Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some Parc Monceau, some Colonne Vendôme

Yesterday did not get off to an auspicious start.  After searching fruitlessly for one last Dalou sculpture, I got tired of both finding nothing and getting rained on, so I came home to try to refine a more precise location.  Turns out, within the past several years, the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers has moved the sculpture to a different location.  Not only that, it has been moved to a Parisian suburb known less for fine art, and more for its unusually high crime.  Le sigh.

Not ready to tackle a crime-ridden Parisian banlieu (suburb) quite yet, I took the metro out to see a sculpture just east of the Arc de Triomphe. From the moment I walked up from the metro and saw the precise work I was looking for, my day took a serious turn for the better.  Gustave Doré's Monument to Alexander Dumas is one of my favorites, not least because a fantastically dashing figure of D'Artagnan is perched on the back.
Like Puss in Boots, without the mice necklace.
 By this point, I have developed a certain routine for photographing monuments, in order to ensure I don't miss anything.  I circle the work a couple of times, taking numerous photos from each angle (n, ne, e. etc. etc.), and then work increasingly closer to the monument so that I get both overall and detail shots of the work.  It must look just different enough from normal tourist behavior to elicit notice, because numerous strangers have stopped to talk to me about the sculptures.  When Jay and I came across the Waldeck-Rousseau in the Tuileries, a man there assured me the work was Socialist because it included a figure of a laborer (he was not too far from the truth).  Yesterday, as I was looking at another sculpture in the Place du Général Catroux, a guy from Liberia sporting some truly magnificent dreadlocks stopped me to ask why I thought the sculpture was good.  This prompted a long conversation about art and impermanence in both France and Africa, conducted partly in French, partly in English.  He said he missed his home, but couldn't go back, because he has a French woman now, so he can't leave.  I told him I have an American man, so I can't stay. 

After telling my new Liberian friend to check out the sculpture with D'Artagnan on it, I made the short walk to nearby Parc Monceau.  I love Parisian parks in general, but this one might have jumped to the top of the list.  It has tons of sculpture, a rose garden, a carousel, a stand selling crepes and ice cream, a children's playground (with its own special mini bathroom), space for rollerblading, a loud and strange prayer group, random ruined arches, a weird pyramidal building of some sort, and even ponies.

Ponies, from left to right:  Pierre, Jean-Claude, and Bill.
 I sat and ate a nutella crepe while watching the literary-themed carousel take a few turns.  My vote for "best carousel in Paris" is now torn between this carousel that featured Le Petit Prince's airplane and a submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the carousel in Jardin de Plantes which is populated by prehistoric creatures.  The sculpture to the left of the carousel in the photo was just the first of many relevant works inhabiting the park--some of which I knew about, but several that were pleasant surprises.  While checking them out, I experienced some revelatory thoughts that (fingers crossed) I hope are semi-new, and will provide some fodder for the dissertation.  Time will tell.

Sculpture to left, submarine to right.
After exhausting the sculptural possibilities of the Parc Monceau, I made the rather long and exhausting walk home.  I took a side route to see the Vendôme Column, which is one of those enormous things that I have managed to come within blocks of numerous times over the course of the past several weeks, without ever actually seeing.  It is pretty nice, and you can buy a Rolex there.

Napoleon was very short, his column is very big. Insert joke here.
As you might have guessed from the last paragraph the Vendôme Column is in a neighborhood that might be called "ritzy" or perhaps "obscenely out of my league."  The Vendôme is downtown, by the Louvre and the Madeleine, where luxury stores are lined up one after each other.  I foolishly stopped in a fabulous little shop that had nothing but things for one's hair.  I picked up a hair stick, found it was 45 euros, then stopped touching things.  As this shop was next door to a place that sells furs, I shouldn't have been surprised.  My favorite example of Parisian shopping extravagance must be this:

The "slumming it" of Parisian shopping.
Please note two facts about this photograph.  1)  The Soldes feature several progressively deeper markdowns so this is the third, deeply discounted final sale price and 2) With the current conversion rate, 50 euros = $71.83.  Hurry up!!!!  Buy a stack of these super-sale t-shirts for just $71.83 a piece!  Also--this shop is obviously on the low end, as it features not just stacks of shirts (as opposed to one shirt a fixture, luxuriantly spaced out across the floor) but also a hastily printed out sale sign.  And ... 50 euros for a t-shirt???  What. a. steal.

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