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

A Goodbye to Versailles and Hello To A Magical Night Out- Paris, France

 

By the time I had wandered my way to the Grand Trianon on the grounds of Versailles after leaving the the Queens Hamlet, my feet were getting achy and the rain had started to sprinkle down a bit more forcefully. Instead of going inside however (because that would be too logical), I sat just inside the steps, the beautiful black and white tiled floor providing a super elegant resting place to get my energy back up to start the trek back to the main palace and eventually to the meeting place for the tour company I had arrived with that morning.

A lengthy and leisurely visit to the gift shop (but of course) and then it was goodbye to Versailles and back to being a peasant outside it’s gates while I waited with my gathered tour group for the bus to arrive to take us back to Paris.

While on the ride back I got in touch with my friend Rachid who was finishing up teaching a class (because he’s a very smart cookie that teaches mathematics and the story of how we managed to become friends is best left for another day but involves me discovering that some math majors are actually quite cool) and we attempted to coordinate when and where we would meet up, things made a little more difficult because of the weather and unpredictable traffic. Eventually though, I made it back to Paris and the drop off point with the tour group and shortly thereafter met up with Rachid. Being a current Parisian resident, he immediately shuffled us off to the nearest Métro station so we could journey back to my hotel so I could pick up the gift I had gotten for him in Amsterdam and drop off that days souvenirs. He was exceedingly keen on having me experience this form of public transportation, as it’s what he uses on a daily basis and well, why not right? It was a quick trip and soon we were back on our way to our first destination, the french-gothic cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris.

The cathedral was as beautiful as I had expected it to be, almost larger than life in a wonderful way. We didn’t go inside as the area was deeply congested with visitors but just getting to see it up close and personal this way was a great experience to mark off as done on my list of “things to do/see in Paris“. Even as we crossed back over the Seine to head towards what turned out to be the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, I was already making plans in my head to come back for a more in-depth visit.

Before visiting Paris, I had only heard of the bookstore via movies and blurbs in travel guides- I think I might have mentioned this before but, I’ve never viewed Paris as that interesting to me personally. Not because its not bursting at the seams with museums and fascinating history- it surely is- but just because there have always been other places that interests me much more. That being said though, the history of the Shakespeare and Company Paris bookstore is a fantastic one and I definetly suggest stopping in. It’s situated just across from Notre-Dame and its a really unexpected book oasis that invites you to linger for a good long while.

Once we had managed to extricate ourselves from here (because I of course wanted to buy dozens of books and maybe a couple of postcards) we began the hunt for a place to grab dinner at nearby. After a bit of talking we settled on the idea that we should try and find a traditional French restaurant as I had never really experienced French cuisine before. Eventually after some walking around the area, we stopped to read a menu displayed outside a restaurant and the waiter (or host, I couldn’t quite tell) managed to get us-er I mean, to invite us to come inside.

So… i’m not going to give the name of the place we ate it- mostly because I honestly can’t with 100% accuracy remember it and so therefore i’d hate to drag the wrong place. But gods, I don’t think i’ve ever had a worse meal. Perhaps it might have been because I couldn’t read the menu (as Rachid speaks fluent French and when our waiter asked “anglaise or french” he said French, leaving me a bit in the dark as an unintended result) and I felt mighty uncomfortable asking him to translate every item and so ended up just going with what seemed familiar to me. It might have been the odd neon lighting, the crinkly plastic tablecloth that stuck to my skin the second I dared to let my arm rest on the table, maybe the really narrow table and hard wooden chairs…or maybe the rather unexpectedly terrible food.

The good thing though, is the meal wasn’t an utter wash because Rachid tucked in and greatly enjoyed his food, the vegetable soup I got on a haphazard whim ended up being almost tasty enough to make up for everything else and the really great conversation we had over the hour we were there made everything else fade into the background. Ahhh the powers of friendship, no?

