Friday, July 10, 2009

June 10, 2009 -- Looney Over the Louvre

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” - Frank Herbert

Ah, sleep -- we indulged ourselves this morning, awakening at a more civil hour of 8:00 and having a leisurely breakfast at our hotel with crepes, ham, cheese, croissant, juice, coffee or chocolate, plus more. We met up with our colleagues at 11:00 p.m. for a bus trip over to the Louvre. Oh, the streets of Paris! Filled with other souls of the planet, strolling, striding, and moseying along the walks, surrounded by buildings of all ages and all architecture. It did remind me of New Orleans, which of course has the influence of France in its beginnings.

Walking into the plaza we are struck by the now famous, but still slightly disconcerting, sight of the simplistic and modern Pyramid and the ornate and older Musee called The Louvre. Originally built by Phillip II as a fortress, it was extended to its present size until Louis XIV (Quatorze) abandoned it for Versailles. He left his art collection there, and after the Revolution, it was declared a museum.

As one of my friends told me, "There are museums, and then there's the Louvre." I spent 3 1/2 hours at a fair quick pace, and only got about 1/2 of one level of ONE WING done! I did manage to find the Mona Lisa and elbowed my way to the front where I took a non-flash photo (trying to obey the rules while those all around me ignored it!) or two. After that, anything else was all gravy. I did see a few photos I recognized -- Veronese's The Marriage at Cannan; Delacroix's "Liberte"; one by Velasquez of a queen (I forget her name). I also saw "Winged Victory of Samothrace." Probably my favorite was "Psyche kisses Eros" (or some similar translation). It was very passionate.

The art was tremendous, but the building itself ... I was awestruck! The ceilings with frescoes, painting, gilding, etc. The walls were elaborately decorated. You could truly tell you were in a palace. It was easy to get lost -- it seemed each room led to other rooms -- almost like being Alice in Wonderland. I started off with four people in my group, and ended up wandering on my own the last hour.

One interesting event occurred while we were looking at the crowns of Louis XIV and Princess Eugenie. Apparently someone did something they weren't supposed to do and an alarm rang and they closed the iron gates that separated the room from the great hall. But we just wandered around until they reopened the gates -- less than 10 minutes later.

Below the ground (where you descend in an elevator to actually enter the museum), there is a huge underground "cavern" filled with light (as the pyramid is transparent). Shops, cafes, and even a post office are located there. You can also buy tickets there. Rules at the Louvre allow photographs at all the permanent collections (not temporary ones -- there are signs), but no flash photography (a joke since everyone was doing it). I heard a lot of American and British English as well as many other languages (many of which I did not recognize). It was truly a cultural melting pot -- not just of its artifacts, but also of its visitors. I would love to go back, but you would need at least two weeks to do it justice!

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