The British Museum and A Walk Around The City- London, England

There’s a lot of cities that have been featured at one time or another at the top of my ever changing bucket list. London has definetly been one of those that has come and gone, never firmly staying on there for long enough to really make the time to visit. Nothing against the city of course, if anything it’s probably a product of knowing too many people from the rest of the UK who have never had much to say in favor of London. An old friend from the south of England just sort of shrugged when I asked if it was worth visiting, another from Manchester advised the Lake District was a much better venture and the most enthusiasm someone living in London itself could give me was “Sure yeah, there’s a bunch to see I guess.”

When we planned out this trip, starting in Sintra and then adding in stops on the way, of cities I’d always dreamed of seeing like Prague and Budapest, we decided to add London as the last stop on the journey, both as a sort of cherry on top of major European cities visited and as a low pressure way to end the trip since neither of us was overly invested in trying to see everything London has to offer.

And London does indeed have plenty to offer. Though I can’t say I fell in love with the it the way I did with Lisbon, there is a vibrancy that is unique to the city and I can easily understand why so many people consider London a personal favorite and visit time and time again.  We spent the most time at the British Museum (because of course we did, if there’s a giant museum around you can bet thats gonna be my first stop of the day) and then we did a self guided walking tour around the most popular sights of London before finishing up at what I think is probably the single most touristy thing we did on the whole trip, the London Eye. We lucked out and happened to ride up just as the sun was setting though so, honestly, it was incredible and one of the highlights of the day. Seeing London spread out below us as the sun set a brilliant orange on the distant horizon? Perfect way to end the day.

The British Museum

Trafalgar Square

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

Palace of Westminster

View of River Thames

View from the London Eye

All in all London was a perfectly satisfying way to end the trip and while i’m not sure if we’ll ever visit the city again given all the other places i’d dearly love to venture to, it definetly held it’s own place as one of the great cities of Europe.
~m

To the Louvre Once More- Paris, France

I visited the Louvre for the first time in 2017 last October, and it was at the tail end of a whirl wind two week first time trip ever to Europe. It was a dream come true and I have yet to go to a museum that could surpass it but, there was definetly still a lot to be seen . People asked, “Did you see the Mona Lisa?” to which I would reply no, and i’m quite alright not seeing it that up close and person with 200+ people thank you. The idea that there are greater works of art of be appreciated here was, is and will probably always remain my steadfast opinion.

After a trip that had included a visit to Michelangelo’s David, not to mention the almost countless other works of art housed in the museums and palaces we had visited, there was almost a bit of trepidation that morning that we woke up to head to the Louvre. I was excited to get a chance to see the whole other section of the museum I had missed last time, namely the Egyptian and Mesopotamian artifacts but I was worried the bf might suffer a bit of art fatigue within the first hour.

Thankfully, this proved to not be the case and it was actually me who ended up sitting down just shortly after taking a walk through the newest department at the Louvre, the department of Islamic Art. After a short break to rest my slightly weary feet though, I was up and happily exploring and learning about the beautiful Islamic art, mosaics and artifacts curated in this section. It actually turned out to be one of the highlights of the visit.

I think in total we spent about 6 hours here, and once again I still feel there is so much left to be seen and marveled over and while I don’t think i’ll be back again anything soon (as in, next year or so) I do very much want to come back, possibly when my French is much better.

We headed back to our hotel to rest up- trust me when is say spending the day walking around a gigantic gorgeous museum and just trying to absorb everything around you can really take it out of you- and relaxed out until night had fallen. At that point, we got our walking clothes out and headed back to the Louvre to catch the illuminated pyramids and enjoy a short evening walk around the area. Off in the distance, before we headed back, we caught sight of the Eiffel Tower illuminated as well and we were almost tempted to take the metro there but, in the end, the fact that a light drizzle had started decided us against it and our very tired feet were happy to head back to rest for the next days adventures.

~m

The Musée du Louvre, pt 2- Paris, France

A continuation of my previous post, photos from my visit to the Louvre.

I know I usually write words upon words for my posts but the thing is, not to cop out or anything, it’s just that words really don’t do this museum justice and even my photos can’t quite touch on how magical it was to get to explore this building all the treasures it holds.

In total I spent around 5 hours here, just walking from hall to hall, and the further I got from the main central exhibition area the less people I saw, until I was sitting down somewhere reading an info placard and realized I hadn’t seen anyone at all in the last 20 minutes, unless you counted the museum attendants. Eventually though, I had to start making my way back to the main area as the time was approaching when I would be due to meet up with Rachid for whatever that evenings adventures would hold.

Of course I got a little sidetracked when I passed a section with Mesopotamian artifacts, because I mean come on,  how could I resist? And then of course I pass through what I think is the loveliest section in the whole museum, where it’s just sculpture after sculpture and you can’t help but lean in closer to catch all the details carved into the stone.

Eventually though, I got a msg from Rachid saying he was on his way so I knew I had to tear myself away from it all if I wanted to have time to hit up the gift shop (you know I had to). 

I exited the museum with a head and heart almost to bursting with all the beauty I had seen and a slightly lighter wallet, breathing in fresh air and getting hit right in the gut with the realization that I would be leaving Paris the next day and I wouldn’t be able to come back to this museum any time soon. But I shook that feeling off, promising myself I would come back as soon as I got the next chance and went off to find Rachid amid the crowds outside the Louvre and then finish up the day with a visit to the Sacré-Cœur basilica.

