Art & Alchemy | Paris 2017

Previously on Paris 2017, we actually left the City of Lights to visit the Palace of Versailles, where we sauntered around the residences of the French royal family before eating one of our favorite French treats – crêpes! (Famous Breton-style ones!) But we had learned to adjust expectations after Versailles…

Many photos incoming, Yelp reviews for the below spots to come soon.


With our two all-day trips (to the Louvre and to Versailles) checked off, Ben an I had 2 more days on our Paris Pass to enjoy sightseeing on our own schedule. But first, more Breizh Cafe crêpes.

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We didn’t make the mistake of under-ordering this time: a savory crepe for each of us and a sweet one to share!

Bellies happily full of Breton crepes, we headed off to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Originally built to house orange trees, this beautiful art gallery is now home to impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Most famously, the Musée de l’Orangerie features Claude Monet’s Nymphéas series, the famous impressionist water lilies.

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Musée de l’Orangerie fact: The oval-shaped rooms that house the Nymphéas were, in fact, specially designed by Monet and architect Camille Lefèvre to utilize natural light and the plain, curved walls for these paintings.

The highlight of this museum is Nymphéas and the very striking rooms that house them, but the Musée de l’Orangerie is also home to other great works.

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Picasso
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I love paintings of Parisian landmarks like these
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Around the world, female artists are not often featured in museums and Paris is no exception. The Musée de l’Orangerie features one female artist on their roster: Marie Laurencin
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Renoir
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A miniature recreation of the office of the art collector whose collection was on display?

From there, we went to our next museum that Ben was super keen to visit: the Musée d’Orsay.

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Musée d’Orsay fact: Built in a former train station, the Musée d’Orsay is home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pieces in the world and is one of the largest art museums in all of Europe.

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It’s a good thing we visited l’Orangerie before d’Orsay, because that collection is completely dwarfed by the volume and breadth of the collection at this gorgeous, gorgeous museum.

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A piece featuring several of the artists featured in this museum!

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We were able to see the Cézanne exhibit, which was a really cool, in-depth look at this impressionist painter and his life and his career. (I didn’t take photos because I wanted ot just enjoy the exhibit, but also I was starting to feel a little hangry at this point and I took that out on Paul Cézanne, I am sorry.)

What got me really excited was seeing pieces by my favorite artist, Edgar Degas. Here is just a sampling of the many works they had by the man responsible for my love of both impressionism and the visual aesthetic of ballet.

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I was so excited to see Little Dancer of Fourteen Years again after seeing her at the National Gallery of Art

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Degas fact: Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans actually has 28 copies, and you can see her at 14 art museums around the world. Ten of her are privately owned. She is the only sculpture that Degas ever showed and it garnered an intense amount of negative criticism. I actually really love Degas’ raw “unfinished” sculptures, maybe as much as I love his gorgeous paintings.

From d’Orsay, you can get a really fantastic view of Sacré-Cœur Basilica in the distance.

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Spot the 🌈

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These views weren’t half bad either

As the museum started to get ready for closing, Ben and I found ourselves really regretting not dedicating more time to this vast collection and beautiful building. We sped through Van Gogh…

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… took in the building itself and a few sculptures…

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… and found this ballroom that somehow put Versailles to shame?

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And then, just like that, we were being asked by security to please get out.

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I just wanted to share this painting of a cat with extremely long legs and I had no good segue for it, here it is

DSC04864The sun was out for a rare moment, so we were grateful to be able to stroll along the Seine with blue skies overhead for once.

 

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My favorite bridge, Pont Alexandre III

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If we had a dollar for every wedding gown photoshoot we saw… we’d have a lot of dollars, lemme tell ya…

And then it was time for dinner!

For this trip, we didn’t want to be restricted to too many reservation times to worry about and potentially be late for, but we did make one reservation for a celebratory dinner at Auberge Nicolas Flamel.

