Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Rodin, Renoir, Gustav and turning 30

I could go one of two ways with this entry, I could continue on my whimsical tour guide Barbie posts, or I could talk about what it was like to turn 30 on top of the Eiffel Tower surrounded by lights. The short answer is that it was an emotional day for me, partly hormonal, but absolutely impacted by the feeling of actually being between dream and reality. I had always dreamed of Paris, of being there, of belonging there. I did not expect the instantaneous accord that I felt with the place, even though I had always suspected. I knew, from the first day that we were there, that I had always meant to be there. And that if I could do things over, that I may not have waited for that perfect, exhilirating moment, watching the full moon over Montmartre and the proposals all around me. Part of me wanted to be alone, and part of me wanted something more. Something else. I cried all the way through my birthday lunch, not sobbing or making a scene, but just tears continuing to fall even though I was trying hard not to.

I woke on the morning of my 30th birthday, to find that for the first time, I had slept in. After breakfast at home, we made the short walk to the Musee d'Orsay, where I had saved my favourite art gallery especially, wanting to see Renoir and the Impressionists and Courbet's Origine du Monde. I had, in my usual, irrepressible anticipatory way built it up to be something extra special for my birthday. I had known, even though I had hoped otherwise, that Bingley had not planned anything, nor marked the day especially, and I wanted something that I would recall with beautiful clarity about turning 30. So you can perhaps imagine how deflated I felt, as we stood in line, to read the signs advising reduced entry because of renovations for the Impressionist exhibit. It completely winded me, in a way that was disproportionate to reality, because the museum still held beautiful artworks and sculptures that I got to see, including an unanticipated display of Pre-Raphaelite works by some of my favourite artists of all time. But I felt miserable. I had wanted to see Renoir, knowing that it would likely be years before I got to come back if at all. Even original Millais paintings could not quite bring me out of my funk.

Bingley is a wonderful man, and I love him dearly, but birthdays are not things he does well. He often buys me expensive or beautiful things (you will see evidence of that later), but I am not someone who finds value in dollar amounts so much as thought. He did not see the tragedy in my having missed the one thing I had really planned for myself for my birthday, and talked instead about how I was in Paris, and wasn't that the best gift of all? I know he meant well, but I was upset as well because yes, I was in Paris, because I planned it. I booked the trip, I researched every part of it. I worked damned hard to save up every dollar that went into the trip. So when, in the middle of the street he asked where we were going next, and then became irritable when I asked him where we were going I burst into tears. I just had hoped, irrationally, that he was holding out, that just once he had planned something, some little thought somewhere other than "just going along with what you want". But no.

So after lunch, and a while in our apartment to calm down and stop crying and fix my make up, I went with my back up plan, that I'd hoped I wouldn't have to use. We walked to the Musee Rodin, to see the mansion where Rodin's studio had been, and the gardens that held his most famous bronze works. I was far more subdued on this day, the morning having dulled my usual exuberance. As we queued in the sunshine, I listened to the many languages babbling around me, and retreated into my own private bubble, waiting to be admitted to the mansion.

I am not sure what I expected, or if I had expected anything, but the museum was lovely. Cluttered and slightly haphazard and yet elegant and beautiful. Sensuous sculptures in glittering marble, busts of famous artists and personnages, sketches and details. My favourite room of all was one that showcased Rodin's affinity and obsession with hands. Understanding this passion, I was mesmerised by the light coming in from the full windows as it fell on the fingers - intertwined or barely touching. Feeling my heart squeeze at the sculpture of lovers hands - the smooth planes of masculinity and feminity in perfect marble. The light was falling between the two and it seemed to glow. As if the resonance of the feeling between the two was so strong that it could create light itself.

I wandered later, through the sculpture gallery outside in a kind of half daze, my mind stuck on the beauty of marble and the way that a single man could capture something so wonderful within its depths. I was brought out of my deep introspection only by the stunning display of scented Rodin pink roses that lined the gardens and courtyards. Finding myself under the brooding thinker, as he surveyed hell below him.

