Friday, September 18, 2009

France on $70 a Day - Paris - Museums

Approaching Versailles

After seeing Versailles, David and I clearly understand why the French revolted against the monarchy. This sprawling complex with room after room of marble floors, opulent finishes and furniture, and a park area that stretches for 247 acres was supported by taxes levied against the poor.

The kings and queens who lived here were spoiled rotten. Rather than fight the traffic in the summer, they simply moved a few acres away to their vacation palace, the Grand Trianon. And, as if two palaces were not enough, the Petit Trianon, yet another showplace, was given to Marie-Antoinette by Louis XVI. He said, "Since you love flowers I am offering you a bouquet, it is the Petit Trianon." Seems to me he could have given her a few dozen roses, instead, and saved the tax-paying peasants a bit of money.

The Hall of Mirrors (and chandeliers)

The King's Bedroom

One of the Queen's Bedrooms

Anyway, if you go, and you won't be disappointed if you do, be sure to pay the 6.50 euros to ride the mini-train (They call it a train but it is actually a series of connected carts.) that will take you to three viewpoints where you can get off to tour the two Trianon palaces and the Grand Canal and then hop back on to finish the tour. It is worth the euros to see the park and avoid walking what amounts to about three miles.

A Small Portion of the Gardens

The peasants finally got their revenge against the monarchy's extravagance when the Revolution guillotined Marie-Antoinette and her husband, along with hundreds of others. To see where Marie-Antoinette spent her last days in a small cell, go to the Conciergerie, the toughest of all French prisons.

The Musee Carnavalet, in the Marais district, was one of our favorites. Admission to the museum, housed in two former mansions connected by a corridor, is free. There you will see models of Paris throughout the ages and rooms decorated in the furniture style of the times from the Louis XIV period to the Belle-Epoque. There are benches in the area between the two mansions where you can sit in the sun and enjoy the lovely gardens.

A Room at the Carnavalet

If you crave still more history, visit the Musee de Cluny, housed in a Gothic mansion, in the Latin Quarter. Here you can see the remains of Paris's ancient Gallo-Roman baths and trace the history, via many displays, of the Middle Ages. Aftwerwards, wander the serpentine streets of the Latin Quarter and enjoy the quaint shops and diverse restaurants.

Musee de Cluny

For something completely different, try the Centre Georges Pompidou in the Marais district. This controversial complex is incongruously modern in the heart of old Paris with its innards--the escalator, elevator, electrical and air conditioning systems--housed on the exterior of the building. Tourists must prefer representational art to modern, because there was no queue here or, indeed, many people at all. Even if you don't study the art --abstract expressionism, arte povera, cubism, fauvism, pop art, surrealism and video art are all represented--it is worth the trip for the view from the top floor. Take the escalator as far as you can and be rewarded with views over Paris's rooftops to the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur.

Surprising First Look at Pompidou

1 comment:

  1. I normally don't spring for extras like the 6.50 euros to ride the mini-train, but thanks to your tip I will!