On Monday we drove 550 km to Paris, the landscapes of France change quite a lot more than I thought they would.  Lots of areas with wheat fields for miles and not a grape vine or olive tree in sight.  Bill is doing such an amazing job driving us everywhere, he was a bit nervous about driving into central Paris to return the car, all went well though (3000 km without a ding! – Ed.).  We had a few hours before we could meet our home exchange partner and so we decided to WALK, ended up walking almost 6 km dragging our luggage in 30 deg heat, totally wore ourselves out.  We learned to use the Metro after that (super easy) and have been zig-zagging all over Paris.

The first museum we visited on Tuesday was Musee d’Orsay where I saw Degas’ “Blue Dancers”, the exact painting that I copied after reading how people used to learn to paint by copying the masters. It was amazing to see every brush stroke and little line, and the colours were so much better than my book.  That evening we were invited to have a picnic with our Paris friends Line and Romain who we met in Arrowtown a couple of years ago.  We got to see their apartment and they took us to a lovely park and we had a 4 course  French picnic.

The next day we used our open top bus passes to look around and get the city overview but found the tourist route way too crowded and it was about 39 degrees. On the list next was Maison Européenne de la Photographie. There were two very interesting exhibits: portraits by many famous photographers of Charlotte Rampling through her career.  It was really interesting seeing so many views of the same person by different photographers.  The next exhibit was of work by Alice Springs – her real name was June Newton, wife of the famous photographer Helmut Newton.  One day he was ill, he set up some camera gear for her to do an assignment for a cigarette company that he was supposed to do, and that launched a career of her own.  She used a pseudonym so she wouldn’t instantly be recognised as Helmut’s wife. In the evening we met Aurelie ( home exchange partner) and went out for a lovely French dinner.  She is excited about coming to New Zealand in October.

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Musee Rodin  – loved, loved it. For the last 9 years of his life he lived in a hotel with beautiful gardens all around it, now the whole place is a gallery of all his work.  Most of his best known sculptures are spread through the house and surrounding garden, very peaceful and inspirational.

Today was another big day , this morning at the Grand Palais we saw a Helmut Newton exhibition (he is a famous fashion/nude photographer).  Part of the exhibit was a film made from behind the scenes footage his wife shot over the years, excellent to really see how he worked. Next up (after lunch) was a Mogidiliani exihibition at La Pinacothèque de Paris, which had alot of his portraits but no nudes which disappointed me, so we went to the Musée National d’Art Moderne to follow up on that discrepancy and weren’t rewarded with a Mogdiliani  but saw the Marc Chagall painting of the bride and bridegroom at the Eiffel Tower and lots of Picasso and Kandinsky and Brague.  Not to mention Warhol, Salvador Dali, Miro and countless others.  It’s a really impressive collection, without the shoulder to shoulder crowds of  tourists in the headline galleries.

We really enjoy the little fruit / bakery / fish & meat shops that you are never far from. There is a little roasted meat shop around the corner which makes me think of my boys, chicken legs, and wings, as well as whole chickens, ribs, about 5 different kinds of sausages etc. We have a little meat snack and then we can wait until 8:30 or 9 to eat like a proper Parisienne.

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