Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free Health Care

So, the last thing I expected when I went to the hospital today was to walk out without having even shown my insurance card or paid a single cent.

And don't bother saying it's because the French are on a social health care system. I'm not a tax-paying citizen, and I didn't enroll in the social security system as a student either. I opted to get my own health coverage.

I'm especialy surprised that this visit was free because I signed a form when I got to the orthopedic surgery department saying that I acknowledged that my doctor charges 100 Euro for the consultation alone, which I had to pay in cash.

However, after about 30 seconds of examining my condition and asking about the accident, the doctor told me there was nothing wrong with my bones and he saw no reason to go through with additional x-rays. Then he walked me to the secretary's office, and said, "Don't charge her for this visit."

Wow. Frankly, I think that's just cool. Bless you, Dr. Olivier.

Pompidou Center and Modern Art- a Love/Hate affair?

If you are not a fan of modern art, it's probably because you think of Modern art as things like the contents of a garbage can being put in an acrylic box and labeled as art.

It's true. There's a display like that at the Pompidou Center, as well.

Now... let me just say, that I don't think that the contents of the garbage can are visually pleasing or took a lot of effort for the "artist" to arrange (or dump) in the acrylic box. However, if you think of art as a way of examining mankind, the human condition, or as a slice of everyday life (you may... you may not... I'm not going to tell you what art is or isn't), then I can see the value in it. But to me, if it's going to be labeled as art, then there should at least be some kind of commentary along with it. You know, if there's going to be three Coke cans, a subway ticket, and a half-eaten sandwich on display, then maybe use those items to address branding (since Coke is a universally recognizable brand), or how a subway ticket identifies the garbage as coming from a certain place, and therefore makes the rest of it that much more interesting (maybe).

Anyway, I'm not necessarily trying to defend "garbage can" art to anyone. I think I'm more trying to understand what purpose, if any, there is in displaying it.

HOWEVER, that is not really my style of Modern Art. So when I say I love modern art, please don't let that be the thing that jumps to mind. Instead, why don't you think of these?

Wind by Xao Wou-Ki (I love how moody this canvas feels, even without knowing the title).

Untitled XX by William de Kooning (I just love the riot of color and that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it).

Detail of a painting by Simon Hantai. He folded the canvas a bunch of times until it was small, then only painted the surfaces that showed. Unfolded it, refolded it, applied more paint. After many times of doing this, the resulting canvas is randomly covered in color (possibly more than one) or even left completely blank in places. He did have a purpose in doing this (something to do with ignoring the will of the artist in the placement of paint, letting it just be random, etc.), but I just really like the overall effect.

Oh, Mark Rothko. I think your paintings are wonderful. Deceptively simple-looking little festivals of color.

Love me some Jackson Pollock. This is a detail of 'The Deep.'

Nicolas de Staehl's "Les Toits." I absolutely LOVE this painting. It's quickly becoming a new favorite. I'm kind of traumatized by the fact that he killed himself after meeting with a particularly harsh art critic. I hope I get to meet him in heaven and tell him how much I love this painting. (Is that weird? Maybe just a little, but I would totally say the same thing about Monet, Van Gogh, Pollock, Rothko, and many others.)

Kupka's "Autour d'un Point" (..."Surrounding a Point/Dot" maybe?). Very graphic. Very cool.

Kupka's "Animated Lines" and Delaunay's "Rythm with no end"

Jasper Johns - Figure Number 5

More Simon Hantai. This is titled 'Painting' and called "Pink Writing." You can see there are a couple of different things going on with splotches of color and the dripping black circles...

but what you may not realize at first is that all of the texture and detail covering the whole canvas coms from handwriting on the canvas. Hantai wrote directly onto the canvas (I think it took the better part of a year or more) in pen. If I remember right, he copied down famous quotations or inspiring passages of literature or other texts. He made himself write on the canvas for an hour every day or something to that effect, until it was complete. I would never put myself through that, but he seems to be the very dedicated, experimental type who is willing to put in a lot of time to see the results of a certain approach (c.f. the folding canvas experiment noted above).

So, there you have it. My favorites from the Pompidou Center. Yep, there were some things I thought were more difficult to appreciate than others, but I still found many things I thought were lovely, thought-provoking, and very (even excrutiatingly) detailed.

Truancy at Its Finest

If I wasn't in class last Friday, at least I spent time "with" some of the country's (and the world's, if we're going to be honest) most brilliant minds.

