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17 July, 2014

Day 14: Van Gogh, Skeletons, and More!

We woke up late today. I would venture a guess that it has something to do with the 750mL of Chateauneuf-du-Pape that we consumed the night before. 

We had leftover bread and cheese (cantal) from the previous day, and this is what we ate to start the day. Then we headed back to cafe around the corner and had our grand cappuccinos and some pastry. The plan for the day was a fairly ambitious one. Thinking about my attitude toward travel now (18 months later), I believe we violated one of my new "codes," that being "Don't try to do two major things on the same day." But that we did, as I shall tell you.

Plan #1 on the agenda was the Museum of Natural History. This was one of the main highlights of the trip that Allie wanted to see, and I was enthusiastic about it as well. The reason that we wanted to go here is because they have a lot of skeletons from various species. To say that, without having been there, it sounds interesting enough. But when you actually arrive, and realize the insanely comprehensive collection of comparative anatomy, it is mind-blowing. 

We walked there via the Seine river. I do not remember much of the walk there, other than that it was already getting hot before we even arrived. This museum is located in complex that has many buildings, each housing different museums. We walked around the area a bit, before entering the museum. We saw a horticulture museum that could maybe have been interesting as well, but decided that we needed to stay focused, and that there were plenty of plants in Seattle, such that looking at plants inside a building in Paris was not necessary (Il n'est pas necessaire).

We entered the museum, and it was a building of much old wood, and many windows. And it was hot. It was hot inside, because it was hot outside, and the sun was beaming in through the windows, unabated, and there was no air conditioning. But there was no way around it. Too much to see. Too interesting to miss. There were skeletons of every imaginable animal, and more of animals you'd not yet imagined. The specimen cards, written in French, looked like they were many decades (or a century?) old. For many animals, there was only a single skeleton. But some of the "important" ones had multiple specimens at different ages, in different poses. Allie was taking hundreds of photos. I was trying to Google the names of all the skeletons to figure out what species it was in non-Latin terms. Honey Badger. We would not have known that it was a honey badger if I had not Googled Mellivora capensis. This is why I am needed. For the subtle context.

After looking at literally every specimen on the main floor, which included preserved icky things in formaldehyde, we took a peek at the prehistoric exhibit on the second floor. But it paled in comparison to the comparative anatomy. And, if I recall correctly, my low back hurt so badly from the standing, that I thought I was going to die. My back pain is fairly random. Sometimes I am fine. Sometimes it hurts. Standing tends to be worse than walking or sitting. That is not interesting to you. So I will move forward.

After probably 2-3 hours at the museum, we departed, and wandered around the gardens in front a little bit. They are nice gardens with many flowers.

Here's where we set ourselves up for being overwhelmed (though, somehow, we were not). Next stop was Musee d'Orsay. This is the museum of Impressionist art. My favorite museum in Paris, and probably one of the most famous museums in the world (according to Wikipedia it is the 11th most visited in the world, and according to Reuters, it's the 5th most important art museum). The reason I love this museum so much, and it's the second time I have been there, is the art of Vincent van Gogh. Though I like most of the Impressionist art, and am a pretty big fan of pointilism too. I guess it's just such a pleasant diversion from seeing thousands of pieces of dull religious art. 

It was a pretty long walk to the next stop. According to Google Maps, it's about 2 miles. And we realized on the way there that we were starving, and there was no way we would make it through another museum. If I recall correctly, and it's coming back to me now, our moods were both eroding because of the heat, fatigue from first museum, and hunger. I think we weren't even really sure where we were going, because (also, if I recall correctly) GPS location is really poor on mobile devices when you're in another country. At least with AT&T that's the case. I assume that it may be cellular data only, not GPS, so it's less accurate, and probably lower-priority data when you're on a borrowed network. Long story short, we stopped at a grocery store and stopped the emotional bleeding, buying some bread, fruit, cheese, and yogurt. We found a place to sit in the shade on a bench near Notre Dame and we ate. The mood slowly returned to normal. 

So we went to Orsay. And there's not much I could say that hasn't been said before, so I won't belabor this part. But just standing in front of a painting and knowing who did it, when it was from, and thinking about the importance of it, and being right there in front of it... it's no small thing.

After that, we went back toward our apartment, and had a pretty good dinner at an Italian restaurant that was on our street, called Positano. On Rue Guisarde. One of us had bolognese. The other had Cream Tomato Penne. I don't remember which was which. That's not French food, but it's close enough to Italy that it was good Italian.

After dinner we vegetated, because that seems like the only sensible thing to do after all that standing and walking. Then we did yoga together. That was the one and only time, if I am not mistaken, that we have done yoga together. I don't remember why she wanted to do it with me that day. And I also don't remember why I was so dead-set on doing it, because it certainly sounds like we'd had enough activity for one day. And I remember that I wanted to finish the yoga because we couldn't start having wine until after the yoga. But we couldn't do the yoga until after the dinner had been sufficiently digested.

That all seems like silliness now. And if I had it to do over, perhaps I would have drank wine with dinner, skipped the yoga, and drank more wine after dinner.

Hindsight is 20/20.

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