~m

 

Chasing the Reflected Light at the Musée du Louvre- Paris, France

One of the most exciting things about deciding to visit Paris, apart from the joy of getting to meet a new friend in person, was knowing I would be visiting the Louvre. If you’ve followed this blog for a bit or know me in real life then you know, I’m a gigantic lover of museums. Some people might even say that’s an understatement, given how much I can nerd out in those kinds of places. Museums, mountains and ghost towns- those are my top three favorite types of places to visit.

The Louvre, established in 1793 and located in central Paris, is the worlds largest art museum and annually ranking at the very top (if not at number 1) of most visited globally. The museum is located in the Louvre Palace, which used to be a fortress up until it was converted to the main residence of the French kings in 1546. In 1682, when King Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles as his new household residence, the Louvre was then used primarily a place to display the royal collection. The Louvre was officially opened in 1793 and now houses a collection of 380,000 objects and 35,000 works of art, which should give you an idea of how long you could spend inside and still never get to see everything.

I visited on the last full day of the trip, and while I had big plans for the day- waking up early to visit the Eiffel Tour and then taking a leisurely long walk down the Champs Elyseès, i of course overslept and didn’t end up waking up until almost noon. Considering I had been traveling pretty much non-stop for the past two weeks by myself though, I can hopefully be forgiven for being dead tired and in desperate need of some rest. The Eiffel Tour and all the rest would have to wait for a return visit ( which I’ll be making in March btw- more on that in a later post though!).

I bought a skip-the-like ticket with audio tour through Viator which I really do think was a great idea since the line to get in was very long when I arrived and I’ve heard it can be even worse in the summertime/peak seasons. I didn’t really use the audio tour guide that I got though, because it mainly highlighted how to get to the most popular sights- namely the Mona Lisa. I was really more interested in the Near Eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculpture and Decorative Arts collections than diving into yet more paintings and I also really didn’t want to get swallowed up by crowds just to see a painting that had never been a favorite. Still though, if you’re keen to see it and other popular items like Winged Victory of Samothrace, do budget your time around them.

So, with no real guide or map, I just kinda wandered through hallways and corridors and honestly that was a ton of fun because I never knew what was going to be around the corner, what new world of beautiful items I would stumble across.

Its hard to overstate exactly how beautiful and wonderfully curated this museum is. The space is illuminated by light streaming in from all the many windows and refracted across the floors and that day I visited turned out to be a gloriously sunshine filled day so it was even more luminous inside.

Of course I did pass through plenty of areas that displayed some really beautiful and interesting paintings, but the stuff that really made my brain light up was still to come.

-to be cont,d in part 2

~ m

Medieval Treasures and Night Watch Crowds – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

It would be hard- though not impossible- to be in  Amsterdam and not visit one of the many amazing museums located there. For me, the struggle was real when it came to deciding between museums like the Ann Frank House, The Van Gogh Museum, and even the rather esoteric Museum of Bags and Purses. Thankfully this heartbreaker of a decision is something tour guides are well aware of and during the morning walking tour I took the guide our group had helpfully suggested that if you were pressed for time and you really could only visit one museum, the best choice would be the Rijksmuseum.

Reasons why this would be your best bet? It’s the largest art museum in the country (and one of the most visited), has a total collection of 1 million objects that span the years 1200 to 2000 – 8000 of which are on display to the public- and it even has three paintings by Van Gogh so that you won’t completely miss out on the experience of seeing one of his paintings here even if you can’t make it to the Van Gogh museum. The museums collection is focused on arts, crafts and history- which made it all that more fantastic for me because while I like art museums, wandering hall after hall of paintings can lose it’s appeal for me after a while. That being said, plunk me down among armoire, cabinets, tapestries and other objects with historical context, add in piles of documents/bank notes and throw in some letters and you’ve got my attention for probably an eternity. That stuff is like cat nip to me and this museum not only had it in spades but its also one of the most beautiful buildings i’ve ever been in.

Almost inadvertently, I started out in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1100-1600) section, on the ground floor 0 and spent a really peaceful hour slowly perusing the objects on display at my leisure. As you can probably tell from the photos, very few people lingered in this section- though to be fair,  few areas of the museum were really crowded, probably because it was around 1pm on a weekday when I visited. Not really having much of an idea of where I wanted to go next I decided to skip the first floor for the time being and head to the second floor, where the much lauded Night Watch is located.

I found the crowds here in the Gallery of Honor and more specifically in the Night Watch Gallery . I won’t say the Night Watch isn’t spectacular to behold in person, but it’s a bit like the Grand Canyon in the sense that no matter how magnificent it is in person, it’s been well and truly hyped up to an almost dizzying degree so that it can’t quite match up to what you have pictured in your head. The presentation though, thats unexpected and truly breathtaking.

An inside joke for friends- of course I love any depiction of Caesar getting stabbed as the final assignment in the worlds worst/best group project

I eventually finished up in this part of the museum, took a quick break on one of the many cushy benches scattered around and made my way to the 17th Century hall, passing through theThe Great Hall which I didn’t take any photos of, because honestly only video can really do justice to how amazing that hall is. Hopefully I can get around to putting together a video compilation of the trip that will include that clip but for now, just take my word on it, it’s unexpected and just that close to heavenly.

~m