Sunday was a quiet day in Paris. The morning was rather gray – it rained hard early in the morning. Again it has become my habit to wake up much earlier than Len, and I read quietly in the living area while he dozed.
The clouds were still low and gray when he woke up, but we headed out anyway, and visited L’Orangerie museum, near the Tuileries and the Louvre.
I haven’t mentioned the Tuileries or the Louvre in this blog, I guess – we went through the both during our last visit to Paris a few years ago. The Louvre was at one time the royal palace of the French kings – think Louis XIV, a.k.a. The Sun King. He loved the best of the best in life, and the beauty of the building and all the wonderful art he collected and that had since been collected inside the Louvre reflects that. I saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, for example, and much more.
And what can I say about the Tuileries? It was the royal garden of Louis XIV, and bien sur, it is large and filled to the brim with roses, fountains, trees, shrubberies and topiary. The French love their gardens to hold an abundance of fragrance and color, a cacophony of beauty that is envisioned, planned achieved and maintained, like a piece of fine art or sculpture. They come to this place often, to sit quietly on one of the park benches and read a book, or talk to a companion, or just to be with nature in the middle of the city. In the midst of Paris, here is this marvellous garden that reflects the French aesthetic mirrored in any Renoir, any da Vinci.
The Orangerie was also very worthwhile. It contains many Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh. When we walked into the first room, I caught my breath: Each of the large, white walls of the room displayed a wall-size iteration of Monet’s water lilies. You may know that Monet had a home in Giverney, in the French countryside, and there, he tried to understand the subtle nuances of light and color as it changed natural scenes on his estate from season to season, and from time of day to time of day. So, he painted a number of versions of a large bale of hay, for instance – and I saw several of these in an exhibit that went through Houston about 10 years ago. Each beautiful – pale in snow in the winter, warm and golden in late summer sunshine.
But Monet’s waterlilies really became internationally famous – placid, elegant, and sometimes mysterious. And here were four, wall-sized paintings of the lilies, surrounding and engulfing me. I have seen the lilies when the pond is a rich shade of sapphire, catching the waning rays of a July afternoon and reflecting the green branches of trees overhead in its depth. And I have seen the lilies floating in water that is more like a mirror, a silvery gray and absolutely still, as if they are floating in time, during that brief space of dawn after the darkness of night and before the full sun of day. An amazing moment.
Early Monday morning we packed up our bags, pulled them out to the Taxi queue on the street, and headed back to de Gaulle airport, where we caught a flight to Marseille in southern France. There, we picked up our rental, silver BMW (with automatic transmission!), and headed off to the next phase of our adventure – Provence.