Saturday, June 30, 2012

Marché Poncelet

The Marché on Rue Poncelet is the quintessential Parisian marché, an authentic street market offering the best fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, bread, wines, cheeses, German coffee, pastries, and even a handy little hardware store.

It’s just a couple of blocks away from our apartment and is open every day of the week, which is rare in Paris, so this is where we get our croissants on Sunday mornings. It’s right across the street from our Monoprix, where we do our day-to-day grocery shopping, but when we want to do the more typical French thing, or get a fresh roasted chicken or fresh anything, then a visit to this market is warranted.

The first time you go it's a bit intimidating; everyone is so friendly and eager to help that you don't know where to stop first. Before buying produce, for example, they'll ask you when you're going to eat it. Want avocado for tomorrow? No problem, they'll sell you the right one. And everything looks so good that you end up "eating with your eyes" and buying more than you should. And it's not cheap.

Our all-time favorite is Comtesse du Barry, a store specialized in foie gras, patés, and terrines, and matching wines. The name Comtesse du Barry was created in reference to the owners' name (the Dubarry family) and that of the comtesse du Barry (Jeanne Bécu), the mistress of Louis XV.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Saint Anne at the Louvre

On the occasion of the restoration of "The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne," Leonardo da Vinci's portrayal of St. Anne with her daughter and grandson, the Louvre Museum hosted a major exhibition around this masterpiece, one of his most famous works after the Mona Lisa

For the first time, Leonardo's masterpiecein process for years and left unfinished upon his death in 1519was exhibited along with his compositional sketches, preparatory drawings, landscape studies, and the National Gallery of London’s Burlington House Cartoon, a magnificent full-size preparatory study of The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the BaptistRelated works by other artists, as well as other painted artworks by da Vinci were also used to show how the Saint Anne is the true culmination of the artist’s numerous and varied explorations on nature and art.

We also took time to visit the Napoleon III apartments, and small and large dining rooms, which offer an exceptional record of Second Empire decorative art and which we had not been able to see in previous visits to the Louvre.

Afterwards, a nice coffee at Café Marly, a contemporary brasserie located under the arcades of the Richelieu wing, decorated in Second Empire style.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Musée Rodin

Right next door to Les Invalides is the Rodin Museum, so after our tour of Les Invalides we visited the museum's gardens.

Rodin, one of France's treasured artists, donated his entire collection of sculptures to the French State on the condition that they turn the Hôtel Biron, the building he used as his workshop, into a museum dedicated to his works.

The museum's beautiful gardens are a haven of peace and quiet, and there are many people just reading or relaxing. It costs only one euro to access the gardens, where there's also a cafeteria near the small pond, where we had lunch.

Many of Rodin's incredible sculptures are displayed in the museum's extensive gardens, of which, of course, The Thinker has a prominent place. Also shown below are Monument to Balzac, Burghers of Calais, The Three Shadows, and The Gates of Hell, which depicts a scene from "The Inferno," the first section of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Les Invalides

Our last tour with Paris Walks was to Les Invalides, officially known as L'Hôtel National des Invalides, a hospital and retirement home for war veterans built under Louis XIV.

Les Invalides is a huge building complex that today also contains several museums and monuments related to the military history of France: the Musée de l'Armée (the museum of the Army), the Musée des Plans Reliefs, a museum of three-dimensional military models of fortified cities, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine.

The building complex has fifteen courtyards, the largest of which is the Court of Honor, always under the watchful eye of Napoleon.

The complex also includes the Chapel of Saint Louis des Invalides, which was the church for the soldiers, and the Eglise du Dôme, a separate private royal chapel later commissioned by Louis XIV, where he intended to be buried, and which now serves as the burial site for Napoleon, his son, his two brothers, and some of France's war heroes, such as Marechal Foch, beloved French military hero of the First World War, shown here.

Its tall, golden dome can be seen from many parts of Paris. The U.S. Capitol's current dome was inspired by the dome at Les Invalides.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Disneyland Paris

We held out as long as possible but finally took the kids to Disneyland Paris.

There's something funny about having a place like Disneyland in Europe. Disneyland has always seemed fake to me, but here it feels even more. Euro Disney, as it was originally called, was surrounded by lots of controversy and got off to a bad start. In 1995 it was renamed Disneyland Paris, "as a way of identifying it with one of the most romantic and exciting cities in the world." But there's nothing Parisian about it—even the food is bad. Fortunately it's just a short train ride from Paris, and the park is small enough that you can cover most of it in a day.

But it was a beautiful day and the kids had a good time, which is what matters. We loved getting lost in Alice's Curious Labyrinth, an attraction that's unique to Disneyland Paris, and I ended up having to ride the Space Mountain with Andrea (she loved it; I hated it, and I almost lost my lunch on it).