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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Mona Lisa...and other works of art

Dear France,
Your country is cold. Your policies are ridiculous. Your audio-guides are confusing. Your capital city is very expensive. Please take note of these concerns and make the necessary corrections.
Annette and Rahima

This is just one example of the "carefully worded letters" that Rahima is currently composing to send to the whole of France. Every time we encounter some type of a problem or frustration, we make a mental note that will we write a letter to the people in charge at a later date. France gets a whole letter.

Yesterday we started out by going to the train station to make our reservation for our eurail pass to Dublin. Well, for starters, you need a subway pass to get to the train station and Leslie had advised us to get a week long pass. After trying to figure out the many options, zones, prices, and ticket combinations (with no help from the man in the booth except to point us to the automatic machine) we figured out which ticket to buy, only to have the machine not accept american credit cards. Luckily we had enough euros on us (even though the exchange rate is getting crazy out of control every day...it is now at 1.46 I think to the dollar...urgh).

So we headed to the train station and were bumped around from office to office for a while, until we finally got to the right ticket counter only to be told that even though we HAVE a eurail pass, we would have to pay 75 euros EACH to get from Paris to London. You see, you need a reservation on certain trains, can only make them at the train station, no calling or website help, and oftentimes you need to pay for the reservation. Furthermore, you seemingly can only make a reservation from the departure station, so you can't make multiple reservations in advance if you are traveling long distances that cover multiple areas. Then, the eurail pass doesn't cover the UK (why would it, right?) so we have to cross the UK, and then take a ferry to Dublin. Someone explain to me why this eurail pass is so cheap? Our budget has been broken mostly on this trip by unexpected transportation costs...but this one is ridiculous.

So after creative planning (maybe) and extreme frustration (along with the composition of many carefully worded letters to eurail), we got a ticket to the north of France, and we will attempt to navigate the ferries, and the crossing of the UK on our own, when we get there of course. December 22 should be a really, REALLY fun day.

Us at the Louvre

So, after nearly freezing in the train station, we headed to the Louvre. It was immense! We started with the Mona Lisa, because we figured you have to start there. It was beautiful in it's own right, and I am glad I saw it, but compared to some of the other paintings I have seen in the past few days, it wasn't my favorite! I am certainly spoiled. We decided to do one of the audio tours to help us learn a little bit about some of the art in the museum, which was good, but it was supposed to take about 1.5 hours, and somehow 3 hours later we still hadn't finished it. We chalk it up to the fact that is was harder to follow than it would seem, with a little palm pilot-like screen leading us around, but with some of the art out of order or too many staircases or turns and, even following the SAME tour, we got separated for about 45 minutes. It really is a miracle someday that the two of us are still on this trip together!

Rahima navigating the Louvre with her audio-tour guide!

The Louvre is really just too big to do in one day. There is so much to see, and the building itself has so much history to learn about. In contrast, I have to say that the Museo de la Reina Sofia (the contemporary art museum in Spain) has been my favorite so far. I got to see so many pieces that I learned about in college and are much more to my liking. For example, standing in front of Picasso's 'Guernica' was breathtaking. I must have stood there for about 10 minutes, just attempting to take it all in. You couldn't take pictures there, but I took one from the internet so you could see what I am talking about. It is 11 feet tall by 25.6 feet wide. Impressive. Huge. Beautiful. It is a commentary on the cruelties and suffering inflicted on individuals (including animals and innocent civilians) during war.

Then I moved on to see a lot of the Salvador Dalí works as well as the Joan Miró collection. I love Dalí, his works are so intricate and wacky. But it was when I was in the Miró section that I got the giggles. Which is not a good thing when you are in a museum, by yourself, trying to control your giggles. The thing is, I really like Miró's works, but some of them I am convinced, are him just really playing a joke on the art world. I mean, there are these huge canvases, with maybe 15 black dots on them. Or a splotch of blue paint. Nothing more. I am sure that he must have had a good laugh at our expense that we covet these works so highly. It's certainly no Mona Lisa... :)

So today we will head out to see the Eifel Tower and some other sights. Can wait to see what the exchange rate will be at tomorrow. And to find out how much it will eventually cost to get to Ireland. Wish us luck!


Josef Gamper said...

Ah...My daughter, her friend and the Da Vinci Code. I guess the French have mastered "nickel and dimeing you to death". Thank goodness for Leslie and Dave. If you were at a hostel you might be charged individually for light, heat, blanket, etc. and that would make your letter even longer.
Special hugs and Happy Christmas to Leslie and Dave. LOL Mom

maria rosa said...

I'm with you Annette. I abhorred Paris. A little strong I know but why waste your time when there are so many more interesting and fun people and places to enjoy. I must say that the south of France is wonderful. Check the Italian and Spanish borders of France. Hmm. does the Italian and Spanish influence have anything to do with making France hospitable and fun?

Josef Gamper said...

I will ask George W. to invade France. Anyone who mistreats my daughter is an evil dictator who needs to be removed. Furhermore, snails and froglegs are weapons of mass destruction. I am glad to hear that you made it to the Louvre on your second day in Paris. Anyone who spends several days in Paris without being able to go to the Louvre needs to see a doctor. It's the water. Love, Dad

Weezy said...

Paris is NOT abhorrent. Just learn the language! ;) Glad to know you still have the energy and wherewithal to try to make things "right" in this world...