Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Paris, Day 13: Montmartre & Louvre

Day 13 was a bit of a mixed bag, as we ventured all over the city. However, the main areas we visited were Montmartre in the morning, the Latin Quarter in the afternoon, and the Louvre in the evening.

Our first stop was Sacr
é-Coeur Basilica, the "dollop of meringue" atop the hill of Montmartre.

The cathedral has always seemed to me to be very cute, and the trek up to the top of the hill to go inside is always worth it. The views are lovely, and the inside of the cathedral is covered in intricate mosaics.

After that, we wandered around Montmartre for a bit, and Dave and I were both struck by how the neighborhood seems to have changed since the last time we were each there. Admittedly, the last time I visited Montmartre was in my 2003 visit with my parents. However, especially compared to my visit in 2000, I remember the area being much less tourist-focused.

The square a few blocks away from Sacr
é-Coeur used to be full of artists, and now it seems like the only "artists" you find are the ones trying to get you to agree to let them do a charcoal portrait of you for 50 euros.

Our next stop in Montmartre was the Mus
ée de l'érotisme - an erotica museum that you pretty much have to visit. They had a wide array of ancient artifacts, modern artwork, and erotica in popular culture.

Of course, I visited the shop next door and got a nice novelty cake pan. This should come in handy for bachelorette celebrations (or other occasions that call for such a cake - you never know, with my friends).

After the erotica museum, the group split off for the afternoon and Dave and I went to the 5th arrondissement - the Latin Quarter area.

I knew that Dave would love the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore, a historic anglophone bookstore in the Latin Quarter where Lost Generation authors gathered long ago, and where vagrant intelligentsia can still get a free night's stay.

I'm pretty sure Dave wants our house to look like this shop someday.

Dave tried to find a nice book to buy, but the problem is that we have so many that we're not really sure what we have anymore, and the really neat books (old editions, etc.) were really expensive.

I managed to wrest Dave from the musty shelves of books and over to the National Museum of the Middle Ages, which contained a very impressive array of medieval artifacts, including the famed unicorn tapestries. The museum also contains a large section of an ancient Roman bath, which was very interesting to see, especially since we didn't get to Bath in the UK.

Before meeting up with the group again, we found some tasty food at a Monoprix, which is sort of the French equivalent of a large, discount grocery store, like Meijer. We ate the food in the medieval gardens of the middle ages museum.

Then, we headed over to meet up with the rest of the group by the Louvre, which every reader will recognize as the most fabulous collection of art and antiquities in the world.

We decided to take advantage of the late hours on Wednesdays to avoid some of the crowds. When we got there, there was a huge line, but it moved quickly and the inside of the museum was not nearly as crowded as normal.

Our first visit was to the Dutch and Flemish painters upstairs. Here's me in the Rubens room:

The first famous sculpture we saw was the Winged Victory of Samothrace, which is a very impressive Greek marble sculpture of the body of a woman. I have always admired how the cloth billows around the body as if there was a strong wind blowing.

Next, we made it over to Italian and French paintings. I am always blown away by the French painters, whose paintings are so romantic and powerful. Some of my favorite paintings here are Eug
ène Delacoix's Liberty Leading the People and Jacques Louis David's The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804. (Yes, that is the full title.)

Of course, no visit to the Louvre would be complete without paying respects to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. She's kind of a small painting, but lovely nonetheless, and the diminished crowds in this visit definitely let us get a good view of her.

The Italian paintings are always so impressive, as well. The Grand Gallery is an amazing space to walk through.

Then back down to Greek antiquities, where room after room of beautiful Greek sculptures (and Roman copies) awaited us.

The crown of the ancient Greek collection is the Venus de Milo, a beautiful original Greek sculpture found on the island of Melos in the 1800s. Personally, I think the Louvre should sell Gummy de Milos, but that's just me.

And, continuing our Da Vinci Code tour of Europe, we paid a visit to la Pyramide Invers
ée, the foil to the Louvre's above-ground pyramid. The pyramid stretches down into the below-ground museum entrances and exits, and it is a very interesting piece of architecture.

I doubt that it really contains a hidden chamber with the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene, but you never know. It doesn't hurt to imagine!

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