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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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May 31, 2012

I "do" the Louvre, or perhaps the Louvre does me!

I'm really at a loss for words about the Musee de Louvre. I know, I'm never at a loss for words, but the Louvre is really sort of beyond description. And underlying that feeling is that before it became "the largest museum in the Western world" (does that mean there's a bigger one somewhere??!) it was a palace and people lived there. That totally defies belief!

 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.

I took this one because it had never dawned on me that when all these incredibly decorated and ornamented buildings were built, sculptors would have made models of what would go in various spots.  That's what these are (not sure about the large head) but for instance, the two very little guys sitting in chairs are shown on the building in this next picture:

And this painting and the next one show what it was like before it became what it is today.  U wonder if the "must sees" were here then...

This is a diagram of the old castle/fortress of Phillippe. And below is an actual model of it - the second picture showing the inside tower which was surrounded by a moat.  On good days, I guess they could live in the castle, but when bad days were brewing, they could all repair to the "keep" and hopefully survive the attack.

The keep is the pointy round tower sticking up above everything.  And when I was there walking around it, I had it pretty much   figured out what was what, but now looking at the pictures, I get confused.  I'm pretty sure that in the third picture down the huge round thing on the left is part of the foundation of the keep.  But then looking at these first two pictures, they seem like they would be the outside of the castle walls and round things would be the watch towers, so I just don't know.  But I really did enjoy looking at it all and trying to puzzle it out.

 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:

 A glass collection for Chris...
I kind of regret zooming in so much on this one cause all of these dice and such were very small.

 A massive hall filled with, my map says, Greek antiquities.
Although this is Pan - was he Roman?
Modest maidens and a head, for some strange reason...if I remember correctly, I thought perhaps it was a man's head and they pointed it away from the ladies so he wouldn't appear to be staring, but when I got a closer look, it was a woman's head (if I remember correctly!)
And I saw this statue from this view first and noticed the hand and thought my gosh, that must have been a woman nursing a baby.  So I went around to the front and the card said something about Venus and bathing and it was obvious there had been no baby nursing on either breast.  So I am mystified as to who the tiny little hand might have belonged to, but isn't it just kind of dear?

 A couple of philosophers for January...and how does a philosopher be a cynic?

And, there she is - the quite lovely Venus de Milo (originally Aphrodite)

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!

Compared to all the glorious marble statues of gods and goddesses, I really like this simple and normal looking woman.

And I really liked these because they are woven reed items and I find it almost unbelievable that they've survived in such pristine shape.  The bowl is beautiful!

I knew I had to be close to Ramses II when I found this sphinx - he's a beauty and quite colossal himself.
And I walked right past these two because I was searching for a "colossal" Ramses and neither of these seemed to be what I'd call colossal.
But, back I came and, yes, this was the colossal Ramses II.  Over on the other side of this area was just the foot of someone and if the whole person would have been connected to the foot, that would have been colossal.  The foot was huge!

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!
Well, actually, these two would still be Egypt. :)  And there was another case this size also filled with sarcophagi plus many more around the walls of the room.  One hopes they didn't just dump the mummies into a pit somewhere...
I loved this little statue and wonder who the arm beside her belonged to. I'd assume it would be her main man.

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 noticed this "1654" above a door leading into another magnificent room and there happened to be a guard standing right nearby so I asked him about it.  He was, of course, expecting me to say "where am I" which is mostly what I did say to the guards, and I got tickled because I first asked him if the 1654 above the door was a date  of something.  There was a little pause while he readjusted his mindset and then "yes".  Another little pause, and he said "where??" and I pointed to above the door.  "Oh, yes" he said and then went on to say something about it being the year some king and his wife were married or something - he spoke English fairly well, but I wasn't completely sure what he was telling me.  I said to him that it looked like an address or house number on a house and he understood what I meant and we shared a chuckle about that, so that was a nice little exchange.  He even then went on to point to the room I had just left and explained that that room had been their bedroom.  It's nice when you can actually have a little interchange with the "official" types.
Just one beautiful ceiling after another - and monstrous big rooms.

Took this one just to show that they did all have displays in them, but I'm afraid I wasn't paying much attention.
This caught my eye though - so exquisite and I love the blue - is that probably lapis lazuli?

