Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Abroad: The Populist in Paris

We had thought about going to the Louvre, but didn't really make plans, and it's really gotten hard to go there. We'd been there twice before and in recent days we'd been treated to a lot of classic European painting, so we decided to go to the Pompidou Center instead.

We walked from our hotel near the Place de la Concorde and stopped for lunch at Le Café des Initiés on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Saw a '64 or '65 Mustang with a really loud V8 go by. Tried to make friends with the house cat.

The famously exposed exterior.

After several galleries of conceptualism, we sat and watched a film of Samuel Beckett wandering around a room.  It seemed like a good time to take a picture of the utilitarian emergency exit.

The guards in other museums we encountered were very civil service and dressed either in uniforms or dark blazers.  In the Pompidou Center they are mostly college age, fashionably dressed in a definitely art-student manner, often lounging in a chair in a pose of boredom or fatigue. This one was older than most, possibly in his forties. He stood up and then noticed my camera and tripod next to me on the bench, facing him. He stepped over and asked if it was OK for him to move.  I said "Sure." He briefly stepped out of the room and came right back and leaned against the doorway.

We took some refreshment on the top of the building overlooking Paris before the exhaustive David Hockney retrospective.

They also have a few little sculpture gardens out on the roof. On the front of the building there's a crawl with a repeating message that said something like "Picasso, Matisse, the Best view in Paris..."

The next day, after a walk in the Tuilleries and along the Seine with the Evil Cube (in a future blog post), we hopped the metro for a walk on the Left Bank.

Our first destination was Luxembourg Gardens, the only one of TripAdvisors top-five-things-to-see-in-Paris that we hadn't ever seen. Even with these formal gardens in the middle, and the automatic rifle toting guards around the palace (where the Senate meets), it has a real city park feel to it.

I never really associated impressionism with the Luxembourg gardens, but it was instantly recognizable as the subject of dozens of lesser known paintings from regional museums in the U.S.

We had lunch at the Pavillon de la Fontaine right in the garden. We would never sit on the porch in jackets for lunch on a day with autumnal temperatures, but we happily had meals out doors several times in those conditions in Europe.

After I ordered my omelette jambon et fromage and Sarah her quiche, the waiter inquired if we might enjoy some frites as well. Well, of course. They were some of the best of what was an exceptional fried potato trip.

Continuing the Latin Quarter nature of our walk we stopped at Shakespeare and Company. Sarah bought a cozy mystery to read on the airplane home.

We crossed the river to the Île de la Cité, to visit Sainte Chapelle. Maybe because it's much smaller than a cathedral and therefore more intimate, it makes a bigger impression. And all done without electricity. I got caught by a guard and told I shouldn't hold my (little rubber-footed) tripod against the stone doorway, but think I had counted up to 24 already. I tried to explain it was a pinhole camera, but that wasn't the point. (A tourist in a business suit with a digital SLR had a fully extended tripod in the middle of the crowd.) The exposure then was probably about 40 seconds and I'm amazed it recorded people holding up their phones to take pictures.

We managed to sit in the few chairs available for awhile and I tried to support the tripod on my leg.

We still had several metro tickets so we went over to the Eiffel Tower and walked across the river for the iconic view from the Trocadero.

A little more documentary version.

The next day it was out to DeGaulle to begin the voyage home. We arrived three hours early as recommended by everyone, and found that Aer Lingus doesn't open flight check-in until two hours before the scheduled departure. Everything went OK though and the trip back went without incident.

I'll conclude the 35mm portion of our program with an exposure the morning after we got home. As great as it is to travel and visit palaces, gardens and great artworks, it is nice to return home to our own small palace.

It turns out the sunbeams are much the same at Mosquito Hill as they are in palatial gardens.

All with The Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame - with the Promaster folding pocket tripod. - Later edit: Oops. Those last two are with the new Manfrotto tripod.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Abroad: The Populist in Munich, Strasbourg, and Paris

I misread a list on my phone and we missed the train we intended to take to Munich, so got there later than we had hoped.  Because every accommodation in the city center was either booked or way more expensive than we wanted, we had booked The Prinz Myshkin Parkhotel, somewhat out of the city center, but which was just blocks away from the Nymphenburg Palace and it's extensive gardens. Because of the late arrival, we only got a half hour or so before the sun set to go into the gardens, but it was far enough to encounter a pair of swans looking elegant in the canal, and this little structure named Pagodenberg by a lake, with the sun setting behind it.

A closer view of the building with the camera supported on a recycling bin, there on the left in the previous picture.

Before Sarah and I were married, she subscribed to a series of Time-Life books about Great Museums of the World. It's always a cool experience to stand face to face with the paintings you've seen in a book for years.  We had just gone to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (on a dark and rainy day), and our first stop in Munich was the Alte Pinakotek.

The building interior was more modern than I expected.

You ascend this grand staircase on the south side of the building.

When you get to the top, there is still this brilliant hallway before you enter the galleries.

My favorite museum moment:  Just beyond that door, to the right is a little vestibule that leads to two other galleries.  There are two paintings hanging on the short bit of wall among all those doors: A Da Vinci and a Filippo Lippi!

We had lunch in the dining room of the Pinakotek.  I love museum restaurants.

After lunch, we went to the Ägyptisches Museum below the University of Television and Film.  A very modern, orderly and disciplined presentation of Egyptology, particularly in contrast to the more traditional, oriental, comprehensive and a little busy presentation we had just seen at the Kunsthistorisches Museum a few days earlier.

