Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day 14: Part I of my Louvre Tour

On 03/27, we visited the Louvre. Found out the hard way that when you take the metro directly to the underground entrance to the Louvre, they don't have an entrance there for the Paris Pass. Only an entrance for people who need to buy tickets. And it was LONG. We had to find our way out of the ginormous underground mall (more difficult than you'd think) and make our way to the main entrance at the pyramid to the Paris Pass entrance (no line).

Once inside, we immediately made a beeline for the cafe to fortify ourselves. This entire trip, we missed lunch every day due to being inside museums. And the self guided tour I wanted to take would last 3.5 hours.

I found out during our Arizona trip last year that I really like ruins. In England, I found out I like castles, Roman ruins and seeing where people lived. So this year in Paris, I opted for the Louvre self guided tour that shows you the place as a palace, as opposed to the art itself. One of the advantages of this tour is that it's off the beaten track, no huge crowds. Mitch and I went our separate ways (he likes to wander).

My tour started in the guts of the Louvre, underground. There is a medieval moat and a vestige of the main building of King Philippe-August's fortress, circa 1230-1240. I had to laugh when I saw tourists getting their photos taken with a model of the fortress, and completely ignoring and charging past the actual ruins of the things. Snap photo with model, charge past real thing at full speed without a glance.  Not me! I've seen this section before and was glad to see it again.

I was interested to see clay pipes in the Louvre, like the pipe stems that Mitch and I found on the exposed beach of the Thames.

Next was the Salle des Caryatides, built 1546-1550. The caryatides statues support the musicians' gallery above. From 1692 to the Revolution, this room housed the King's Antiquities.

Marble statue of Eros.

Proof that kids through time have grabbed hold of animals and squeezed.

I waved to the Venus de Milo on my way past (she was surrounded and I saw her last time). 

When you're in the Louvre, always remember to look UP.

And always remember to look DOWN. This is in the summer apartments of Louis the XIV's mother, Anne of Austria. Built in 1655 to 1658 and has six rooms. Today it houses the Roman antiquities collection. The mosiac floors are gorgeous.

The Cour du Sphinx (once called the Queen's Court) is an enclosed courtyard with a glass ceiling housing a beautiful mosaic from a Roman villa in Antioch (Turkey) dating from 4th century AD.

On the Escalier Daru, I waved at the Victory of Samothrace (my favorite) and left her to the tourist hordes (I spent a lot of time admiring her on my previous visit).

I made my way to the Rotonde d"Appollon, which was originally Louis XIV's audience chamber. The ceiling depicts the Fall of Icarus by Merry-Joseph Blondel. 

Then I was pleased to be back in a room I liked from my first visit, the Galerie d'Appollon. So fancy!
The ceiling decoration depicts the path of the sun - the King's symbol. I admired some crown jewels.

Then on to a room that was originally the king's study, next to his bedroom. Under the Restoration, it housed the museum's collection of precious objects and was decorated with a painting by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse depicting the finding of the Venus de Milo.

The Salon des sept-Cheminees was named for the seven chimney flues that led into this room. This was the King's apartment. The original apartment decoration has been relocated. The current decoration was created by architect Felix Duban and sculptor Francisque-Joseph Duret celebrating the French artists of the nineteenth century in stuccos. I think it's creepy. When Napoleon Bonaparte reopened it as a museum in 1851, this room housed the French painting collection.

Views out of the windows:

I'll have two more posts about my Louvre tour. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 13: Picasso Museum, Pompidou & Jazz

On 03/26 we went to the Picasso museum. It reopened this year after a 5 year renovation. Even though we had the earliest advance tickets to get in right when they opened, we still had to stand in line in the rain.

If memory serves, the museum was three stories. As we made our way up, we saw the many styles of Picasso. Realistic stuff, cubist, statues. Wonderful.

A self portrait...

On the top floor of the museum, I looked out of the window and this is what I saw. When we exited, we went over to this building and goggled at it. Trompe l'oeil?

For a snack, we went to the Marche des Enfants Rouges and had a socca. A socca is a chickpea flour crepe. We lucked out that Alain made us one...his booth was closed for the afternoon but he took pity on us. Another group who walked up while ours was being cooked were turned away. Thank you Chef Alain and miam miam! The socca was unfilled, salted and peppered, and very hot. He cut it into strips and gave it to us in a paper cone.

We headed over to the Pompidou Center (modern art) but were disappointed to find out that the main collection is closed until summer. What they did have on show was a let down meh. Luckily, admission was included on our Paris Pass. I would have been really aggravated if we had paid extra to get in.

At least I did get this nice photo from their observation deck.

For dinner, we ate at a restaurant across the street from our hotel named Le Relais Gascon. I had a ginormous Salade Gourmande. It's a  Salade Nicoise (with tuna, egg, green beans and more) topped with a large amount of fried potatoes.