Like Voltaire...

Alexandre Dumas, Sr.... (yes, the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, and...)

and Leon Foucault (well, his pendulum, at least).

Plus Victor Hugo in all of his awesomeness. (But the picture of his tomb looks like all the others, except blurry, so... not going to share. Sorry.)

This melting pot of brilliance took place in the Pantheon, of course. First built by Clovis (well, HE didn't build it, but I guess he commissioned it), it was later redesigned by Soufflot at the request of Louis XV. It was used during both of these time periods as a church--first intended to house the tomb of Clovis and his wife, then dedicated to St. Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris) by King Louis, as he attributed his recovery from a serious illness to the prayers he said to her. (Her remains were buried there in 512 AD, but later moved, I believe.)

It was in 1971 that the edifice actually became the national Pantheon. It was occasionally used as a Christian church in the 1800's, but then officially became a secular building only in 1885, coinciding with the funeral and burial of Victor Hugo.

Soufflot's intention was to make the Pantheon more majestic than St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Anyone who has been to St. Peter's can easily see from the pictures that this isn't the case, but the Pantheon is still incredibly beautiful. You can also really see the influence of St. Peter's in the architecture and the detailing.

This particular detail is what really echoes the basilica to me.

After the Pantheon, I rushed over to the Louvre to meet E, stopping briefly to grab a couple of pictures on my way in.

The Eiffel Tower peeking out from behind a wing of the Louvre.

The Assumption of the Virgin (detail). Sorry, didn't note the painter or the time period. My bad.

As previously stated, the paintings we saw were rather realistic and detailed for my taste, so I didn't take many pictures.
After leaving the Louvre and trying (and failing) to meet up with another friend that I was supposed to see that night, I went over to see the Arc de Triomphe and take a few pictures from the roof (and I'm really glad I did, because I didn't end up putting the other days of my museum pass to use, really.)

I like to think that this guy is welcoming me to the Arc, not declaring victory in battle or calling troops to arms. I almost want to insert a little speech bubble into the picture. ALMOST want to.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, including the eternal flame (which, I just learned on Wikipedia, inspired Jackie Kennedy to request that an eternal flame be included by Pres. Kennedy's grave in Arlington National Cemetery.)

Then, of course, the lung-burning trek up to the top of the Arc. No elevators. 288 steps on a spiral staircase. Somewhat nausea-inducing, but totally worth it because you get fantastic panoramic views of the city.
About 2/3 of the way up, there is a built-in break (hooray!), where there is an interactive world map showing all of the locations of large arches around the globe. Really quite interesting actually.
There are also dozens upon dozens of metalwork wreaths in honor of the Unknown Soldier (sent from different parts of France, and presumably different countries as well).
Then the last short trek up the remaining stairs, where the rewards is not one but many breathtaking views.
My pictures absolutely don't do them justice. You'll just have to come here yourselves and see.
Le Grand Palais
Sacre Coeur (very blury, I know)

A Sparkling Eiffel Tower

Eiffel with a beaming ray of light

La Defense (the business district)
P.S. I love Wikipedia. In case you couldn't already tell. :)

My Grammar Teacher...

...probably thinks I'm a total flake.

I missed Friday because I was feeling gross all morning.
Monday I left halfway through class because I felt like I was going to throw up.
Tuesday I went to class, which was incident free.
Tuesday right after class I got hit by a bus.
Today I am missing class again (not to mention the first day of my "France and Europe" seminar and my second session of phonetics) so I can go to the hospital and get x-rays done.

If I was my teacher, I would be annoyed. Thank heavens it doestn't count for anything.

Though, they can report "truant" behavior to the Embassy and get me kicked out of the country. I don't think this week will lead to that kind of action, though. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let's Pause for Awesomeness

On my verge-of-hysteria, brink-of-tears trek from Phonetics to Institute tonight, I came across this little bit of awesomeness that put a smile on my face.

There are performers all over the Metro stations, and even performers that come right into the Metro trains, do a performance, and then make the rounds with a coin purse for any potential offerings.

I happen to think that almost every one of them I've heard has some musical talent. However, I thought this was particularly amazing and unexpected.

Now I'm just sorry I didn't capture more of it.

Got in a Fight With a Bus Today. The Bus Won.

