Friday, April 27, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 4: I Left My Scarf at the Louvre

On my previous visit to Paris I found The Louvre overwhelming in both size and crowds. This time I knew I wanted to have a guide, if only so I could get oriented to later wander on my own. My hotel gave me a brochure for France Tourisme. They offer a 49 Euro ticket which includes entry fee (15 Euros) and a 2 hour tour. In comparison to other guided tours it is very reasonably priced. The one draw-back for some folks might be that you have to go to their office (rather than be picked up by a guide) but it is very near the museum.

Granted, I was in Paris on a rainy day in February and went to the Louvre on a weekday morning, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself one of three on the tour with an excellent guide. Of course, our guide wanted us to see the most famous art in the Louvre, so along with a good lesson in history she led us to those works I expected to see.

The Louvre Pyramid was designed by the architect I. M. Pei and completed in the late 1980's. 
Our guide started with the statues. I do not recall the history of the statue below, but where it resides is impressive.

Below is the all famous Venus de Milo. As the story goes, this Greek statue carved around 100 B.C was discovered by a peasant in 1820 on the island of Milos. She stands 6 feet 8 inches and is beautiful, missing arms and all.
Venus de Milo
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, below, was found in 1863. Dating back to the 2 century B.C., she stands 8 feet tall. It was created not only to honor the goddess, Nike, but also to honor a sea battle. The statue conveys an impressive amount of movement.

The Winged Victory

Next we entered the museum wing that houses the majority of Italian, French, and Spanish paintings.

When I looked up, I was reminded that this was a royal residence for 700 years. Starting as a fortress, it continued to be added to and adorned by one king after another, until the court was moved to Versailles by Louis the XIV. After that, the palace was pretty much ignored by the royals. Napoleon III had the structures connected and turned one wing of the museum into his private apartments. From the time of the French Revolution until 1870, this was the residence of the French heads of state. 

So on to the paintings--our guide took us to the Mona Lisa. She said she would wait for any of us who wanted to make our way up to the painting. Would I? Well, I figured it is now or never. 

Can you see her up there?

I slowly started elbowing my way forward. How unlike me to push aside people, even children. But this was the only way to get up to the painting. I started thinking of those stories about people being trampled to death as a crowd leaves a soccer stadium. If I were to fall (which certainly could happen with all the pushing and shoving) I would be walked over, trampled, stompled! I was determined and once I started, I could not turn back. So here is the photo, less than perfectly focused due to jostling, but I was there. 

Our guide told us that part of the allure to the Mona Lisa was that she was once stolen right off the walls of the Louvre. Art lovers around the world became frantic. What had happened to her? Was she gone forever? Was she destroyed? Two years later, the painting was recovered and returned to the Louvre, but this created a mystique to this work that lives on. Oh yes, it is also a Da Vinci. 

So after the two hours with the guide, I was left to spend the rest of the day on my own. With over 10 miles of hallways in the largest museum in the world, I decided to focus on paintings. The museum holds many more exhibits including Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Islamic art, but my goal was to see as many paintings as possible. And so I did.

More Da Vinci



A closeup of the hands in Serodine's painting of Jesus with the Doctors.



This piece has quite a mixture of fashion over the centuries.


In the 1400's Vivarini painted in a Gothic style.

Leaving the Italians, I found French, English, and Spanish artist's work.

El Grecco

Jacque Louis David

This huge painting of Napoleon I Coronation has a duplicate at Notre Dame.



Seeing a Turner in real life is a show-stopper!

Are you tired of looking? I was. Each time I saw an empty bench or a niche with a chair, I would sit and let my feet, eyes and brain rest for a few moments. 

To finish my day at the Louvre, I headed to another wing--the Napoleon Apartments which was on the opposite wing of the Museum.

How They Lived in Napoleon III Times

And finally I was ready to leave. I said goodbye to the stunning Botticelli frescos, 

and headed down to the cloak room. It was then that I discovered the loss of my red silk scarf I had bought in Vietnam. I very briefly thought of trekking back through the miles of museum I'd walked that day. No, my scarf could stay with Da Vinci.

