Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bonjour Paree! - Paris Part 3

After an exciting and action-packed two days in Paree, the only thing really left on our list was the Louvre! I didn't know much about the Louvre besides that the Mona Lisa was there and that it was in The Da Vinci Code book. That was about my extent of Louvre knowledge (almost as extensive as my French language knowledge). Turns out that the Louvre was originally a fortress in the 12th century. After that it used to be the national palace until Louis XIV decided to move the national palace to Versailles. Soon after, the national collections of art and sculpture were moved into the palace and during the French Revolution it was decided that the palace should be used to display the national masterpieces. It is thought that the word Louvre comes from the French word L'OEvre, which actually means masterpiece, because at the time the palace was built, it was the most magnificent of its time. Now, there is the palace, which holds the 3 wings of the museum and in the center, at the entrance is the famous glass pyramid. The designer won a competition to put up his design and the French people were really excited about it - as the designer said that he had discovered a way to make it so that the whole thing would be stable and would be practically invisible. He was sorely wrong and now the pyramid is connected with many metal rods. Some people love it, others hate it. For me, I think it is interesting to see such an old buliding juxtaposed with such a modern piece of art. What do you think? Lucky for us, every museum in practically all of Europe is free on the first Sunday of the month, and guess what last Sunday was? Ohhhh yes, free day for us! There were swarms of people but we were excited to be able to enter without much of a line. First stop - the Mona Lisa of course. There was practically a freeway of people heading there and the room in which it is hung was packed with people estatic to catch a glimpse of her. Like everyone mentions when they see the Mona Lisa for the first time...it is rather disappointing because it is so small. Also, because of previous theft and vandalism, it is behind glass. Our tour guide on Friday told us that one time it was stolen by a Louvre janitor who walked out in 1911 with the Mona Lisa tucked into his jacket - saying that the Italian painting belonged in Italy. While it was not as spectacular as I had expected, it is still always stunning to see something you have read and heard so much about - so here is an up close pic of Mona for you all! The real treat of the Louvre is when you leave the traffic of the Mona Lisa highway and wander into different parts of the museum which are much less crowded. I figured that I have seen Spanish art in the Prado in Madrid and Italian art in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, so I should spend some time looking at French art here in the Louvre. While we managed to see many beautiful paintings, the museum is gigantic and we were obviously not able to see it all. Focusing on just French art was a good idea. They say if you don't take any breaks and spend 4 seconds looking at each peice of work in the museum, you will be there for 3 months straight! My favorite painting though, and I am so mad I didn't note down who it is by, was in the History of the Louvre section of the museum. It is only a painting of people looking at paintings in the Louvre, but I really love it. It's like people-watching caught in paint. After a few hours at the museum, we decided we should probably get around and get closer to the train station. We jumped in the metro, and this entrance was one of my favorites. It is one of the surviving 83 art-nouveau entrances that was made in 1900. It was quite a controversy at the time and although it is beautiful, French people have referred to the metro entrances as praying mantises. I can see the resemblence! We popped out near the train station and decided to grab lunch and participate in what we have decided is Parisians favorite pasttime - people watching. I noticed that all of the outdoor tables in every restaurant in town have chairs that all face towards the street. If you are eating with someone, you don't face them, rather you face the street so you can stare at everyone who passes by. Since I enjoy people watching, having lunch with my chair facing the road was shamefully enjoyable! After lunch we stuck around a little longer with some coffees. Here in Spain, I always order café con leche (basically just espresso shot with milk). I found out that to say that in French you say café a lait - which is pronounced cafe olé! Whenever I ordered in there, I felt like I should be bullfighting in Madrid or something haha. Six-thirty finally came and we reluctantly got on the train back. It had started to rain, so we weren't so heartbroken to be leaving the city, but I wish we could have stayed longer. I think it was a fabulous weekend and hope you enjoyed reading about my French-filled days! I would say a weekend with the Eiffel Tower, French wine, Michelle Obama, palaces, stained glass and beautiful art makes for a pretty decent weekend! Bisous! Amanda

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