But I, hopped up on adrenaline and completely in shock from being smacked by public transit:

1) told everyone I was fine
2) refused to let them call the paramedics, and
3) went to my phonetics course, where I attempted NOT to burst into tears for an hour while replaying the scene in my mind over and over and over. (Luckily, I was successful. It was my first day, and what a horrible impression to make...)

I battled hysteria in both its comic and tear-filled forms for another hour or so while I tried to think of the signs of shock and concussions so I could keep a watchful eye on myself on my way to Institute.

I wanted to ask the other people who were in the Metro if they were freezing to death, too, but I didn't want them to think I was psycho. (Look at me being all prideful in my distress. I'm lame, I know.) I ate most of a sandwich from the corner bakery, thinking that maybe it would help alleviate the nausea. Not so much.

Then I went to Institute and burst into tears as soon as I got to the bathroom.

And don't worry that it was totally my fault. I was in an area of the city that I'm not very familiar with, and after looking for oncoming traffic, I started into the street. Unfortunately, there was a street behind me that I didn't check, and SMACK went the bus into my left shoulder and leg. CRASH went I, onto the sidewalk on my right shoulder.

The site of the accident. The ladies crossing the street are standing right where I was...

I am grateful:

-that neither the bus nor the sidewalk made contact with my head or spine
-that the bus was coming to a stop anyway, so it wasn't going fast enough to do serious damage to my bones
-for the church--I have no idea how else I would have made it through today. I don't know anyone here, so being able to go to Institute and get a blessing, comfort from friends, and a referral to a doctor all in one place helped alleviate a lot of my trauma. :)
-that the only injuries I have (assuming I'm not bleeding internally anywhere, which is HIGHLY unlikely) are a sore back and a scraped ankle
-that my wonderful friend Agenor had very kind things to say to me that helped me put this little incident into perspective
-that I could learn this lesson while retaining the use of all of my body parts

Feeling blessed tonight. Also feeling a little stupid. But not stupid enough that I refuse to write about it here. Because what's sharing it with people who already love me, when about 50 random people in Paris saw it happen?

Yeah, I think I'm going to take another route to class from now on. Also, is it weird that the buses (busses?? shoot. I used to be able to spell. Oh... now I feel better.) now scare me? I think I'm going to have to start taking the bus to get over that as quickly as possible.

(P.S. Welcome to my stream of consciousness. I know it's chaotic.)


... one of the horses belonging to the Police force got away and went on a fun-run through the streets of Paris this week.

Ha! I just hope no one got hurt. I'm just wondering what all the people on mopeds went home and told their families when suddenly a horse galloped past on one side, and on the other side, a police car sped past with its siren wailing.

This clip from YouTube is called "The Crazy Horse Arrested by the Police." Too funny.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Soon" is a Relative Term

Ha. So today I feel like crap. I totally interrupted my French class by leaving to go to the bathroom and then going back in, packing up my stuff, and leaving. My teacher was probably bugged, but he was in the middle of talking, so I didn't stop to explain.

But I think that's better than vomiting in the middle of class, right?

So now I'm camped out at home for the night, working on re-writing all of my class notes, creating verb-conjugaison(tion) and usage flashcards, and updating my A-Z address book with alphabetically categorized vocabulary words and their root words/derivatives. Don't be jealous.

On the up side of things, I went to my first French Cinema class today. I'm pretty sure it will consist of us watching a movie every Monday at 10, and not much else. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will take the least effort imaginable.

Today we watched "Oscar," a comedy of errors/farce filmed in 1967. I laughed out loud a couple of times, even while trying to read the french subtitles. But some of the gestural comedy was a little much for me.

I promise at some point I'll put up the pictures from last week. Maybe even tonight. But first, I need to give some attention to my schoolwork.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekend Plans and Museum Visits (Pics to Come Soon)

I went to the Pantheon, the Louvre, and the top of the Arc de Triomphe today. I played hookey and went to the Pantheon when I should have been in class*, and then I met up with my friend E at the Louvre. We wandered around the Pavillon Richelieu and looked at a small section of the "French Painting" portion of the museum. She had to head home for dinner with her host family, so I took the Metro up to the Arc and climbed the 280+ stairs to the top.

Oh, and I went to the Pompidou Center yesterday, where I bought a 4-day museum pass. I'll be heading back to the Pompidou for about 30 minutes on Sunday after church to grab some pictures of my favorite displays, and then I think I'll stop back at the Louvre before heading to Versailles for a fireside with Elder Oaks (suh-weet! I'm sooo looking forward to that. The last fireside I went to where he and his wife spoke was fantastic). I'm going to have to pack a lunch.

