Sunday, November 25, 2012

October 20th: Paris

The weather had been overcast and dreary since we landed the previous day and it was no better when we woke up Saturday morning. We had originally planned to go for a run, grab some breakfast, then go sightseeing, but since the forecast called for rain we decided to skip the run, grabbed some breakfast in the hotel, and spent the morning hiding from the rain in...

...the Louvre. Why run in the cold rain when you can wander among some pretty awesome art instead? :)

To say that the Louvre is HUGE would be a gross understatement. It's housed in the Palais de Louvre (Louvre Palace) and it's somewhere around 652,000 square feet. Yes, that is the correct amount of zeros. It's pretty crazy. We had a few key things we wanted to see and figured that anything else we had time to see would be bonus.

This may sound silly but this was my absolute favorite thing in the entire museum. If I could have taken this home with me I would have. It's a lion fountainhead from the Islamic Arts wing (which also had some really neat mosaics, figurines, and intricately designed doors). I had seen this on a few posters around the city and as soon as we got our tickets and got inside I made a beeline right for it.

After drooling over my lion fountainhead thing for maybe slightly too long, we made our way out of the Islamic Arts wing and into the main part of the museum. Sometimes, some of the best art is above your head. The Rotonde de Mars was gorgeous. I can't fathom how wealthy someone must be to decide that their ceiling should look like this.

Venus de Milo. There were rows of people clustered around this, and standing there all I could think of was that episode of The Simpsons where Homer somehow gets (and eats) a gummy Venus de Milo. Me has culture.

The Venus de Milo was pretty neat, but honestly some of the other Greek statues were just as good. I can't imagine how much work it must have been to carve the draping and muscles on some of the statues; it looked so realistic.

I honestly can't remember what this is. It may be another section of the Rotonde de Mars, but I'm not sure.

There's no way I was coming to the Louvre without seeing this! The Mona Lisa is hidden behind bulletproof glass; over the years it's been stolen, doused in acid, sprayed with red paint, and had a rock and a teacup from the gift shop thrown at it. There was a huge crowd of people around this, but I managed to elbow my way up to the front to get a better look.

Ooo...Mona Lisa-y. I remember making a drawing of this in an art class in high school; you started with a smaller picture, divided it into a grid, then painstakingly copied the squares one at a time onto larger graph paper (so I know this painting REALLY well). Everyone else picked easier pictures but I went for broke; somewhere in the depths of my closet I still have my hand-drawn life-size version of this. Getting to actually see this in person was pretty sweet.

We made our way through several halls of paintings; at one point I happened to get a peek out a window into the courtyard. It's a good thing we got here so early - that's the line to buy tickets, and it stretches all the way into the pyramid and down into the entrance! It was raining and chilly, so I certainly don't envy those people.

A wider view out into the courtyard. The Eiffel Tower is way out in the distance, and the museum stretches around to include the buildings on both sides of the picture (really it's all one connected building). You can see the ticket line stretching out on the left side of the big pyramid.

We managed to see quite a bit of the museum, including most of the Egyptian wing (even though it did involve backtracking through about half of the museum, which just about made up for that run we skipped). They had some awesome examples of hieroglyphics; I couldn't believe how well-preserved they were after so long.

After wandering around for a few hours we decided we'd had enough art for the morning, grabbed some lunch at the museum cafe, and headed back outside.

 We walked through the Jardin des Tuileries for a little while, then made our way down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. I bought a whole bunch of clothes and an umbrella and ate a macaron the size of my face. It was great.

Arc de Triomphe, at the end of the Champs-Élysées. It sits in a roundabout but you can walk underground to get there; however, the elevator to get back to street level had a huge line and cost something like 10 Euro. No thanks; I'll just look at it from over here.

Mark told me I had to see the Eiffel Tower at night, so since we were in the general area we decided to walk over to check it out during the day first.

It is very tall.  :)

We walked around underneath the tower for a little while, then walked a few streets over to find some dinner to kill time until it got dark. I had the best salade au chèvre chaud (warm goat cheese salad) of the trip. It's a hunk of goat cheese, broiled so it's all nice and warm, slightly crunchy, and just the right amount of gooey, on top of a salad. Just typing that made me hungry. It was really good.

We eventually made our way back over to the Eiffel Tower. It wasn't really dark yet, but it was getting colder and rainy so we spent the better part of an hour hiding under a tree, trying not to get rained on. (Our hotel was a couple miles away, so going back to wait for it to get dark wasn't exactly an option.) After a while some of the lights started to come on, so we decided that was good enough and it was time to start slowly making our way back to the hotel.

It looked really cool to stand directly underneath and look up as the lights started to come on. As we stood here, we suddenly heard several hundred people gasp at the same time. We couldn't figure out what was going on, so we walked out from under the tower and looked up.

It was sparkling!!

We hung out and watched until the lights stopped sparkling a few minutes later. It took the better part of an hour to get back to the hotel, but we walked along the Seine and stopped to eat some of the chocolates we had bought earlier that day. You really can't beat the view; even if it was cloudy, Paris is really pretty at night.

We made sure to walk back past the Louvre so we could see it all lit up. There were vendors selling little light-up helicopter things, so there were little colored lights flying all over the courtyard. We'd been walking for about twelve hours at that point, so we made our way back to the hotel and promptly passed out. For being our only full day in Paris, I think we got to see a lot...but I'd love to go back someday!

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