Paris Day Two – 12/23/2010
I’m currently on a 3 1/2 week trip to Europe. Centered primarily around the Taize community in France as well as their annual gathering (which is Rotterdam this year) I’ll also be doing some sightseeing and reflecting/relaxing. Here I hope to log my journey for any who desire to join, first in a several sentence summary (for the busy folk) and then in a more detailed form (for the interested).
After sleeping in & catching up on some rest, I spent the bulk of the day at the Musee d’Orsay having my mind blown by incredible works of art and then took a snowy, early evening stroll down the Champs Elysées to l’Arc de Triomphe. Paris avec la neige may be cold, but it’s gorgeous.
In my weeks before the trip, I had a mini-revelation. Seeing as no one else was coming with me on the trip, I didn’t need to meet anyone else’s expectations. While with a group, it’s proper to acquiesce to others desires, or at least to walk “la rue de of compromise,” with just me, I reminded myself that I should enjoy things just the way I wanted, in the way that would be most refreshing.
This morning that meant sleeping in. After sprinting for a month to get ready for my time away and then the craziness of travel, I was pretty well beat by the time I got here. Some extra sleep and a slow morning made the day much better, though I still seem to be overcoming jet lag.
Musee d’Orsay is one of the premier art museums in France and the world, housed in an incredible old train station that is itself a work of art. They are currently holding a special feature on Jean Leon Gerome, a French painter and sculptor in the mid-to-late 1800’s. Displaying an expansive oevre, Gerome’s work is impressive both in style and its progressive elements for its time.
Also housed at the Musee d’Orsay are works by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renault, and Cezanne, just to name a (very) few. It’s really quite difficult to do justice to the pieces found there and the building in which they’re displayed. My understanding of art and its history is fairly minimal, but I was continually amazed.
One featured artist particularly of note was Alexandre Charpentier, a sculptor, engraver, carpenter of sorts. Charpentier was the founder of “L’Art dans tout” (Art in Everything), a group artistic interior designers, furniture makers, painters, and architects. Their contention was that art was not just to be displayed in special “magnificent” paintings and sculptures, but should be incorporated into the everyday details and mundane objects of life. I couldn’t help but be stuck by the similarity of the concept of holistic discipleship that helps us understand that spirituality is a pervasive piece of our lives and not a segment gathered into compartmentalized hours of our week. It’s striking to consider this concept in a country crowned with ornate chapelry. The churches dotting the French landscape were constructed with the intrinsic purpose of reminding the viewer of God’s transcendence, power, and beauty. Summed up simply, they leave us awestruck. But what’s striking about Christ’s life was the way that he lived it in an awe-creating way and then left his disciples to live in similar ways (John 14:12). The point was not all-powerful moments, but lives of faithful, incredible love. Lives like those of Brother Roger, who I will be learning more of and speaking more of as I head toward Taize.
Though I was disappointed that part of the museum was closed for renovations, it may have been a good thing, as dusk was setting in when I finally made my exit.
Stepping outside, I was reminded it was winter, with a brisk wind and a steady snow starting to fall. Not to be deterred, I decided to skip the metro and walk across la Tuileries and Place de Concord before starting the long (it didn’t seem like it would be that far!) walk down the Champs Élysées to l’Arc de Triomphe. The snow honestly made things incredibly beautiful and though it was a tad colder than the day before, the beauty made it a preferable way to experience Paris.
Champs Élysées is an overpriced, though attractive, shopping street on steroids. While stopping in Luis Vuitton, I decided to pass on the 1500 euro purse and 10,000 euro suitcase. Needless to if anyone’s going to get any souvenirs, it won’t be till later in the trip. Though plenty of people seem to apparently possess ridiculous sums of many which they enjoy spending on inane objects.
By the time I got to l’Arc de Triomphe, they had unfortunately closed the top due to the weather, but I still spent some time tromping about the bottom taking pictures and the like before grabbing the metro back to the hostel.