Day 4: Paris

Paris Travel Blog

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Louvre - Mona Lisa

Today was designated museum day. Our plans were to tour the Louvre in the morning and then swing by the Orangerie in the afternoon.

 

Jonathan had quite a bit of trouble getting out of bed and ready to go. Seems something in the duck intestine and poached egg salad last night upset his tummy and he was awake all night long with the sweats and rumbles. Always the trooper, he eventually got everything together and we headed for the Louvre across town.

 

If you've read my previous day's entry on Versailles then you know the Louvre was originally the Royal Palace for the King of France. The architecture is visually stunning with the centerpiece being a grand glass pyramid at the main entrance. Because we entered from the Metro station, we did not pass the  pyramid  (we would later peer through the windows from inside to catch a glimpse however).

 

 According to our guidebook (Rick Steves Paris - I highly recommend btw) The most efficient method for getting through the Louvre while minimizing crowds is to visit the most popular wings in the morning, and save the rest for the afternoon when the crowds begin to build.

 

Following this advice, we started in the wing devoted to western art, with plans to visit the eastern art wing after lunch. In the western wing, the focus is primarily Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art. Entire rooms are devoted to subjects such as Caesars, religious art, and French royalty. Most of the collection was actually amassed *by* the Kings of France specifically to adorn the Louvre. Hence a king's fascination with the Roman empire has led to a lasting collection of magnificent beauty for all the world to embrace during their visit to the Louvre. 

 

The highlight for most visitors to the Western art wings of course is the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Wingless Victory.

Louvre - Venus de Milo
Even in the late morning in the dead of winter, hundreds were lined up to get a closer look at Mona. It is a beautiful painting I'll give you that, but why it draws so many from around the world I cannot grasp. In the end, it's artistic merit alone cannot explain its popularity.

 

Poor Jonathan tried to gallantly press on throughout the morning despite his tummy troubles but once glance, one whiff of the (delicious really) scents emanating from the Louvre food court where we stopped for lunch sent him over the edge. He looked absolutely green, and reluctantly confessed he needed to head back to the hotel to recover for the rest of the afternoon. I kissed him goodbye and sent him on his way.

 

The rest of us enjoyed our lunch and then, spying the quarter mile (I kid you not) line to re-enter the Louvre decided we'd had enough of the museum for the day.

 

Up the escalators and now outside the Louvre we walked down to the corner and were greeted with a beautiful view of Place de la Concorde with the Eiffel tower in the distant hazy background. Originally a small circle of urban beauty created in tribute to the king, eventually, this was where, during the French Revolution, the nobility - more than two thousand of them- were beheaded with the guillotine. Perhaps the true first use of the assembly line concept.  In the very center of the circle, a grand statue of Louis XV, removed during the Revolution, has been replaced by the Obelisk of Luxor given by the viceroy of Egypt, Mohamed Ali, to Louis Phillipe. The obelisk, 22.83 meters high and weighing 230 tons, once marked the entrance to the Amon temple at Luxor.  Standing beside the circle today was a giant ferris wheel and looking beyond the circle one can see far up the Champs Elysees (which runs from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe). Behind the circle (and us, from our reference point) are beautifully manicured gardens where many Parisians spend their lunch break nibbling café delicacies. Of course in the cold winter of our visit, the garden's beauty was far removed yet many pedestrians were still sitting on benches enjoying a snack.

 

The afternoon line for the Orangerie was quite long so we decided to save the museum for another day and walk up the Champs Elysees instead. From Place de la Concorde we first passed a lovely crepe stand (and they were delicious- our first crepe in Paris!). As we continued up the street we walked by the site of one of  the most popular World Fairs, with the main exhibition building and sculptures still intact.

Arc de Triomphe
There were hundreds of luxury and midline shops along the way as well as several spots of what would be lush garden greenery in the summer months.  Here's a great reference on the history of the most famous street in Paris: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champs-%C3%89lys%C3%A9es.