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Nicolas Flamel fact: YES, this is the same Nicolas Flamel that J.K. Rowling credits with creating the philosopher’s/sorceror’s stone. He is the only character in the Harry Potter universe that is based on a real person. The real Nicolas Flamel is associated with a pre-HP reputation as an alchemist. And yes, the restaurant offers a “Harry Potter” kids prix-fixe meal.

After some disappointing eats, we were worried that this restaurant wouldn’t live up to the hype, but after walking past a lot of super trendy art show lines (people were lined up around the block for shows featuring risqué photos and abstract paintings), we enjoyed one of the best meals of the entire trip.

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Complementary amuse-bouche
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Foie gras
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Lobster ravioi beneath a yummy foam
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Veal
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Fis
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Yuzu soufflé with ice cream
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Complementary lemon madeleines

Nicolas Flamel fact: Auberge Nicolas Flamel is the oldest stone house in Paris, commissioned by Flamel and his wife Pernelle to offer food and lodging to workers. Their generosity was granted with just one requirement, which is still inscribed above the doors today:

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‘We men and women laborers living at the porch of this house built in the year of grace 1407 are requested to say every day a paternoster and an ave maria, praying God that His grace forgive poor and dead sinners’

It was such a beautiful meal to end a beautiful day that I will always, always remember.
Because on that beautiful day, I got engaged.


While I would definitely highly highly recommend visiting the Musée d’Orsay, I would only suggest going out of your way for l’Orangerie if you are really intent on seeing the Nymphéas. The collection is significantly smaller otherwise, but Monet’s waterlilies are quite spectacular. It’s also a good stop if you don’t want to visit a really overwhelming art museum. Of course, if you have the Paris Pass, there’s no reason you can’t visit both!

Who are your favorite impressionist artists? I am really partial to impressionism largely because of Degas but also because of Monet’s gorgeous waterlilies. I’m not sure how I feel about post-impressionism, but it is growing on me!

Do you have a favorite art style/movement? I’m not sure I do. I like impressionism, but… it’s so hard to pick a favorite art movement as a whole and I’m not sure I consume enough art to make that call just yet.

And yes, I’ll tell you about how I got engaged really soon!

 

Pour L’Art et Les Vues | Paris 2017

Previously, on Paris 2017, we arrived fresh off a red-eye flight from New York, settled into our hotel in Le Marais, and went straight to eating before exploring our neighborhood. The real exploration, though, was about to begin…


Warning: A lot of photos incoming!

While planning the previous day, we decided that our first full day in Paris would be dedicated to the most famous and oldest art museum in the world: Le Louvre. We’d spend as much time as possible in the museum, not worry about seeing any “famous” pieces that we weren’t personally interested in (no Mona Lisa for us!), and just taking it all in, nice and steady.

That morning, we decided to walk to the Louvre and get breakfast on our way. It is a longer walk, with a grey and drizzly sky overhead. (Spoiler alert: It rained every single day that we were in Paris. Paris is beautiful in the rain but I don’t know how many places are beautiful when the sky can’t commit to really raining… Still, it was hard to be upset!) After getting a great head start on our steps, we stopped by La Couleur des Blés for coffee (thank you, time difference) and pastries. I later learned that this is a really popular shop, but there was only one man in the teeny tiny shop when we stopped by. We walked away with some croissants and a little hot coffee for Ben.

Etiquette tip: When you enter a shop, make sure to greet whoever is working with a “Bonjour!”  Also, make sure to say “Merci” on your way out; saying hello and thank you are very important and it’s considered rude not to. 

Ordering tip: Ordering “un café” is not the same as a regular drip coffee in the United States. It’s more like ordering an espresso, and it will come in a teeny cup. Asking for a “café alongée” will get you an Americano: espresso with hot water added. 

From the boulangerie, we walked about 2 blocks to the Louvre and parked ourselves on some benches to dig into our croissants. (The only problem with them was that we didn’t have more of them!) And then it was time.

