Archive for the ‘Life in France’ Category

Thursday
June
21st
2007
1:49 am

I went to Disneyland!

As advertised, I went to Disneyland last Wednesday (the 13th).

Euro-Disney is very like its California counterpart: everything is spic ‘n’ span, lines at the rides move along briskly, there are ample opportunities to meet Disney characters, and there are more than enough places to buy over-priced food and drinks and merchandise.

It was not, in fact, very French at all. The French visitors were vastly outnumbered by the American and British visitors. It seems that everyone on the staff speaks English; in fact, I was surprised to see that a lot of the signs were in English only, which I had thought was prohibited. While Fantasyland was somewhat transposed to France, there’s blatantly nothing French about Frontierland or Main Street, USA. Discoveryland and Adventureland are pretty much stateless. The main French touch: the availability of wine and beer.

Neither was it particularly crowded; granted, it was midweek and rather early in the tourist season, but still… The lack of crowds, though, meant that I was able to get in two rides on each of the three roller coasters: Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril (aside: I didn’t realize that Disney owned, or at least was licensing, the Indiana Jones franchise), and Space Mountain: Mission 2. Space Mountain was my favorite: a lot of it takes place in the dark and I found that the resulting disorientation increased the excitement. Star Tours (and I didn’t realize that Disney owned or was licensing the Star Wars franchise, either) was also fun. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast was really geared towards little kids and was rather hokey, but it was still entertaining. On the more sedate side, I always like carousels, and the riverboat ride was pleasant. Alas, Phantom Manor was closed during my visit.

Slideshow

I’ve put the rest of my pictures into a slideshow (this will open in a new window).

Thursday
June
21st
2007
1:11 am

Evening at the Cabaret

The other evening, I went to Le Lapin Agile, "Paris’s oldest bar-cabaret and a Montmartre landmark".

The story behind the name: In 1875 the painter-caricaturist André Gill painted a sign of a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan: "Le Lapin à Gill" changed quite naturally into Lapin Agile (the nimble rabbit).

The doors open at about 9:15 PM, and most of those there at that hour were tourists: a few little groups of students, a Japanese couple and another small group of Japanese tourists, and me. There were also a two or three French couples. A group of Japanese businessmen showed up a little later, and after about 10, French couples started trickling in.

The show itself is very simple: shortly after we were seated, a man came in and started playing the piano. About 15 minutes later, a few people came in, sat down at a table in the middle of the room, and just started singing. These then were the performers. It all looked and sounded very unstructured: they took turns with their solos and encouraging the group singalongs. The Japanese businessmen in particular took some good natured ribbing about their reluctance to join in the group singing. "How hard is it to sing ‘la la lala la’"? got them singing, too. While some of the French refrains were a little too complicated for me (or the other tourists) to pick up on, the French guests sang along happily, and several of the songs had refrains no more complicated than the afore-mentioned "la la lala la" or "oui, oui, oui; non, non, non." When the pianist took his breaks, someone else would take out a guitar or an accordion.

They don’t try to serve food, and while a drink is included in the cover charge, they make no subsequent effort to push further drinks. It made for a very pleasant and relaxed evening.

Wednesday
June
20th
2007
8:46 am

Louvre, Revisited

I went back to the Louvre last week, specifically to the see the Praxiteles exposition.

Praxiteles was a Greek sculptor from the 4th century BC. Virtually none of his work is known to have survived intact. Most of the bronze work was melted down, and the little that survives is corroded and fragmentary, while the work in marble has at the very least been chipped if not broken. As a result, most of what is known about Praxiteles’s sculptures comes from written accounts.

So, how do you put together an exposition for an artist who has no surviving, complete work?

  1. You display the fragmentary work, and
  2. You display the copies and pastiches of his work

So, there are multiple variations on, for example, the Aphrodite of Cnidus: Praxiteles is credited with being the first to sculpt female nudes. There are also variations on Apollo Sauroktonos (Apollo the Lizard Slayer: how’s that for an appellation to strike terror in the hearts of your enemies?) and the Leaning Satyr. In addition, the exhibit included several statues of a woman who may or may not have been Phryne, who may or may not have been Praxiteles’s lover.

I was a little disappointed by the exposition: the multiple variations on just a few prototypical pieces were redundant.

I also wandered around the rest of the Louvre, since I hadn’t seen everything my first visit (and still haven’t with this second visit). As usual, I mostly focused on sculpture. The last time there, I had missed Canova’s Cupid and Psyche:

I think I found my lion friend in the same room:

He’s particularly engaging in closeup, although the picture doesn’t do him justice:

I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Decorative Arts, which I very much enjoyed. I don’t know how I missed it before. And I visited the Islamic Art collection, which is the newest and not yet complete addition to the Louvre’s permanent collections. There were some lovely pieces, but it doesn’t really come together well yet.

Tourist season has not begun in full force yet, but even on a weekday afternoon, the crowds are starting to mount up:

The public buildings in Paris, such as churches and palaces, never cease to amaze me. I have enormous difficulty wrapping my brain around constructing places on such a grand scale. The only thing comparable we have in the States are shopping malls. And will people still be going to, say, the Mall of America in a few hundred years? (Oh, Lordy: I hope not!)

Wednesday
June
20th
2007
4:20 am

Paris, Je T’aime

I went to see this the other day, with no particularly high expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. Of the 18 mini-films, 3 were laugh-out-loud funny, and 4 made me cry. Some of the other 12 were merely "heh", but none was actively bad. So not a bad mix.

I particularly like Carol in the last segment, 14e Arrondisement:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqstlUU_kD0]

Her accent, and her French, are perfectly execrable. While I flatter myself that I’m not that bad, my professor in Oral French has observed, somewhat reluctantly, that I continue to speak with a strong American accent. Which can be charming, she hastened to assure me.

Tuesday
June
12th
2007
3:53 pm

I’m going to Disneyland!

Okay, it’s totally silly and pointless and why did I even come to France in the first place if I’m just going to go to Disneyland?

But I am. Tomorrow. For no real reason except that my classes are winding down to a conclusion and I want to. So just lay off, okay? (What? Am I just a little defensive here?)

Details (and probably pictures) will follow after my return.

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