Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel, and see some of the world’s most beautiful artworks. These are my favourites:

Sculptures by Michelangelo

Day 8 - Piazza della Signoria

A replica of David. You can’t photograph the original at the Galleria Accademia, so this one at Piazza della Signoria has to do for the picture


Day 2 - Vaticano

The Pietà. One of Michelangelo’s earliest works, at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.



Paintings by Van Gogh:


Starry Night over the Rhone. It normally hangs at the Musée d’Orsay where you can’t take pictures, but I was allowed to, when it was displayed at the Singapore Art Museum for an exhibition. Van Gogh painted it under a gas lamp directly at the site. The colours are so vibrant, the photo doesn’t do any justice to the original.



Cafe Terrace at Night, with some sneaky add-ons. The painting itself, was a forerunner for the Starry Nights, Van Gogh’s style of painting the night sky without black.



Structures by Gustave Eiffel

Eiffel Tower

The French protested when the Eiffel Tower was first constructed, but now it is often depicted as the ‘A’ in PARIS. Whether in daylight, or sparkling at night, or getting to the summit, the Eiffel Tower is my #1 clichéd, symbolic, fun site to see.



But then, a painting on the wall is worth 25 in the museum, right?


At home  masterpiece

This last year, both Baba & I have been inspired by the underwater world. And when the opportunity presented itself on his last visit, I commissioned, and Baba obliged.

That Trip… Quatorzième Jour: Midnight in Paris

On our last day in Paris, I wanted to shop. We started with Rue Montorgueil, which was interesting enough, with its cafés and food supply shops. Onward to Galleries Lafayette, with a detour to l’Opera first. Very very grand everything, from the grand staircase to the halls, and the main auditorium. Elaborate details everywhere you looked – the chandeliers, the set designs, the floor, the clock. Beautiful Chagall on the ceiling. Morning well spent.








Galleries Lafayette was my worst nightmare come true. Because of the sales in all shops, there is a flood of people, and Galleries Lafayette was full of Asians looking for bargains on their favourite brands. We hadn’t even venture into the Louis Vuitton store because of the long queue there! We ran out in record time, had a big lunch of soup/ sandwich/ burger, and headed off to look for Berthillon ice cream on Île de la Cité. Had our scoops, and started to walk home, zigzagging through every connecting street between Rue de Temple and Rue des Archives.

Completely dissatisfied with the (non) shopping, I searched for the Merci shop, one of the last items on the recommendations list, and finally found the spot. This concept store had some fun, quirky stuff that I was so happy to buy.

We had a little rest after that, and post dinner of à emporter neighbourhood pizza, we set out with the camera and tripod for some night photography of our favourite tower.

All the way to Trocadéro just before 11 pm in time to set up the camera and get some shots of the sparkling Eiffel Tower:





Our final stop was at the Louvre, for some pictures if the illuminated pyramids. Not as grand as the Eiffel Tower, but a quiet dignity nevertheless.




And just as we were being shooed out of the Louvre, we had our final glimpse of the sparkling tower. What a way to end an exciting holiday!

That Trip… Treizième Jour: Two Towers

This day was like a grand finale to our holiday. We’d already got lucky with the Eiffel Tower; our tickets were for Thursday, not Wednesday, and after a 2-day strike the tower opened and visitors were allowed up.

First we made a superhuman effort to get out of home by 9 to queue up for the Notre Dame climb. Thankfully the queue was not too long yet, but it was a little wet and miserable morning, only made bearable by a fresh hot Nutella crepe. The Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t much different from other cathedrals we’ve seen, but it is the exterior that is the big draw. I have always thought the structure ugly. The tower is tall, around 350+ steps, but the climb is punctuated either for buying tickets, or for viewing levels, so it’s not as strenuous as the Arc the Triomphe, all 284 steps in one go.
When you climb the Notre Dame tower, not only do you get treated to fabulous city panoramas, but also come face to face with those ugly, vicious gargoyles that lend the Notre Dame it’s character. And you understand how ugly is beautiful. This morning I changed my opinion of this building, feeling every bit of its grandeur.

