Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 4 & 5: Bunnies, Cream, and Ballet

Things have been busy, so haven't had time yet to blog the last two days worth of stuff! My schedule has been pretty packed, with a trip to Chantilly on Day 4 and doing museums on Day 5.

Chantilly is a chateau town north of Paris. It's famous for horseracing and the delicious, delicious Chantilly cream, which as the Rough Guide says "is basically whipped and sugared and delicious". I had some in the rustic 'hameau' or hamlet on the chateau grounds, and yes, it was delicious. :)

Lunch at the Hameau.

Dessert at the Hameau: whipped, sugared, delicious Chantilly cream.

Inside the chateau there is an extensive display of art collected by one of the former residents of Chantilly. Unfortunately there is not a lot of didactic information in English...I can read and understand quite a bit of French but it is slow going. :( I really enjoyed the Raphael paintings (there are three, and this is the only place outside the Louvre to have so many), especially the painting of the fates with the golden apples. Other highlights of the chateau are its gorgeous architecture inside and out, and my favorite room was the library, which had two levels. The gardens and statuary outside are also impressive.

Part of the exterior of Chantilly chateau.

Gate into Chantilly.

Chantilly chateau as seen from across its moat.

After lunch I headed over to the Musee de Cheval (Museum of the Horse) for a "Spectacle" - a show on equitation. It was pretty nice, but the museum itself is pretty tiny. You can walk up and down the aisles and look at the horses, learn their names and breeds, and see models showing different kinds of tack for different purposes (trick riding, cowboys, driving, polo). That's about it.

On the way back to the station I stopped at Potages des Princes - the Princes' Kitchen Garden. It's a working, food-producing garden that also inexplicably has rabits and rabit-racing. I watched some of this and found it a bit weird. The baby goats were very cute, though.

Potager des Princes

Adorable baby goats. Undoubtedly lunch or dinner for someone!

In the evening I had a very nice dinner at 'Le Restaurant' in Montmartre with Huma and some others I used to work with. I had roast duckling, which was delicious, and their famous chocolate tarte for dessert. Yum.

Roast duckling at Le Restaurant. Fabulous!

Le Restaurant's best-known dessert: an excellent chocolate tarte!

Yesterday I had to run some errands and then decided on a day in the city at the museums. I headed to the Marais and ate lunch outside at a cafe - roast chicken, mashed potatoes and salad. You can taste the butter in everything, by the way. It is so good. :)

The first museum I went to was the Musee de Carnavalet. It is described in the Top 10 Eyewitness book as being about the history of Paris, but what I hadn't realized is that it describes that history in art. There are two mansions chock-full of art, and there is way too much to get through in just one day. As it is, I spent about 2-3 hours there. I enjoyed the black and white 'analogies' paintings the best, which are almost like political cartoons, except from the 15-1600s. The book said to visit the rooms on the Revolution to 'shed a tear for the royals' - great paintings, but no tears shed. ;) The only unfortunate thing about this free museum is again, an almost complete lack of any English signage. It's just a little surprising because most of the major museums I've visited elsewhere in the world have at least one additional language to the main one - including museums in China and Japan (the latter of which usually has 2-3 additional languages for every sign available). It's a good thing the guide books have decent descriptions for most of these.

After Carnavalet it was on to the Musee Europeene de la Photographie. This was a really interesting little museum and I very much enjoyed the works of Antoine Poupel and Mimmi Jodice. I didn't really like the third artist but the two I did like made it worth my while.

On the suggestion of Angelica, I had bought a ticket (7 Euros!) to the Paris Opera Ballet at Opera Garnier. Although the seat was in a 'limited visibility' area, I could see the ballet by standing, and the music and surroundings made it totally worthwhile. The opera house is absolutely stunning inside, with ornate carvings, sculptures, and painted ceilings. I noticed when I went close to some of the walls that they are entirely done in mosaic. I got some nice pictures of places visitors who aren't watching a ballet or opera wouldn't be allowed to see, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening.

Interior architecture of the Opera Garnier.

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