How I Spent My Summer: Adventures in Paris III

If you missed my first few Paris posts and would like to start from the beginning of our adventure, click the links below:

After the Mona Lisa experience, we left the Italian Art section and headed to the Ancient Greek, Etruscan and Roman wing. The thrilling Winged Victory of Samothrace stood at the top of a staircase. I got Josh to pay more attention to her by letting him know he was looking at the “real” Nike (Greek goddess of victory). It was sculpted c. 190 A.D.:

We also viewed the alleged epitome of graceful, feminine beauty, the infamous Venus de Milo. Honestly, I found her a bit too broad-shouldered and masculine to be the “perfect woman.” Although I think Chris may have appreciated her demure silence as opposed to my tendency to, er, vocally express my opinion on matters.

 It was cool seeing all the different artists throughout the museum sketching and painting these great works of art.

We wandered for quite a while amongst the sculptures of ancient rulers and mythological characters, while Ashleigh educated us on the finer points she’d learned during school last year.

 Eventually though, after so much art appreciation we started getting a little loopy…

Chris found great humor in snapping this shot of Joshua, just a tad bit bored by now.

We ate lunch at a cute, little café near the Louvre, then headed to the Musée Rodin. This museum is actually a mansion, dating from 1731.

Image by: Michael Scaduto

Rodin liked his work to remain intentionally messy—leaving fingerprints along with marks from the tools and rags used to keep the clay moist, because he wanted his sculptures to reflect the artistic process of creation.

 The museum is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens filled with some of Rodin’s most famous works. And after spending so much time indoors it was nice to be outside.

We saw Rodin’s original sculpture, The Thinker (c. 1880).

 As well as The Three Shades.

Rodin later placed The Thinker and The Three Shades on top of his masterpiece of all masterpieces, The Gates of Hell.

 Note the smaller version of The Three Shades standing at the top of the gate? They’re a triple representation of the same figure directing the viewer’s eyes down to The Thinker who sits contemplating the fate of the tormented figures below.

"Abandon every hope, ye who enters here," (taken from the inscription above the Gates of Hell Dante’s Divine Comedy a.k.a. Dante’s Inferno.)

As we stood in front of The Gates of Hell, (no pun intended!) I turned to Josh. “Did you read the packet information on Rodin I included for you?”

“Nope,” he grinned.

“No worries,” I said, unzipping my purse and once again whipping out the extra copy I’d printed. I flipped through several pages, stopping at the Auguste Rodin summary. “Did you know that this project ultimately became Rodin’s obsession?”


“Uh-huh. He spent the last 37 years of his life working on it!”

I looked up to find Josh walking rapidly away from me up a random garden path. I do not understand why everybody isn’t as fascinated with these details as I am!

I followed him to arrive at the beautiful, peaceful setting of what I consider one of Rodin’s most disturbing pieces, Ugolino.

The story behind this sculpture is a depressing one. Apparently, in the 13th century this Ugolino character was accused of corruption. He, along with two sons and two grandsons (or nephews, in other versions) were imprisoned in the Gualandi Tower where they were all starved to death.

And here they are, starving to death:

Nice, eh?

But the gardens were beautiful, and we had a good time there. 

Figuring we’d pushed 17-year-old Josh’s museum gallivanting to the max for the day, we headed back for a nice dinner and a view of Le Tour Eiffel at night.

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

All photographs © Holly, Chris and Ashleigh Bowne unless otherwise noted.

Quote of the Week

"Know how to live within yourself: there is in your soul a whole world of mysterious and enchanted thoughts; they will be drowned by the noise without; daylight will drive them away: listen to their singing and be silent."

~ Fyodor Tyutchev ~

Image by: Yosh3000

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!”


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!)

How I Spent My Summer: Adventures in Paris

One benefit of my husband Chris’s job has been Frequent Flyer Miles. Over the years he’s done quite a bit of travelling for work and as a result, our family has been blessed with several very nice vacations, including Hawaii, Mexico, Rome, and this past summer, Paris! I thought I’d share some trip highlights and photographs with you over my next few blog posts.

We left for our adventure on June 26th, flying overnight to arrive in Paris around 8:00 a.m. the following morning. We grabbed a taxi and got to experience Parisian rush hour traffic firsthand.

Since we’re a family of four, it was cheaper to rent an apartment as opposed to staying in a hotel. Chris found a cute, little place right around the corner from the Louvre. It was also conveniently located next door to a detective agency--just in case we uncovered a mystery while we were there.

Photograph © Ashleigh Bowne

The apartment building elevator so tiny, it seemed designed to barely fit two regular-to-petite-size people. In fact, we couldn’t even fit all of our luggage with one person. On a challenge, the kids and I managed to cram the three of ourselves inside!

Photograph © Ashleigh Bowne

 The day was incredibly hot, hitting around 100 degrees. So we headed to the Louvre with dreams of wandering the famous museum in air-conditioned comfort, but unfortunately, everybody else had the same idea. The line snaked about a mile long, so we gave up and walked to Notre Dame instead.

 We entered the hushed atmosphere, appreciating the way its gray stone interior was illuminated by candlelight and sunlight glowing through stained glass windows.

Now for those of you who’ve travelled vicariously with me before through my blog, you’ll recall that I love to make certain my kids fully appreciate what they’re looking at on these family trips. So as usual, I put together a “little” packet of interesting facts concerning everything we were planning to see in Paris.

“Hey guys,” I whispered. “Did you read my notes about Notre Dame yet?”

“No,” they whispered back.

“No problem,” I said, whipping the extra study packet I was carrying from my purse. “Did you know that Napoleon was so geeked to become emperor, that he seized the crown right out of the pope’s hands and placed it on his own head in December 1804, right here at this very cathedral?”

“No,” they said.

“And did you know that Notre Dame is constructed in the high Gothic style? Renaissance artists gave Gothic architecture its name, basing it on the word “Goth” which implied the style was barbaric compared to the clean, noble lines of Roman architecture.”

I looked up. Somehow the kids had sidled away and were nowhere to be seen. Hmmm? No worries. I’d find them again. From Notre Dame we headed to the modern art museum, Centre Georges Pompidou.

Photograph © Chris Bowne

Along the streets we observed several homeless people, as well as people entertaining passersby by playing music for money:

 Needless to say, I’m also one of those dorks who always wants the audio tour headset when I visit a museum. However, in this case we all opted out of getting one. Perhaps we should have. I confess, I’m not a huge fan of most modern art. And I mean no disrespect to those of you who are. But, seriously. Some of this stuff I just don’t get.

I saw a guy wearing an audio headphone standing in front of one work of art for five minutes solid. After he left I walked over to it. It was a white canvas with a series of evenly spaced pencil lines drawn onto it--essentially looking like of a piece of notebook paper. And the title? “Untitled.”

C’mon, really? What could he possibly have heard about this piece that would have lasted five whole minutes?!

We saw stuff like this…

And this…

(I know, dude. I don’t get it either.)

(My entire family agrees this must have been the inspiration for Darth Vader’s headwear.)

We had dinner at a lovely sidewalk café. Dining Parisian style, we faced the sidewalk and street to blatantly people watch. I love it!

 Afterwards, we wandered through the Jardin de Tuileries, soaking up its carnival-like atmosphere with its huge Ferris wheel and wide walking paths.

Image by: Marie de Bueil

We grabbed a taxi and arrived back at the apartment, hot, sticky, exhausted, and wishing our 4th-floor apartment had air conditioning. But other than that, happy! And exhausted.

Tune in next week for more of our Adventures in Paris!

All photographs © Holly Bowne unless otherwise noted.