You know that feeling you get when you’re overwhelmed and you don’t quite know where to start with something because it all just seems like too much?
Welcome to the Louvre.
Seriously, the place is so big that I was terrified I was going to miss something.
Here’s what I learned: Taking deep breaths helps.
Our adventure at the Louvre technically started in a French sculpture garden that I swear looked just like the one at Pemberley (from the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice”), but the actual trip started even before then — when I got us lost on our way to the Louvre (the station was closed, so I had to hazard a guess). Still, that ended up being a win because it meant we were able to see the beautiful Paris Opera House.
When we made it to the Louvre, we found a line so long it looked like people were awaiting the release of the next Harry Potter book. (If only, right?) So, I stood in the line in the rain while I made Clare run off and look for a pharmacy where she could find me a knee brace.
She made it back just in time, when I was standing at the front of the line. Hmm…
The Louvre itself is a magical place. I’m pretty sure I could feel the artistic talent radiating off the walls. If I’d picked up a paintbrush, I’m convinced I could’ve become the next da Vinci. Or Jackson Pollock. Or, at least, Robert Rauschenberg.
I was at a loss for words as I saw the works of the geniuses surrounding me — masters like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Delacroix, Rubens, etc. (if I listed them all out, I’d be here all night).
Being able to look at these paintings and feel the history seep through every brushstroke of every inch of every canvas was truly magnificent. It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words, but, today, I truly was. These works were painted by some of the most genius men and women of all time, and I got to stand in front of them and just admire them all. #blessed.
Because I’m so partial to Greek mythology, the Greek statues (and the Roman ones, too) were unbelievable. The craftsmanship was remarkable, and I got to drive Clare crazy after I told her story after story about what a statue or mosaic was depicting. She told me I was turning into my dad. Thanks, I guess?
Seeing the “Venus de Milo” again was, of course, incredible. I love the idea that her missing arms were, in fact, holding the Apple of Discord thrown by Eris that inadvertently led to the Trojan War. Sadly, “Winged Victory” (or “Nike of Samothrace”) was being restored this time, which was a real bummer because it was my favorite piece in the Louvre last time and I was really looking forward to seeing it again.
But, that disappointment was made better by the fact that the Caryatids were marvelous, as were things from other cultures — such as Hammurabi’s Code, works from Ramses II and different Lamassu doorways.
Oh, and I guess the “Mona Lisa” was pretty cool, too.
The “Mona Lisa” does beg the question regarding how one specific work becomes known as the most famous. Is it the best? Is da Vinci the most talented artist ever? Don’t get me wrong, the “Mona Lisa” is fantastic, but doesn’t da Vinci’s “Virgin of the Rocks” or another similar piece receive the similar hullabaloo? Have a just created a myth around this one piece and that’s what makes it so amazing?
Me myself, I’m partial to Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” and just about anything by Van Gogh, Monet and Degas. (And we’ll get to see works from some of those artists super soon!!)
After Clare was finally able to tear me away from all the sights at the Louvre, we set our destination to another famous Paris landmark: Notre Dame. We crossed a love lock bridge (how those things are safe, I do not know), got me a knee brace (truly a fashion statement), got ourselves some crepes with Nutella and strawberry ( I think I ended up with more of mine on my hands and clothes than in my stomach) and set off.
The French signs are almost impossible to read, and we didn’t really know how to ask any French people for help (and we were a little scared to even try), so Clare and I were pretty much on our own. Naturally, that meant we got lost. Neither of us is quite sure how, but we got so twisted and turned around that we ended up on the other side of the Seine with absolutely no recollection of having crossed the bridge to go back to the Louvre.
It was still pouring, and because Clare and I were sharing one umbrella, things got a little bit complicated. I wasn’t allowed to hold the umbrella (apparently, I’m too short for her), so she got to control things. So… my right arm got absolutely drenched. Oops!
But, after our two-hour detour and 30-minute wait in line for Notre Dame, we were finally inside the grand cathedral, and we forgot about our long trek and wet clothing as we looked up into the majesty of every inch of the place.
There was a mass going on as we were there, and it made the whole thing more special. Can you imagine claiming Notre Dame as your home church? “So, where do you go to church on Sunday?” “Oh, this little place called Notre Dame.” I’d consider converting to Catholicism just for that.
After about 45 minutes just walking around with Clare — neither of us could actually formulate words to talk to each other, we were so stunned — we decided to, sadly, head out. But that meant the next place we were looking for was… A BOOK STORE!
Going to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore was recommended to me by a fellow DG (Thank you, Taylor Brink!!) because she knew of my love of literature — and, in particular Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore was frequented by Hemingway, and was mentioned in his masterpiece “A Moveable Feast.” Naturally, going was a no-brainer.
So, Clare and I braved the rain and walked and walked and walked and walked and…, but we just couldn’t find it. Our map told us it was among these little side streets over by Notre Dame, but, for the life of us, we couldn’t find it. In this little area, we probably walked up and down every street four or five times, with no luck.
Trying to find a place to eat in that area, we got accosted by restaurant owners standing outside trying to convince people that their restaurant was the place they wanted to eat. It got aggressive! The most interesting was one guy telling me: “Hi, hi, you’re pretty. I love you.”
There was every type of food imaginable in this little corridor, but we really just wanted a place to watch the Brazil-Chile soccer game. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones with that idea, so most of the spots close to the TV were filled.
We finally selected a dinner place, a popular street vendor serving Greek food. We both got gyro pitas filled with french fries and spicy sauce. It had an interestingtaste, much different from the kind of thing you can get back home, but it was really, really good! I got to control my own salt level, which made me ecstatic because I’m slightly obsessed with salt, and the fries with the gyro made an absolutely scrump-deli-umptious combination.
Then it was time to head back to the hostel, and we got to the metro stop (we actually had to take a train associated with the metro) right as the train was arriving. I hopped/ran to get on the metro — Clare tells me I looked ridiculous — but I got on the train.
Clare didn’t — at least at first.
Her white jeans got caught between the closing doors, and she had to push the doors open to sneak on in. Sucker.
Back at the hostel, we got to know our roommates a little bit more. The Italian girl (Simona) and the Brazilian guy (still haven’t quite caught his name) both speak absolutely incredible English, and it was interesting to hear their take on France and the rest of the world.
The Brazilian was super hyped about his soccer team and is quite the late sleeper. (He apologized for coming in drunk the night before; Clare didn’t wake up, I thought it was hysterical.)
We’ll see how things go mañana. We’re planning on going to the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, so we need our beauty sleep.
Or, at least, I do! 🙂
More photos from the day: