Pour L’Art et Les Vues | Paris 2017

Previously, on Paris 2017, we arrived fresh off a red-eye flight from New York, settled into our hotel in Le Marais, and went straight to eating before exploring our neighborhood. The real exploration, though, was about to begin…


Warning: A lot of photos incoming!

While planning the previous day, we decided that our first full day in Paris would be dedicated to the most famous and oldest art museum in the world: Le Louvre. We’d spend as much time as possible in the museum, not worry about seeing any “famous” pieces that we weren’t personally interested in (no Mona Lisa for us!), and just taking it all in, nice and steady.

That morning, we decided to walk to the Louvre and get breakfast on our way. It is a longer walk, with a grey and drizzly sky overhead. (Spoiler alert: It rained every single day that we were in Paris. Paris is beautiful in the rain but I don’t know how many places are beautiful when the sky can’t commit to really raining… Still, it was hard to be upset!) After getting a great head start on our steps, we stopped by La Couleur des Blés for coffee (thank you, time difference) and pastries. I later learned that this is a really popular shop, but there was only one man in the teeny tiny shop when we stopped by. We walked away with some croissants and a little hot coffee for Ben.

Etiquette tip: When you enter a shop, make sure to greet whoever is working with a “Bonjour!”  Also, make sure to say “Merci” on your way out; saying hello and thank you are very important and it’s considered rude not to. 

Ordering tip: Ordering “un café” is not the same as a regular drip coffee in the United States. It’s more like ordering an espresso, and it will come in a teeny cup. Asking for a “café alongée” will get you an Americano: espresso with hot water added. 

From the boulangerie, we walked about 2 blocks to the Louvre and parked ourselves on some benches to dig into our croissants. (The only problem with them was that we didn’t have more of them!) And then it was time.

Louvre courtyard
Our view from breakfast
Not pictured: Crumbs all over my face and coat

Because we purchased the Paris Pass before our trip, we were able to wait in the shorter line for pass holders and didn’t have to wait in an additional line to purchase tickets to the museum. Time and time again, the Paris Pass proved to be a real timesaver for us, even without considering the value of the tickets that we would have otherwise purchased without it. After descending down the escalator below the famous glass pyramids….

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… we arrived. Please enjoy some of my favorite photos from our visit interspersed with fun facts about the Louvre.

Nintendo Audioguide
The Louvre’s audioguide is provided on Nintendo 3DS XLs. You can also download the free museum app.
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I have so many photos of the ornate ceilings and mouldings at the Louvre. Always remember to look up. (But take breaks or your neck will cramp up.)
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Me in a Nook
After walking around this enormous museum, I frequently found solace in little nooks between gallery walls
Some of the art was delightfully weird…

I don’t know what that is in the upper right but I was digging it so hard

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Goats and a Dog
A bunch of goats and one doggo

Some was mesmerizing:

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Look at this almost obscene mastery of light and color
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This was a really cool painting because there was art on both sides, hence the interesting way of displaying it perpendicular to the wall
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I loved that several of the pieces in the Louvre depicted the Louvre, it was very meta.

Some of the pieces made me contemplate my mortality:

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Some of the more famous pieces at the Louvre:

Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo – Alexandros of Antioch, marble (~120 BCE)
La Liberté guidant le peuple
Liberté, egalité, fraternité! La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty Leading the People) – Eugène Delacroix, oil on canvas (1830)
La Madeleine à la veilleuse,
What’s a fire and why does it—what’s the word— burn? La Madeleine à la veilleuse (Magdalene with the Smoking Flame – Georges de La Tour, oil on canvas (1640)
Portrait de l’artiste sous les traits d’un moqueur
Disregard females, acquire currency Portrait de l’artiste sous les traits d’un moqueur (Self-portrait of the artist in the guise of a mockingbird) – Joseph Ducreux, oil on canvas (1793)
Tourists Taking Photos of the Mona Lisa
This photo is the art. It depicts the horde of tourists struggling to get photos of the most overrated painting in the world.
Portrait of Louis XIV in Coronation Robes
Portrait of Louis XIV in Coronation Robes – Hyacinthe Rigaud, oil on canvas (1701)

We stayed at the Louvre until we were kicked out, during which time I managed to actually see the Mona Lisa from pretty close, given how much the crowds had thinned…

La Joconde
La Joconde, aka the Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci, oil on poplar (1517)

… and get this crazy shot of an empty museum hall that had already been cleared out of crowds…

Empty Louvre hall

… and then we ran back to see this sculpture that I wanted to spend more time with when we walked in but was deterred by the crowd. At first, I thought I wouldn’t get to see her again, especially because I did not know my way around, but Ben, after initially getting confused by which sculpture I wanted, led me right to her. My hero!

Winged Victory of Samothrace
Winged Victory of Samothrace – marble (~200 BCE)

We eventually did exit the museum and decided to do the walk through le Jardin de Tuileries, down le Champs-Elysées, and up to l’Arc de Triomphe, which was recommended to me to do by my friend Barry. Even though it was really chilly outside, we enjoyed walking through the gardens, especially after we were able to stop by a little Amorino stall for a Nutella crepe and an affogato. Yum! (We needed that fuel after the disappointing lunch, and we had a lot of walking ahead of us…)

The Champs-Elysées is an 8-lane wide (I believe it was 10 before they designated bike lanes?) straight road that leads from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle where the Arc de Triomphe is. The trees on either side are meticulously kept manicured to rectangles. Some of the most famous upscale shopping can be found here, from fashion to beauty to a McDonald’s with white arches. But we weren’t here to shop. We wanted to catch the view from atop the arch with our Paris Pass.

If you don’t like walking, Paris is going to be a rough city for you, especially the Louvre. If you don’t like stairs, Paris is going to be really rough for you, especially its monuments. To access the arch, which is in the middle of a traffic circle where 12 avenues meet, you go under the traffic through a tunnel and then begin walking up the stairs to ground level… and then keep walking up. 284 steps up, to be precise. (There is an elevator to the top level, but then you still have to take 46 steps to reach the actual terrace on the top of the arch.)

But the views are so, so worth it.

Invalides et la Tour Eiffel
Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower
Sacre-Coeur
Sacre-Couer atop its hill
The Eiffel Tower twinkles every hour, on the hour, for 5 minutes
That night, I could see the moon, glowing a faint rusty red

These views were some of the best I’d ever seen in Paris, and I went up the Eiffel Tower the last time I was here. (You can’t see the Eiffel Tower when you’re on the Eiffel Tower…). This was literally a top highlight of our trip, and if you only have time to walk up one big flight of stairs for an amazing view of Paris, we would recommend this one. (Especially considering the insane wait at the Eiffel Tower!)

Model of the arch
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The eternal flame of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

After a long day of walking, we decided to give in to the tourist traps and just get dinner on the Champs-Elysées, since we had such a sad lunch at the Louvre and were chilly and starving at this point.

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We metro-ed back to our hotel so content after a really fulfilling and fun first full day in Paris.


What are your favorite artworks and/or art museums? I am really hard-pressed to choose between the Louvre and the Hermitage, as both had such astounding collections and equally impressive palaces to house them. (Also, I really can’t comment on the art, I love a lot and can’t choose!)

Where are your favorite places in the world to go for good views? In Paris, the Eiffel Tower view is awesome at sunset, for sure, and the Arc de Triomphe one is wonderful. I’ll be sharing another great Parisian view in a later post, as well! In New York, while the Top of the Rock is great, I really love the view from the Freedom Tower.

 

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