Tomorrow (before my art class), E and I might head over to the Picasso museum.

At the Louvre, the paintings we saw were too realistic for my personal taste. However, E kept pointing out the details that she loved in the paintings (she loves more realistic portrayals like those of Rembrandt and his school of painting), and about halfway through I found myself able to appreciate the lighting, the details, and sometimes the color choices. But overall, still not a big fan of the style.

*Don't think I'm a bad person. Well, I guess you can if you want, but I guess that's my way of saying that I'm not going to feel bad for doing it. I was actually not feeling well this morning, so I decided not to go to class. I started feeling better a few hours later, but by the time I was feeling well enough to go out I couldn't have made it to class without causing a big disturbance (which is greatly discouraged). So I decided to make the most of my 4-day museum pass and see the Pantheon, which I've been wanting to do for weeks.

I Just Enrolled in...

... a painting class!!

It's a three month course, and the first one is tomorrow. I'm so excited!! As many of you know, I love to paint, but I have never had any formal training. I don't even use real paints. I use 99-cent-a-jar craft acrylics, which I buy at Robert's or Michael's. I own real acrylic paints, but I don't know how to use them properly--or if there is even a "proper" way to use them. I am, in fact, clueless.

There is so much to learn about: color theory and perspective, form, shading, composition, and all kind of other topics that are essential to understand when creating visual art. I have no idea which of these will be covered in my classes, but I think this will be a great jumping off point. I would love to continue taking classes once I'm back home.

I'll be sure to report back tomorrow on how my class goes. Tomorrow all I'm supposed to take is a pencil, eraser, and a specific size of sketch book.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

le bon usage

In French academia, there is one grammar book that rules them all. Initially created as a self-collected series of grammar rules, le bon usage (translates directly as "the good usage," or more correctly as "on correct usage") is THE resource for all questions grammatical in the French language. Maurice Grevisse is the one who did the inital compilation (to use in his own teaching), and although he has passed away (1980), his son-in-law has continuted the tradition of providing updated editions at regular intervals, the last being the 14th edition in 2007.

My French teacher told us about it in class, and although he told us he wouldn't make us buy it, he did insist that if a long-term study of the French language was in our plans (10 years or more), it was simply indespensable for understanding all of the complexities, contradictions, and "exceptions" that exist in French.

So I bought it yesterday. It is 1600 pages, and I had to auction off my virginity to buy it.

No, it wasn't really that expensive, considering that it's an investment in my education. It is quite the massive book, though. So I'll be sending it home with my parents when they come in April. My teacher said it's more complex than anything we would need this semester, but I'd rather get it now and send it home than get home and pay to ship it across the globe. I know how expensive THAT can get, and last time all I ordered was a dictionary on CD-ROM.

So, needless to say, books are some of the things I'll be stocking up on while I'm here and sending home with loved ones.

(Side note: one of the rules that is surely explained in le bon usage is the use of capitalization. In French, many of the things we capitalize in English are simply not capitalized. Ever. Like french and english, or wednesday and january, or east and west. They're all left in lower case. Is it hard for you to read those without wanting to capitalize every one of them? Welcome to my world.)

I Need a Hero...

...well, actually it's spelled Gyro. Otherwise known (apparently) as the Donner Kebab or Shawarma, which I don't think are exactly interchangeable, but very closely related. (I had shawarma at Mazzah once, and it was nothing like a gyro... so I guess anything goes.)

And I don't really need one, because I've already had two* this week. Yes. I found the little Greek- and Near-East-Food Wonderland just off of Place Saint Michel behind the bookstore I've been to far too many times this week.

There's also a little patisserie there that sells yummy mini macaroons in a varitey of different flavors. Soooooo good. But too pricey. So, that's not going to become a habit**.
The donner kebabs, though... I have a feeling those are going to become a weekly "meat" ritual. Cheap, and a ton of food (I ate one for two meals--you gotta love that).
Yum. That's all I have to say about that.

* Okay, so obviously when I eat meat, I go big. Otherwise I'm sticking to whole wheat pasta and veggie sandwiches, with either fruit or All-Bran for breakfast (with soy "drink," which is what they call it here. Why? Do you NEED to make it sound any less appetizing than it already does?).