Afterwards we quietly wandered back to our apartment, and I felt full, satiated. We ate at our little table and chairs, and I collated my bits and pieces, carefully stowing ticket stubs and metro tickets to keep because I'm built that way. I had also planned, for later that evening for us to take a lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and had pre-booked tickets. They were later than I"d hoped, and later than we'd previously really stayed up since we'd arrived in Paris, so I was worried that we would be too tired to appreciate them fully. It was very cold when we left the apartment to catch the train to the tower, and I shivered as I bought chocolate from a vending machine as a birthday dessert.

However from the second we surfaced from the underground station, we were completely enveloped in the carnival atmosphere surrounding the tower. There were vendors hustling their jingling souvenirs, but never pushy. There were crowds of people, young and old, excited and animated as they stood under the magnificent lighting that showed off the tower to her best advantage yet. We were standing directly under her, when it struck the hour, and the racing lights effervescing up and down were truly spectacular. Yes, it was the most touristy thing that we'd done since we'd arrived, but it was possibly also my favourite. There was music, joyful noise, and just a pervasive sense of gladness. Everyone thrilled to be there, a carnival of joy. I snapped photos from all angles, trying to capture just how amazing it looked and how I felt. All of my self indulgent and selfish sadness evaporated as I instead lined up in our express queue and gazed up at the top.

It was squishy and crowded, and full of romance in amongst the simple elegance of riveted steel. It took at least an hour of queuing in the freezing cold to get to the very top, but every second was worth it. Not just for the view, though that was incredible. Nor the overpriced champagne that fizzed and popped in my glass in perfect synchronicity with the effervescent lights. Nor the full moon, rising above Montmartre and bathing the city with heavenly light. It was something more than that, something so perfect that transcended anything that I can write about and translated simply into my eyes smiling, properly, until the irises were almost pure gold. 


Penelope said...

Wow. I'm loving your posts on Paris. It's my favourite place in the whole entire world!

Your photos are just gorgeous and how amazing to have celebrated your 30th there. Very jealous indeed!!


hissychick said...

I have been slowly savouring all of your posts from the place I want to go to so much I can barely exhale at the end of each exquisite line.

Thank you.

(And the way you describe the emotions of thirty brought it all flooding back. So glad you got to live it in Paris)

Dolly B said...

I was hoping we would be in Paris for my 50th Yikes! but unfortunately we werent. I spent my 50th on the Rhine River and I sobbed from the moment I woke up. I dont know what it was but I was very emotional. I was thinking about my Dad a lot who had recently passed and maybe not being with my kids and grandchildren. I kept saying to my bestfriend "I am Happy" but I just couldnt stop crying. I found myself emotional a lot during the 9 week Europe trip.I loved every minute of it though and I LOVE Paris. Your pics are fabulous and I am enjoying reading about your travels

Pundelina said...

Beautiful post, beautiful pictures. What a glorious trip :) and a very memorable way to mark the evening of your birth.

Blythe said...

Stunning. Both the post and the photos. Just stunning. xx

Melissa said...

You have three of my favourite sculptures of all time there. I get a little breathless at the *thought* of actually seeing them in person. I want to pepper you with questions, see if we'd feel the same way.

Like standing in the presence of genius, of history, of beauty and love personified.

That second picture of the hands makes my heart race. The kiss..my favourite work of art of all time. Ever.

I'd have been devestated to miss the Renoir as well. I can't imagine setting foot in France and not seeing Renoir. So I can imagine how you were feeling. I've a beautiful, adorable, generous husband too. But like Bingley, I don't know that he'd have 'gotten' it. At all. Gotten the way my soul would feel surrounded by that art. How gutted it would be to stand so close to something I've wanted to see my entire life, yet be denied.

I have to say. The Tower. Has never really held that much appeal for me. It wasn't until your FB series that I found myself just kind of emotional, suddenly dreaming of being there. I'd always thought it too 'touristy', too cheesy. But your description in this post backs up the way I felt in your photos. Joie de Vivre.

Jenn said...

Thanks, lovelies. There are still posts to come, but I'm back at work and so, unfortunately they will be delayed sometimes.

Ellie said...

Your posts are making me maudlin.

I have been to Paris but was too young to appreciate it like you have done.

Congratulations on achieving your life long dream.


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