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Our view from breakfast
Not pictured: Crumbs all over my face and coat

Because we purchased the Paris Pass before our trip, we were able to wait in the shorter line for pass holders and didn’t have to wait in an additional line to purchase tickets to the museum. Time and time again, the Paris Pass proved to be a real timesaver for us, even without considering the value of the tickets that we would have otherwise purchased without it. After descending down the escalator below the famous glass pyramids….

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… we arrived. Please enjoy some of my favorite photos from our visit interspersed with fun facts about the Louvre.

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The Louvre’s audioguide is provided on Nintendo 3DS XLs. You can also download the free museum app.
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I have so many photos of the ornate ceilings and mouldings at the Louvre. Always remember to look up. (But take breaks or your neck will cramp up.)
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Me in a Nook
After walking around this enormous museum, I frequently found solace in little nooks between gallery walls
Some of the art was delightfully weird…

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Infinity Rooms, Disco Fashion, & An Assassination| week in review

Happy Revenge of the Fifth and Cinco de Mayo for the people of Puebla. Please be sure to observe respectfully and enjoy the magic of Star Wars on this lovely Friday.

This week has been one of my more eventful weeks, especially as I’ve been doing a lot of DC things and exploring parts of my base city that I haven’t in the past. (I arbitrarily posted on Instagram every day in April, and most of those were San Francisco latergrams, so many people reached out to me thinking I had moved to SF. Nope! I just hadn’t gone out very much in April. 😅)

INFINITE KUSAMA // I cannot believe that I was able to see Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit at the Hirshhorn a second time, and this time it was through my own tickets! I’ve been trying to get tickets literally every single Monday since the ticketing system opened up, but every week ended with disappointment. BUT I finally was able to get them AND they were for an early morning slot, so I brought Ben and my friend Vivian to see Kusama for the last time on Monday, as her exhibit will be leaving DC and headed to the next destination for her tour. I’ll try to put together a dedicated post with photos and a video if possible, but if you’re able to catch Infinite Kusama when it comes to your city, I highly highly recommend it. It’s a bit stressful with the lines and the short time limits in each room, but it is really accessible art and I find a lot of peace in the patterns that helped calm the artist’s mind.

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“All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins” – Yayoi Kusama, 2016

TIM GUNN & DISCO FASHION // On Tuesday, the Library of Congress hosted Tim Gunn to talk about the fashion of disco as part of their month-long celebration of disco fashion, history, music, and culture. I got there early because my ticket had some nonsense about “ticket does not guarantee admission, we recommend arriving 30-45 minutes before doors open” but almost bailed because I was not in the mood for that nonsense, ya know? I don’t even watch Project Runway! I was thinking this and singing a little bit under my breath (I think it was “Till There Was You”, if you were curious) and it was an absolutely perfect day, weather-wise. The Library of Congress is this gorgeous building, and I was glad to see there was no line winding outside yet, so I started hurrying towards the entrance. As I walked up the steps, I noticed a few meters in front of me were a man and a woman. As I got closer and closer, with my hustlin’ pace, I realized:

I was walking about 10 feet behind Tim Gunn.
To go to see Tim Gunn speak at an event.

No one paid me much mind? They didn’t ask me to back up, and I feel like if I wanted to, I might have even been able to just walk through the staff-only door that he and his handlers went through. There was a funny incident at the security check, where the security guard asked for a handshake from Tim Gunn because he and his wife were fans… but I had my arms out waiting for him to wave the metal detector wand over me… and it was a wee bit awkward. (Also awkward: me trying not to bother Mr. Gunn because celebrities are people too, so instead of asking for a photo or anything I just said “thaaaank you…. and hiiiiiiiii~” when he held the door open for me.)

