admin August 16th, 2012
Maggie Harris is AHA’s research guru, and though much of her work is done staring at a computer screen, gathering information is not enough for AHA. In this series, Maggie puts her feet on the cobblestones and explores a great AHA destination, Paris. Assignment: To make her way to Musee Marmottan Monet, explore the gallery, and find a special place for AHA guests to lunch. To take copious notes to enrich and improve our travel itineraries for AHA guests! Mission accomplished.
I feel really blessed and humbled to be able to apply some of the experience from my travel adventures to the mission and vision of Art History Alive!It is a joy to use travel success )and travel disappointments) to help positively inform the AHA experience. So when Art History Alive asked that I take some time out of my work in Paris to scope some finds for them, what was my response? Oh, fine, twist my arm!
My personal challenge, on this particular day, was to truly explore, to simply take a journey. To have one destination, but to allow
myself to meander my way there and be open to detours along the way. To revisit some favorites and find some new joys as well. To figure it out without my cellphone GPS or scouring the travel books or restaurant reviews in advance. This kind of journey – slower, more aware, unrushed – is just the kind of travel that AHA boasts and often creates the most intense joy and offers the most amazing finds. This was just such a day.
It was not just a day in Paris, it was a gloriously gorgeous day, the kind of day that every person who dreams of going to Paris envisions. It was, afterall, April in Paris.
Lucky me to be in this city and have only one goal in mind ? to visit the Mus?e Marmottan Monet. Somehow, on my visits to Paris, I had not yet managed to explore this gem of a museum. It boasts the largest collection of Monets in the world, as well as numerous works by other artists such as Degas, Sisley, Pisarro, Renoir, and more. I was eager to see some of Monet?s less famous pieces and particularly excited about exploring a part of Paris that I was not very familiar with.
Ready for my day, I left my lovely hotel in the 6th arr. and set off for the metro station. Craving a caf? cr?me (just as it sounds, coffee with warm cream), I stopped at a storefront that had a serving window on the sidewalk. The pan au chocolat (chocolate croissants, essentially) was calling my name, so in celebration of being in France ? and knowing I would walk it off in no time ? I caved (for just 3 Euros! Take that, Starbucks!) I made a spur of the moment decision to detour up the road to the Jardin du Luxembourg so I could sit and enjoy my morning snack. I have noticed that in France one rarely sees people eating ?on the run? as one does in the States. People aren?t scarfing sandwiches on the metro or gulping coffee as they juggle a briefcase and hail a cab. Any food experience is to be enjoyed. Savored. So off I went to savor!
Once inside The Luxembourg Gardens, in all its leafy, lovely serenity, I love thinking about how Victor Hugo featured the park so heavily in ?Les Miserables?, Hemingway strolling through it, and reading current literature that mentions it. Should I try to grab a green chair around the large fountain area in the bright sunshine, surrounded by tulips and pansies? Should I sit on a bench along one of the shaded paths and watch the joggers and tennis players as they seized the morning in their own way? I opted for my favorite spot of all, right in front of the Medici fountain. It is romantic and mystical to me with great trees filtering lovely green dappled light while their leaves whisper overhead. Today the fountain had actually been drained, but it had no less charm than when it is full of water. I settled into a green lawn chair to enjoy my coffee, croissant, and a little bit of the novel I was reading. Two older Frenchmen played chess to my left. To my right, a quintessential French couple cuddled together on one chair (at 9am!).
After a good 25 minutes of serenity, caffeine, and chocolate, I left the gardens and headed to the metro. I was excited to get to the 16th arr. to explore and witness some great art!