 

One planned stop on the champs Elysees was Laduree (read about it here, I insist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laduree). There was a very long line at the pastry counter, so we opted to go through the bar entrance and pull up a stool to enjoy dessert (I guess a second dessert since we'd already had crepes) at the counter. I had their famous macarons (not the coconut kind you might be thinking of but the French kind) and they were exquisite. Quite possibly one of the best desserts of my lifetime. I chose the lavender, raspberry, and chocolate. Alongside I had a cup of flowering tea and the moment was sublime. We quietly nibbled our treats and relaxed in the ambiance of the Paris scene, making a memory.  I now desperately want to learn how to make these delicate cookies.

 

After our heavenly stop at Laduree, we kept a good pace trending toward the Arc de Triomphe. We took pictures of the monument itself and made time to read the memorial plaques that adorn it but did not see the need to stand in the long line or pay the fee to climb to the top of the Arc. With the extent of the lines on a cold winter day I shudder to think of their length on a warm spring or summer afternoon. We definitely picked a great time to visit Paris.

 

Our afternoon spent, we returned to the hotel room to check on Jonathan and rest a bit before our evening activities. On the slate for tonight was dinner at Chez Clemont and a Seine river cruise. Alas, my sweet Jonathan was still ill and not at all in the mood to eat. So we had to force ourselves to enjoy Paris that evening without him (he insisted I go as he wanted his solitude to rest).

 

Chez Clemont was AMAZING. One of the best meals I've had. As with your typical Paris cafes, the food was hearty yet affordable. Fixed price 3 course menu for 30 euros incl tax and tip. I chose the crab ravioli as my starter, the duck braised in cherry sauce for my entrée, and crème brulee for dessert. Everyone else was equally pleased with their meal. The restaurant itself was beautiful, with soft lighting, gentle jazz music and a relaxing ambiance.

Eiffel at night as seen from our riverboat.

 

We metro'd over near the cruise dock and boarded our boat for the river tour. An hour in length, we traversed up and down the Seine and were quite fortunate to pass by the Eiffel tower just as its special light display was twinkling. So beautiful, the moment was magical. It was the image I held in my mind as I drifted off into a deep sleep that evening back at the hotel.

 

Tomorrow: Belgium!

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Louvre - Mona Lisa
Louvre - Mona Lisa
Louvre - John the Baptist
Louvre - John the Baptist
Louvre - Venus de Milo
Louvre - Venus de Milo
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Eiffel at night as seen from our r…
Eiffel at night as seen from our …
Jonathan, clearly not feeling well…
Jonathan, clearly not feeling wel…
Louvre - Caeser in Shadow
Louvre - Caeser in Shadow
Louvre - Roman artwork (slave boy)
Louvre - Roman artwork (slave boy)
Louvre - Crucify
Louvre - Crucify
Louvre - Wingless Victory
Louvre - Wingless Victory
Louvre - John the Baptist
Louvre - John the Baptist
Louvre - artwork
Louvre - artwork
Louvre - Jesus at Wedding
Louvre - Jesus at Wedding
Louvre - Crucify
Louvre - Crucify
Louvre - King Louis 14
Louvre - King Louis 14
Louvre - Cross Carry
Louvre - Cross Carry
Louvre - Mary and Jesus
Louvre - Mary and Jesus
Louvre - Roman artwork
Louvre - Roman artwork
Louvre - Royal Crowns of the King …
Louvre - Royal Crowns of the King…
Louvre - Roman artwork
Louvre - Roman artwork
Louvre - Portrait of ?
Louvre - Portrait of ?
Louvre - Crucify
Louvre - Crucify
Louvre - Coronation
Louvre - Coronation
View of Place de la Concorde
View of Place de la Concorde
Eiffel as seen from Place de la Co…
Eiffel as seen from Place de la C…
View of Eiffel as seen from Place …
View of Eiffel as seen from Place…
Arc de Triomphe memorial
Arc de Triomphe memorial
Arc de Triomphe memorial
Arc de Triomphe memorial
Arc de Triomphe memorial
Arc de Triomphe memorial
Eiffel at night as seen from our r…
Eiffel at night as seen from our …
Eiffel at night as seen from our r…
Eiffel at night as seen from our …
Paris
photo by: Sweetski