And I loved this also.  It had a whole wall-sized explanation about it that a big man stood right in front of this case and read, verrrrry slowly.  It was in French and I assume he could actually read French, but I began to wonder if couldn't and thought if he stared at it long enough, it might become clear to him.  I finally just kind of wormed my way in between him and the case and took my picture.  Went into the next room and looked around for several minutes - took a peek back out the door and there he was, still there!  Whatever it is, it must be very special.

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.

Going down a hallway I looked out the window and saw this  From up here you get a real good idea of how enormous this is.  It "floats" in pools of water  that come right up to the dark grey edging strips and the water moves a little, I suppose because of the fountains.  You can enter the museum this way by going in to the side where you see the concrete platform inside.  Then there is a very big, winding staircase that goes down to the lower ground level where I started out by coming directly into it from my metro station. 

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.

 A gorgeous staircase which I think is not available for use by the public and probably was the staircase used to enter the suite of apartments.  They're in one of the big corners of one of the wings and extend down long hallways from both sides of the corner.
A small (compared to some of the rooms) and very feminine room.
One of the sculptures in what was maybe used as an office?

 And carved rubber tires - that's what I call recycling!
Apparently this Napoleon also collected miniatures.

 This could be a reception room, maybe?  They do all tend to look the same - opulent and big!
This is the main chandelier in the Grand Salon.  You can two of the four others in this one room,  Imagine when it was all candles.  Although maybe by Napoleon III's time it would have been electric?

A piano in the back corner.  Maybe a pianoforte back then.
 And I don't know these two are, but they look like they're ready to party!
 The cozy fireplace... :)
This one was beautiful and just tucked away in a hallway leading to another room.
Obviously, the dining room and...
what better place for one of Wim Delvoye's pigs which according to his website are stuffed pigs as in taxidermy!

Such a pretty stairway in a long, narrow, unopulent hallway that I sort of imagine was the servants means of getting from place to place unobtrusively.
And I liked this although it's hard to see in the picture.  Instead of hanging straight down from a ceiling mount, a swag was draped from angel to angel and the chandelier was suspended from the swag.

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:
Of course, I realized right away that it was a statue, but it did make me wonder how many peeping Toms used to get a little treat every now and then...

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!)

I wish I knew where these pieces were cause I really liked them.  These first two were monumental and then I found the little miniature scene.

 More incredibleness...

Totally over the top, all of them, and yet one has to admit, they are magnificent.

So I get to the hall of Italian paintings with all the massive religious paintings that really take me back and then saw this one.  And there at the far right is Filippo Brunelleschi!  Just really perked me right up to be back with my favorite architect.  Donatello and Giotto are also there and the other two names I don't remember being familiar with.
A monk's robe and the tonsured scalp - seems very appropriate for viewing all these Italian paintings.  I think the man in the yellow shirt saw me taking this and wondered if he should be upset.
This is another biggie - both fame wise and size wise.  It is huge!  And this is one that everybody wanted to have a picture of themselves standing in front of it.  Strange...
And this is the best I could do - she's behind two panels of glass, is very small and dark, and unless you stand at a fairly extreme angle to her, there's a green light somewhere behind you that points like a laser beam at her.  I marveled more at the huge crowd she draws than at her, actually.  But I was glad I made it - would be embarrassing to come home and say "no, I didn't get around to that."
And yet another ceiling - I can't seem to stop.
Of the Big Three, the Winged Victory is probably my favorite and I like where they've positioned her which is at the top of a staircase and there's a landing or just a gallery or something that is on the same level looking across at her which makes a nice spot for taking a photo.
The consecration of Emperor Napoleon I, although to me it looks like he's done and is now crowning his empress.
Guess what?  I'm out and done!  and this is looking up through the pyramid where there is another sculpture by Wim Delvoye.
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. :)

Au revoir!


Christopher said...

