Tag Archives: France

Planning for Paris

In my opinion, the best way to stick to a New Year’s resolution is to commit on New Year’s Eve, whether that’s signing up for a marathon, or perhaps purchasing airfare to that bucket-list locale you’ve been dreaming of. In this case, Paris. This Spring, the husband and I will be jetting off to Paris for the first time. With one-week to explore the City of Light, we’ll be focusing our travels within the city, or nearby. While the husband researches airbnb’s and can’t-miss restaurants, this art historian is making sure our travel itinerary is well stocked with museums, and sights featured in favorite impressionist oeuvres.

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Though I’d love to see every museum Paris has to offer, I plan on saving plenty of time for simply enjoying the city. Paris Museum Pass to the rescue. Available as 2, 4 or 6 day Passes, the Museum Pass gains your access to 60 museum & monuments, let’s you skip the lines, and does away with the guilt of only popping in a museum for a moment, without seeing everything.

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Just west of the historic core, Musée d’Orsay features the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist (this gal’s favorite period) masterpieces in the world, from Monet to Cézanne.

2A short stroll from Musée d’Orsay, and through Tuileries Garden, the Orangerie is home to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. The eight immersive compositions occupy two consecutive rooms, flooded with natural light, per Monet’s own recommendation.

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I relish the chance to see artists’ creative spaces. Enter Musée Rodin. I am equally excited to see the mansion where Rodin lived and worked, as I am to search the gardens for the sculptor’s renowned works, such as The Thinker.

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According to the all-knowing Rick StevesMusée Marmottan holds the largest collection of Monet’s work, in an “intimate, and untouristy” setting.

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With an immense collection, from ancient works through mid-19th century, the Louvre is quick to overwhelm. The museum’s greek statuary collection, like the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace are at the top of my list, and perhaps a quick peek at the Medieval and Renaissance works, from Giotto to Raphael (basically a real-life stroll through an Art History 102 textbook). On the other hand, I DO NOT plan to waste time battling the crowds for a glance at the Mona Lisa.

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Not only is Palais Garnier the subject of one of my favorite works, Raoul Dufy’s The Opera, Paris, but it is also beautiful in its own right, most notably the auditorium, the house curtain created by theatrical painters Auguste Rube (1817-1899) and Philippe Chaperon (1823-1906), and the ceiling painted by Marc Chagall.

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A marvel of 13th-century gothic architecture, Sainte-Chapelle features stunning displays of stained-glass. A short walk along the Seine River brings you to Notre-Dame, for a look at the church’s facade, or perhaps a climb up the tower.

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Though usually deemed a ‘tourist trap,’ you can’t deny the beautiful views and bohemian charm of Montmartre. Though we’ll probably skip the high priced crepes & Moulin Rouge scene, I look forward to a hike to Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and to get lost along Montmartre’s cobbled and historic streets, from Place du Tertre lined with artists, to Bateau Lavoire at #13 Place Emile-Goudeau, Picasso’s studio, & at times, home to other prominent figures of the Belle Époque, like Braque & Modigliani.

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Just an hour outside of Paris lies Giverny, the site of Claude Monet’s home and gardens, and the subject of many of the impressionist’s works. Giverny is a mandatory day trip in my opinion, and has been on my ‘Life List’ as long as I can remember.

If time allows, there are plenty of other museums that we may squeeze into the itinerary: Centre PompidouArmy Museum & Napoleon’s TombMusée de ClunyMusée PicassoMusée Carnavalet.

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Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence

A definite must on the ‘visit during my lifetime list.’

Nearing the end of his life, Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse began his first architectural and religious commission, a small chapel in Vence, a commune between Nice and Antibes in southeastern France. Matisse began his design for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, or the Chapel of the Rosary, in 1947, completing the chapel in 1951 at eighty-two years old.[1] Matisse viewed the Vence Chapel as his masterpiece, stating in his published statement “La Chapelle du Rosaire”: “This chapel is for me the ultimate goal of a whole life of work and the culmination of an enormous effort, sincere and difficult. This is not a work that I chose but rather a work for which I have been chosen by fate towards the end of the course that I am still pursuing.”[2] Henri Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence received worldwide attention, causing considerable controversy in the Church during its construction, but ultimately captivating the aesthetic and religious admiration of countless visitors, including many members of the clergy. Though not a religious man, Matisse’s use of simplistic form and saturated color, as well as years of study in Dominican tradition and history, culminated in the construction of an unconventional yet immensely spiritual space. Criticized for its unconventional design by the Church, its crude murals by the public, and its overly simplistic and personal design by Modern artists—Matisse’s masterpiece truly challenged the traditions and comforts of post-war France and America, reflected in the heated controversy centered around the modest Chapel. Matisse’s seemingly rudimentary murals and simplistic architecture is the product of immense work and effort by the artist, creating a Chapel whose simplicity leaves room for the beliefs of its visitors and spiritual contemplation by the nuns of Vence.


[1] Gabrielle Langdon, ‘“A Spiritual Space”: Matisse’s Chapel of the Dominicans at Vence,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 51 (1988), 542.

[2] Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1951), 288.

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