Monday, 25 June 2012

France, Day 6: The Louvre, the Trocadero, the Eiffel, les Invalides

3 May

Started the day with a visit to the Louvre. What a thing to say, “Started the day with a visit to the Louvre”. How good is that!! Some wonderful people on Trip Advisor had advised us to get there early, early, early and to take the Carrousel entrance, not the Pyramid one, which is where you get queues a mile long. So, take note: when you are in Paris and it is your day to feast your eyes on amazing artworks at this number two tourist attraction, enter via rue de Rivoli, at the Carrousel entrance. The result: a very, very short queue and we were in.

Oh, and this is something which totally blew me away – it only cost us €8 each. Can you believe that? Goodness, go to any tourism site in Australia and they want an arm and a leg, and here you have the Louvre, somewhere you could enter first thing in the morning, not come out until they close at night, and still feel you had only scratched the surface, and it costs €8. You can’t buy a sandwich at lunchtime for that in Perth. Okay, it’s gone up a little since then, but so has the price of a sandwich. Go figure.

Anyway, naturally everybody heads in the same direction first – but, oh, what a journey it is to get there, passing works of art of such beauty that you really could cry, passing Winged Victory, wanting to stop and just gaze at the staircases, the ceilings. I am writing this by reference to my journal which I wrote at the time and I think I’ll just reproduce here what I wrote then:

As you go up the stairs it becomes harder to breath – you enter a different realm. At times we had to just sit to try to take in the surroundings, and particularly the ceilings. At one point my eyes filled with tears just for the beauty of the place.

Because we got there so soon after opening, there was no huge crowd at the Mona Lisa and we were able to stand very close to her. There is SOMETHING, something very indefinable, about her. That is indeed the mystery, isn’t it? After all, so many other works of Da Vinci are much “nicer” or “better”, but she does hold in her face a mystery, and you are aware that you are looking at the most famous painting in the world, and to see it is really amazing.

There are so many other incredible artworks, some with beautiful, cheeky children. What stands out for me for the astonishing detail is the art of Italian painter Panini (and you thought it was just a sandwich!). His work is absolutely mind-blowing.

The painting which I was most affected by, though, was a large oil painting of a scene after Christ’s body has been taken down from the cross. He is being cradled very tenderly, and there is so much compassion and love in the arms holding him, but the aspect of this work that puts it far in front of anything for me is the two cherubs in the scene. One is holding Christ’s right hand, and the other is cradling his feet. They are pointing to the nail holes, and looking at each other as if to ask “Why?”, although that word is so insufficient in this case. I have never seen such anguish on faces ever, and you feel that if you touched their tears your fingers would come away wet. (As I write this, I can still feel that painting, five years down the track.)
Adore this!

And love this humour.

After, rather reluctantly, leaving the Louvre, we jumped on a Bus Rouge and went up to the Trocadero, the location on a hill looking across the river to the Eiffel Tower. There are - as you must expect in such a spot, and with such fabulous views and wonderful museums to visit – plenty of options for eating. We choose an outdoor table at Café Kleber and there, with a wonderful panorama in front of us, we lunched on the largest, most delicious servings of quiche that we had so far come across in Paris. The quiche was truly superb, as were the crunchy fresh chips which accompanied it. Oh, and of course, a pichet of rosé found its way to our table, as you must expect.

The two buildings, like arms, of the Trocadero perfectly frame the Eiffel and the Champ de Mars. (Don‘t worry, I’ll put a map link so you can check out this superb location.)

On a wall facing the museum on the right is a marvellous relief carving dedicated to French soldiers who fought in the Great War. It is huge, and it is really special in that they are being held and comforted by French soldiers –and perhaps Christ? – from the pages of history. It’s really beautiful.

While at the Trocadero we had a “moment”. As we were about to leave to walk down through the gardens and across the river to the Eiffel, we heard the sound of glorious voices massed in song. It was a choir from Madagascar, and here they were on the steps of this stunning site practising for an evening performance. Everybody around was entranced. They sounded heavenly, and it really did make the moment magical. To add to that, as we and the people around us were taking photographs of them, they – without missing a note – were taking photographs of their audience. What a blessing!

And what a view!

Feeling as though today was really living on another plane, we walked down past the beautiful water features, the delightful carousel, across the Seine and to the Eiffel. Ah, it is so much more somehow than you ever imagine. And so are the crowds. We wandered around, gazing up, up, up, and then strolled through the gardens abundant with spring blooms to the Place de Mars. The azaleas and roses were just amazing, and I think a real gardener would happily have passed the day there.

Looking forward

Looking back

Through rue de Grenelle we then went and came – all unplanned – to Les Invalides. Now, this is where Napoleon Bonaparte is interred, and this is the church with a Dome which is covered in 12 kilograms of gold. 12 kilos! Les Invalides was inviting, but the tour buses full of Spanish school kids weren’t, so after a quick walk around we decamped, as they say.

Remember, that's 12 kilos
of gold up there.

Talking of school kids, one thing which has really struck us here in Paris is the behaviour of groups of school students when they are on outings. We watch them, amazed, as they walk along the sidewalks in the usual two-by-two-holding-hands style, but they are not yelling and screaming, they always seem so well behaved! So nice to see. And the teachers – and there seems to be a lot less teachers per student than what we see here – are actually decently dressed. Apologies to any teachers I offend here, but sometimes I am disgusted when I see teachers on school outings here in Perth wearing track pants or old jeans, etc. And those teachers, even if there are two or three of them, are not doing the usual Aussie thing and hanging back at the end of the line just chatting away to each other or talking on their mobile phones; they are in amongst the children. Okay, they may also be smoking, but that’s a different matter entirely.
Just a lovely apartment building
on rue Grenelle

Well, today our feet got a real workout, and so we decided to head back to the right bank, pick up something to eat for dinner and have a quiet evening in with a long bath, a few drinks – and perhaps a quick late night dash around the corner to peek at the Louvre and the Eiffel flashing their lights and glory at us.

Tomorrow we continue walking Paris, taking in the totally gorgeous Petit Palais, catching a Batobus again, and having our eyes set alight on a Night Illuminations tour.  I do hope you'll join us.

Au revoir.

Post script:
If you get a moment, follow this link and visit The Louvre yourself – it’s a gorgeous
website and I think you will find yourself spending a few hours there.

And why not follow the route we took on this little outing on this map.

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