Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Joyeuses Pâques

My friend Yvonne from Edinburgh arrived on Saturday afternoon and left this morning, so it was a fairly busy Easter weekend. Even though the weather was a bit uncooperative, I think she had a really good time. We certainly had some memorable meals together, and I introduced her to the joys of limoncello. It seemed impolite to point out to her that all the symptoms of her episode of "feeling woozy" on Monday morning were entirely consistent with the diagnosis of a massive hangover. Not that I was in a position to throw stones -- I almost cut my ear off while shaving that same morning and arrived to our lunch date with Nancy and Gabriella still bleeding like a stuck pig, and generally giving a very creditable imitation of Van Gogh on a bad day.

Speaking of whom, we went to the Musee d'Orsay on Easter Sunday and, despite the crowds, it was still magnificent. Even a horde of Japanese tourists milling around cannot detract from the experience of seeing "Starry Night" up close. Yvonne braved the Impressionist gallery on the 5th floor; I chose instead to visit the special exhibition devoted to the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela, which was extremely cool. I learned a lot about the Finnish sagas (the Kalevala) along the way. For instance, now I know that the Tuonela referred to in Sibelius's "The Swan of Tuonela" is the Finnish version of the Styx, or Lethe. Also that the mothers of slain hero-warriors are able to bring them back to life just by knitting together their dismembered body parts. Here is Lemminkainens's ma doing just that very thing:

I'm not sure if Lemmi was a part of the following adventure, in which the Finns are either stealing the magic Sampo from their neighbors, or trying to recover it from them:

What exactly a magic Sampo is remains a little murky, but it seems to have been the McGuffin for a whole heap of saga-telling. I think both Wagner and Tolkien would have recognized it immediately.

Thpeaking of Thibelius, he is the bug-eyed one on the right in this painting, known as "The Symposium"

He is bug-eyed because they are being visited by the "Spirit of Art" or some other such winged beastie. His neighbor at the table is some other Finnish composer, the figure standing is the artist Gallen-Kallela himself, and the guy sleeping at the table is just some random philistine. It's all very symbolic. Though I might adopt a gently mocking tone to discuss this particular image, I actually liked most of the G-K pictures in the exhibition very much.

Enough about art, I hear some of you muttering, what about the food? Well, I am happy to report that Yvonne entered into the spirit of her Paris adventure with great gusto and dined on such classic French dishes as frogs' legs (they really do taste like chicken), rognons de veau (veal kidneys), French onion soup, rabbit, and escargots. As usual in Paris, we didn't have a bad meal out during her entire visit.

Monday was a school holiday, so this is a very short school week (just two days) for me. Tomorrow morning I will also be getting the RoissyBus to Charles de Gaulle for my mid-morning flight to Charlotte, and then on to Gainesville, where I will attend my friend Ben's wedding on Saturday. Will be flying back to Paris on Monday, arriving early on Tuesday morning.

1 comment:

  1. That last painting inspires me to say, "Heeelium!!"