After dinner, we walked down Rue des Abbesses and found Le St. Jean, where we had a cheese plate and listened to an excellent jazz trio with jazz drummer Philippe Rinino to close out our day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 12: Musee Marmottan, Musee Cluny, Dinner Cruise

On March 25, we made our way to the Musee Marmottan, which is near the Bois de Boulogne. It's far away enough from central Paris that it doesn't show up on city maps. The museum is INCREDIBLE! It houses the largest collection in the world of Claude Monet's art. If you go, his collection is in the basement, so go directly there. There's a stairwell in the gift shop.

This museum is worth seeking out, even if it does take a little more work. We took the metro and then had to walk a mile. The hard part was the fact that it wasn't on any of our maps, and the streets were going off at all angles and very confusing. We did ask for help at a newspaper kiosk...he pointed, but the streets went off at 5 angles! We eventually figured it out and it was worth the effort. The walk took us past the Russian embassy. There was an armed guard walking the sidewalk all around the building. He had an automatic weapon.

At the museum, we had to wait in a line even though we had tickets. And two older Mesdames ahead of us waved up three of their friends to get in front of us, after we had been waiting quite awhile. They were all coiffed and dressed up.

Luckily we had started the day with a nice breakfast:

After we left the museum, we walked through a park and saw these poor unfortunate animals.

We spotted an Italian restaurant nearby for lunch. I honestly don't understand the many Americans I've heard say they didn't like the food in Paris, in Italy or in London. I just don't get it. We have consistently had good food. I wonder what they are looking for? We split an antipasti plate and a pasta entree with a cream sauce, topped with arugula. And we learned a new word. "Noix" means walnuts. When we sat down, there was a Parisienne across from us with a fluffy white lap dog that snarled and snapped any time the poor waiter went near.

Then we made our way to the Cluny Museum, officially known as the National Museum of the Middle Ages (Musee national du Moyen Age). This is one of my favorite museums in Paris. I was thrilled to return because the first time I visited, I specifically visited to see the Unicorn Tapestries and they were out for restoration. This time, I got to see them. Click this link to learn more. Of course, I couldn't get any photos inside. Here's a photo of the museum building from the entrance courtyard. The building itself is beautiful to see, inside and out. I absolutely love the Cluny.

We had some time to kill before our dinner cruise on the Seine, so we went to our favorite Paris hangout, Au Trappiste. I can't go here too many times. It's at 4 Rue Saint-Denis. It's possible I had too much wine here before heading off to our cruise. It was an Alsace AOC Reisling from Hans Schaeffer. And his beer is a Belgian Blonde from Hopus. We learned a new phrase from the waiter: "Quel type de biere?" What type of beer? And has happened several times in our two visits to Paris, the waiter's native language was Spanish and we had much better success with Mitch speaking Spanish to him than my limited French.

We capped off the day with a wonderful dinner cruise on the Bateaux Calife. I recommend it highly. You get a two hour cruise with dinner up and down the Seine, and arrive at the Eiffel Tower right when it starts to twinkle. It's a great experience!

Making our way to the boat. It was cold and rainy our entire trip.

Cruising down the Seine.

The boat has a clear roof

Sister statue of liberty.

After the cruise, we went the wrong direction trying to find the metro. But finally, we made it back to our hotel safe and sound. Bon nuit!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Day 11: Rainy Paris, Cemetery Art, French Food

On March 23, we took a plane from London to Paris.

After arriving at our hotel in Montmartre, the first thing we did was head towards Montmartre Cemetery. Unfortunately, in the rain. Contrary to what popular movies may have you believe, walking in Paris in the rain is not romantic, it is a pain.

I was soon cheered though, when straight away we saw street art by Gregos. He makes casts of his face and places them on buildings.

Then we explored the beautiful cemetery.

Walking in the rain, it was especially startling to see this tomb out of the corner of my eye:


We were surprised to see a cactus statue.

We finally had enough of tromping through a cemetery with wet feet and retreated to a restaurant near our hotel, Pub Montmartre. It became one of my favorites because of the friendly proprietor. Here's the view out of the window from our table and the tasty meal we shared.

Fortified, we ventured out once more into the rainy night to walk to a patisserie owned by a pastry and chocolate chef who has won the prestigious award of Meilleur Ouvrier de FranceArnaud Larher.

There were ginornmous Easter rabbits and a case of gorgeous pastries.

I chose a chocolate mousse pastry and Mitch got something that was similar to a New Orleanian Napoleon, but different. It was a praline flavor.

Here's a photo of Mitch in silhouette to show how large the Easter rabbit was (in the window on the right).

Rainy night in Montmartre.