Being close enough to home, we walked up to the Marché des Enfants Rouges for a falafel lunch, and took a train to the Eiffel Tower. No surprises here, predictably the crowds are large, there’s a carnival atmosphere, and long queues for everything. While we’d bought our tickets online already, we still had to wait in line for the elevators. And the views from the top – wow! The history of the tower is as colourful as you’d expect – one man’s vision, derided by his peers, threatened to be torn down, how it was saved by aligning it to the future, and now is the symbol of Paris. (There’s a nice little app to read about it on your phone as you wait in those lines.)











Oh lovely tower, how I will miss you!

That Trip…Onzième Jour: A Beautiful Day

The day was to be spent on the islands. But the queue to the tower of Notre Dame was looooong, so we nonchalantly walked right past, shared a Nutella crepe to keep our strength up, and found our way to the Latin quarter instead. That’s the area on the left bank, across the Pont Archevêché, around the Sorbonne University, so named because the Uni students spoke Latin in the old days.
It’s a lovely area, full of young folks, plenty of niche libraries, not so touristy.
We walked to the Pantheon, and were reminded of the one in Rome, only from the outside. This one is a tomb, which holds the remains of the most prominent contributors of the country (except the military who are in Les Invalides), and no politicians, rightfully so. An interesting fact about the Pantheon other than its stated purpose is that Foucault first demonstrated his pendulum experiment suspended from the dome.



It was a lovely warm day, perfect for a picnic. We’d passed through a market earlier on, and went back to pick up some food and wine for the picnic. There was a queue at the Boulanger – it was that good!



Heading off to the Luxembourg Gardens, we found a cool bench and enjoyed our merry meal of hummus, basil tapenade, red peppers stuffed with feta, baguette and wine. Magnifique! And the 20 minute snooze after that was a must-do!!





Then on towards the Musée d’Orsay, via the Institute of France, a big imposing building where they decide what new words to add to the language, and the Seine, with the old bookstalls selling all kinds of knick-knacks.


Getting into the Musée d’Orsay was a breeze with the museum pass (now we’ve recovered the value of that pass). It’s a massive old building that was once a train station, and now has thousands of artworks. Our art preferences are not very developed. We stuck to our favourite Van Gogh and the impressionists. Some of them were old friends – they’d come to Singapore, and Vaishnavi & I had seen the exhibition together. That was nicer because they let you take pictures, unlike at this museum. Of course there were many many more to admire here, in their permanent home, and 2 hours is too less a time to spend, including a quick cup of coffee in their ornately decorated café.

We were at the museum until closing time, and as we stepped out, a few street performers had started their various acts right outside the museum.




Such a clear and sometimes sunny day was just right for a visit to Trocadéro, for (more) Eiffel Tower photography. We got distracted by the Seine river cruise instead, and spent an hour admiring the bridges and monuments along the river.







Back to the Eiffel, time to thaw in the sunshine and finish the remains of the picnic lunch with more bread.

And then it hit us. We have tickets to get to the top of the tower on Wednesday, but the tower staff are on strike. WHAT?!?

That Trip… Neuvième Jour: Twinkle Twinkle Little Tower

Our Sunday was entirely dictated by what would be open – nothing! We had bought tickets for the cruise on the Canal Saint Martin, and what better day than the one when everything else is closed. We walked to the Place de La Bastille, just a little over a km from home.
The Bastille is one of the most famous icons of France, but there’s nothing left of the former prison. The only monument is the colonne de Julliet.

However, among the modern day attractions is the very exciting Sunday Market, but we had no time to stop and stare. Still managed a few photos:





The other sight that made Souvik bemoan missed opportunities was that of people running – not just this race, but all over, Sunday runners.


The only place we were running to was the port at Bastille, the starting point of our cruise. We got there just in time,and were off almost immediately. The canal cruise has no major monuments to view, but its the crossing of the locks that is the point of interest. There is a height difference of 24m from one end of the canal to the other, which is crossed by passing through 8 locks, each one raising the boat by 3m. And a very interesting operation is that. Adding to that, there are a couple of ‘turning bridges’ and one bridge that gets raised to let the boats pass. And the section of the canal is ‘underground’, just for a little more spice to the trip. Wow!







