The Louvre, museum of wonders

louvre archer

On our second day we visited this huge museum twice: in the morning and during their night hours. In between we went to the Cinema Museum which I will write about next week. But first, the Louvre.

Choosing what to see at this vast museum is difficult. We’re not much for paintings so we went to Ancient Babylon. Fantastic choice. Years ago, I had seen the Gates of Ishtar in Berlin and fell in love with the huge beasts in blue and orange. The Louvre extended my love. We spent most of the morning in ancient Syria; the rooms were almost empty.

What is difficult to grasp from the pictures is how enormous the work is.  And of course there were plenty of little articles: details from horse bits, cylinder seals, tiny statues of animals with fantastic horns.louvre door2

louvre doorTwo methods seemed popular: building brick by brick, sort of like a large mosaic, and incised raised images.

Winged horseThis was my hubby’s favorite: the man holding the little lion, after perhaps rescuing it from the snake in his right hand. Notice how his feet are turned in the same direction, like an Egyptian painting.

louvre man lion

Of course we can’t really know what the imagery meant to the people. Take a look at the god carrying the little basket. What was in it? louvre angel

 

Then we went to Egypt, where it was very crowded. I think perhaps the passion for Egypt began with the Tut exhibits which traveled many countries. It’s familiar. Until Berlin, I had no idea about the art of Babylon. But I recommend it.

louvre paintings

A thing to keep in mind about this museum is that it was first a palace. Starting from the medieval period, kings lived here. Much of the extant building is from the Renaissance , but we went into the basement and saw the powerful pillars that supported the building from medieval times. Just a couple of pix: one of a grand entry with steps that allowed horses to mount and another of a typical space, now filled with paintings. (I suspect the ceiling was not glass originally; probably gilt and ornate like we saw elsewhere in the museum. The glass being good for lighting the art, though.)

louvre stairs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we went to African Art. Similarly empty. I keep imagining the power of a king who sat on this chair, slightly leaning back with the fierce face between his legs.

louvre chair

I’ll close with this startled, albeit graceful, statue.

louvre statue

France, Spring, 2015

Eiffel TowerWe started in Paris. Of course.

Locating our apartment was the first test. Maps are so easy to read; streets so hard parse. But in getting there I had my first conversation in French, a win! We’re perfectly located, 2 blocks from the Louvre, but oh, the tiny bathroom. Impossible to pick up soap in the shower without opening the door; on the john, your knees almost hit the wall.

Jet lagged, we opted to spend the first day on the hop-on, hop-off bus. Up top, it was 55 and cold. Still, it’s a good way to be reminded of the city’s glories.

This view of the Eiffel Tower reminds me more of a fat dowager than the slim bon vivant that’s its usual image.
Notre DameWe did a little hopping off. At Notre Dame, the gargoyles were standing guard.

So, that’s the Paris one expects. Now for some shots of lesser known treasures. For some reason, the French have a fetish for square trees, which is very formal. I prefer the tree tunnels on our own East coast, but then Americans are often deemed to be informal to the extreme.

champsSpeaking of formal trees, here’s a cluster on the lawn at the Army Museum, better known as Les Invalides. So named because it was a hospital and retirement home for soldiers. Napoleon is buried there under a gaudy gold dome. But I liked best the polite trees, standing on the lawn, behind the canons. Those canons were captured by Napoleon in a battle (which one I don’t remember – he fought many.) They were placed here and only fired on peaceful occasions. I found the trees hilarious. Pointy-headed busybodies!

InvallidesWe had lunch in a falafel joint (as a vegetarian, France is not as easy as Italy). Took us forever to find our way among the little streets. Our GPS balked; maybe couldn’t see because of the close-crowded buildings? Once we ate – tiny place on a street crowded with ethnic choices – it took us again a while to find our way back to a Hop On bus. pansies
We got off again at Jardins des Plantes, the Paris arboretum, where I took my favorite picture of the day: 2 nuns, color-matched with the gorgeous garden. In Italy I didn’t take enough pictures of people; I feel it intrusive. I swore I’d do better in France. This was my first attempt. I’m happy with it.

nuns
Over the next weeks, I’ll be posting pictures and stories from our trip: Paris and the Loire Valley (famous castles and, surprisingly, a zoo.) Hope you’ll join me.