**Though they may in fact become wedding reception food.

Pictures from here and here, respectively.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Crisis in the Stairwell

Tonight when I got home from school, I dropped my bag of new school supplies on the bed, and practically turned right around and left again.

I took my little grocery chariot and my ginormo purse, and headed out to the grocery store. I hesitated out on the landing for a second.

Me: Should I take the elevator?
Devil: This chariot-thing is kind of awkward to carry down the stairs.
Angel: But that's so lazy to take the elevator DOWN the stairs. Plus, you always get annoyed when you're just about to get in the elevator but someone calls it up so they can come DOWN to the lobby.
Devil: But... this thing is annoying to carry. It will be so much easier to take the elevator.

Well, the devil was partly telling the truth (the chariot is kind of awkward to carry down the stairs), but ultimately it was all a BIG FAT LIE.

I got into the elevator (no easy task, mind you. Elevators here are made to hold two people at a time max. Maybe 3 if they're children. Getting my big purse, my grocery roller, and myself in there all while holding open the swinging guard door open was awkward enough that I should have just changed my mind and taken the stairs.).

I hit "0" for the Rez de Chausse or Ground Floor. The elevator was about 6 inches from the ground floor when... CLUNK!!... it stopped altogether. The inner doors opened, so I figured everything was fine and pushed the swinging guard door open. Well, I tried anyway. It was locked. I was stuck.

See, the elevator has this safety mechanism that won't allow the swinging guard doors to open on any floor where the elevator is not currently present (this is a safety no-brainer). However, it's a problem when you're almost to a floor, but the elevator won't recognize that fact.

I turned myself around in the miniscule space to read the "in case of a breakdown" instructions. Basically:

1. Push the alarm button continually until...
2. Someone from the elevator safety surveillance company picks up the phone, and
3. Try to figure out everything he says, even though he says it in French at the speed of light over a crackly PA system that's installed overhead.
4. Panic, because you don't know if anyone is ever going to come rescue you, and you don't dare call again because they might get put out and leave you there on purpose out of spite.
5. Recognize to yourself that someone, eventually, will see that you're stuck.
6. Panic again. What if that takes a long time and you have to go to the bathroom?
7. Almost cry at that thought.
8. Show gratitude for the fact that you could have been stuck 4 floors higher up. If the elevator "plunged" 6 inches down, you might get a bruise, rather than the broken bones you'd have after falling 4 floors in a glass elevator.
9. Put in your headphones and just try to enjoy the time you've now got on your hands.

Today in my French class (I know this seems like a harsh transition, but believe me, it's related) we read an except from La Vie Mode d'Emploi (which I assume to mean roughly... Life: A User's Manual, or A User's Manual for Life) by Georges Perec.

In the excerpt we read, he talks about the depressing monotony that takes place in every urban apartment building. How each person barricades themself in their own apartment and lives this solitary life, while all of their neighbors are participating in all of the same little gestures as a part of their day-to-day lives: turning a faucet on and off, setting the table, doing the laundry. And yet, as neighbors, the only things we know about each other are the little echoes we hear through the wall, or the occasional sterile "hello" in the stairway. He talks about how the stairway becomes almost a hostile place, but it's the place of the most "activity" in the entire building (at least the activity that everyone can see).

In general it seems like everyone in my class felt like it was impossible to be friends with your neighbors, even ones that live on your same floor, simply because everyone has this general feeling of distrust and automatic annoyance for their neighbors (at least this is the perception by my fellow students). People just aren't willing to go out of their way to make an effort, for whatever reason.

I found that to be horribly depressing, but I had that whole discussion on my mind when I was stuck in the elevator. I kept wondering to myself if my neighbors would help me, even though I've never met any of them, or even seen a single one of them a second time after our first passing.

About 15 minutes after I got off the PA with the security company, someone finally came into the lobby. It was a woman who looked about my age, and she was pushing a stroller.

"Oh, please let her be nice!" I thought to myself, and asked her if she could help me. I explained that I had called the emergency service, but I didn't understand what they said to me, so I didn't know if they had explained how to get myself out of the elevator, or if they were sending someone, etc.

She, to my complete and utter relief, was incredibly nice.

"Oh, you poor thing!! How long have you been stuck there? 15 MINUTES?? That's terrible!!" (Well, yes, I thought it was quite annoying, but I didn't actually expect that much sympathy for so little time. Now, if I had been stuck for an hour...)

We called the emergency service again, and she clarified with them that they had already dispached a technician, who should be there in another 10-15 minutes.

