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Posts tagged ‘Paris’

Look upon my works…

Foot, Arc de TriompheInside Napoleon’s monument, the Arc de Triomphe, I saw a foot. The foot stood (if one foot can stand, disembodied) on a small plinth. It had a carved date, 1836.

Looking back through these photos, I was struck by a memory. In primary school one of the first poems I remember reading was ‘Ozymandius‘, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I suppose I was ten years old, or thereabouts. But what a poem to read.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

"whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command"Napoleon himself, of course, brought many things to France from the deserts of Egypt, so the memory is all the more poignant. But what I recall the most is the blinding and powerful understanding of what irony really means, how deep and profound it can be.

Where can one begin? To analyse the poem so rarely does it justice. If Ozymandias is the cause of despair, it is the transitory nature of his worldy empire that would engender the feeling. His works are gone, but what we see, mediated by Shelley’s words are the sculptor’s tribute, the work of “The hand that mocked”. The words carved into the base of the statue have a permanence that the conquests of the Pharaoh did not have – echoed further by Shelley’s own words which still evoke such responses.

To a bookish child (was I?), with an avid interest in ancient items (I still have a handle from an amphora, a gift from my grandmother, who used to dig things up) this engagement with the ostentatious deployment of irony was all but revelatory.

And to a bookish adult (am I?), it still is.


Photo by PJD, Arc de Triomphe, Paris. Do you remember your first taste of irony? Indeed, of any literary device? Metaphor perhaps, metonymy*, simile? Has poetry of prose ever suddenly struck you, a bolt from nowhere? Would you like to tell us about it? We’d like to hear…*we are all ears.

Happy to remember

I am happy to be privileged enough to remember a moment like this one:

Lying back in the gardens of the Louvre

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Have red shoes? Will travel

Our travels around Europe over the past few months have been tremendously exciting, and when pounding the pavements and cobbled streets of this incredible part of the world, a comfortable pair of shoes has really been a must. I would have been lost without my favourite red shoes on these travels, which have been ever-so-trusty in covering the kilometres of many of Europe’s wonderful cities and towns. I purchased these as a gift from my Gran with some money she gave me for Christmas last year. At the time, they seemed perfect for seeing me through the dark and chilly Northern Hemisphere festive season. Little did I know when I got them, that these shoes would bring a smile to my face every time I wore them, and they continue to! In fact, on occasion, I have even noticed strangers (from small children to older adults) give my shoes more than a passing glance as they walk past me on the street, which makes me smile even more. Sometimes, it really is the little things in life.


Photo by CIA: red shoes meet Joan Miro‘s work in the wonderful Centre Pompidou, Paris, June 2012. It seemed fitting that the work my Miro also had red on it. What shoes do you favour for your travels? Or do you have another travel item which is a must-pack when you get to explore exciting towns and cities?

Up, down, turn around

CIA is not feeling well. Whilst we were in Zürich, she was on a blog vacation, and that explains why you’ve got so much PJD, and so little CIA. She planned to write a post tonight, but since she can’t, we developed a mini writing challenge. She picked out this picture from her cellphone, and I have had ten minutes to think about what I would write in response. I then have 20 minutes to write that response.

Here’s the picture:


And here’s the response:

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Picture perfect Paris

One of my favourite scenes from being in Paris in the early days of summer this  year is walking in the Jardin des Tuileries. This photo sums up why: This is a garden with deep history; grandiose stretches of green space in the heart of the bustling city; vibrant wildflowers, dancing brightly as far as the eye could see, their light scent wafting into your nostrils; a public space for all sorts of people doing all sorts of things; fountains and ponds for fun to be had by youngsters with boats; sculptures to attract the eye and the art lover. All this, set against the timelessly gracious Parisian skyline, mansard rooftops stretching out low in the distance. Wandering in the Tuileries in those early Summer days really was Paris at its most picture-perfect best.


Photo by CIA, Jardin des Tuileries looking towards Les Arts Décoratifs and Rue du Rivoli, Paris, June 2012. Who needs Instagram when you can have Pudding Camera?!

Three museum moments

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you might have noticed we have a thing about museums. Art museums, history museums, design museums, national museums. We like to engage with the collections, the curatorship, the physical spaces. We like to think about how the buildings enhance, diminish or otherwise interact with their surroundings, their contents and their visitors. And so I have selected three museum moments, instances where the museum we were in at the time took an unexpected twist…

The Chinese Garden Court, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

It was my first time in the Met, and CIA was showing me around some of her favourites. Having seen some of the western art, we decided to check out some of the Asian collection. What neither of us expected at all was to stumble into the Chinese Garden Court. It was nearly empty (a stark contrast to the Impressionist paintings), so peaceful, and the conjunction of modern atrium, tiling, bamboo and rocks just took our breath away. A brilliant moment.

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Love locked in Paris

During the course of one of our many long and winding walks around the city of love (Paris, of course!) in June, we crossed le Pont des Arts, one of the many bridges criss-crossing the Seine (it’s truly impressive the number of bridges crossing the Seine, and these are the ones in Paris alone!). However, this was a bridge with a difference: little did we know when we stepped onto this footbridge that we were about to cross one of Paris’ love-lock bridges.

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