He was SUPER hilarious. While he only briefly talked about disco and how the fashion was a very logical progression from the 60s and how important disco was for people in terms of finding acceptance no matter what, I learned a lot about Tim Gunn like:

  • He comes from a background in academia, and didn’t even study fashion in school.
  • He hates leggings as pants.
  • His feelings towards the Kardashians? Disdain.
  • Ditto for the current White House administration.
  • He and Anna Wintour are arch-nemeses and he is not ever invited to the Met Gala because he once told the New York Post that the most outrageous thing he ever saw at a fashion show was Anna Wintour being carried down 5 flights of stairs. To be clear, he wasn’t trying to imply that she couldn’t work a Manolo and understood that this was the quickest way for her to get to the next show without waiting for the elevator, as no one in 6-inch Manolos can beat security guards down 5 flights of stairs.
  • He once met Vivian Vance at the FBI headquarters when J. Edgar Hoover was the director. Later, when it came out that Hoover was a cross-dresser, he realized that he never met Vivian Vance…
  • He adores Heidi Klum. But not his other Project Runway judges.

He was so well-spoken and charming and funny and thoughtful and kind. I really have a greater respect for how honest and genuine Tim Gunn is and will keep an eye out for his future endeavors for sure! In the meantime, disco on.

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Also I was OBSESSED with that white skirt in the background. I spent half the interview staring at it.

HISTORY ON FOOT – LINCOLN ASSASSINATION WALKING TOUR // I was invited by my Instagram friend Albert to an instameet at the Ford’s Theatre. It’s a walking tour that takes you through downtown DC to several key locations that are settings for the conspiracy that was President Lincoln’s assassination. I cannot recommend this tour enough, as it’s led by a fantastic actor who does all these great voices for different people’s testimonies of the evening, and the walk itself is really lovely. I learned so much about Lincoln’s assassination and US history in general like:

  • The General Post Office building (now the Hotel Monaco) was the first all-marble building constructed in DC and housed the first public telegraph office.
  • The term “lobbyist” was coined in the lobby of the Willard Hotel, from which you can see the White House, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument.
  • While Mary Surratt was the first woman to be executed by the federal government for delivering a package for John Wilkes Booth (the man who shot Lincoln), her son, John Surratt, who was one of the lead conspirators, escaped trial and execution twice and died at the ripe old age of 72. Tsk tsk.
  • The Treasury Building’s basement is meant to survive an attack on the capital in the event of an emergency. It is where the president and other high-ranking government representatives would have been evacuated to.
  • Tad Lincoln found out about his father’s assassination a few blocks away, while attending a different show at a different theater, when someone burst into the theater in the middle of the show and shouted that the president had been shot.

There was so much to learn but I don’t want to spoil all the details of the assassination for you. If you have an interest in US history and especially if you’re interested in Lincoln’s assassination and the conspiracy surrounding it, book this tour. (It’s a little over 1.5 miles, 2 hours, at $17.)

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Adjacent to Ford’s Theatre is Star Saloon, where John Wilkes Booth stopped for a drink right before shooting President Lincoln

That was my week! I’m wearing my Star Wars shirt today and listening to a lot of John Williams at work. Have a great Friday and weekend everyone!

What do you have coming up this weekend?
What are some DC things that I should do next?
I really felt a deep love for the District this week because of the beautiful weather and the amazing fun events I got to do here that I can only do here.
Do you take advantage of the unique fun your town/city offers? (Tell me how if you do!)

The Capital Museum

Part of the reason that my mom is now telling everyone how much I love museums is that I did get to visit 2 great museums while I was in Beijing: The National Museum of China and the Capital Museum. While the National Museum is dedicated to the entire history of China and its people, the Capital Museum focuses on Beijing, the capital city, and art.

And as I mentioned before, this is another free museum, so bring your passport and take advantage of the immense amount of art and culture that is available if you have a few hours.

Capital Museum (首都博物馆)

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Again, I didn’t take many photos and had a limited amount of time in this museum, but I really enjoyed learning about specific cultural aspects of Beijing and, in turn, China while exploring the Capital Museum.

There was an exhibit on Peking opera that I found really fascinating, a super cool exhibit about Old Beijing and the hutong life that used to thrive in the capital, an exhibit on imperial culture from China’s seat of power, and so many galleries of sculpture, calligraphy, painting, jade, porcelain. Did you know that the Chinese had a system of producing furniture so as to not use a single nail to keep the pieces together?