"Oh, 15 more minutes!!" she seemed so distressed on my behalf, which I have to admit made me really like her, even before the next words out of her mouth. "Do you want me to get you anything? Well, not much will fit through the grate, but do you need anything to eat?"

At that I had to giggle a little on the inside. I thanked her and told her I thought I would be okay. She continued into her apartment right off the lobby, and before she shut the door I could hear her explaining the whole situation to someone...

"There's this poor girl stuck--I mean completely stuck--in the elevator, and she's been there for 15 minutes! And they said they won't even have someone here for another 15..." click.

Two or three minutes later I hear feet on the stairs, and then I hear in the cutest little girl voice(little kids speaking French is just darling, in my opinion) say, "Oh, mom! Look! There's a lady trapped in the elevator!! Mom! Mom! Look at her!! How sad!"

"Yes, honey. I see her. It will be okay."

They finally made it down all of the stairs that wind around the elevator and into the lobby. The mother made sure I was okay and that there was a technician on his way, at which point he actually walked through the door.

I was out, lickety-split, took my chariot, and went on my grocery-getting way.

Getting my 35 pounds of groceries UP four flights of stairs in my wheeled chariot is a different story altogether, though not one that's interesting enough to tell. It was just awkward and sweaty.

Note to self: next time the elevator is broken, just eat out for a couple of days.

I Found...

... some great little stores over the last two days. And I bought cute and cheap earrings at both of them.

I think this officially brings the total number of earrings (pairs, of course) that I have in France to 100. I left quite a few pairs at home... but I obviously brought more than I left. :)

I'm thinking about doing a '100 Earrings in 100 days' "challenge" for myself, where I don't allow myself to wear any of my earrings twice until I've worn them all. It doesn't sound challenging, but I'm lazy enough that sometimes I just grab the first pair of earrings that "works" and head out. This shallow little "challenge" would involve a little more thought. And pictures. Then you can see all of my earrings. (Or--truth be told-- you could just go to Target and look over their jewelry department, since that's where I got most of them, anyway. :) I lose things... so I don't like to spend a lot of money on my earrings.)

Blah, blah, blah. I digress. Here are the earrings I bought.
But first, the pretty packaging from the first store. This store is right across the river from Notre Dame. And a couple of storefronts down there is a restaurant that only sells tarts. Of all kinds. Must go there soon.

I love that these green ones have the look of felted wool.

Mixed metals tend to be a big turn-off for me, but I really love these.

And these are very similar to some turqoise tear-drops I have, but these ones have more pronounced imperfections and they're about 4 times as big and have more of a bright jade green hue to them than real turquoise (it's hard to tell from the picture).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Warning: Creepy Post of Real Human Bones Below

Be careful if there are young ones or people of the squeamish persuasion nearby as the post below will not be suitable for them.

In the meantime, here is a pretty picture instead. Today I was talking to a couple of friends who are here on BYU Study Abroad about heading over to Giverny some time in the spring when it's in full bloom. This picture reminds me of Giverny (which is Claude Monet's house in the country outside of Paris).

found on flickr, Lily by me'nthedogs

(I am intentionally leaving a lot of space above, so if you came to my blog with sensitive parties present, the skulls and other piles of bones wouldn't be the first thing to appear. Thanks.)

The Catacombs of Paris

I went to the Catacombs on Saturday, and to my dismay, they were less interesting than I expected them to be.

Of course there were lots of bones... but I expected a little more information, I guess.

The entrance to the Catacombs of Paris is an unassuming-looking little green facade off of a busy roundabout. The wait is longer than what it seems like it should be looking at the line. I think they only allow a certain number of people in at a time, so the line moves more slowly than expected.

One you're inside, you pay your way and then go down a spiral staircase for what seems like forever. To the point that you start to get that kind of dizzy-nauseated feeling like you're in vertigo.

However, the bottom of the staircase comes, along with a couple of small rooms with some informational boards. These boards describe how the Catacombs were created when the smaller existing cemetaries posed a problem for city expansion, as well as significant health concerns (the cemetery which was formerly the biggest cemetery in Paris was causing myriad health problems among the neighboring citizens because of improperly buried bodies, mass graves, and the like).

So, bodies from several cemeteries were transferred to the catacombs and artfully (?) displayed. Not that I'm combaring it to the monastery in Rome where they made chandeliers and other designs out of peoples' bones.

