Rodin, Resistance and Roller Derby

IMG_0901We started our second museum pass day off by heading to the Rodin Museum. Amy seemed to be getting sicker, but she toughed it out. We wandered through the beautiful outdoor gardens dotted with sculptures by the master Auguste Rodin. Some we had seen before (The Thinker) as Rodin created multiple bronze castings of his works. We were in the midst of the city but it felt like we were miles away – it is very peaceful.

Among the sculptures outside is a series of infographics on walls giving the history of the museum and of Rodin. Basically, when he became well known and wealthy, he bought the property, which was a run down convent, and transformed it into his home and studio. Towards the end of his life he worked with the State to bequeath many of his works and the property itself to the people, on the condition that it would be maintained and open as a museum.

IMG_0905That’s all great and everyone benefits from seeing this master’s works. But Nathan says: too bad Rodin was a creeper and cheated on his wife. And Amy encourages Nathan: stop reading about any of these artists’ lives. And Nathan says: I really want to know who I can look up to both for their work and how they lived their lives!

Inside the museum are many more sculptures, maquettes, studies, and more. There is a whole room of beautiful marble sculptures. We particularly like how Rodin leaves much of the sculpture roughly shaped, with the more polished figures emerging from the stone as if they were being born from or discovered inside it.

IMG_0911Next up was Napoleon’s tomb and the Army Museum. Napoleon is an interesting character. We have heard that he specified the construction of his tomb to be such that visitors would have to bow before his remains as they looked over the railing. The building that houses the tomb is very impressive.

Amy was excited to see some of the French history of WWI and WWII, but also of post-colonial France and their involvement in Vietnam. We saw impressive displays, many of which were interactive, documenting the rise of war across first Europe and then much of the rest of the world.

IMG_0924It always had seemed like France had just laid down to Hitler during WWII, but French resistence was all around. Much of it was headquartered in London, by famous leaders like Charles de Gaulle. While Vichy France isn’t celebrated, it perhaps isn’t as villified as it once had been. The Vichy government was a puppet of Hitler that allowed the Nazis free reign in France, but also ended up protecting the lives of many French citizens. They believed their choice to be: 1) fight and be destroyed, or 2) comply and survive.

From a WWII bomber. Anyone see a resemblance to a certain movie?
From a WWII bomber. Anyone see a resemblance to a certain movie?

IMG_3498After the Army Museum we walked over to Rue Cler for lunch at Cafe du Marche, recommended by Rick Steves in his Paris guidebook that we’ve been using a lot. Amy ordered a “salad” (in case we haven’t mentioned it yet, the French have a very loose definition of what constitutes a salad, as you can see by the photo – the top dish is the salad). Nathan ordered duck confit. Both were good, though we prefered the food from the other cafe we had tried on Rue Cler.

We headed back to the apartment shortly after lunch, to rest before roller derby practice. So Amy decided that on this long trip to Paris and Europe that she couldn’t live without her roller derby gear. She contacted a local league, the Paris Roller Girls, and they said she could practice with them. Everything was awesome so far.

IMG_0933In the derby community it is common for a skater to skate with other leagues while she is in their town. Amy wanted to do the same. PRG’s player-coach Cherry Lielie tried to set up a few skates with the PRG (they just finished their season with a double header in Dublin, winning both bouts) but it didn’t work out.

Cherry is also the coach of the Paris men’s roller derby Panam Squad and invited Amy to practice with them. It was amazing. All of the guys and girls were so nice and their English impeccable.

Most leagues practice outside in various open areas. Of course these areas are popular with all sorts of skaters and so once again Amy found herself in the middle of the roller hockey-roller derby showdown for space. The Panam squad even had chaulked the pavement, but the hockey people were having none of it and kicked us to a smaller area with more glass. Yay! In roller derby you have to adjust quickly and so we did, clearing away glass and drawing a new track on the pavement and then getting right to practice. It was hard, but a ton of fun.

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After an hour or so of really tough drills mainly working in the pack and how to block as a pack and in partners, the guys were ready to scrimmage.  I had my very first opportunity to referee.  I was a jammer ref and I was awful.  I do think that all derby girls should try their hand at refereeing to both better learn the rules and see what a difficult job it is to be a ref.  I asked the roller derby girls who were there if anyone ever yelled at the refs.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  Of course they don’t.  All of the refs are their friends and they are just volunteering, so why would you yell at them?  Let’s just say, I’ve felt a bit convicted.  There are many leagues in Paris and so the girls volunteer at the guys’ practice to ref and vice versa.  What a great system!