I slowly headed back over the river to my hotel. I thought that this would most likely be my last visit to the most famous and largest museum in the world. As I looked over the Seine, I had a view of the one of the world's most famous structures, the Eiffel Tower. 

This night I would not seek out a restaurant on TripAdvisor, I would just walk across the street from my hotel to a small Thai restaurant.  I had plenty to think about as I ate my pad thai.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 3: Center Georges-Pomidou

Again, on my third day there, the Paris weather was cold and damp, but I found walking through the streets, over bridges and from one area to another stimulating and exhilarating.  My museum destination for the day was the Center Georges-Pompidou where I could view modern to pop to contemporary art from the last two centuries.

View from Pont-Neuf

After breakfast I headed across the Seine from my hotel's district, Saint-Germain to the district known as Les Halles.

About a mile-walk later, I arrived at the Center Georges-Pompidou, a modern building (1977).

The CGP is a somewhat complicated building to navigate, but with some help from the information booth I was soon seeing art!

First I came across an exhibition of the work of Jim Dine, an American Pop artist. I was unfamiliar with the name, but soon became a fan of his art. This photo shows a seven-year old laughing at these painted figures. He especially appreciated the Mickey Mouse head.

One way to store your tools!

Then it was on to my some of my favorites:


I love his use of patterns.


This face is so simple and expressive!



This piece seems busy and contained for Kandinsky.

Nikki de Saint Phalle
This sculpture is remarkable, exuding a darkness to the "Bride." I thought of  Dicken's Miss Havisham.
After my appetite for art was filled and my eyes were tired, I realized my stomach was growling. I headed out looking for a late lunch/early dinner.   It's impossible not to run into more interesting structures in Paris. A few blocks from the museum, I spotted this gem, Saint Jacques Tower

This was once attached to a Gothic Cathedral built in the sixteenth century. The rest of the church was demolished in the 1790's during the French Revolution, leaving this one historic piece of what once was.

From my journal: "One thing that struck me today, looking at the art of so many well-known artists, is how many different styles most tried as their work evolved. That helps me let go of my own attempts to stay corralled to one style in my art."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 2

My first day in Paris started with a nice buffet breakfast in the hotel. I learned to boil my own soft boiled egg in a portable boiling pot by hanging my raw egg in a nifty little wire egg holder. I sat at my breakfast table with my guide books and maps. It was a rare feeling to have no one else's ideas or opinions to take into consideration. I was on my first full day of deciding everything all by myself.

Knowing that jet-lag was most likely going to arrive by the afternoon, I choose to walk to the two islands in the Seine, which were the first settled area of Paris. As I left the hotel, I kept my eyes open for the landmarks that would be necessary for me to make my way back to my room. It was a short walk to the Fontaine Saint-Michel. Built in 1860, it shows the work of many artists and was largely criticized at the time for its multi-colored stone work.

I was just yards away from one of the six bridges that would take me across the Seine River to Îll de la Cite, site of Notre Dame.

Near the entrance of the Gothic Cathedral is a beautiful statue of Charlemagne (1878). It avoided destruction during WWII because there is a strong connection to Charlemagne in German history.

The fabulous exterior of Notre Dame is covered with such amazing art. I was especially enchanted with the delicate city scapes above the heads of the saints.

Inside there is much unidentified art, but all amazing!

I especially enjoyed the gold leaf religious icons and . . .

the large carved relief that one could walk around to see the entire story of Christ.

The stained glass was actually removed from the Cathedral to preserve it during WWII.

After a long walk around the interior, I sat for some time just trying to absorb the beauty and history of the place. How did they build these amazingly tall Naves in the 1200's? The architecture received quite a bit of destruction in the French Revolution (1790's) but has been greatly restored.

Returning to the outside, I had to walk around to the back of the building to find the wonderful flying buttresses.

Then I simply wandered around the 2 islands which are rare Medieval streets and buildings. The rest of Paris was mostly leveled and rebuilt with its grand boulevards and monuments under the rule of Napoleon III (1850's.)

The Palais de Justice sits on the site where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned and executed.

My guess about being hit by jet-lag was about right. By late afternoon I strolled back to my little hotel on my little street (this time knowing just how to get there) and took a nap before going out to dinner. Lobster dinner was just around the corner!