I must mention that Souvik’s favourite sight was of one of the bridges on which a French movie, Amelie, was shot. I guess we’ll be watching that one once we get back home.

The cruise boat dropped us off at Parc de la Villette, and we needed the walk back, having had very little physical activity since the morning. Catching interesting sights along the way was a bonus.





And taking a detour into the Marche des Enfants Rouges for a falafel sandwich was totally worth it. We have to go back there to eat; it’s just 300m from home!



For the first time on this holiday, we were home in the afternoon, and I was able to have that beloved siesta. Souvik went out to run in the evening, and came home drenched. We decided to brave all odds to go up the Tour (tower) Montparnasse for the panoramique night views.

The Montparnasse tower is the ugliest building in the city of Paris, responsible for the ruling that no building higher than 7 floors will be allowed in the city. It has the best view because that’s the only place from where you can’t see the tower! And there we were at 10pm, still in daylight, howling winds and freezing cold.


The sparkling lights on the tower were so pretty that we waited for darkness to watch them again at 11pm. And tried to catch some other prominent structures, all lit up too.




We walked back home in an attempt to thaw, and were treated to a third sparkle at midnight, crossing the Seine. Souvik insists, this trip will be memorable, not so much for the view, as for the bone-chilling experience!

That Trip… Septième Jour: The Longest Day

When in Paris, do give yourself plenty of time to let your feet recover – the BEST way to see the city is in foot. And I’ve just learnt that it’s more difficult for me to walk 10-15 km in a day than it is to cycle 30 or even 60 km. Then again, the grass is always greener on the other side. While in Alsace, we prayed for a respite from the heat. So God granted our wish and we’re experiencing 20 deg lower than last week. That means bundling up in those layers, and hoping for no rain.

Whining done, we’ve actually had a couple of glorious days in Paris. Out on the Rues and the Boulevards, everywhere you look there are historical monuments rubbing shoulders with glamorous brands, that make you leave behind any sort of discomfort you might have started out in. I write this because I’ve been groaning while going to bed, then waking up in the morning with cramps in my feet, real or imagined, then a few minutes on the road, probably after the coffee and croissant, all that is forgotten.

Our first full day in Paris, and we were drawn to the top 5 famous sights of the city. I specifically chose to be here on June 21, the longest day, because of the Fete de Musique, but more about that later. We started from home, and walked past Hotel de Ville, along Rue Rivoli, and were lured in by the Louvre. No tickets to go in, but the grounds were engaging enough, particularly the pyramids.


Walked on further through les Jardin de Tuileries


Then through the Place de la Concorde


Up the Champs Élysées,


Crossing ‘under’ to the Arc de Triomphe


Climbing to the top of the Arc for views of the city


Then walking down Av. George V across Pont d’ Alma, past the Musée du Quai Branly for this view of the Eiffel Tower:


After spending some time in a quiet spot around the Tour Eiffel, we walked back to Place de la Concorde to meet our neighbours from Delhi over a glass of chilled Chablis and a bowl of hot French soupe à l’oignon.


Who’s noticed the difference in meals from our Alsace days? We’ve cut out 3 of those 4 courses, and are happy enough eating just the one. Lunch was a shared Nutella crepe (most popular tourist snack) and hot dog/ sandwich on the go at Champs Élysées.

Then on our way back home from dinner, we ran into the music festival. I’d heard about this festival from a friend, a few years ago, about how musicians perform on the streets, and had been intrigued. All our day long walks yielded no music performances, but at night it all started to get going. Unfortunately, the reality was quite different from my imagination. We came across a few loud, many tuneless rock bands, some techno stuff, only some of it was performed live. One of the low points was hearing Beyonce and Bruno Mars songs, the appeal of which was redeemed, somewhat, by male strippers dancing in the window! The atmosphere was party-like, lots of wine flowing and people getting drunk :-/. Disappointing.




Then a couple of lanes away from home we found what we were looking for. Some honest melodious musique, played from the heart, without amplifiers, fancy lighting or other pointless tricks.