France Day 4 Paris Free Day

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We had a free day today, which means we didn’t do anything as a class, so everyone was on their own to do whatever they desired. Laurie and I walked over to Norte Dame and sat in the garden behind the cathedral. There was free Paris WIFI available so I was able to finish placing a photo order that I got right before we left for France, and Laurie worked on an ad to try a get people to meet with us and exchange French conversation for English conversation. The interchange was called an intercambio when we were in Spain, and we would hang ads on public bulletin  boards where we lived, at language academies and Irish pubs in Spain. So we figured we could do the same in Paris, except, once we got everything prepared and started walking the streets, we noticed that there were no public bulletin boards or kiosks around.

The University of Paris, Sorbonne is very near our Hotel, so we asked the guards at the front door if there were any public bulletin boards at the university to hang notices. They told us to go up the side of the building to 17. We asked the guard at entrance 17 and he said yes, up by the next entrance. The next three guards at the next three entrances looked confused at our request and said we had to have university IDs to get in. We walked the rest of the way around the building, which is huge, taking up several blocks, but there were no entrances on the west side of the building. We asked a student if he knew where any bulletin boards were, but he wasn’t from Paris, so he didn’t know. He said they had them in Lyons, but he hadn’t seen them in Paris. I looked on line and found a language interchange website that’s kind of like a Craig’s List for finding people to exchange languages with, which might be our best option.

In the late afternoon we dropped by a little grocery store and bought some food, then we walked back to Notre Dame and sat on the bleachers facing the façade, looked at the church and watched other tourists while we ate dinner. I had photographed a lot of the gargoyles with a telephoto lens when we were there in the morning, but then after we ate, we walked all the way around the cathedral, and I took more photos of gargoyles. The sunset was brilliant as we crossed the bridge on our way back to the hotel. When I turned back to look at Notre Dame from the other side of the bridge, the light was perfect, but I had a telephoto lens on the camera so I couldn’t get the whole church in a single frame. I didn’t have time to change lenses because I’d lose the light, so I took 9 quick shots in a grid and stitched them together. I got the color and feeling of the light, and the building is straight, except for the towers ended up leaning back in the finished photo.

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France Day 2 — Paris

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Today we went to Notre Dame, Paris City Hall, the Pompidou Center, and a tower commemorating a king as part of class, then Laurie and I went to the Medieval Museum in the afternoon. We were going to go to the Deportation Museum, but it was closed, but then we walked by the bridge over the Seine where lovers put locks on the bridge to seal their love (or something like that). One of the students said his parents had placed a lock on the bridge many years ago — we decided it would be impossible to find it.

I used a super wide-angle lens for the exterior and interior shots today, so the buildings are distorted. But then, you can Google the building and see photos of the buildings closer to the right perspective.

Notre Dame is 850 years old now, and the exterior has been cleaned and the cathedral is free of scaffolding on the exterior. The interior is dark so the stained glass is very luminous. There are a lot of nice gargoyles on Notre Dame, but most are very high and difficult to see well with the naked eye. I have some details of gargoyles on Notre Dame, but the gargoyles I posted today are on the commemorative tower — I had better light at the tower, so the definition is better in those photos.

City hall (not pictured) is a big, recently cleaned building, with a lot of statutes of famous statesmen, artists and people who were involved with the arts and sciences. There had bee some kind of celebration or fiesta over the weekend, as there were work crews taking down tents and amusement  rides.

The Pompidou Center is a large, modern building that was very controversial because of it’s raw, skinless, functional structure. The multicolored pipes on the one side of the building are color coded by function — hot water, cold water, HVAC, etc. — and are exposed and color coded throughout the building.

The tower was built by a king for himself and serves no other purpose but as a monument to the king. It has great gargoyles, so I included a statue of St. George flanked by gargoyles and then a detail of St George and one of the gargoyles. The second detail shows how expressive the gargoyles are. Professor Janetta Rebold Benton, in her talk on gargoyles in April, said the gargles were made for God, because they are so high and hard to see. Fortunately we have telephoto lenses today that let’s us see want my have very well been for God’s eyes only.

The Medieval Museum was fantastic, but we didn’t have time to really look at everything. We will go back to it when we return to Paris in June. There a lot of groups of school children in the museum listening to lectures on the art, running around and finding pieces on their worksheet, and drawing some of the artifacts on display. The last photo shows a class in the room with swords, shields and other accouterments of chivalry.

Laurie has a little magnifying glass on the compass, so we were looking at some of the illuminated manuscripts with the magnifying glass. Tiny details about the size of a  pin head have amazing detail of faces with expression and realistic looking flowers, and lines no thicker than fine hair are perfectly drawn. I can only imagine that the artists used some type of magnifying glass to do the work, or they had amazingly good vision.

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Sadly, the 2013 Institute For Medieval Studies’ Spring Lecture Series is over. The final lecture was “Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings” by Janetta Rebold Benton of Pace University. Ms. Rebold Benton’s lecture was wonderful, with a lot of great photos of gargoyles and grotesques (non-water spouting gargoyles). I had never though about it before, but true gargoyles are water spouts that drain roofs, and the name is derived the same root word that gives us the term “gargle”.

We got home very late from a wonderful reception celebrating the conclusion of this years lecture series, so I only took time to process a photo of a Lotus Elise that was in the parking lot when I left the office, heading to the Lecture series last night.