we read that the show featured fashion for the “older (over-40) woman” so we should have gone!

We also got into the Cathedral of Notre Dame and walked around while a meeting was going on.
Monday, March 5:  Today we went to the Gustave Moreau museum.  It was our favorite.  Three stories, the first contains an apartment where Moreau lived with his parents.  He had a lifelong relationship with a woman Alexandrina Dureux, described by him as his “best and unique friend.”  Upstairs his atelier (two stories, spiral staircase) is filled with his paintings, and boxes, cabinets, files of his work – studies, clay and wax figures, drawings, finished paintings.  Trained classically, he draws on myth and religion but treats the subjects with mysticism symbolism and color.  Some of his oils are applied in a way that looks like delicate pastels. 
Atelier of Gustave Moreau Photo by Alex Searls
Born in 1826 he died in 1898 spending the last few years making his home into a museum.  What a treasure it is.  Check out the website at

We walked to the musee near Trinity Church  and then walked to Louvre.  We had lunch at a brasserie on a square near St. George Church.  I had beef skewers and red wine and we ate outside in a covered area and stayed warm.

From Moreau the brasseries, we walked to the Opera House taking in its grand beaux arts architecture and then walked along the Rue Rivoli through the de Medici arcade to the Louvre.
The Other DaVinci Lady
Le Louvre Le Louvre!  Throughout there are signs saying beware of pickpockets, even in the galleries.  (Here is one photo of the Mona Lisa and the warning sign to the right.  No pick pockets but Alex and I agreed that we preferred Da Vinci's other lovely lady. Today, we spent time in the stores, saw a film, Fuitr, based on a novel and starring a     Chaplin, presumably Charlie's granddaughter.   Beautiful film, Le Louvre, Chine and Elba.                                                                                               
We walked through the paintings but tried to focus on Dutch and Flemish and saw two Vermeers – one of man contemplating globe (he an astronomer or astrologer) and the other of a girl sewing.  Beautiful light and texture.
Trocadero: The Bull, again
 Tuesday, March 6:  On our final day in Paris, we travelled to the Musee de la Vie Romantique which was off Boulevard Haussmann – a nice walk.  Charming house with a carriage alleyway from the street.  Green shutters on the stucco house.  It apparently was one of the “new” developments in Paris of the mid-19th century.  It was really quite interesting inside.  Purchased by a lesser known painter of the 19th century, Arrey Scheffer (who appeared quite good), it was the center for a number of the romantics, including George Sand, and much memorabilia related to her is there – including paintings she did.  I love the description – she had discovered that she could apply watercolor and then fold the paper so the paint made some blotches, which suggested landscapes to her.  She then drew on the painted paper to achieve the imaginary landscapes, which were quite charming.

Her son Maurice (who took her pen name Sand) was a painter and the only student ever to work with Eugene Delacroix.  I now want to read a novel by George Sand as well as her autobiography.

. . .With Ben in Le Louvre

GW: An American Icon . . .
After our trip there, we walked more then rode a subway to the Jeu de Paume to see the modern exhibit:  Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, Berenice Abbott, and performance artist/photographer Jimmy Robert.  I found Wei’s pictures not that interested – he does portraits of many icons (including the Forbidden City, Paris, etc.) with a hand in the foreground, middle finger extended, supposedly as a protest against the authoritarianism of cultural or political tyranny.  But it seemed rather juvenile to me.  And I didn’t care for the pictures of development devastation since there was no context as to what had been removed.  Remembering my own journey along the Yangzi, prior to the dam’s completion, I remember seeing what would be destroyed given the marked line that was shown along the way.  There was much more context there than in what he showed.  Interesting photos of his life in New York and Aids and Tawna Brawley demonstrations of the time.
Berenice Abbott was wonderful.  I loved her photos of the South and of NYC during the depression (mostly focused on the architecture).  She was quite beautiful and accomplished – especially notable for a woman since she was working in the '20s and '30s.

And Jimmy Robert’s works were interesting – showing the connection of the individual to the structures he’s within.  Provocative.
We lunched at the museum.  After lunch I went home – by myself on the metro.  Alex went shopping.  After she arrived home, we trolled the neighborhood for restaurants settling on one a few blocks way.  Brasserie Zinc (I think).  We had pasta, I, a wonderful seafood pasta, and Alex, a vegetarian one – with lots of red wine.
Homage to the painters who Taught us to See
Then home to pack and fret all night about the lack of a clock.  We slept fitfully but awoke in time for coffee, cleanup and a wait for the taxi, arriving at DeGaulle with time to spare.  (Thanks to Sandy whose taxi driver, other guidance and apartment made this all possible.) 

Uneventful stopover in Amsterdam and then home to Dulles, rental of car, and further journey down 29, eating our way on the air and at Starbucks on the way home.  Back home, daffodils blooming, the temperature in the 60s, I slept like a baby.  Au Revoir Paris.

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