After practice, we went to a nearby Asian cafe and had wonderful beer and bobun (a delightful noodle soup deliciousness with chopped up egg roll on top).  It was a great night.  Yet another derby community that doesn’t disappoint.  The Panam guys and Cherry and Heloise (also jam refereeing) welcomed me in and taught me a lot.


A Hard Day followed by a Refreshing Day

A Hard Day

Saturday was a hard travel day, but it ended well. Listen to our audio account in two parts:

Part 1 and Part 2

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Above: Look Joel, a giant Babybel! Wine tasting at a little spot near the Palais Royal (small batches from local producers). Amy on one of the many “love lock” bridges that always crop up in cities.

Emblematic of how we felt near the end of the day
Emblematic of how we felt near the end of the day



All we needed was a good one-two punch of hospitality and friendship 🙂

A Refreshing Day

After our tough travel day Saturday, Sunday turned out to be really positive and refreshing. In the morning, we went to the “American Church” – yes, that’s what they call it on the map. It is near the American University in Paris, which may be why it’s called that. It’s a pretty old church… there are 50,000 expats living in Paris and for many, the church is the heart of their community. It may be the “American” church, but the pastor said well over 50 nations were represented in the congregation.

We went to the traditional service, which felt like a traditional Methodist or Presbyterian service; hymns, pipe organ, choir, doxology, scripture readings, sermon, offering, etc. It felt great to be in church. In all of our travels, this is the first time we’ve gone to church while abroad. The service was very welcoming and international in its focus, reflecting the international audience. And it wasn’t watered down, with the ultimate focus directed at our need for Christ both within the church as we love our brothers and sisters, and outside the church as we love the world. Specific time was devoted to praying for peace amidst the recent violence in Egypt.

The reason why we chose the traditional service is that there was a coffee hour afterwards, where we were able to mingle with some people. We talked with a young couple – an American woman who had been living in Paris for a year and her French boyfriend. After church, one of the church members stood outside where people were leaving and made sure everyone knew where they were going and gave suggestions if they didn’t. He told us we were very close to the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to go there.

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So, it turns out the Eiffel Tower is tall. And impressive. There are many places in Paris where you just turn a corner or get to the top of a staircase and turn around, and there it is. It is quite magnificent. We bought a crepe and sat down near the base to eat it, then walked around taking photos. Today was just about basking in the glory of the tower; we’ll return and go up it before we leave Paris.

Sidebar: Paris Scam Alert!! It amazes me that these scams are still active, as they are well documented in every travel book about Paris. The one that seems to be popular around the Eiffel Tower is the “survey scam”. Young people, usually in pairs, will come up to you and ask very sweetly and mournfully, “Do you speak English?” or sometimes just “You speak English?” and then try and get you to sign some sort of petition for the rights of the blind, mute and deaf (or insert other cause here). If you speak English and don’t help them, they accost you with pleas for help. We’re not exactly sure what the scam is – maybe if you sign, your hands are occupied and someone else is going through your bags or pockets. Other times they’ll just flat out ask for money. Either way, the easiest thing to do is either ignore them or say “Non” and keep walking.

IMG_3378Near the Eiffel Tower is a little street that Rick Steves loves (we have his Paris guidebook) called Rue Cler. We decided to check it out, and even though it was Sunday and half the shops were closed, it was still quaint and charming. We ate lunch at a cafe – giant salads. The French cafe version of a salad is a huge bowl with a bunch of meat and cheese, and a few leaves of lettuce and other assorted vegetables. A hefty amount of food with sometimes incongruous pairings of ingredients (to an American, at least).

In the late afternoon, after our lengthy Parisian lunch, we headed to the Musee d’Orsay. The first Sunday of the month, many museums around Paris are free. So, the lines are long and sometimes they close the museums early if they are “overcrowded”. This was announced at the d’Orsay as we were standing in line, but the line was moving quickly and we made it inside. Faced with less than an hour, we decided to head straight for the 5th floor to the Impressionist exhibit. The d’Orsay itself is quite an impressive building, as it used to be a train station. There is a huge amount of art (many sculptures of Rodin-he donated his entire art collection to the state and so you can find amazing Rodin everywhere, more on him in later posts) and we just passed by most of it on our way to enjoy the brilliant collection of paintings by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Pisarro, Seurat, and many more. Impressionism, neo-impressionism, cubism, pointillism… lots of the isms that we enjoy.

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After the d’Orsay closed we walked along the Seine and stopped for a happy hour drink near the statue of St Michael. Then we walked to Notre Dame to check out the exterior and get some beautiful photos as the sun moved lower in the sky. Finally, a late dinner back at the apartment closed out our Sunday nicely.

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