It's been a while since I've been able to post a new entry because we've been moving at lightning speed this week! Here's what we did:
Monday we went to the Louvre. As a group we went to look at the medieval objects room, which is basically a bunch of ivory carvings, chalices, and reliquaries- stuff like that. Then we talked about some of the Netherlandish paintings because our professor, Dr. Mier, specializes in Northern art. Then she let us go off on our own to see whatever we wanted to see. There are some people in the group who are Art History majors, and they were all like, "I'm going here and here and here!" I didn't really know what I should see- for serious, that place is ginormous- so I worked my way over to the Italian Renaissance wing. The way they present the Mona Lisa is insane. There are all these signs pointing your way. Then you go into this room and it's just sitting there in front of you on its own wall, covered by bulletproof glass. A barrier prevents you from getting closer than about 10 ft. to it, but you wait at the back of a crowd of people until you can move up to it and have a clear view. Next I went down to the Ancient Greek and Roman Sculptures section of the building. There was a huge crowd around the Venus de Milo (I don't really get it- she's just a head and an armless torso...). There was almost no one in the Roman sculpture room, which actually turned out to be my favorite part of the entire Louvre. At first, most of the statues and busts are of unknown people. Then you start seeing Hadrian, Augustus, Nero, and Marcus Aurelius. I studied these guys in Latin for years, and it was just so cool to see things that had been part of their lives. After that, though, I was exhausted, and a little overwhelmed, so I went outside and sat in the Tuileries Garden until it was time to meet up for our afternoon session. Dr. Mier took us to study the Rembrandt paintings, Vermeer's The Lacemaker, Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa, and our first Michelangelo sculpture, Dying Slave- all of which were very beautiful and interesting, and I'm sorry that I don't have pictures of them- my camera battery died. We left the Louvre at 4:00, and most people went back to the hotel because they were so tired from all the walking. I didn't want to waste any of my Paris time, so I decided to go down to Luxembourg Gardens. My friend Max came with me, and we walked through the park and sat on the terrace by the palace. That night we had a group dinner at a restaurant by the Seine. We had the best steak I've had in Europe so far, with chocolate cake for dinner.
On Tuesday, we had a field trip to Chartres Cathedral. Our guide there was this old British man who had come there as a student back in the '50s and never left. He was funny and obviously knew so much about the church. He told us about its history and then took us around to "read," as he called it, some of the stained glass windows and statues. We had a little time to explore the town before going back to Paris. That night, Cristina and I went out to find dinner. We had some problems- the story is a little too long and ridiculous to recount here- but suffice it to say that the Parisians apparently do not eat on Tuesday nights. They just drink. We went back to the hotel to work on our journals until it was dark outside (which doesn't happen until about 10:00). Then we went for a walk along the river, saw the Louvre all lit up, and took the Metro out to the Eiffel Tower. It looks so different at night than it does during the day, and we really wanted to experience both. When we were there, it was like 11:30 and the light show had just ended. We had seen it from far away when we were walking, though, and it's essentially sparkling silver lights that look kind of like fireworks. Our view was very pretty, nonetheless- it was blue, which as you all know, is my absolute favorite color, so I loved it.
Needless to say after the late night we had, Cristina and I were very tired Wednesday. We had a group session at the Musee de Cluny (more medieval objects...). The one noteworthy part of that museum: The Lady & the Unicorn tapestries. They are very lovely. Next we went to Saint Chapelle. We've seen a lot of amazing stained glass on this trip, as the pictures can attest to (and those don't always do justice), but this place just blows your mind. It's not even a full church building- it's just a chapel that Louis IX built as an attachment to his palace- but you walk into this small room and it's color all the way from the floor to the very high ceiling. Once we left, our afternoon was free. I went with Tina, Ali, Haley, Anne, and Max, to eat lunch (croque monsieurs, finally!) and then on to Versailles. It's about 40 minutes outside of Paris by train. We toured the palace and saw the rooms where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette lived. Lots of portraits and sculptures, but the best parts are the chapel and the Hall of Mirrors. The worst part: the modern art that for some reason the people at Versailles think belongs there. One ugly piece obstructs every room you go into. I usually worked around them to take my pictures, trying to pretend like they didn't exist. I did, however, get one photo as an example for y'all of the monstrosities. The gardens were exquisite just like pretty much everything else there. I was really glad to get to see it. When we got back to the hotel in Paris, a lot of our classmates had spent the afternoon napping/working on their journals. I don't play that game. We had another group dinner that night at this really nice place above the train station. The best part of this meal was the wine. All 3 kinds that they gave us were excellent. For food, we had a delicious goat cheese and tomato pastry, followed by guinea fowl, and sorbet for dessert.
I was so tired by the end of Wednesday, and it wasn't going to get any better because we had to be on the bus to leave Paris by 7:45. I couldn't sleep on the bus, for some very strange reason, so I worked on my journal and started my last book, Possession. (It's very good, in case you were wondering, and I highly recommend it.) We stopped, after 4 hours on the road, in Dijon. We got lunch there, and looked at 3 sculptures by Claus Sluter, one of Dr. Mier's favorite artists. Then we rode through many vineyards on the way to Beaune- Fixin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges. We even stopped at one and got out to look around a bit. Brian Masters (the British tour guide traveling with us) knows a lot about wine, and he would tell us about all the different wines produced in each village we passed through. He's setting up a wine tasting for us tomorrow- I'm excited. Anyways, we got to Beaune in the early evening and checked into our hotel. I needed to catch up on my sleep, so I found a restaurant, got a burger to go, and went back to my room to eat, shower, and get in bed early.
Today we went to the only really significant historical place in Beaune: L'Hotel Dieu. It was a 15th century hospital, and it has a polyptych of the Last Judgment by Rogier Van Der Weyden. Exquisite. That's really all I can say about it, it's just too beautiful to even describe. During our free time, Cristina and I walked around Beaune a little bit. There's not much to see here... We have an entire free day here tomorrow before the wine tasting and group dinner, and I don't know exactly what there is to do. I think they want us to relax and unwind before we get into Rome and start having a crazy schedule again. I'll probably work on my journal (which, if you can't tell, I really don't like! I know what you're thinking, small price to pay, and all that, but it is harder than you think. We have to do sketches, which is a challenge for those of us who aren't artists, and then we've got to answer questions and analyze what we've seen that day and tie it in to larger themes... Not fun). This afternoon, we had a field trip to Autun, another provincial French town like Beaune. We were looking at some sculptures on the cathedral there, which are special/worth visiting because they were carved in the 12th century and the artist is known. When we got back to Beaune, Cristina and I went to the supermarket and got some DC's, cheese, and a loaf of bread. Presto, the poor man's meal! And, yet, delicious! Tonight we are: 1) Working on our journals, and 2) Watching last night's season premiere of The Office. Yay!!!!!
-Things I've been craving to watch this week: French Kiss. Year of the Comet.