Monthly Archives: August 2018

Paris

La Tour Eiffel, by Gustave Eiffel, and statue L’Homme, by Pierre Traverse; Paris

The Water Lilies (detail) by Claude Monet; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

The Kiss, by Auguste Rodin; Tuileries Gardens, Paris

A cliché to say, but Paris looks like the best designed and most artistic city in the world. Although I have visited Paris several times in the past, I felt this time more connected and comfortable as this is my third year in France. The only stumble block was getting familiar with the metro system which takes some days to get used to, until you realise exactly where you are in the vastness of the city. My major plan for the three nights I was going to stay was – to see The Nymphéas by Monet.

The Water Lilies (detail), Monet; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

Claude Monet donated his eight panoramic panels of Water Lilies in 1918 to the French Government as a symbol of peace, as contemplating the tranquil images would inspire peace in people. Indeed, when I entered the first oval room, the presence of the paintings covering the full length of each wall emanated an inviting quietness. And this in spite of the constant flow of visitors that went about. Inspiring in image, color and presence, it speaks with how much peaceful concentration Monet must have creatied each panel.

Looking at the panel of The Water Lilies called “Morning”; Musée de l’Oraangerie, Paris

The eight paintings of the Nymphéas make a length of about one hundred meters and should be seen as forming one uninterrupted picture, with “no horizon and no shore” said Claude Monet. The unique design of the two oval rooms is that they are lit from the ceiling with filtered daylight, making the colors in the paintings change in intensity with the fluctuations of the weather. The two ovals resemble the symbol of Infinity.

Morning with Willows, by Monet; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

Most people become quiet when viewing the Nymphéas; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

Viewing the panel “Setting Sun”; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

Seeing the Nymphéas by Monet was fulfilling, within and without. The previous day had been nourishing as well, visiting two exotic museums with friend Annemarie who once lived in Marseille, the neighbor of John’s family. She knows about my interest in Asian spiritual art and took me to Cernuschi Museum which displays the private collection of late Italian banker and art collector Henri Cernuschi. His collections of exquisite art and his spacious mansion were donated by him in 1898 to the City of Paris, which turned it into a museum, free for all to visit.

Where is the jewel? Buddha head from China; Cernuschi Museum, Paris

Annemarie at Musée Cernuschi; Paris

The second museum was Musée Guimet, founded in 1889 by industrialist Emile Guimet which contains one of the largest collections of Asian art in Europe, where they had my favorite ‘meditative’ art from India. Although most of the Asian art collections come from China, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia and Japan, they are all inspired by the diverse spiritual culture of India. Similar to the presence of Monet’s Nymphéas, the presence of the art here also inspires the quietness of the spirit as that is what most figures represent.

A Chinese Buddha statue carved from wood; Guimet Museum, Paris

Hindu art from India; Guimet Museum, Paris

Not wanting to spend all my time inside museums, I headed for another favorite area, the Eiffel Tower, the most vast part of the city with the river Seine between Tower and the Trocadero Gardens. It is here where one can conclude how beautifully this city has been designed and built, with space and parcs as the main key for city-living combined with decorative art and architecture wherever one looks. 

The vastness of Paris

The glass Pyramid, by architect I.M. Pei; The Louvre Palace; Paris

Before the Eiffel Tower was built people harshly criticised the idea of a steel tower, calling it names. When the design of a glass Pyramid was chosen to decorate the courtyard of the Louvre Palace people thought it was sacrilege. But thanks to the inherent open mindedness of the French culture, genius artists keep Paris wondrous.

Taking a break at a corner of rue Pernety; Paris

Keeping Cool

Hikers momentarily exposed to the sun in the Calanques of Marseille

Fortunately, lightning, thunder and the much longed for rain recently broke the month-long spell of the heatwave, which was one of the hottest summers in Europe for decades. Although trying to keep cool, my preference was to be active during the day, and I went hiking, almost daily, in the nearest forest area of the Calanques of Marseille.

Pine trees beautifully protect hikers against the direct sunlight

In spite of the shade, the temperature in this pine forest remained high but the nice thing of its location was the sea breeze coming through from time to time that immediately uplifted one’s spirits. Many people, especially the young, would even make the effort to walk for about an hour down to the coast, to take a dip in the inviting cool sea.

Hiking in the shade of Pines

Besides a bit of perspiration and the true need for drinking water, hiking in this more shady area of the Calanques kept the body in the right condition during this kind of extreme weather. What attracted my attention the most was the continuous music of the Cicada orchestra, much louder than I could remember to have heard them at other times. With this heatwave, I realised more than ever how important and how enjoyable green areas are.

Coming back from the sea; Calanques of Marseille

Making music; a Cicada on every tree trunk