Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Paris Day 1

None of the grocery stores were open last night but Mom & Dad had picked up a baguette and some brie when they did a walk about the previous afternoon. I discovered I don't like ripe French Brie. The texture was lovely, so creamy you could easily spread it on the bread after it had been out of the fridge for a short while. But the smell, to me it smelled like old cooked broccoli. Not something I want to smell first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I guess I'll never be a fromage connoisseur.

There is only one thing on the agenda today and that's the Louvre. I hear it's big, but I'm determined to conquer it all in one day. According to Google weather the high is supposed to be a balmy 20 degrees so silly me leaves the jacket in the apartment and walks out with just a t-shirt and a sweater. Big mistake. It's cold, windy and gray outside. Never the less I don't want to run back upstairs to get the additional layer.

According to the map we are on the Left Bank, 2 blocks from the Seine so we head to the Louvre walking along the river. Notre Dame Cathedral is also very close by so we do a quick drive by of that and snap a few pics but due to the sky's dullness I know I'm going to want to get some more when things are a bit more colourful.

It takes a while but we do find the Louvre OK and it certainly is big. We approach it via the Eastern entrance and walk through a grand courtyard and then walk through what I assume is the main entrance judging by the glass pyramids in front of me. Just then it begins to rain so our timing is perfect. There really isn't much of a queue and as we don't have any backpacks with us we get fast tracked through the security line and can head inside to where its warmer and dryer.

Lots of people but nothing to bad. Mom & Dad go into the ticket queue and I head to information to get some English guides. I'm starving and Dad needs to eat every few hours to keep his blood sugar level so we head up to the cafe to grab some lunch. I had the best chicken baguette I've ever had. The chicken was nice and tender and actual thick cut pieces of breast meat, none of that processed gelatinous stuff that I was expecting. The mayo is nice and tangy with a hint of lemon and the baguette is that good hearty stuff that you really have to tear off with your teeth. It's the kind of sandwich that will stick to your ribs and give you energy for the whole day (and the price wasn't too outrageous either).

So my plan of attack is to start at the top and work my way down. I don't bother with an audio guide as that will just slow me down. There are a few artists that I want to keep my eye open for but I'm just going to burn through the gallery as fast as I can as I want to see it all. Vermeer's The Lacemaker was lovely and there was an artist parked in front painting a copy so of course the hoards of people were crowded around watching so I couldn't really get an uninterrupted look at it, but that's OK. In fact I came across a number of art students with their easels painting. Some were doing direct copies of works and other's were putting their own interpretation on the piece. One of my favourites was a guy painting a figure that was in period costume, but in his painting the figure was wearing a black T-Shirt and on the T-shirt was the artist (the guy I was watching) wearing the period costume. Cool.

Wandering around I was impressed with myself in that I'm starting to recognize specific artists. A painting would catch my eye and I'd think, that looks like so and so and I'd zoom in on the tag and I'd be right. All the credit for that goes to Leona and all the galleries she exposed me to in our London trip (see I WAS paying attention, sort of).

In the Louvre there are the 'BIG' pieces that everyone wants to see like oh I don't know, the Mona Lisa? But I found it interesting that in the gallery to the left as you turn to go into the room with the Mona Lisa in it there are 3 other Da Vinci's hanging on the wall that no one seemed to pay any attention too. Also there was a huge crowd around the Venus de Milo. I found it more interesting to try and capture the hoards surrounding the figure and the tourists all fighting for position to have their picture taken in front so the fact that she's a little out of focus was on purpose. It was the same for the Winged Victory of Samothrace, but I was able to get a nice shot without any people even with the low lighting.

One unexpected find was a small painting that made me stop dead in my tracks. The artist is Denner and I've never heard of him before. But I spent a good 10 minutes staring at this piece as I swear it's a photograph. I mean I got up real close to it to see if I could see some brush strokes or thick chunks of paint, cracks etc. Nothing, it's flawless. So flawless that I was starting to think that perhaps the museum does this kind of thing to see if anyone is paying attention. However, some sleuthing on the net found that indeed this is a true painting and this guy was known for his realism. It was spooky.

So I didn't really get all the way through the gallery in one day as I purposely skipped some sections that I just wasn't interested in. I mean with Greek & Oriental Antiquities you've seen one ceramic jug you've seen them all. However, one section I didn't mean to go into but stumbled upon was the African Antiquities and they had one of the Easter Island heads there (I saw one in Chilli as well). Some interesting statues and carvings but my feet were really starting to hurt.

Back in the 1980s an excavation uncovered the remains of a medieval fortress so they've opened up a display and you can walk around the base of the towers and the drawbridge support. There were also a number of medieval tombstones which I guess because they've been buried the detail is amazing. Usually when you see these in a church yard they are so weathered and worn they are hard to see. These were great. But really low lighting conditions so I didn't take any pics.

There is also a large display in the lower level on the history of the Louvre which was very interesting. Photos and paintings showing how the space has evolved over the years. Had my feet been better I could have spent more time there but I needed to sit down. Just as I was walking out of this last display who should I run into but Mom & Dad, couldn't have planned that any better. We head up to the cafe by the bookshop to have a snack and rest our feet.

Mom has had it, but I still have one more area I want to check out, the French Sculpture. It's not so much that I love French Sculpture but they have it housed in an interior open courtyard and the lighting is amazing, very bright from the sky lights above. Plus in amongst these old sculptures are some modern displays thrown in. This one of the people and the clock faces really struck me.

Last stop is the bookshop as I want to pick up a guide on just the galleries paintings. We walk back a different route and it's slow going as we've all been on our feet a bit too long. One the way Mom happens to notice this place and Dad pipes in "Hey, how about we stop for a pint". It was lovely, and they had Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli crisps, I didn't care that they were overpriced (hey, they're imported). This was the first time I've had Beamish Stout, it was pretty good (but Murphy's Irish Stout is still my favourite). I'm still not sure if having a pint in a Scottish Pub on the Left Bank in Paris is something I should be proud of or not, but it was good.

After dropping Mom off at the apartment Dad and I headed out again to pick up some groceries to cook dinner rather than going out again. Unlike Barcelona there is no farmers market or large grocery store close by so it's a bit more of a challenge, but I get what I need to make a spaghetti sauce (I smuggled over my Parmesan Reggiano from Barcelona).

A long day but I feel so cultured.

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