Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Day at The Louvre

A Lovely Breakfast, A Wonderful Stroll, and the Worlds Best Museum!

Not a bad day by any measure.

After suffering the usual jet lag crap-ola, we wound up sleeping till about 8:30 am Paris time. Seemed somehow comforting to be (mostly) acclimated after only one day.

The hotel had a lovely breakfast which I enjoyed (partly because it was amazing and mainly because it was free for Marriott Platinums). Despite its quality, with a 29 Euro menu price (just under $40 USD), if it had not been free Monsieur Cheap-O Roadboy would have opted for a quick stroll out to the street for a coffee and tasty pain au chocolat!

From the hotel we walked down the Champs Elysee past enough gold leaf to last a lifetime to the Place de la Concorde. Today this is the home to the obelisk given as a gift from Egypt, the US Embassy, and the Hotel de Crillon. It serves as the ceremonial end of the La Tour de France and is home to Frances' worst traffic. 

In 1794 it was the site of the most prolific guillotine in Paris and is where Marie Antoinette ever so briefly got to reconsider her hasty comments about cake.

From there it was on to the Tuileries Gardens which serve as a a perfect gateway to the Louvre. While the day was cold, the sun kept peeking through the clouds.

Miss M in Les Tuileries Gardens

We spent much of the day in the Louvre and frankly it was about the nicest visit ever. The Napoleanic Apartments were open (my last visit they were closed) and we spent time in the Egyptian gallery. OK, I admit it I love mummies - no trip to a museum that has mummies is complete until I see the mummies. We also enjoyed the huge skylit sculpture galleries. 

Dining in the Louvre's Napoleonic Apartments

The Louvre began its history as a fortress in the 12th century when it was at the extreme west end of Paris. It was modernized by Francois I and later expanded as the palace of the Sun King Lois XIV and finalized by Louis XV. After completing Versailles, interest in the Parisian Palace waned and the Louvre became dormant.

The Winged Victory

Its life as a museum began with the French Revolution. Hence, in 1793 parts of the Louvre opened as public galleries. In 1882 the Palace was officially designated (almost) in its entirety as a museum. Various expansions have transformed it into one of the world's most important museums. Except for a period in  1939 when all but the heaviest sculptures were removed to Chateau's throughout France (where they were moved like a shell game throughout WWII) the museum has remained open.

In 1981 the museum was so overcrowded that the decision was made to perform major surgery. The commission to redesign the Louvre was given to American Architect I.M. Pei (who had just built a major expansion of the Smithsonian) and from 1986 to the present renovations and expansions have been completed. Most notably were the controversial "Pyramid" entry in 1983, and the massive skylit sculpture courtyards and the wonderful underground shopping (complete with an Apple Store - i.e. new power adaptor) and dining Galeries du Carrousel. Later space was doubled for Egyptian antiquities and work is presently underway for the display of Islamic art.

One of Two Giant Skylit Sculpture Gardens

And yes, being a winter visit we got to see the Mona Lisa without being shoved!

Roadboy With Leonardo's Lady

The Police Still Patrol the Grounds of the Louvre on Roller Blade's!

Nearby we saw a wild performance art event (two modern full sized jack-in-the-boxes), enjoyed window shopping at the chic shops along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore (on one corner we saw two double parked Rolls' with a Bentley on the other corner.) Clearly, this is the Rodeo Drive of Paris. Along the way is the Elysee Palace home to the President of France. Along the way we saw the Eiffel Tower do its 6 PM twinkle and beacon. It is truly breathtaking.

Performance Art

We made one additional stop at the eight-story vertical Citroen concept car display after seeing the Audi and Peugeot displays earlier. The French love their cars and the concepts were pretty stunning.

Even the Baby Rides in Style In This Citroen Concept Car

A New Citroen Rotating On Each Disk 
at Citroen's Champs Elysee Highrise Concept Display

Tomorrow we finish our museum tours with my personal fav the Musee d'Orsay.

Nighty night (Bonsoir!) from Paris!

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

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