I fell right into the Arms of Venus de Milo.

The Musee du Louvre started off it’s life as a Royal residence in the late 12th century but the building of today was constructed in phases over several hundred years, from about mid 16th century onward. One wing has actually been a museum open to the public since the Revolution, and the Louvre itself had ceased to be the main Royal residence about 100 years before that when Louis XIV decamped to Versailles and took the government with him. In the late 18th century  the art collection took over entirely, and thus the modern Louvre was born.

Thus endth the history lesson… Anyway, the Louvre is the best and worst thing about Paris; literally and metaphorically. It is ponderous, involved, ornate, frustrating, and tiring all rolled up together.

I had determined to get us to the Lourve at what I thought was early, 10am. All our efforts to touristize before then have been in vain, so… The aim was to get in and latch onto the 11AM English tour; the “crash course” of the museum. We didn’t expect to do the entire Louvre in one day because it’s just too big. The pro-tip we’d gotten was pick a few collections and dedicate their time during a Louvre tour to immersing themselves in just a few collections. I figured the official tour was not a bad way to do this.

Unfortunately, we had a few more bumbles and delays in ordering, devouring and paying for breakfast, and didn’t make it there until 10:30. The entrance to the Louvre is impressive, 3 pyramids built in the 1980’s and designed by IM Pei. The big one is 67 feet. Unfortunately the queue was similarly expansive, and our collective heart sunk when we a guard with a sign reading “01:00.” Steph has a good rule about lines; never stand in one in unless you ask someone what it is for, not matter how obvious. It was the entrance line, yes, but the line meant “1 hour” not “1:00pm.” Small mercies…

We finally got in and found that there was another line for tickets. Cleverly, I spotted some “self-service” kiosks in the corner. Made a beeline, and 4 or the 5 machines promptly failed (noticed the Windows Vista log-in when they were finally rebooted). Finally, finally we got in.

The Egyptian and Babylonian colelctions are logical firsts on the ground floor, and not be missed. Steph and I both discovered we had similar childhood obessions with mummies and Egyptian myth. One of my favorite was coming face to face with Ramses II towards the end of the exhibit. And hilarious to see a wall sized “menu” in hieroglyphics from some chic cafe on the Nile.

Mona Lisa – I found it quite off putting, to tell the truth. Very “tourist trap” feeling. Supposedly 2,000 people per hour come to see her, spending an average of 15 seconds viewing.  I was amazed at how tiny it was.

The Lacemaker –  a very intimate, precise work; a testment the worth and intensity of the creative process.  Love Vermeer’s colors,  and the depth of field is amazing. Also small.

Venus de Milo – housed among lots of other amazing Greek statuary, definitely my favorite part of the Museum to walk through. Very beautiful and unexpectedly moving.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace – thronged by the masses at the top of a stairwell, I was disappointed I didn’t get to study this one.  Very theatrical; thought she was going to lift-off. Drapery of the robe was awesome.

Michelangelo’s Slaves – writhing souls burdened by the body?

Anyway, I’m no critic. These were the biggies and much has already been said about them.

After all that, I checked my map and headed straight for the Netherlands/Flemish part of the museum. These guys are my favorite… the richness of everyday life shines through in their scenes. You want to sit down with these people and know their stories…

Oh, the one unknown that really jumped out at us was Perseus and Andromeda by Wtewael. I’ve always loved the adventures of Perseus, and love the series of him rescuing Andromeda by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Burne-Jones. The more famous depiction in the Museum is by Veronese, but we really loved this one. The shells and bones are just great.

So, it seemed like everyone makes a beeline for the Mona Lisa and then wanders around (lost). We should have gotten there earlier and seen the obvious things, so would have had more time for relaxed exploration instead of fighting the unwashed masses. And the Louvre’s floor plan/map is overly simplified; we found ourselves going up and down several staircases trying to exit a wing or exhibit, often ending up in unexpected places—tiring and frustrating. Almost all of the captions next to painting and sculptors were in French and that’s it. With all these feelings of frustration trying to get around and out of the Louvre, I started to think about how unaccommodating that was and I felt the beginnings of a stereotype forming in my mind…

It’s overwhelming, no doubt. You just have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not going to see it all, or even close. We really had a hard time with that. And its hard to cram it all;  its impossible to stay past 3-4 hours without your energy completely being zapped.

A must-see on our Paris trip, right up there on the list together with the Louvre and the Eiffel tower, was the très chic shop Colette. Colette is far more than just the best fashion in Paris; it is a department store in miniature; the mother ship of lifestyle boutiques. It carries everything from perfume to jewelry to toys to candy to records just as long as the products are stylish enough.

Situated on Rue Saint-Honoré, the shop was a little bit confusing to find, since it is located not that far from Plaza Colette, and yet far enough way to confuse.  As it turns out the Colette shop owner actually shares her last name with Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), the famous French feminist writer, variety artist and dancer. I assumed the shop was of course named after the writer. Ooops.

Collette was a ton of fun; I ran to the records section, Steph to the make-up and jewelry. Everything just the absolute latest and greatest. The store is famous for its DJ mixes, and as I was picking one out, I was writing down the names of some other compilations and artists to check out from home (even knowing that some of this stuff will be impossible to buy in the states). One of the clerks ran over to me and demanded I put away my pin and pad… do aspiring DJs steal setlists or something? Bizzaro. Anyway, I bought an awesome disco collection and some candy that was like a tootsie roll with the flavor of buttered popcorn. Steph got some great makeup.

Worn out, we came back home for a needed rest.

We did finally rally and went out the see the Effiel Tower. I think Steph was let down by how the area was extremely unromatic; swarming with tourists, strutting teenagers and beer/key-chain hawkers. Walking down the Trocadero was nice though, and, even we, hardened, world-weary veteran Parisians that we are, exchanged some sweet nothings in the night air as we gazed up. Just as we were leaving, the tower errupted in flashes of light, like a million cameras going off all over the tower. No idea why, but it was pretty. And, then, inexplicably,  there was the Soirée Bus.

Yes, the Soirée Bus: “A bus designed as a nightclub to celebrate your events through Paris”. A screech of tires, a flash of neon, a window full of drunk girls raising the roof to terrible Euro Trance, a squelch of exhaust, and it was gone… Did we really see that?

Completely zonked at this point, but, for some reason, we decided to check an “Authentic Mexican” place near our flat. I guess it was part for a laugh and part out of hunger, but we went it and c’est bien. The queso was a compete fail; they tried to use brie or something, and the decor seemed more tropical than Mexican, but the sangria was tasty and it was nice to be able to pronounce everything on the menu. The crowd was young and bositerous and we felt some small validation in doing something “nightlife.”

That’s it for now.  Oof, this post is too long and I think Steph has already fallen asleep. Bonne nuit!

2 comments on “I fell right into the Arms of Venus de Milo.

  1. Melissa September 24, 2010 10:55 am

    The sculptures were my favorite as well. They’re so lovely, and so well-crafted. The Cupid and Psyche sculpture is stunning and tres romantic.

    I think my visit to the Louvre was a good lesson. Museums are not to be taken in all at once. One should walk around at leisure and be open to encountering things you’ve never heard of. Seems that you and Stephanie did just that. I think that means the visit was a success!

    The lights on the Eiffel Tower were installed for 2000, but they kept them.

    • Steph September 24, 2010 5:59 pm

      Hi Melissa, Agreed!! Also: HUGE CONGRATS to you and Tim. We are THRILLED for you!!!

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