Van Gogh, Starry Night – Paris

Van Gogh, Starry Night – Paris

Tuesday 10th September 2019

One of the many pleasures of being able to devote more time to travelling is returning to cities and places which we have already visited without feeling we are sacrificing seeing somewhere new. 

Invariably, each visit is different and this time it was a specific exhibition which inspired us to bring our younger daughter on the Eurostar on her first trip to Paris. 

The top section of the Eiffel Tower is visible from our hotel room so, having deposited our luggage in the early evening, we took a walk down towards the closest Kusmi Tea shop where Matilda invested in some of her new favourite blend: St Petersburg. It is a variation on Earl Grey with additional hints of red berry and caramel. Mindful of the environmental impact of tea bags she bought loose leaf tea. 

From here we continued on towards the River Seine and the Eiffel Tower. 

We had both visited Paris independently before we met and have returned several times since our first visit together in 1992. But none of our joint visits have yet included the Eiffel Tower. This time we have booked to go up all the way this elegant engineering masterpiece on Thursday.

Unfortunately in a nation which prides itself on its cuisine, the evening’s search for a vegetarian meal was disheartening. Many menus on display outside brasseries and restaurants make no attempt to identify vegetarian options and the focus on meat is quite overwhelming. Sadly, our hotel felt that pasta served with olive oil was a viable suggestion. Eventually we found an acceptable burger alternative. We did feel that the Parisiens, by their own culinary self-promotion, ought to be able to do better. 

Wednesday 11th September 2019

The main reason for this trip was to take our younger daughter to the immersive Van Gogh, Starry Night exhibition at the Atelier des Lumières. 

This experience is a visual and musical tour de force created by Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi with the musical collaboration of Luca Longobardi.

With the exception of the ceiling, every single surface in this disused foundry/metalworks, whether flat or curved, is bathed in flowing, transitioning images from the works of Van Gogh depicting the story of this troubled and [during his Iifetime] unrecognised genius. There is even a water tank in one corner which reflects the images back up towards you. 

Matilda was particularly taken by the images of mental health institutions juxtaposed with a rendition of The Animals’ classic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”.

The movement of the pictures was both mesmerising and slightly disorientating. At times, as the images moved along the surfaces it seemed as though the walls were claustrophobically closing in. 

To experience a small part of the exhibition, watch the Video of the day at the bottom of this blog.

There were two additional exhibits or experiences. The first – Dreamed Japan, Images of the Floating World – memorably featured the well-known painting by Hokusai  The Great Wave of Kanazawa and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence”. 

The second was entitled Verse by Thomas Vanz and it felt as though you were watching the creation of the universe. The displays are played on repeat and you can stay to see them more than once if you wish. We made sure we stayed to see the Van Gogh feature through more than once.

Re-emerging into the light, we took the metro and, to save our legs, the funicular . . .

. . . up

. . . to see the Sacré Coeur.  

Robert had taken a photo of the interior before he noticed the sign forbidding photography but it seemed to be being universally ignored.

Despite the forecast, the sun was beginning to shine as we took in the views.

We then walked down to see the outside of the iconic Pompidou Centre. The first international architecture competition in France was held to decide the honour of designing this building and, from the 681 entries, the jury chose a design submitted by a team of three then relatively unknown architects: Richard Rogers [British] and Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini [both Italian]. Piano and Rogers oversaw the management of the project which opened to the public in 1977. Controversial at the time, with many of the building’s workings and services visible on the outside, it has now become a beloved landmark.  

We also went to pay our respects to Notre Dame, where restoration is underway and there is more scaffolding to protect the surviving structures than had been erected on our last visit in late June. 

We three then went to see the Pyramid at the Louvre.

Here Matilda recreated a moment from our first visit in 1992 when, despite signs forbidding paddling due to the risk of slipping in the fountains, she insisted on cooling her feet. 

The signs proved to be accurate and in 1992 she spent some time steam-drying herself on a nearby Rodin bronze statue which had heated up in the sun. 

The art nouveau entrances to the Paris metro are well-known but the one at the Palais Royale Station is more modern but very striking. 

Having never been before, we also felt we should drop in to the Hard Rock Cafe before heading off to try to find another vegetarian-friendly venue for an evening meal.

Video of the day:

Selfie of the day:

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