Posts Tagged ‘Winged Victory’

The key to getting in to the Louvre in a reasonable manner is to simply get up early and arrive as soon as possible. Also, having the museum pass can help you avoid some lines (not true for all museums, but still a good idea).

Metro on the way to the Louvre

Metro on the way to the Louvre

And then you can be very fortunate and sneak up on major works like Winged Victory without any of the usual crowds

And then you can be very fortunate and sneak up on major works like Winged Victory without any of the usual crowds

Or the Morley Courtyard sculptures

Or the Cour Marly sculptures

(note distinct lack of tourists)

(note distinct lack of tourists)

A very, very good representation of my old cat, Spooky

A very, very good representation of my old cat, Spooky

As we were poking around the Mesopotamian area, I stumbled on the Code of Hammurabi. As in THE Code of Hammurabi. Just hanging out there in the Louvre.

As we were poking around the Mesopotamian area, I stumbled on the Code of Hammurabi. As in THE Code of Hammurabi. Just hanging out there in the Louvre.

The Reubens Room gallery

The Reubens Room gallery

Apprentices to the great masters

Apprentices to the great masters

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I stayed at a Louvre cafe to do some more writing while Bear went on to other museums, but I do at least have his photos to prove it.

Not sure exactly which museum Bear went to, but it had a lot of guns and military memorabilia

Not sure exactly which museum Bear went to, but it had a lot of guns and military memorabilia

One of Napoleon's actual outfits (they did like gold lame)

One of Napoleon’s actual outfits (they did like gold lame)

Napoleon's tomb

Napoleon’s tomb

Napoleon's Tomb

Napoleon’s Tomb

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Bear came back from his side excursion to rescue me and we went around the corner from the Louvre to grab sushi with miso soup.

Bear came back from his side excursion to rescue me and we went around the corner from the Louvre to grab sushi with miso soup.

There’s a mall area of very nice shops leading up to one Louvre entrance and we decided to prowl through those for a while.

Pizza cutters, French style

Pizza cutters, French style

The upside down pyramid that mirrors some of the above ground pyramid structure in the Louvre courtyard

The upside down pyramid that mirrors some of the above ground pyramid structure in the Louvre courtyard.

Guerilla vendors set up roast chestnut stations and you can buy a paper cup full for two euros

Guerilla vendors set up roast chestnut stations and you can buy a paper cup full for two euros

Bear wanted to hit one more major museum, the Centre Georges Pompidou, which wasn’t exactly on my all time bucket list. It’s basically a very well-regarded modern art museum and even the building itself is sort of part of the artwork.

Line at the Pompideau

Line at the Pompideau–one place that the museum pass won’t get ahead very much.

I spent quite a while cooling my heels at the cafe, writing a little, and catching up on some reading. Bear, while always gracious, said that I didn’t miss too much based on my general interests so I felt like it was the right decision all around.

Pompidou at night

Pompidou at night

We found a nice little bar cafe just one street over and indulged in way too much pizza and split some ice cream afterwards. (My pizza had egg and honey on it, which is a little odd but it tasted really good so I need to figure out if it was a fluke or some regular kind of pizza that I can get elsewhere.)

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On Saturday, we rolled out despite protesting feet and went to an honest to God French bakery to pick up a fresh pain au chocolat (hereafter known as PAC). The gentleman was from Morocco, which explained why it was the world’s only French bakery co-located with a halal butchery, and he seemed delighted that I made a horribly mangled attempt to speak French. Why, of all the languages, I’ve studied, did I never take anything practical? Russian, sure, Old English, hells yeah! 4th Century Classical Armenian? Bring. It. On. French? No thanks.

While on the metro, I sat across from a man who either had Katherine Hepburn syndrome or severely disapproved of my decision to eat breakfast on the train. We snacked on our way to the Catacombs, which Bear had promised to take me to since it turns out I’m much more interested in death and underground caves than Paris in the springtime. I blame this on my Munk heritage and having spent the last half of my 20s living in a basement. While in line we met Barb and Mary, two friends from America who had come to Paris after winning some amazing trip through Expedia and Facebook. I should’ve asked more details, but they were basically having the time of their lives and had brought friends with them and Mary’s mom. They were a lot of fun to chat with and we wound up going in the same group into the catacombs (which were not in fact the same as the parking garage at the hotel).

This is why you get there an hour before they open.

Brief history–the Catacombs were created when the cemeteries of Paris overflowed back in the late 1700s and the city was on the verge of an epidemic because of decay and health conditions. They started moving the bones and corpses down to the underground stone quarries and turning them into a storehouse for the dead, but respectfully so with inscriptions on mortality and life and a crypt-like atmosphere. The remains of over six million Parisians are contained in the catacombs.

Stop -- this is the Kingdom of the Dead

Yet again, being raised by taxidermists has allowed me to keep my cool aplomb in dicey travel situations.

The front retaining walls were made of femurs mostly with tibias and some skulls also which seemed to be, for lack of a better word, there for decoration. Those wacky French. The piles behind them were the remainder of the bones.

I need one of these in my house.

I thought a little about how I’d read that the stone quarries were created to mine out the limestone which was used for Notre Dame itself and the kind of limestone is called Lutetian, for the geological period its from. Also, the area itself was called Lutetia before being re-named Paris after some different tribes. It occurred to me that it was a little ironic that the stone had been removed for the cathedral and now the bones of the people themselves were going to replace it in a weird kind of precipitation cycle and I was seeing all of it on Holy Saturday when at Notre Dame they would be holding a service to commemorate Christ’s time in the tomb.

