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

Foggy Canals and Amex Adventures- Amsterdam

The day started early…ish. It also started with some light rain and a bit of a foggy mist, which really wasn’t the most promising start to my first day in Amsterdam, especially given I had planned to spend most, if not all, of it walking around. I was tempted to think the rain I had encountered in Scotland had followed me down, but that would be dubious logic, right?  No matter the weather, it was still unbelievable amazing to actually be here, in Amsterdam.

Not to say being in Scotland wasn’t amazing and it’s own kind of dream come true but, Amsterdam was the city I had first picked out to visit when I was 16 and only just starting to dream of traveling to Europe. Full disclosure: this probably had a good bit to do with a big and rather inconvenient crush I had on an incredibly sweet and friendly Dutch boy I knew at the time, but the love for the city remained even after that summer infatuation faded.

I had never done any kind of tour before this trip, but after reading about people who’d done them and not wanting to spend all my hours wandering by myself through a new city, I decided to sign up for one just a few days before leaving and hope for the best. The walking tour I signed up for met at 10am at the National Monument in Dam Square and for someone that hadn’t ever had the chance to really sit down and learn about Amsterdam’s history, it was unbelievably informative while still being super fun. Some of the subjects and areas that were covered in the 3 hours:  Anne Frank’s story, the Dutch East India Company, the Red Light District, multiple hidden Catholic churches, Amsterdam’s Chinatown, and the history and reasons behind the leaning buildings & gable stones. While doing a walking tour that consisted of mostly all couples while I only had my camera as companion might have turned out a bit depressing, the guide we had was so chipper and genuinely enthusiastic about teaching us about her city’s history as to make me feel only that much more happy to be there.

We stopped at a restaurant for half and hour (I can’t remember the name of the place but I can tell you it was surreal, purple and very cool) in the middle of the tour so people could use the bathroom, rest their feet and talk to the tour guide about other tours available.  While I was debating whether to take that nights Red Light District tour one of the other people in the group came over to talk to me- she introduced herself as Elsa from Chicago and we started chatting and getting to know each other better as the tour continued.

By the time the tour concluded at the Homomonument (exactly what it sounds like yes- a memorial that commemorates gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality) the sun was well and truly out, the fog has dissipated and we set off to try and find lunch together.


Now, if you’ve read the last couple of posts you might remember that I lost one of my credit cards somewhere on my flight from Paris to Edinburgh and as such only had some Euros and one card left to me while I waited for the other two to arrive by overnight mail. The good news was that my other cards were due to arrive that afternoon to my hotel, the bad news was that I still had a whole morning to try and get by with what I had with me…which wouldn’t have been such a problem if I hadn’t decided to take my American Express card with me instead of say, my debit card. Amex, as some of you might know, is not excepted everywhere. Generally i’d been lucky with it being accepted and thankfully Elsa was a good sport about making sure we could find a place that took it but it was still a fun half hour of walking around the streets of Amsterdam looking for that little blue and white “we accept” sticker on windows. Eventually though we found a nice and quiet sandwich shop and tucked in to barbecue chicken and gouda sandwiches and chilled pear juice which was an interesting but surprisingly tasty combination.

After that we walked off in the general direction of the Rijksmuseum, which I had bought skip-the-line tickets for and where we parted ways as she was headed towards the Vondelpark. We exchanged numbers though, and made tentative plans to possible meet up again the next day before she headed off to Geneva and I headed inside to spend the next couple of hours wandering happily through the many (many many) hallways of one of the most beautiful museums i’ve ever visited.

So, fair warning- the next 2-3 posts will probably be about the Rijksmuseum because i’m a gigantic nerd and so if you’re not too interested in that (but why wouldn’t you be, it’s an amazing museum!) feel free to tune back in for the Salzburg, Germany and France posts that will come after that.

~m

Under The Ribbed Archways- The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

After leaving the Scottish National Gallery and getting slightly lost on our way to and back from a market that Rob was keen on visiting (it ended up being much more crowded than the museum we had left and the walk there and back made my very jetlagged body want to call it a day) we made our way back to the area we had begun the day at, to visit the National Museum of Scotland, which, to quote their own website features a stunningly diverse collection that will  “take you on a journey of discovery through the history of Scotland and around the world, taking in the wonders of nature, art, design and fashion and science and technology – all under one roof.”  We again went our separate ways once inside the museum and after a I took a quick sit down to check in with friends and get my slightly tired spirits back up, I happily went off to explore and make my nerdy dreams come true.

The area I spent the most time in was the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibit, and I can honestly say it was time really well spent. No area of the museum I went to was overly crowded but this part even more so was wonderfully quiet and it was a rare pleasure to get to take as much time as I liked to linger over the exhibits, reading the descriptive placards and just really taking it all in. Every item on display I got the chance to see seemed like it was so lovingly and perfectly curated and you could get the sense of trying to accurately and fairly represent the story of this period in time as honestly as possible.

Eventually I finally finished poring over bank notes and letters (seriously guys, I wish I was cooler than this but i’m a genuine history nerd and I make no apologies for it ), headed on to the rest of museum and then of course, to the gift shop to pick up postcards and other goodies for friends back home before meeting back up with Rob on the first level. We stayed until near closing time (17:00) and then headed back out onto the bustling streets to scout out dinner and then after that it was time for me to head back to the hotel because even though there was a huge part of me that wanted to explore the winding streets of Edinburgh, my body was ready to collapse in bed and melt into the sheets to rest in preparation of the next days adventure.

And what was the next days adventure? Well a very beautiful though slightly ill advised hike around Loch Lomond, of course.

~m