Monday, May 29, 2006

Slowly making progress

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Musee d'art et d'histoire du judaisme (the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism). I was able to catch the special exhibit on the efforts of ORT to aid Soviet Jews in the interwar years, up until they were effectively shut down by Stalin just before the outbreak of WWII. The main exhibit, on the cultural history and art of Jews is reminiscent of the ethnographic section at the Israel Museum, but put together in a somewhat nicer fashion. I particularly liked the Holocaust Memorial in a small courtyard. The building in which the museum is housed used to be a block of flats. The curators identified as many of the people who were living in the house in 1939 and 1940, and then placed placards with their names, occupations, and in the case of 12 of them, the dates of their deportation to Auschwitz.

Today I headed out to Alliance Israelite Universelle in order to use their archives. When I got there, I was told, of course, that I needed to make an appointment to visit. The fact that I had written them a month ago and five months before that appears to have escaped them. Thankfully, they have allowed me to make an appointment for tomorrow morning, so I am slowly making progess.

Since my day was now free, I decided (after a quick trip back to my hotel to pick up an umbrella as it was now threatening to rain) to spend the afternoon at the Louvre. Last time I went, I spent most of my time in the Greek and Roman wings. Today, I first went to the Islamic Arts and Middle Eastern antiquities wings. Much beautiful calligraphy and workmanship, and of course, some fabulous ancient pieces, including the Code of Hammurabi (earliest legal code), some pre-cunieform tablets (earliest writing), and some big pieces from Ninevah.

Museums can be hard on the feet, so having learned my lesson from yesterday's visit to the Pompidou, I had a nice cafe au lait, did the NY Times crossword puzzle, and then went back to touring the museum. This time I went to the see the early renaissance pieces from Northern Europe, France, and finally Italy. The latter was the most crowded part of the museum. I think at least two-thirds to three-quarters of the people who visit the museum only go to the Italian renaissance section. The museum is trying to capitalize on the Da Vinci Code excitement: you can get an audio headset (read by Jean Reno) that will discuss only museum sights mentioned in the book or film. This costs 10 euros. If you want an audio guide to the entire museum, on the other hand, you need only pay 5 euros (I went with the latter, particularly as I haven't read the book).

Despite threatening rain, it cleared up and turned into a very pleasant afternoon. Cool and temparate (I'm one of the few people not in a coat as I'm quite comfortable in my long sleeve shirt and pants), I have been very fortunate with the weather.

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