A guide we met showed us how to tell the difference between male and female skulls based on the eyebrow ridges and also showed us a bullet hole in one skull. Around this time I had a genius idea for an episode of Bones. The plot would be that Angela, who had lived and studied art in Paris previously, is invited to Paris for an exhibit of her work, so the whole crew comes to celebrate and Brennan is also invited to give a paper at the Paris Academy of Science at the same time. They go on a tour of the catacombs and while there, Brennan realizes that some of the bones are recent and not from the same time period as the original burials. She and Booth team up with the local police and discover that it’s not just one skeleton, there are a number of recent remains, which leads them to realize there’s a serial killer operating in Paris that no one even knew about. As the investigation continues, in the Angela sub-plot, Hodges arranges (with all his money) to have the Louvre opened for her at night so she can see everything without crowds and they take the baby along with them of course. Cue sappy dialogue about how of all the things in the museum, Hodges says the most beautiful at his wife and child (long shot of him looking at them with a Madonna and child portrait in the background). Haven’t worked out the killer or motive, but I did this on the fly while walking through the Catacombs so give me a break.

We surfaced finally and by then were really hitting it off with Barb and Mary who were also headed to the Louvre, so we took them over and told them how to get in through the side entrance off of Rue di Rivoli that would cut out the huge lines. Along the way we chatted and Mary told us all about the stained glass in the cathedrals since she makes and sells some, so we told her about Bear’s friend Chris who also does. Very educational! Bear even helped save Mary on the metro when it lurched badly, so we did our good deed for the day. I had prayed that morning that we would be able to see and do what God wanted and to help others if possible, so I guess saving people from doing a face plant on the Metro was our destiny for the day. While there, we met up with Mary’s Mom and figured they were all in good hands so we parted ways and wished them the best with the rest of their fun adventure.

Barb, Mary and Mary's Mom -- the nicest pickpockets in Paris (just kidding!)

Bear had a hit list for the Louvre and the Mona Lisa was at the top, so we went to that gallery first and saw a lot of other Italian Renaissance works at the same time. We eventually took a break for lunch back outside the Louvre at a sidewalk cafe where pigeons just walked right up into the cafe and stood there daring you not to give them your crusts.

Bear: Why do I know that?
Munk: St. Sebastian, it's really famous.
Bear: No, that's not it.
Munk: REM video, "Losing My Religion"
Bear: That's it!

Only the French would think this was a good idea. (A store in the mall leading to the Louvre.)

Woman in full head covering was taking a video of the entire gallery on her iPad while an Angry Birds handbag was hanging from one arm. We're really not all that different underneath it all.

We went back to the Louvre and Bear suggested that we go through the medieval section where you can see what the Louvre used to look like back when it was really a fortress and French people started slapping gold leaf on it.

The Louvre was originally a regular old fortress. I think it would've been pretty like that, but then I'm just weird.

Then he steered me over to the Egyptian collection because he knows I’ve never met an Egyptian exhibit that I didn’t want to spend two days at.

I waited, but she never asked me a riddle.

We even saw some mummified kitties which of course makes me think fondly of Juliet, who is still quite alive and back at the cattery, but also of Mr. Spooky who passed away two years ago and would have loved to come to Paris (or in Spooky’s case, to gay Paris).

Should have pre-ordered one of these for Spooky. He would've gotten a kick out of it.

We also spotted the Venus de Milo on the way out which brought me back to a favorite moment from Absolutely Fabulous which had to be re-enacted there, even at the risk of disrespect.

"I've got arms! I've got arms, sweetie!" (that's for Laura Stiles)

By then Bear’s feet were really starting to hurt so we figured it was time to hop on the city bus tour we’d booked in advance and it drove us all over the city with good commentary on the provided earphones. It was great to just sit quietly, watch the city go by and be chauffeured to the best sightseeing spots.

Arc d'Triumph -- something about it just smacks of Napoleon

We initially sat on top behind a mom and child, then realized that the dad was sitting behind us. Bear offered to trade seats so the father could sit with his family, but he looked at us and said in a long considering French drawl, “Non…” We couldn’t stop laughing as we realized this was his chance for a vacation from the women of the house. But a few blocks later he tapped us on the shoulder and said, “I repent. Is possible?” and we gladly swapped.

I'm not even going to pretend like you don't know what this is.

After a full circuit around, we hopped off by Notre Dame and got a snack of crepes at a cafe before getting back on to ride over to the restaurant district and finding an Italian place. I know, laugh if you will, we went to Paris and had Italian food, but it was wonderful. I had a mushroom risotto and Bear had salmon over pasta with a gorgonzola bruschetta. We managed to roll back to the metro and get a train heading to our hotel.

Mushroom risotto -- not sure what the cherry tomato is doing there

Salmon tagliatelle for Bear

At this point, we encountered an accordion player who wasn’t content with just playing in the station. He followed us onto the metro car and proceeded to entertain the entire gaggle of commuters. This would have been fine except for one thing: he was really bad. A drunk, blindfolded octopus would have had a better chance of hitting the right key. And to think just two nights ago I watched Loreena McKennitt actually make an accordion sound cool. Why couldn’t I get cornered by the next Loreena McKennitt?

The only remaining item of note is that I took the best shower I’ve had since leaving America. In our home in St. Neots, I never know if I’ll have hot water or not or how long it will last. I’m forever having a shower turn cold on me or never getting warm at all. It was absolute bliss and worth the whole trip.

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