I love Paris. I love the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way it smells. I love the bakeries and the brasseries, the cafés and the culture. And I love the AirBnB apartment that Elizabeth and Sebastian and I are sharing, which is in the middle of a neighborhood filled with delightful cafes and bakeries and shops.
Saturday was a travel day, and a catching-up-with-Elizabeth day. Sunday was a work day, spent co-organizing a conference workshop, though that was punctuated with excellent food and wine. But Monday was a touring day. I had blocked off the morning to visit Musée de L’Orangerie, which houses two rooms of Monet’s water lilies (Les Nympéas). I first saw the installation in 1999, on a short side trip to Paris during a consulting gig at Ramstein AFB in Germany.
At the time, the museum was not one of the big tourist draws in Paris, and the paintings were in two oval rooms on the lower floor of l’Orangerie, lit by indirect natural light from windows at the top of the room. I was there on a rainy, cold afternoon, and the place was nearly empty. I will never forget descending the stairs into the first room (the one that depicts the water lilies at sunrise), and for the first time in my having my breath literally taken away from me.
This year’s visit was lovely, but not as emotionally compelling. The gallery was crowded with tourists, and as a part of the years-long (2000-2006) renovation of the building they moved Les Nymphéas to the main floor, removing that moment of coming down a curved staircase into the embrace of the panels. The paintings are still glorious, though, and no photo of them can possibly compare the experience of being surrounded by those glorious colors and rich texture. They’ve also got a wonderful collection of paintings by other French artists, including some gorgeous Renoirs.
Later in the day there was more wine, of course. And bread, and cheese, and fruit, and conversation.
Today has been more mundane–other than a quick trip out to buy a baguette and brioche (and oh my goodness, what a brioche…it nearly made me weep with pleasure), I’ve been pretty much settled into our wonderful Parisian apartment, catching up on grading and email and project management. Later I’ll actually make it to a conference presentation, and then perhaps a reception or two with Elizabeth (who’s a bit of a queen bee here, and I’m happy to trail in her impressive wake).