After being drenched in ancients and classics, we finished up in the Moderne Pinakotek, with it's voluminous four-story grand rotunda.

The galleries are similarly monumental.

In the central hall that bisects the gallery floor, there are occasional artworks with a bench to set your camera on at the end.

We had to check out and get to the station early although our train was later so we had time to have a beer before leaving Munich, and some excellent pommes frittes. They had really great fries everywhere we went on this trip. One surprise was that the restaurants would only have one light and one dark beer available, usually from the same vendor, occasionally a brand we get all the time in the U.S., and one Belgian fruit beer.

We got the right train this time, but it was forty minutes late. We had a more than hour and a half layover in Mannheim, so we weren't too concerned. The longer we got in to the trip, the more the arrival in Mannheim got delayed, and several times, the trained stopped dead on the tracks.  Technical note: I'm pretty sure those arcs are raindrops.  I had the camera held right up against the window.  Everything in "focus" with pinhole ya know.

Arrived in Mannheim with about 10 minutes to go and had a nice conversation with an American girl from Missouri.  I think that's her in the sunshine to the right.

We joked that we came to Strasbourg to eat. We happened to be in the Cathedral Square (everything leads to the Cathedral Square) at lunch and ate at the Brasserie Au Dauphin. I had an excellent volaille with sauce aux champignons that surprisingly came with this giant bowl of those fantastic frites. And bread.  I hate to see a half of a baguette go to waste. And desert. We overate and ended up having a sampling of Alsatian cheeses and beer in the hotel bar for dinner.

We still made it to a museum or two.

Before lunch, we had gone to the Archeological Museum below the palace.

And after lunch, we came back for the Decorative Arts Museum on the main floor of the Palace.

On to Paris on the 322 km/h TGV.

Got there before check-in time.  We splurged in Paris and were staying about two blocks from the Place de la Concorde, right across the Rue de Rivoli from the The Tuileries, so after having a very French baguette sandwich for lunch, we took a walk in the garden.

Interesting to find a vegetable garden amid all the formal planting.

Crossed the place for a close up of the obelisk.

And scouted out the original Chanel boutique on Rue Chambon.

All with The Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame - with the Promaster folding pocket tripod.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Abroad: The Populist in Prague and Vienna

We wised up the second day and got up early and had an Uber take us to the bottom of the castle stairs. Still a climb, but nice light and much more dramatic with only a few people around.

There are numerous serious art museums in Prague including several on top of the hill. We started at the Sternberg Palace with it's Renaissance emphasis just as it was opening. Most of the time we were completely alone in there.

A sunbeam in a quiet corner with a chair for the guards.

A sunbeam in the elaborately decorated Chinese Cabinet.

You have to pass through the central courtyard to get to some of the galleries.

Just as you pass the archway from the courtyard, there are doors to a very nice sculpture garden. There were only two other people there, having coffee, and I think, discussing art.

The corner of the sculpture garden.

Lunch in another quiet courtyard restaurant a few steps from the palace, with an excellent tiramisu for dessert.

Located in the middle of the actual castle is St. Vitus Cathedral, visible from nearly everywhere in Prague. The next three pictures are some of my favorite examples of camera movement. Kind of an appropriate subject for dancing light. (He was the patron saint of dancing long before he was associated with the neurological disorder.)

Looking down the central nave. Most of these cathedrals have three doors on the front. Visitors enter through one of the sides and leave through the other so you can get away with a long exposure back against the middle door.

Sunshine through the stained glass. I was very careful to frame the picture so that it was above the heads of the crowds. Shortly after I opened the shutter a 7 foot tall man stepped in front of the camera, but I think the sunshine made it to the film despite his presence.

Next on to Vienna. Nerdy fact: the train goes southeasterly until Brno then changes to southwesterly to Vienna. The Brno train station is then the easternmost Sarah and I have ever been.

We began with the Schönbrunn Palace. Most of the garden is open without admission, but the Orangerie, with it's giant empty halls where the plants winter over, is a separate ticket. Once again we found ourselves practically alone in there.

One of the modest side fountains.

A side view of the schloß and the Privy Garden, with a few of our compatriots, and my own shadow,  projected onto the courtyard.  As much as I seem to gripe about crowds, and my delight when we were by ourselves, it was fascinating to observe so much diverse humanity on vacation. The infrastructure and operation of tourism is also kind of interesting in itself.

It took us about fifteen minutes to get to the center of the maze. It was particularly fun because we kept encountering the same people several times as we guessed our way to the center. In the nearby labyrinth (one long folded path divided in four quadrants rather than a puzzle), there was a small play area with little structures that challenged children to solve math puzzles.

We had lunch in the Gloriette.  Another vocabulary lesson: If your palace is at the bottom of the hill and you build something at the top of the hill overlooking the garden, it's a gloriette. I found myself wondering if Marie Antoinette had eaten cake up here as a child.

As in Prague, there are significant art collections in numerous venues. We decided on the Belvedere Palace mostly because of the collection of work by home-town boy Gustav Klimt. More vocabulary:  If your garden is on a hill and the palace is at the top of the hill, it's a belvedere.

The grand staircase from the top with Sarah wondering why I'm not right behind her.

Klimt's painting The Kiss is the most popular work they have.  Just next to it they have a room with a full size copy just for people to take selfies in front of.

I think palatial gardens must make up half the market for hedge trimmers.

All with The Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x35 frame with the Promaster pocket tripod.