My goodness! I feel probably nearly as exhausted reading the blog and studying the pictures, as I'm sure an actual visit to the Louvre must entail! It really reminds me of the visit to The Hermitage... vast, opulent former residence/palaces, filled with eye-popping art to the point of overload, yet you can't stop looking, gawking and photographing! Glad you got in the de rigueur Mona Lisa, and I love the Winged Victory on that "pile" of rock.
But I'm sorry to hear you have a cold coming on :( Glad it held off for most of the trip---hopefully you'll be on the mend fast, and will be feeling better for Amsterdam and the miniatures show! Hard to believe you've only got a few days left! Enjoy them!

January said...

The Louvre sure does seem incredible! And you can totally be a philosopher-as-cynic. There was a whole school of cynics in Athens, contemporary with Socrates and Plato. Diogenes is probably the most famous. Plato described him as a Socrates gone mad :)
So glad you got to see the Winged Victory too - did they have information anywhere about having to empty the Louvre during WWII? Apparently that statue is actually reconstructed from thousands of fragments, and they had to move it down the staircase and off to its hiding place and then get it back with no bumping around or it would just shatter!
Feel better soon, Mama - it was nice to talk to you today! xoxo

Lisa in WV said...

I am as tired as Chris. What a fabulous time you had. I hope you are feeling better.


Anonymous said...

Wow...I think I saw more of the Louvre from your blog photos (and comments) than I saw when actually there in person. I do recall the same feeling of disorientation, stairs up and down, just confusion in trying to get from one place to another. So I'd just kind of go along and see whatever I saw as you did (only you did MUCH better than I did!)
Hope you feel better fast--maybe get some zinc from a pharmacy. They are always very helpful at the pharmacies.
Again, great post!!

Elga said...

Hope you are better soon, I have been drinking lots of vit C lately to help with the climate change, although I think it is warmer here than in Amsterdam, our winters are not really cold.

See you tomorrow!!! Not looking forward to the 11 hour flight, Josje is meeting me at the airport and we will both come for you at the train station.

Chinch said...

As long as you're planning a "when rich" trip why not go for a month and visit the musee for thirty days? You'd probably still feel that you hadn't seen as much as you'd like to see. When you mentioned that you would be showing the contemporary sculptures, etc, I sort of thought yuk but they are really quite enchanting, n'est ce pas? And so intricate!! Hope you're feeling better today and taking it a bit easy -- and having a goodbye pain du chocolat. Thanks for calling yesterday. xoxo

Christopher said...

PS---I was looking up those massive carvings you liked, shown after the "peeping tom" image of the statue glimpsed through a window... A lamassu is a protective deity often represented as a winged bull with a human male head, typically bearded. Attributed to the ancient Assyrians, stemming from Mesopotamian mythology, and often carved at a city's primary gate, or the entry to a king's palace. So, if there was a section of Syrian, or ancient Iranian art...? I'm guessing that's where you would have found them.

Mary Lynne said...

Six nice messages - that sure gives me a lift. :)

January - I didn't see anything about that - actually I didn't go over right next to the statue - just viewed it from my vantage point. Sure wish the picture wasn't so fuzzy! I've read other stories though about the efforts that were made to keep art safe and hidden and it's wonderful that people cared enough and were smart enough to realize it had to be done if at all possible.

And Chris - I know it's easy to say after you researched it for me, but I was thinking they had to be some ancient mid-eastern type culture or sect. In looking at the map while I was blogging, I saw a Syrian section and I think an Iran one so you are spot on I think.

Thanks for all the "get well" messages - I'm working at it and hopefully won't be coughing my head off the day we all drive over to Germany or they'll make me get out and ride on the roof! :)

Mary Lynne said...

Thanks, Sarah! That's a nice compliment coming from an old Paris hand like yourself.

Here it is my last night in Paris and I'm reduced to watching Malcolm in the Middle in French! And now they're done with that. I'm about as packed as I can be and it's only 8:30 so too early for bed. But I'm going to bed as soon as it's dark enough - my cold has gone into what I hope is its worst phase and I'm feeling pretty awful this evening.

I will blog a bit about today's minimal activity, but maybe wait until tomorrow when I'll be on the train for 3 hours. And boy will that be great - no walking! :)

Mary Lynne said...

Marlene e-mailed her comment:

I was wondering if there are English speaking guides in the Louvre to show you around. In any case, you did a marvelous job of conducting OUR tour! I loved your sense of humor throughout and laughed out loud many times. Now, get well, Mary Lynne!

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