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A trip to France with Jan, 1950

On 17 July 1950, Maurits and his youngest son Jan (11 years old) left for Paris, the beginning of a French trip just like the one he had made as a child.

‘One hour before arriving in Paris, Jan said: you have to let me know as soon as you see the Eiffel Tower. But in the end he saw it before I did.’

Eldest son Arthur had moved to Lausanne to study geology on the advice of uncle Beer. George had recently enlisted for military service. On this, Escher wrote:

‘George has been doing his military service for two weeks now, much to our chagrin, after years of delaying his studies. This is lousy, because you never know whether such a boy will later find the energy to continue studying. [This fear proved to be unfounded.] So we are here with Jantje who, still in primary school, will not be leaving us any time soon.’

Just as he did on many of his travels, Escher kept a diary in which he gave an accurate account of the itinerary, where they slept, what they ate, what they saw and what all of it cost. In Paris they roamed through the Latin Quarter and over the Île de la Cité and they climbed the Notre-Dame:

‘On the top of the right tower we could pick out small fossils from the travertine [dense type of quartz] that had been weathered.’

After that they travelled to the Dordogne by train and bus. They visited caves and it’s not unlikely that Jan’s fascination for geology originated here, in France. Escher was enjoying what he called ‘a paradise’. Together they visited caves and medieval architecture. They made long walks and went fishing, swimming and hunting for fossils. He himself drew landscapes, a farmstead and the

‘caves des Eyzies from the mushroom-shaped Rocher de la Peine. Difficult and complicated.’

On the return journey they visited Paris again:

‘… then to the Halles, where Jan was interested in the crowds; all kinds of meat, vegetables and fish. We went through four large warehouses looking for “nageoires” [flippers] for George. Finally, we found the right size in “Printemps”. A set of goggles and snorkel for Frs. 3,250. After lunch to St Séverein, Panthéon (with graves in crypt of such greats as Victor Hugo and Émile Zola). Then St. Chappelle (for which Jan showed little enthusiasm). Then to Champs de Mars to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Finally, to the Sacré Coeur, with funicular and a drink on the boulevard, where a strongman was lifting weights. In the Métro we admired the light beam and experimented with the electr. escalator which automatically moves when the light beam is interrupted by walking past it. In the evening to Place de la Concorde. We saw the lights and spotlights one by one: obelisk, fountains, statues, palaces, wide Triomphe in the distance; Jan delighted, beautiful end to our journey.’

[all quotes] Wim Hazeu, M.C. Escher, Een biografie, Meulenhoff, 1998, page 328-329

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