 

And so, with that neon adventure behind us, we walked onward with no real destination in mind and the sky darkened to true nightfall. We walked over what felt like half a dozen bridges, talking about literature, history, our relationships and respective ideas of love (after all, the subject is almost infused into the bones of this city) and eventually found ourselves outside the Louvre. I remember seeing people walking past the gates and towards the illuminated pyramids and turning to Rachid to ask, “Wait, people can go in there at night?” . He hadn’t known you could explore the courtyard area after the Louvre closed for the day either, and so we crossed the street to follow the rest of people wandering in.

To say it was magical would be such a severe understatement. The next day I came back in the bright daylight hours but the way everything look that night- softly lit and only sparsely populated with visitors- thats the way I think I want to remember it forever.

I really can’t overemphasize visiting the Louvre at night- you can’t go inside the museum itself because it’s closed but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the area to view it at night, to get a chance to look around such a historic place with plenty of breathing room thats very hard to find during the daylight hours. Also, it’s just really freaking cool.

We ended the visit by crossing the street to get a closer look at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (not to be confused with the larger and more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile ) and idly wondering how far it would be to walk from here to either the Eiffel Tower or the other Arc. Probably overambitious on my part but I was considering walking from either one back to the Louvre the next day, though Rachid was more rational in that taking the Métro would be the better plan (he’s such a smart guy but definetly still needs to learn just exactly how utterly irrational I can be, ha).

Eventually though, as the time got later and later, we decided it would be a good idea to call it a night as he had a class to teach in the morning and I was more than a little tired from the long day. Ever the gracious host to his city and an amazing friend, Rachid walked me back to my hotel before finding his own way back home. Have I mentioned what a great person he is? Yes? Once more then!

Considering I started and spent half the day exploring Versailles and then the other half seeing so many wonderful Parisian sights and treasures, it truly was a day and night to remember and it ended up really cementing in me the deep desire to come back again, and soon.

~m

The Petit Trianon and the Queens Hamlet- Versailles, France

Having left the incredible interior of the Palace to see what I could explore outside, I was surprised at the chilly turn the weather had taken. I am a bit of a rushed idiot sometimes- in that if i’m in a rush, I become an idiot- and had forgotten my jacket back at the hotel. Also, it had started sprinkling a bit and I of course had no umbrella. So I had the choice of either hunkering down around the palace for the next couple of hours before the bus came back to pick us up or just making the best of the situation.

I choose to button up my cardigan, wrap my scarf a bit more securely around my neck and venture out onto the grounds and into the gardens.

The further out you go into the expansive gardens, the less people you will find, and after the packed (if at least beautiful) sardine can the palace had been, I was eager to get more fresh air and less people. After grabbing a quick lunch at one of the many restaurants scattered discreetly around the grounds, I made the walk out to the Petit Trianon. This was the estate gifted to Marie-Antoinette by King Louis XVI and it was her refuge from court life. It is much smaller and as such a much more intimate experience than the Palace and while it is an extra cost you if you get just the standard ticket, I think it’s really well worth it for admirers of the young queen or anyone interested in the beautifully decorated rooms inside.



Leaving behind the Petit Trianon and it’s english style gardens, I meandered my way down some paths, got turned around a couple of times and then ended up coming out from the woods near the the Queens Hamlet. This area was another part of Marie-Antoinette’s escape from the pressures of courtly life and it was really interesting to view this area, walk around the farms and cottages and imagine the nobles who also visited the palace coming out here to attend the small parties hosted by the queen.

Of course, finding bunnies here was also a small highlight- I immediately snapped some pics to send to Julia back in Germany. Versailles bunnies are just as cute as regular bunnies and if they happen to have an extra air of specialness about them well, you can’t really fault them for that.

I did a bit more walking around, just leisurely following the paths that thread throughout the area, enjoying the scenery and feeling like i’d really gone back in time. Eventually though, I headed off with purpose, in search of the Grand Trianon and back to the palace to finish up the day.

