After checking out of the Hotel Rue St-Andé des-Arts, we made our way to the south bank of the River Seine again. Here are some photos of the quaint hotel lobby, with posts, beams and cross-timbers from the 1400’s, when the building was completed in the Middle Ages:
What we had in mind was to check out a charming and world-famous, and long-standing (19th century) Parisian art-supply store. We had in mind to check out the art-supply store, Magasin Sennelier, because our daughter, V., and her boyfriend, M. established an art-supply store in New Jersey in 2016. M’s father, E., told us about stumbling across Magasin Sennelier during his last trip to Paris, in 2015. He found it because it is situated on Quai Voltaire, directly across the River Seine from the Louvre Museum – so not at all hard to miss!
Sennelier had everything one could hope for, an inspiration to bring home to V. and M! For myself, I bought an accordian-style two-sided archival-quality watercolor sketchbook, a traveling watercolor set and some colored pencils for making watercolor and colored pencil sketches of our travels through Europe.
From Sennelier we crossed the Seine to visit Monet’s water lilies, this time in-person, as installed in 1926 just after Claude Monet’s death, in the fantastic Musée de l’Orangerie. I was giddy with anticipation – getting to see the 8 water lily panels in their intended installation! The museum building was actually adapted to house the water lily panels from an earlier orange conservatory, located in the southwest corner of the Jardin des Tuileries, which was designed in its current state in 1664, as a formal French garden.
Each of the two water lily rooms houses 4 distinct panels, painted over a period of 10 years in all by Claude Monet. The 8 panels represent different times of day or seasons, played out on the surface of Monet’s self-designed Japanese water lily ponds at his home and gardens in the village of Giverny, in Normandy to the northwest of Paris. Each panel on the longer side of the elliptical room is around 40 feet long by 8 feet high, while the two panels on the shorter sides of the elliptical room is around 20 feet long by 8 feet high. I stared at each of the panels for the longest time – looking at how Monet portrayed the light on the water, the flowers in the water, the willow fronds hanging over the water, the shadows and so on!
Below the elliptical rooms housing Monet’s water lily panels, in the subterranean level, there were even more impressionist paintings to drool over, along with a special exhibition: “The adventure of the Blue Rider,” featuring the work of two fabulous German artists yet unknown to me; Franz Marc and August Macke, both of whom perished in World War I at a very young age. Who knows what they would have gone on to do had they survived – they were both already so prolific for artists so young! Their friendship was forged over a love of French art, and they both traveled to Paris to learn from and observe French and other nationality artists at work in the French capital, in the heady days of early 1900’s “Bohemian” Paris. Marc and Macke’s work remind me of the early 20th-century Canadian artist from Victoria, B.C., Emily Carr, who painted scenes from the intense nature around Vancouver Island and around British Columbia – such vibrant trees, animals and nature scenes in unusually vibrant colors.
What follows are some of the other paintings by French impressionists we found on the subterranean level of the Musée de l’Orangerie:
After the Musée de l’Orangerie we found a cart selling salads and sandwiches on the Jardin des Tuileries. We found a nice spot to sit in the warm sun and once I unpacked my lunch from the bag we had the now famous “crow incident!” We were eating our lunch on a low wall and I had my salad dressing, in a small sealed plastic rub, beside me – which a crow proceeded to steal from me! He was smart enough to puncture the plastic seal with his beak, turn it upside down onto the grass and then enjoy a “dressed” salad of grass with my very salad dressing!
We wandered past the Louvre Museum and saw an interesting photo of the Chinese-American architect, I.M. Pei enjoying the construction of his glass pyramid in the Louvre courtyard in 1986. What an undertaking that construction project was!:
We took Bus #63 along the Seine through the area between the Notré Dame and the former site of the famous Bastille prison to another one of the main terminal train stations in the southeast of Paris, serving Lyon to the south of Paris – the massive Gare de Lyon, which is the 3rd-busiest rail station in France with over 900,000 passengers per year. We waited for a while for our night-train to Venice in one of the upper-level restaurants with a great view of the teeming crowd below. When it came time to finally find our Venice-bound night train, it was our first time reading a European sign board – so a tiny bit confusing at first to find the right track and the proper time – but we soon grew to love and rely on them constantly throughout our European adventure.
We each had a male or female “first class” 3-person bunk cabin. Luckily, I got there first, so I claimed the more comfortable bottom bunk. I talked some with a young Russian student, but there were definitely some things that were “lost in translation.” There was also a newlywed American man, who had to sleep separately in our male-only cabin from his new bride.
I fell asleep pretty quickly thanks to the gentle rocking of the train and the beer I had had with dinner. When the rocking stopped though, around 3 a.m., I woke up. Apparently the train or tracks had an issue with the electrical system so we sat on the tracks, going nowhere, for two hours. This was a blessing in disguise though, because rather than sleeping through the Swiss Alps, I was awake for the dawning day, greeted by looming snow-capped peaks, as our train finally got moving again:
Due to the train’s delay, our thellō train was no longer able to carry us all the way directly into Venice’s train station. Instead, we had to get off the train to transfer in Milan, Italy, in the bustling central station.
We sleepily waited on the newly-arriving thellö high-speed train, so that we could finish our journey into Venice. We arrived at Venice’s Santa Lucia station at around 10 a.m. on the morning of April 14th. We had read that the best, cheapest and fasted way to get somewhere in Venice on the Canalé Grandé was by “vaporetto” (water bus).
We purchased our tickets from an automated machine on the vaporetto dock, and rode the water bus as far as the “San Toro” vaporetto station about midway through the Grand Canal, rounding the curve near the huge Marceto di Rialto, then passing under the imposing span of the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge): “(The) single span design by Antonio da Ponte, (a) Swiss-born Venetian architect and engineer, was approved and construction began in 1588. (Construction) lasted until 1591. The bridge that stands today still, was designed like the (wooden) bridge from 1255- it has two inclined ramps with stairs that lead to a central portico; has shops on both sides and three walkways. (The) single span allows for easy passing of ships.”
From the “San Toro” vaporetto station on the Canalé Grandé, we followed Google Maps on my iPhone through the seemingly haphazardly-arranged streets, pedestrian footpaths and small canals of the “San Polo” section of Venice, to eventually find our Airbnb accommodation in the Ca’ Badoer deiBarbacani‘s “West Studio Apartment”, inside a true venetian “Palazzetto,” dating from the 14th century, just on the other side of the imposing 14th-century “Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari” church from the Rio San Toma. I was anticipating something stunning from the pictures when we made our reservations on Airbnb – and we were delighted with it on the spot! I called our host on my phone and within minutes we were being warmly welcomed and led through an imposing solid-wooden door into a dark interior courtyard by our hostess, Maria.
The palazzetto had been in Maria’s family since her grandmother’s time. It took a moment for our eyes to adjust to the darkness of the interior courtyard space. Maria then let us into the tiny 2-person lift to the fourth floor, while she took the stairs up. It was simply glorious: Ceilings of at least 12 or 13 feet with original wooden beams and real plaster infill. The art on the walls and decorating the tables was tasteful, as were the beautiful pieces of real Murano glass scattered throughout the apartment. Baby blue was the color that tied all the furniture together, including a wonderful king-size bed, sofa and dining table in the large main room.
A very modern kitchen and modern bathroom complete with a front-loading washer/dryer completed the apartment. We thanked our hostess Maria, who told us a lot about Venice and the surrounding neighborhoods. She even recommended a wonderful panini sandwich cafe nearby, on the tiny Rio San Toma, across from the church. We were hungry, so dove into our delicious panini sandwiches with true Italian gusto!
We watched with great interest the comings and goings of Venetian citizens, both along the foot paths and in the tiny Rio San Toma canal. There were a number of small boats passing through, including a tiny “trash barge;” we watched the boatmen load people’s trash and motor off, with great interest. Venice, in general, is kept absolutely spotless. I would have expected some kind of lingering smell from the still waters, and the supposedly rotting pilings of the many buildings sunk in the great lagoon’s sandy bottom, but there was no such odor.
After our filling lunch, we struck out toward the heart of Venice, “Piazza San Marco,” the only square in Venice large enough to earn the name “piazza.” We crossed over the steep steps of the famously mobbed Ponte de Rialto (Rialto Bridge), which dates from 1591, then past many “designer” showrooms in the most fashionable (and touristy) district of Venice.
The “Piazza San Marco” is one of Europe’s greatest public spaces – or the world’s, for that matter! We hung out for a while but were still a little tired from our lack of sleep on the night train from Paris. While walking through the teaming city, I got a text from M’s mother, D., asking if we had heard that Paris’ great cathedral, Notré Dame de Paris was on fire? I called her up in tears from the steps of the Venice opera house, “Teatro la Fenice.” So unbelievably sad and tragic – and to think, we had just walked through her magnificent interior spaces only three days prior!
From the Venice opera we made our way back to our little Airbnb neighborhood and settled on a nice-looking authentic Italian Enoteca (upscale wine-focused restaurant) for dinner – you could tell it was authentic by how many “locals” were eating their dinner there. I had squid-ink pasta – a true Venetian delicacy!