If I were rich, I would spend at least one week in Paris, buy the best guide book for the Louvre that I could find, stay at a nice comfortable hotel within walking distance, and go to the Louvre every day (well, I'd have to have a better hip too). I would take each section -there are three, the Denon, the Richelieu, and the Scully - and do one section on one floor each day. I actually pretty well covered the "lower ground floor", so I could start out fresh on the Ground Floor and go through the rooms slowly and methodically. Doing that would give me time to get lost periodically and retrace my steps as necessary. Although with a better hip, a lot of the retracing I did yesterday would not be necessary. I got to the point where I was constantly searching out elevators because the museum is a lot like the metro - you're moving along nicely seeing each room in say "Greek Antiquities" and are ready to move on to "Antique Iran". To do that, even though they're both on the same floor, you have to go down a long flight of stairs, walk across a sort of landing, I guess and then walk back up a long flight of stairs and you're in the new section. I was there for probably about 6 hours so elevators grew in importance as the day wore on.
But none of that is complaining. What I saw I enjoyed, some of it very much. And I was a good tourist and saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory. In a museum like the Louvre, though, you do sort of end up wondering how certain works of art become world-wide icons that people basically make pilgrimages to see. The Mona Lisa especially is a very small, quite dark, sort of softly blurred painting. It's fine, mind you, but to get to it you've already gone through a huge passageway that is nothing but Italian paintings by various famous artists, so what makes one painting the painting that everyone has to see (myself included because I had to see it!)
And that brings me to another question that has puzzled me as I go through various museums and that is...why do people feel the need to take pictures of each other in front of famous paintings and statues? I enjoyed having mine taken in front of the Eiffel Tower and back in Italy when I was at the top of the Duomo, but in front of the Mona Lisa? In front of the Venus de Milo? And in front of all sorts of paintings and statues, actually. I'd be a little shy to compete with a famous work of art. Anyway, that's what they do, in spades, and then, of course, after they've taken it (which takes a while - have to have everything situated just so), they stand in the same spot and study it on the view screen to see if they need to take another one. Sometimes they do. Also not a complaint, really, but gee whiz!
So, to get down to it. The museum does have a map of each floor in English which says what is in each portion of each section and has little pictures with a letter on them of some of the most popular things in each section to help you get to those. Here's a list of their permanent exhibits: Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, History of the Louvre and Medieval Louvre, Paintings (covering the history of European painting from the mid-13th century to he mid-19th century), Sculptures, Islamic Art, and Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. And, of course, that's just very general headings - in each of those departments are breakdowns into more specific areas of art.
I started out in the History of the Louvre and Medieval Louvre cause that was on the floor I came in on. And I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it. Oh, and it was here that I discovered...you're allowed to take pictures without a flash!! This one section comprises the excavation done in 1984-1985 which brought to light the ruins of the fortress/castle of Philippe Auguste, which stood from 1190 until the early 16th Century, when the keep was torn down to make way for the Renaissance palace which in 1793, when the current residents decided they needed a new palace(!), then became a grand art gallery that has evolved into today's Musee de Louvre. And don't worry - I don't know much of anything about anything else I saw! I posted a picture on one of my days of the underground shopping mall that showed a big round stone wall. I didn't know what it was but assumed it might be the foundation wall of some part of the palace. But it turns out it's part of the foundation of that ancient castle and when you're in the museum proper, you can walk around the whole excavation. So here are my pictures...and they include some pictures of paintings and displays that were all tied into the history of the current Louvre.
Next, I headed up to the Ground Floor, although looking at the map now, I see I didn't really "finish" that lower level, so I'd have to include the rest of that on my rich return. :) On the Ground Floor I wanted to find the Venus de Milo and the Colossal Statue of Ramses II both of which were in the Sully section but in two different "portions". By the time I found both of them, I had gone through about 3/4 of that section, actually looking instead of passing through. So, pictures:
Maybe these next couple of pictures are from Egypt cause I may have been on my to finding Ramses by now, or they might have still been Greece - I just don't know!
