What do you think of when you think of buildings of the Louvre? I think I.M.Pei was brilliant to put in that glass pyramid.
We finally went to the Louvre, the most famous museum in the world. By the end of the museum tour, I was fully awed but had this thought: is the Louvre all about Mona Lisa and looted stuff?
On a tour, you can't control the time (except be on time, and the group was very punctual. We had to be, our the bus wouldn't wait, period) and we didn't get to the Louvre until 10:30 am. We were given 3 hours, can you imagine, in a museum that'll take 9 months to cover if you look at each of the 80,000 items for 3 minutes each. Or some estimate like that. Then again, unless you are an archaeologist or historian, you would, like me, skip all the Egyptian exhibits and other stuff and head for the three most famous items in the Louvre: the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa.
Btw, don't get your entrance tickets at the main ticket booths. Get them from the shops below the glass pyramid: no lines.
Winged Victory of Samothrace (carved out of marble but the robes look like they are blowing in the wind), 190 BC.
Aphrodite de milos, 130 to 100 BC. Armless but perky.
If I was a cavewoman and these famous works of art were unknown to me, I'd probably rate the Winged Victory of Samothrace first and Venus (who correctly should be Aphrodite, since the statue was Greek. I told you, the Louvre's all about looted stuff. None of the top important pieces are French) and Mona Lisa second. There are hundreds of beautiful scultures in The Louvre and thousands of beautiful, amazing paintings but apparently the history behind the piece of art contributes to its fame. The Mona Lisa for example, was once stolen from the Lourve by an Italian who believed that the painting should rightfully belong in Italy. It was also attacked a couple of times while on display.
These sculptures are equally beautiful. The one on the right has a surprise for you on the other side. Hint: hermaphrodite aroused. Hmm. Sculptures tell a lot.
Mona Lisa was behind bullet-proof glass and roped off about 20 feet away. When you enter the room, you'll know where it is not because you see it straightaway but because there's a BIG crowd around it, snapping photos crazily. Museum guards are everywhere. Although flash is not allowed, people used it and the guards didn't mind.
On my way out of the museum hours later, I passed by the room and the crowd had abated. Mona Lisa's on the little patch of green wall. The architect specially designed the ceiling to give light that shone on the side of the walls so as not to harm the painting and also to give it the best lighting.
La Gioconda, 1503.
My first thought was the size of the painting. It was small. When I finally jostled to the front and faced the painting, I thought, gee, what's the big deal with this painting? It's grossly over-rated! She looked like some people I know, the ones without eyebrows. I aimed my little camera (wished for the millionth time that I had brought my daughter's SLR, and a tripod) and zoomed into Mona Lisa's face. It was so familiar, I've seen it in movies, in postcards, in magazines...Suddenly, I felt goose bumps on my arms. I lowered my camera and raised it again, and zoomed. Same thing happened. I felt goosebumps as she stared at me. In the eye of my camera, I could only see that face and nothing else in the room. I was spooked. It was like she was telling me to give her some respect, that she wasn't over-rated. I looked for Hub to take a photo of me so near the world's most famous painting but couldn't find him in the crowd.
I struggled out from the crowd and searched. Hub was still there where I last saw him, directly across the room from Mona Lisa, staring at a very large painting--the largest in the world?--called The Wedding At Cana by the painter Paolo Veronese. Hub said, look, it's a painting of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding. Just like him not to be taken in by all the fuss over Mona Lisa but rather on other paintings that are even more interesting and dare I say beautiful.
A classroom of 6th graders were seated on the floor in front of the painting. That made me envious. I've seen so many groups of kids with their teachers here and there in Paris and my kids have never ever been on a school art or history outing.
We left The Lourve after 3 hours (walked non-stop, it was so tiring!) knowing that we'll be back again one day. The afternoon was free for shopping at Galleries Lafayette but I wasn't interested. First of all, I won't shop in Europe unless things are on discount, which would they would be in June/July. Second, we needed to travel light on a tour. Why not check out the Latin Quarters to get a bit of old French world and also Saint Chapelle, which was rated 'must see' by Rick Steves?
We got to Saint Chapelle but the line was further than we could see. There was no way we could queue, do the chapel and still do the Latin Quarters and get back to the bus in time. That was a sorrowful moment for me. I'll have to come back to Paris for Saint Chapelle.
Guess what? The Latin Quarters were so touristy (and put on) for me. Where's the real Paris?? I had a set meal for 9 euros: mussels (very tiny) in wine, pork chop that was excellent, tender and yummy and a chocolate mousse. Hub had pigged out on sandwiches and couldn't eat again.
We had the cherry, the melon and the raspberry.3 euros each, I think.
Still trusting in Rick, we went looking for what he said is Paris' best ice-cream, Berthillon, on the island in the middle of the Seine River called Ile St. Loius.
Not just that they were overly sweet but they tasted like sorbets. I like sorbets after a meal but hey, sorbets aren't as good as ice creams, no matter how good the rating. Since Hub can't have too much sugar and I don't like overly sweet things, I had to throw the unfinished ice creams away. Two wrong choices, Latin Quarters and Berthillon. I was both upset and regretful that I didn't go to Galleries Lafayette instead.
We rushed to Galleries Lafayette by 5:30 pm. The tour bus would leave at 7 pm for the hotel. I had to do what all Asians do in Paris: get an LV bag.
I stood there waiting 40 minutes for service because all the salespersons were busy. I was so angry I walked up to one of the senior salesman and told him (in English) that their service was terrible. He was charming, holding my elbow and apologizing very suavely. I had to fill a form and show him my passport. He advised me to rush down to have the VAT done (12% rebate) while he gets me a new bag. As I rushed down the floors, I saw another bigger LV store and the line was so long, they roped the entrance off. Crazy. I stood in line again and sat down to do my VAT. All that for a bag! It was extremely stressful and we nearly missed the bus. Getting back to Radisson by taxi would cost euro100, something at least two groups of our tour members have done.
I was a little down when my daughter said "Why LV?? So Asian!" But I love my Artsy bag so there. I realize now that it's not fun to shop for designer bags especially if you want to claim the VAT so I must record my thanks to Yo. Friends who help you shop in Europe are true friends...
We traded dinner time for shopping so we ended up eating baguette sandwich again (we were sick of hard breads by then) which I didn't mind because I had a new bag. Hub was happy too because he thought my shopping urge was satisfied by the bag. He doesn't know that I am actually a shoes person more than a bag person. That's why I'm going to Italy in July.