Thursday, September 22, 2011

How I Spent My Summer: Adventures in Paris II

Photograph © Chris Bowne
If you missed my first post on Paris, 
you can read it here!

We started our second day with a trip around the corner from the apartment. In a tradition which lasted throughout our stay in Paris, we visited this delightful Boulangerie to select fresh pastries for breakfast.



Some of us really enjoyed having dessert for breakfast every day!


 Our first stop was my husband’s favorite museum, the Musée d’Orsay.

 Image by: orange74

Unfortunately, the Musée d’Orsay does not allow photographs. So I can’t show you all the impressive artwork we saw there, like Degas’ pastels, Whistler’s Mother and an entire special exhibit of Édouard Manet’s work. Just suffice it to say, we were all impressed! At one point, Ashleigh said in awe, “I can’t believe I’m standing here looking at Van Gogh’s self portrait!”

That night we wandered along the Champs D’Élysées and experienced Paris in the rain…


C’est magnifique!

On our third day, we finally visited the Louvre!


Known as the “museum among museums” the Louvre’s unrivalled collection is much too extensive to see in one day, so we focused our touring on specific areas. Since Ashleigh had studied ancient Greece & Rome during her freshman year at college, we chose the Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities wing, as well as the Italian paintings section. (Do you even need to ask if I grabbed myself an audio tour headset?)

We started with the Italian paintings which were hung along both sides of an endless, wide hallway, smaller anterooms shot off to the sides. I plugged myself in and meandered along, absorbing all sorts of fascinating info about the paintings I viewed. At one point, I entered a side room and sucked in my breath. I had stumbled upon the Louvre’s largest painting! Paolo Veronese’s Wedding of Cana (1562-63) spans an entire wall! I punched in the audio tour code and learned about this amazing work which depicts Christ’s first miracle where he turns water into wine. It was impossible for me to get a photo of the entire piece, but here are two details:



Shaking my head in amazement, I left the room and wandered further up the hallway. Suddenly, I felt a light touch on my arm and turned to find Ashleigh looking at me.

“Did you see the Mona Lisa?” she asked.

“No! Where?!”

She rolled her eyes. “It was in the room you were just in, mom!”

Huh?!

I dashed back into the room and saw what I hadn’t noticed before. The Louvre’s most famous painting hung directly opposite Veronese’s Wedding of Cana. I couldn’t believe I’d missed it, nor the huge crowd gathered around it.

I swiftly crossed the floor and that was the last “swift” thing I did for the next 20 minutes as I soon found myself crushed in a sea of bodies slowly surging towards the painting. It was suffocating! And the worst part was, I seriously could not escape. I’ve never been claustrophobic, but I fought a rising sense of panic as the crowd moved forward at about the speed of a teenager doing a chore. It didn’t help that I’m on the short side either. For several interminable minutes, this was all I could see:


 I was frustrated and disgusted as smelly, sweaty bodies pressed against me from all sides. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of Mona through the crowd.


 When I finally stood in front of the painting, I attempted to raise my camera to my eye but was shoved sideways by somebody and poked in the head by another as they too attempted to snap photos of the masterpiece.

“All right, that’s IT!” I growled in super crabby English. “Would you get your elbow out of my face!” My neighbor peered down at me in astonishment, as if surprised to find me there, but obliged grudgingly.

I snapped this photo…


And got the heck out of there! After all I’d read about Mona, and why she’s so famous, I hadn’t even had the opportunity to absorb any of it in that crowded mess!


After that fiasco though, things went more smoothly. Despite the crowds, we witnessed many really great pieces. However, since this post is already running long I’ll wait to share more of our adventure in my next post!

Paris Travellers Tip: Part of the reason for the huge crowd we experienced when we went to the Louvre was that we inadvertently visited the museum on its most popular day of the week: Wednesday. The Louvre is closed every Tuesday, so crowds on Wednesday are probably particularly intense.

Jusqu'à la prochaine fois, mes amies!
(Until next time, my friends!)

2 comments:

TeresaR said...

I gained 10 pounds just looking at your pastry photo...LOL! Love the night scene pictures. I was in the Louvre back in '86 and while there were crowds, it wasn't nearly this bad. Granted, it probably wasn't a Wednesday either. ;)

A bientôt!

Annette Piper said...

Fabulous!!!

A lot of places with paintings/frescoes in Italy didn't allow you to take photos - I think they're worried about the flash so its easier to say no photos instead.

The Italians are very big on pastry and bread for breakfast...so much for my gluten free diet LOL.