From then on, it all becomes a little hazy. I was starting to realize I could use elevators if only I could find them, I still had specific things I wanted to see, I was getting hungry and kept trying to figure out how to get to the cafe on the first floor without having to go downstairs, upstairs, and who knows where. So I went through sections kind of haphazardly and if something caught my eye, I took a picture of it. But from here on out, I couldn't begin to tell you where I found any of the following pictures!
Next came a whole series of rooms that still displayed exhibits but were so beautiful in themselves that I took more pictures of them than of the exhibits.
I DID get to the cafe finally and splurged a little on a really nice lunch. I ordered a filet of sea bass that was cooked to absolutely perfect flaking, moist perfection - it was seated on a mound of the skinny French green beans and there was a very thin and delicious sauce circling the whole thing, along with three little quarters of roasted tomatoes that I'd swear were maybe pickled before they were roasted. Either that or really tasty tomatoes and the roasting gave them a real zing. Had a nice glass of wine with it and a delicious crusty roll, so was quite a happy camper by the time I finished. I did have a worried moment. The French couple beside me got their order as I was trying to decide on mine. He got the sea bass and she got a shrimp risotto thing I had also looked at. They both looked and smelled delicious and I decided I'd rather not have all that rice to contend with. I noticed the man start pulling the skin off the filet and any time I looked was just sort of picking at the whole thing. Finally, one time looked, they had switched plates - so obviously he didn't like the sea bass which made me nervous. But turns out that was his problem - I loved mine and however they had cooked the bass, the skin was actually a little crispy here and there.
The cafe is on the first floor which is also home for the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory and Napoleon III's apartments. The cafe is in the Richelieu section as are the apartments so when I finished lunch I went through those first and this is when you really think "how did people live like this???!!!" I think if I was Emperor, I'd have my palace to really impress official company but the rest of the time, I'd go live in a half-timbered house in Vernon or somewhere.
Now, the apartments. And you'll see a few pictures with very lacy metal structures which are on exhibit temporarily within the apartments. They are by an artist by the name of Wim Delvoye who also likes to do shiny silver statues of animals in kind of grotesque postures and stuffed pigs. I think the theory in displaying them here was the enormous contrast between the very pompous, formal, ornate apartments and the sometimes bizarre, sometimes whimsical, always very modern artwork. And I didn't notice any signs saying what the rooms were but the dining room is obvious and probably so is the grand reception room, but I'll point it out.
And as I was leaving this area to begin my search for the last of the Big Three, I looked out a window and was a bit startled at first by what I saw:
Then back to searching for ways to avoid stairs in order to get from the Richelieu section on the first floor over to the Denon section. It can be done - but you have to go down and come back up on another one or go up and come back down on another one. And most of the time when you ask for help finding one cause you've gone to where the map shows it and it's not there, the guard or whatever will wave there arm kind of randomly and say "back there" or "down there" or whatever. One time, though, I got a guard who actually ended up taking me from where we were when I asked him all the way to where the elevator was, got on the elevator and went down with me and pointed me in the right direction. Bravo for the good guys! And as we started out on this trek, we passed the guard I had just asked who had waved his arm and said "that way" which is how I ended up at the guard who helped me. Felt like sticking my tongue out at him as we passed by but god forbid I should be an Ugly American! :)
Anyway, got to the Denon section which is all paintings and I would have loved to spent more time here but by now was pretty much on my last legs. So here are the pictures I took along the path to La Jaconda (the Mona Lisa). And I swear, we're getting close to the end (as I was then!)
And on a completely, totally, opposite note - this is a store window that I passed each time I was in the underground mall and I just love how bright and crazy it is. I finally went in and could have bought one of most everything in it. But I didn't...
And that is it. Finis! And I ended up truly not doing anything today (Thursday) except work on this blog, call my sister and January and have two nice short visits on the "free calls to the States" phone. Short because even though fully charged, the battery only lasts for about 8-10 minutes at most. My cold seems to be charging along rather than dragging its feet and spending days on each phase. But today I'm at the coughing/losing my voice and feeling awful stage, so I was glad I didn't have anything specific planned. And fortunately, since I stayed in most of the day except to forage for food, it wasn't so beastly hot today and the apartment never did get too warm to tolerate.
Will see how things seem tomorrow morning and if I'm feeling perkier may do one more sight-seeing jaunt - a modest one. :)