Illuminating Experiences In The City Of Light
September 2nd, 2014
Newbies and veterans alike are well advised to heed one of the Tour commandments of leader Ed Fox: Thou can’t do everything. And even with four unstructured “days at leisure” in Paris, one is tempted to tackle it all. But the better course is sensible pacing. Here are some of the Parisian adventures members of our group enjoyed:
Palace Of Versailles. Even those first time visitors who head to Versailles knowing they will witness over-the-top opulence are stunned. From the glittering golden railings that encircle the mammoth French estate, to the lavish interior with each room adorned with priceless art, to the several square miles of slavishly manicured gardens complete with piped-in classical music, Versailles is an experience for which no one is truly prepared. Sunday morning, 15 hearty Tour members ventured to the palace of the French monarchy on the outskirts of Paris. Aided by an experienced and savvy guide who pre-wired our visit, we side-stepped the enormous visitor throng and were treated to a paced and articulate tour of the palace and the grounds. Can we be surprised that the destitute French peasantry of the late 18th century revolted? Perhaps the dual guillotine set-up at Place De La Concorde – where over 1300 people were beheaded during a 43 day period in 1794 – was a little extreme. But to quote Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.”
Chartres Cathedral. More than a dozen of our Tour members took a planned – yet optional –quick half-day trip to Chartres – just about 40 kilometers southwest of Paris – to visit its famous Cathedral. All came back with rave reviews and confirmed that Cathédral de Chartres is – as promised – “an exceptional building inviting contemplation.” Tour members marveled at its breathtaking stained glass and the depth and purity of the blue hues which are attributable to special forging ingredients unique to the French cathedral.
The Louvre. Not surprisingly, all of us quickly learned that pacing and realistic viewing goals are critical for those who want to take on the ultra-marathon of the art world. We concluded viewing over days – and we had four in this world capital – is the most sensible approach. While sniffed at by seasoned art aficionados, a stint at this great museum to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Victory of Samothrace – the Louvre Trifecta – is a minimalist’s must. We all agreed that more extensive visits proved to be richly rewarding. Just pace yourself so you don’t feel like you’re drinking out of a fire hose.
Musée D’Orsay. Hey, after tackling the Louvre, a visit to this impressive museum was like a stroll along the Seine. The D’Orsay – set in a stunningly renovated train station – has much to offer. But its extensive collection of paintings created by some of the world’s most notable Impressionists is considered by many to be its crown jewel. Most of our crew made sure they visited Musée D’Orsay – and all were quite glad they did.
Shared Dining. Impromptu dinners enjoyed by small groups of troupe members quickly became a great way to end a day. There can’t be many places better than Paris to do this. Whether dining al fresco at a small sidewalk café or storming L’Européen where fussy tuxedoed waiters are happy to fill your wine glass, this day-ending ritual proved to be a great way to laugh with Tour members, to reflect on the day just completed, and to lay down plans for tomorrow’s adventures. /Dave Hunter/