Sunday, July 8, 2012

Finally, The Louvre! And Strolling Through Paris with French Friends

Saturday, July 7, 2012
Paris, France


Luxuriating in the Louvre:
So I finally did it! Since this is my last week in Paris, it is now time to get to the tried-and-tested venues to luxuriate over them again. So I did get back to the Louvre again--last week's hasty attempt to see David's Horatio was simply not long enough for me. This time I went alone!--to enjoy the place at my leisure and to re-visit some of my favorite works in that treasury of art! Llew preferred to say home to rest and recuperate from all the mad running around town to which I have been subjecting him! He also needed to get our apartment organized for the arrival of our French friends from Normandy, Jacques and Florence Lesrouxelles.

So, off I went after we'd breakfasted together on the Eric Kayser 'flute' that I picked up from one of his artisan boulangeries. It was delicious with our range of preserves and good coffee.  I took the metro and went along a very complicated route to avoid connecting at Chalelet. But I reached about 12.00 noon and started my search through the galleries. Entry was free for me with my Metropolitan Museum ID which is such a HUGE boon. If I ever return to live long-term in Paris, it is so good to know that I will be able to haunt the museums free of charge and study the works in detail without having to worry about paying 10 euros each time I enter.

There was a line and it took me about 12 minutes to enter--during which time a light shower began. A sweet French college student who was also alone, shared her umbrella with me. But then we were inside I.M. Pei's wonderful glass triangle, the Pyramid, and I was making my way through the Denton wing to see the Renaissance works. Of course, there was still a mob around the Mona Lisa, but I tried hard to ignore it as I studied the other Italian works that surround her. Apart from Veronese' monumental Marriage in Cana, there are some fabulous Titian pieces in the same room--sadly, most of them go ignored because everyone is being jostled about to look at Mona.

Also sadly, a portrait of "An Unknown Woman", also by Leonardo da Vinci in the main Renaissance hallway that sits rights next to his John the Baptist gets no viewers at all, although they are just as technically brilliant. I feasted my eyes on the three Caravaggios that the Louvre boasts, especially The Fortune Teller which is so different from George de la Tour's that hangs in the Met. Hard to believe that his Death of the Virgin was rejected by the Church in Trastavere in Rome because it did not look religious enough. Instead the church selected a work by an unknown artist whose name I still can't remember. Some fine Botticellis and a superb Carlo Crivelli are in the same gallery (I so rarely get to see a Crivelli  work. He is one of my favorite Renaisssance artists and I simply stand in awe of them wherever I find them). There were also some grand canvasses by Andrea del Sarto who is also a Renaissance Master I have come to like very much.

In the next room, I closely scrutinized works by Paolo Uccello (especially his Battle of San Romano) which is badly in need of restoration. The twin one in the National Gallery in London has been wonderfully cleaned up and now glows with grandeur. I took pictures of the Botticelli frescoes--two really delicate ones that portray women with fine angelic features. From there, I had a great time looking at work from Flanders. There were two really nice portraits by Franz Hals and a whole slew of Rembrandts including three self-portraits, all of which were grouped very closely together, allowing the viewer to study the manner in which the painter aged as his technique improved. In the same section, there are Vermeer's great works including his Lacemaker which everyone goes to see, although I really did prefer The Astronomer which sits at the side--for its greater detail. There were also some good canvasses by Pieter de Hooch whose Courtyard of a House in Delft is my favorite one in the National Gallery in London.

I rushed through the gallery containing some immense works by Rubens before I set off to see the Crown Jewels that sit in the most opulent part of the Lourve--which once used to be the palace of French kings.More than the items in the vitrines, it is the decoration of the gallery that I adore--the ornate Classical touches that include sculpture and paintings of the greatest French artists of all time and their patrons--the many kings who allowed them to bring their talent to fruition. I got great portraits of Le Notre, and Le Brun, of Louix XIV and of Francois I, for instance. I did take pictures of some of the crowns, particularly of King Louis who became St. Louis of France. Finally, I ended my visit with a look at some of the work by George de la Tour in the Sully wing and was sorry to note that his Card Players is traveling and is in Montpellier right now. Dommage! En route, I passed by the Impressionist wing and found Renoir's The Readers which was really charming.   

I think this time, more than on my past visits, I was completely taken by the awesome interiors of the museum, especially in the Royal wing where I was in shock at the magnificent painted ceilings and other decoration so perfectly executed. I keep forgetting how beautiful the galleries are. On this visit, I ended up taking more pictures of the interior design and decoration than of the works themselves.I also took a lot of pictures of the exterior of the Palais Royale and the Gardens.

A Warm Welcome to Friends from Normandy:
Overall, I had a fantastic time and was sorry I had to hurry it along as I needed to be home at 3. 30 in time for the arrival of our friends Jacques and Florence who were arriving at our place from Normandy to spend the weekend with us.  By the time I got home at 5.00 pm (I simply could not leave the Louvre without seeing all I wanted), they were already at our place. We had a cuppa together and then off we went to explore Paris, starting with a stroll through Cite-Universitaire as Florence, who is an architect by profession, wanted to see the Fondation Suisse building which is the work of architect Le Corbusier.

On the metro we went to Ile de la Cite where we first visited the bookshop called Shakespeare and Co that I thought Llew would enjoy seeing. As I expected, he loved it and wanted to return to it to browse at his leisure. (Note to Self: Next time you go to a museum, leave Llew in a bookshop). Next, we went to Rue de la Huchette to enter the Latin Quarter for dinner. Florence was keen to eat an Indian meal and she suggested we try a place called Taj Mahal. The food was very tasty if a bit too bland for our Indian palates--Chicken Tikka Masala, Prawn Curry, Daal with Spinach, Rice and Naans. For dessert, we took a lovely long walk in the moonlight along the quais of the Seine to the Ile de St. Louis where we tried some new flavors of Berthillon ice-cream and introduced our friends to it. This time I went for Chocolat Nougat (Llew chose the same), Florence had a very interesting Thyme Citron (Thyme-Lemon) sorbet and I can't remember what Jacques had! While we were deciding whether to take the bateau-mouch ride or not, the drizzle began and it continued for at least the next hour. This put paid to our plans to take a moonlit ride on the Seine to see the illuminated buildings. Instead we walked to Sainte Chapelle and then took the metro home from there.

All of us were really exhausted after our long ramble in the city. So I suppose it was not surprising that we went straight to bed after we'd made our guests comfortable in the living room.

A demain!

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