There were also these random little pockets into the rock where these sculptures/carvings were done of buildings. Don't know what the buildings are. Reminds me of Petra, though. (Just the concept of a city being carved out of an existing expanse of rock--not that Petra actually looks like this.)

This is a well that allowed the workmen digging the tunnels and transferring the bodies to get to the ground water.

There were dozens of inscriptions like this throughout the catacombs. I enjoyed reading them--they brought a measure of hope to the otherwise depressing feel of the catacombs.
This one in particular reads: "Where is this Death? Always future or past. Just as it comes to be present, it already ceases to be." I thought that was kind of poetic.
Well, there you have it.
There's no institute this week, so my afternoons and evenings will all be free. I'm thinking I'll save later evenings for homework and get another museum pass this week. I can head to a different museum (or two, depending on their size) each day, and then use each afternoon to start making my way around the Louvre. We'll see.

Warning: Creepy Post of Real Human Bones Ahead

Be careful if there are young ones or people of the squeamish persuasion nearby as this next post will not be suitable for them.

(This warning is for those who subsribe to my posts through some kind of blogroll like Google Reader--there will be another posted later so those who go directly to the blog won't come across a skull the second they get to my blog. Thanks!)

After the Orsay

I stopped at a cafe right across the street for some late lunch. It was snowing...

...and I was starving.

I looked over the menu, and since I haven't been eating much meat, I decided to go for it and order some sausages. I ordered my saucisses and fries, a Coke, and some caramel custard.

When my order came, I almost threw up right on the spot. Saucisson is apparently the word for real, hearty, delicious sausage. Saucisse (what I ordered) is just a regular ol' HOT DOG. And apparently a boiled hot dog. Truly foul. But, knowing how well "oops, can I exchange this for something edible?" would go over with my waiter, I ate it anyway. With no ketchup, since that's not a big thing here unless you're at McDonalds or some other kind of McDo knock-off joint. Ew.

So, I forced down the "reject-meat and various and sundry other animal parts" dogs and looked forward to dessert. Which ended up tasting like it was bathed in liqueur, so I had about two bites and decided that flavor wasn't normal.

All in all, not the best meal I've had since coming to Paris.

Musee d'Orsay

I forgot to post my pictures of the Orsay from last week!

What with school starting and the amount of books I've been carting around, I haven't been taking my camera with me much, so yesterday was the first time I had a chance to download the pictures.
The Orsay is one of my favorite museums because of the great display of the impressionist painters. But I also love the sculptures that are displayed along the main corridor of the lowest level.

'Eve After the Fall' has got to be one of my favorite sculptures of all time. I love the lines of the sculpture and Eve's expression.

You can actually see her sadness and shame in her expression and her body language. I think her eyes convey so much.

I also really love this sculpture. I don't remember what it's called, but don't you think she's just magnificent?

This sculpture, called 'The Young Martyr,' is also really beautiful.

Also on the lowest level of the museum there was a little exhibition about the Opera house. Underfoot (we were walking on thick glass tiles over the top) was a layout of the area of Paris surrounding the Opera house, and then up on display tables nearby there was a scale model showing the theater and all of the backstage areas where all of the backdrops are stored so they can simply be lifted up from the floor or lowered from above to set the scene.

Another favorite sculpture of mine, found up by the Impressionist paintings, is 'La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans' (The Little 14-year old dancer) by Degas.

Then, of course, there is always the talented Mr. Van Gogh, whose 'Still Life, Roses and Peonies' brings a smile to my face.

I also really love his 'Church at Auvers.' I just love impressionism altogether, frankly. I love that it doesn't try to duplicate reality, but the feelings and impressions of the artist become so much a part of the work.
Near Seurat's 'The Circus' (of which this is a detail. And now that I look at it more closely, a rather creepy-looking detail. Sorry for anyone who has issues with clowns.)...

... I found a painting I really enjoy by an artist I don't know at all. I'm no art historian, so I really only know the very famous artists. Please forgive if I should have known who this person is before now. In fact, I think I noticed this painting a couple of years ago when my family came to the Orsay, but I have since forgotten Henri Edmond Cross. Sorry, Henri. 'Les Cypres a Cagnes' is lovely.

I took a few other pictures, but these were the real highlights for me. I spent maybe an hour and a half at the Orsay. Because I felt like I had been here so recently, I didn't spend too much time (and it seemed like a lot of their impressionist pieces were out on loan).