~m

A Riot of Splendor and Gold- Versailles, France

We awoke extra early that day so we could make it into Munich to catch my train to Paris.By early I mean, 4am early and I’m still not sure how Julia forgave me for making her wake up so early to drive me into town and help navigate me through München HBF, especially when she had to go to work right afterwards. Have I mentioned how much of an amazing person she is and how lucky I am that she let me stay with her? If I haven’t, you can be sure I’ll expand on that even more in my last Out-Takes post.

The train was thankfully caught well on-time and I was beyond grateful it would be a one way no transfers journey as I was sure I would have messed something up otherwise, given how tired I felt after a pretty sleepless night (as the night before I had gotten a call from work regarding a job I had applied for the week before I left on this trip-so fun). My fellow passenger was a bit of a weird guy but we left each other alone and apart from peeking over at my journals as I wrote in them, he was a perfectly fine silent travel companion.

The plan had been, once I made it to Paris, to meet up with my friend Rachid. Things of course rarely turn out to plan and by the time it was 3pm I had only just managed to check into my hotel and catch a breather. At this point I had to really consider, do I have the energy to meet up with my friend for the first time ever and make a good impression or will I end up very tired and stressed and hating myself a little? There were also some documents for work I needed to look over and sign so I ended up staying in, getting room service and enjoying the beautiful view (and the incredible sound of the bells from Notre-Dame just a bit down the street) from my room while resting my weary body from the last 12 days of constant traveling. At this point I had been in 3 different countries (4 if you count my unexpected prolonged stop at Dublin airport) and was appreciative for a chance to rest. Rachid was incredibly understanding as well and we made plans to meet up the next evening after I made it back from the Palace of Versailles.

The next day, not quite so bright and early as the day before, I made my way to the tour company that would take me to visit Versailles. I wouldn’t normally have gone for a tour but I was traveling alone and transportation to and from Versailles was included and it was skip-the-line entrance so I figured, well why not?

It wasn’t a guided tour, so once they got us out there and through the metaphorical front door, we were set loose with our maps and audio guides and told to meet back in about 8 hours at the front of the main gates.

To say it was packed inside would be a severe understatement. It was filled to almost overflowing with people and at first you really think, alright, is this worth it? And if you’ve read even a couple of my posts on here you’ll know i’m the first to say, “Yeah ok, lets go find somewhere else” but, truly this place is worth sticking it out for. Marble, granite, gold leaf- you can’t turn your head without being confronted by it. Decadent art and wondrously beautiful paintings upon paintings everywhere as far as the eye can see. Every single inch of what you walk through is like being submerged headfirst into a whole other realm of existence.

What was especially interesting to me was being here after having visited places that were so heavily inspired by it, from Herrenchiemsee to Linderhof. I thought I understood well enough the language of opulence but, being here made me understand exactly how little I knew of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of Versailles, here’s a handy link for you to read over . For those of you that are familiar with it, we can dive right into the surreal experience that is being in the Hall of Mirrors.

The crowds fade away into insignificance when you step into the Hall, and nothing else matters- not the noise, the people bumping into you, nothing. For a good minute and a half your brain is completely riveted by the majestic beauty of the room and the tribute it embodies to the artistic and political triumphs of France. Unlike the palaces I visited in Germany, photography is allowed here and as you can see , I full took advantage of it.

357 mirrors adorn the 17 arches opposite the windows encapsulating and showcasing the economic prosperity of France since at the time these were great luxuries (even now I doubt you know anyone that just has a whole bunch of opulent mirrors everywhere in their home just for show).

All in all, even with the crowds, the experience of being here is by itself worth the price of admission.

I walked around a bit more inside for about an hour until I realized with an almost frightening jolt- there’s a whole bunch more to see outside. The immense gardens and other residences just waiting to be visited. And so outside to explore I went.

~m

(P.s If you’re wondering about the tour I took, the hotel I stayed at and such, i’ll be covering all that plus detailing out some very big do’s and don’t for whenever you first travel to Europe in my last post.)