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I loved the snapshot in time here with the double happiness candles and this antique camera
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A marriage sedan that I photographed because I was unsure of how long I needed to spend in the “Beijing wedding customs” section of the museum while friends back home kept getting engaged

There was also a temporary exhibit I saw about Tibetan yaks and how important they were to the people of Tibet. My aunts were really excited to see this, as I think the exhibit left shortly after I did, and it’s not something that many people are able to see up close but folks know a bit about it. The size of the skulls and horns that were on display were unreal when you thought about just the sheer size of these beasts and how much a people’s livelihood depended on them.

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An example of a yurt
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Piles of (fake) yak dung patties that act as fuel

This museum had fewer English placards than the other one, and fewer Chinese ones than I would have expected, but there was a lot of history and art and culture jam-packed into the Capital Museum, and I do recommend a visit if you’d like to learn a bit more about the history and culture and art of Beijing when you visit!

Admission: FREE – citizens need their ID and non-nationals need to bring a passport

Capital Museum


http://en.capitalmuseum.org.cn


What are some aspects of Beijing-specific culture that you’re familiar with? I know a little bit about Peking opera and visited a hutong the last time I was in Beijing but it was cool to learn just a little bit more! I was on the lookout for a big food exhibit but alas, no such luck during my visit!

What other museums in Beijing do you think are worth visiting?

Rain, Art, & Lights | Spring Break 2016

Last time on Spring Break 2016, we began exploring Los Angeles with pie and a some culture at the Getty Center. It was rainy the whole day, so we relished our time indoors and still marveled at how beautiful the museum was. But the day wasn’t over yet, and we had more art to take in at the Getty Villa.


Getty Villa

Tip: If you are planning on visiting the Getty Villa, you will need to register ahead of time online to get your FREE tickets. Yes, you need tickets, but yes, they are free. I actually had gotten tickets for 2 different times, with one being the last slot available so that we weren’t as rushed to leave the Getty Center. (Very sorry to anyone who wanted tickets for the slot I didn’t use and was unable to register.) Make sure to reserve your ticket and then either have your ticket saved on a mobile device or printed to show at the gate.

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If you’d like to visit the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in one day, you can use your parking voucher from one at the other! (Aka free parking at your second Getty destination!) Since we went from the Getty Center to the Getty Villa, we had to first let the Getty Center parking folks know that we were headed to the Getty Villa so that they could give us a voucher to bring over to the Getty Villa. This worked out pretty well for us because the Getty Center has a ticketed garage and we were able to present our voucher to the guard at the Getty Villa, but I’m not sure how it works if you go from Villa to Center.

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Some ceiling love

The Getty Villa is a gorgeous, stunning estate that is near Malibu but not quite there, despite what the museum itself advertises. (And I’m pretty sure their social media team is mad that I called them out on that. The truth will set you free, Getty Villa.) The estate was originally the residence for J. Paul Getty and slowly transformed into what it is today as he kept running out of room for displaying his antiquities. Not only did he want to display his really impressive collection, he wanted to display them in a way that reflected their time and how they would have been displayed in their time. The estate’s architectural design (oh, did you think you had escaped me talking about Getty architecture, guess again) is based on the Villa of the Papyri, which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption that rendered Herculaneum to ruins. Not only is Getty Villa a pretty spectacular re-creation of a Greco/Roman antiquity villa, the entire estate is also modeled to be reminiscent of an archaeological dig, with some of the structures intentionally built to resemble half-uncovered ruins. And while the Getty Villa was the original and sole site of the Getty Museum, it now houses only the antiquities in the way they were meant to be displayed, so the pieces have a lot of room for admiration.

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Also, the estate itself is art. The gardens were just beautiful and featured beautiful fountains. Also, just look at how obsessed I became with the beautiful tile work on the floors…Read More »