Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 6 & 7: Napoleon is shorter than me!

On day 6 I visited Chateau Fontainebleau, famous as a residence of royals, Napoleon, and for starting the Two Painting Schools of Fontainebleau. The building has been expanded many times over the centuries by various kings, so you can get a good sense of the evolution of architectural styles since the 1200s. There is also a wealth of art and sculpture.

Staircase entrance to Fontainbleau.

I took the audio tour of the chateau, which I highly recommend, since there is very little didactic material otherwise and I doubt unless you are an art connoisseur that the details and history behind the points of interest would be evident. There is very little English signage as well, so the audio tour is good for those explanations. The tour takes you through the grands apartements, where the various royals lived, but to see the petits apartements, where Napoleon chose to reside, you need to take a guided tour. Unfortunately it is entirely in French, but I think I got the gist of most of it.

One thing I was impressed by was Napoleon's work ethic. Our guide told us how he would often work late into the night and only sleep 3-5 hours a day! There was a [very small] bed near each desk. Apparently he would work for a while and take short (ha ha) naps on these beds.

It is quite worth visiting this chateau as well as Chantilly, I just wish I had realized it was covered in the Paris Museum Pass, as I would have got one for last week as well as the coming one.

On Day 7, a Saturday, we checked out of our first hotel and into the second, Hotel Innova. It's a great little hotel in Montparnasse, very close to all the museums (walkable if one wished), with a subway station right outside the door. There are also a few conveniences nearby, like bakeries, cafes, and cheap restaurants. Our room is quite large and has a great view of the Eiffel Tower.

View of the Eiffel from our hotel room.

After dropping off our bags, we headed off for a planned breakfast, now lunch, at 'Le Deux Magots', a cafe in the St. Germain area famous for its literary and artist clientele. Past patrons have included Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Camus, Picasso, and Hemmingway. The food was delicious and it was lovely to relax outside in the sun.

Quiche of deliciousness and green salad at Les Deux Magots.

After this, we headed off to Musee d'Orsay and bought the Paris Museum Pass, which is awesome. It basically lets you bypass the long lines of people waiting to get in and saves you some money if you plan to do a lot. Even if the pass cost a little extra, I think it would still be worth it for the speed getting into attractions.

Unfortunately though, the Musee itself is just so huge that we couldn't get through all of it, and plan to return later this week. We did see most of the top floor including some wonderful Rodin statues before leaving for the Musee du Moyen Age. Unfortunately this had closed early, so we walked by La Sorbonne and up to Pantheon, which had also closed early. We then visited St. Etienne du Mont, which contains the tomb of Blaise Pascal, the mathematician. That church also displayed fine gothic architecture and a large organ loft.


On our way back to Musee du Moyen Age, we walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg. We sat for a while in the sun by the fountains on the green metal chairs that locals rearrange to different areas of the park. Finally, it was off to dinner for moules and frites and crepes for dessert. Yum!

No comments: