April 13th and 14th, 2019: Taking the night train from Paris through Switzerland to Venice!

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:

Mandy looking at a French newspaper, in the quaint lobby of the Hotel Rue St-Anrdé des-Arts
Ancient beam, posts and cross-timbers in the lobby of the Hotel St-André des-Arts

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!

The storefront of Magasin Sennelier on the Quai Voltaire, across the River Seine from the Louvre Museum – a real find!
The somewhat cramped but extremely well-organized stock of Magasin Sennelier, a well-known old art-supply store in Paris on the Quai Voltaire. Sketchbooks, paints organized by color, portfolios, art papers, pens, brushes, art pencils – you name it – it was all here in great quantity in this large store
Pen-testing tryout paper squares left by the many artists who surely pass through Magasin Sennelier. Works of art in themselves!

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.

Locks of love locked to a bridge over the River Seine, with their keys thrown into the river. A Paris tradition we witnessed on many bridges in town
A plan of the Musée de l’Orangerie, showing the two specially-designed elliptical, naturally skylit, rooms intended for Claude Monet’s 8 water lily panels – installed in 1926
The impressionist artist Claude Monet, at work on the world-famous 8-panel water lily panels, starting in 1916
A scale “maquette” (scale architectural model) of the Musée de l’Orangerie‘s ground-floor naturally skylit elliptical rooms, specially designed to house Claude Monet’s famous 8-panel water lily series.
The thin fabric screen ceiling of one of the two elliptical rooms, with light-catching walls above and the actual translucent glass at the roof above

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!

An extreme close-up of one of the water lily panels. Note the confident brushstrokes – true impressionism!
Such an abundance of imagery on in each strikingly-different panel
A view through a short corridor connecting the first elliptical room with the other
Me in front of a “pond at dawn”-themed water lily panel

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.

Almanach du Blaue Reiter (The Dream of the Blue Rider), by Vassily Kandinsky, 1911
Torrent de forêt, by August Macke, 1910
Portrait de Franz Marc, by August Macke, 1910
Trois animaux (chien, renard et chat), by Franz Marc, 1912
Chat derrière un arbré, by Franz Marc, 1913

What follows are some of the other paintings by French impressionists we found on the subterranean level of the Musée de l’Orangerie:

Odalisque à la culotte grise, by Henri Matisse, 1927
Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, by Paul Cézanne, 1877

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!

The famously smart “salad crow” puncturing my salad dressing with his sharp beak, and then dumping it on the grass to enjoy a “salad!”
No matter what happened with the crow though, it couldn’t break Rodin’s lovers’ spell in the bronze cast of The Kiss!

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!:

Architect I.M. Pei at the construction of the Louvre Museum’s giant glass pyramid in 1986.
Not quite sure about what he thinks about this new addition to “his” museum!
The giant glass Pyramid under construction in the Louvre Museum courtyard in 1986.
Workers finalizing connection details on the Great Pyramid structure, prior to installation of the hundreds of glass panes

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.

My night train ticket on thellō, a wonderful Italian rail line with connections to other European countries, showing the times for each stop along the way

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:

Pointy snow-covered peaks in the high Swiss Alps, in the early morning light, from our Venice-bound train
A beautiful cascade coming down from the high Swiss Alps, with the stream passing through a small Swiss village

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.

Travelers from around the world, watching the screen for their track to be announced, in the bustling central station in Milan, Italy. Note the sleek red and silver high-speed thellō train on the track to the left – much like the one we then took from Milan to Venice

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.”

Venice video courtesy of veneziaauthentica – please watch!

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 14th-century “Palazzatto,” the Ca’ Badoer deiBarbacani, home to our apartment in Venice, Italy

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.

Our very tasteful Airbnb accommodation in the Ca’ Badoer deiBarbacani “West Studio Apartment”, a true venetian “Palazzetto,” dating from the 14th century. Note the high beamed ceiling

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!

Our first meal in Venice, a delicious panini sandwich. We ate outdoors, facing the tiny but still functional Rio San Toma canal

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.

Reflection of the “Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari” church in the tiny, but still busy Rio San Toma canal

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 famously mobbed Ponte de Rialto (Rialto Bridge), which dates from 1591. Note the many vaporettos passing beneath the arch, as do countless gondolas

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!

Capturing the world’s attention: an Italian newspaper article on the tragic fire at Notré-Dame de-Paris cathedral on the following day. Note the smaller picture of the 19th-century spire burning and collapsing into the body of the cathedral!
Venice’s sprawling “Piazza San Marco.” A truly world-class public space for all! The Basilica San Marco, dating from the year 1094 (predating Paris’ Notré Dame by 100 years!) is in the background, with the Campanile San Marco, dating from 1514 in the foreground. The Campanile collapsed in 1902 from faulty masonry work and was soon rededicated in 1912

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!

Mandy’s artfully-served and signed dinner plate
My squid-ink pasta served on a bed of Italian polenta with arugula salad, paired with a glass of delicious Italian wine from the Tuscany wine-growing region

One Comment

  1. Roy David says:

    What a beautiful trip. I travel to eat, and enjoy food a lot. The squid-ink pasta looks amazing!


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