Tuesday, May 22, 2012

American in Paris, Part III: Monuments and Museums (or, I Hate Americans)

Here's a secret: I hate Americans.

More specifically, I hate American tourists while I'm on vacation. They inevitably seem stupid and obnoxious, shouting things loudly in English instead of attempting to speak French. They wear tracksuits and jean shorts and ask what I perceive to be really, really rude questions. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Those are all things I spotted while in Paris.

Despite my aversion to Americans, there were a few traditional tourist sites I wanted to check out. I generally don't gravitate toward traditional museums because I find them sterile and dominated by art, and I don't really connect with high art very well. But there were a few things I knew I wanted to see, so I put on my game face and braved the lines.

I started at the Musée d'Orsay. It's home to a lot of amazing paintings, but I was most interested in the architecture. The museum is located in an old turn-of-the-century railway station, and I was hoping it would be cool to look at. It didn't disappoint.




That last picture is a view of what I think was Montmartre through the clock that forms one wall of the museum café. It might be my favorite photo of the entire trip.

Next stop was the Musée de l'Orangerie, which houses Monet's enormous water lilies paintings. They were absolutely stunning. You can get within one foot of them and really see how he layered the paint in thick schmears (I bet you didn't know that was the technical term). The colors were so saturated and rich. They were just gorgeous. You should go to Paris just to see those eight paintings. Really.

The next time I worked up enough courage to brave the tourist crowds, I visited the Eiffel Tower. I didn't feel like standing in lines (I hate Americans, remember?), so I didn't go to the top of the tower. But I got plenty of pretty pictures from the ground.






I spent the morning of my last full day in Paris at the Musée Rodin. I went for the same reason everyone goes - to see his sculpture "The Thinker" - but I ended up being much more interested in other works of his. "The Gates of Hell" was amazing to look at: human figures intertwining and writhing up from the surface of the doors, with a surprising level of detail for a supposedly unfinished work.




I made stops at other significant landmarks, too. The Grand Palais hosted an exhibit about animals in art that I wanted to see, and I wandered Pere Lachaise Cemetery a little, too (no, I didn't visit Jim Morrison's grave).


(I promise, that will be my last foray into photo editing.)

As I mentioned before, I didn't go to the Louvre or Versailles, and I don't regret that. I saw the significant things that interested me, spent the rest of my time wandering, and that was more than enough: it was fabulous. 

The trip changed me, but I'm still processing exactly how. Hopefully I'll wrap up with that next time.

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