Fierce, Fabulous & Fun
09.18.2011 - 09.25.2011 70 °F
Bonjour! Words cannot fully express how much I love Paris. Even with some difficult/diva personalities that you encounter (pretty regularly), it's just a wonderful place. If I was this fabulous, I'd be a diva too (and some will probably say that I am a diva regardless...but I digress). I was blessed to spend a week in lovely Paris for work. I've covered Paris in a previous blog post (Paris blog) so I'm just going to go thru the highlights of my trip.
My colleague, Tony, and I took the train from Geneva, Switzerland to Paris. It's about a 4 hour train ride thru the countryside. After we checked-in to our hotel, we took the Paris Metro (which is super easy to navigate) to Champs-Elysees and found a restaurant to have lunch. It's 1:30pm when we arrive...but lunch prices didn't go into effect until 3pm. So, we ended up paying dinner prices for lunch. The food was excellent (I had lemon-infused chicken with sauteed veggies). But dessert was WONDERFUL!
It's a chocolate torte with vanilla cream & hot chocolate. Delish! I had dessert everyday!!!
After lunch, we headed to the Louvre. It's a beautiful walk down the grand boulevard of Champs-Elysees.
On our way to the Louvre, we passed...
Pont Alexandre III
Luxor Obelisk (brought in from Luxor, Egypt...formerly known as Thebes)
Prior to entering the courtyard for the Louvre, you pass thru the Tuileries Garden, which is Paris' grandest park and was once the private property of kings & queens.
It also happens to be a favorite workout spot for locals. I even saw people doing bootcamps.
And, finally...Europe's oldest, biggest, greatest and second-most-crowded museum (after the Vatican)... the Louvre aka Musee du Louvre. The Louvre is a 16th century U-shaped palace accentuated by a 20th century glass pyramid.
(beautiful panoramic picture by Benh LIEU SONG)
It began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, KL14 (King Louis XIV) chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation's masterpieces.
The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After the defeat of Napoléon at Waterloo, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings (sourced from Wikipedia).
It's a bit overwhelming since it's so large. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet (sourced from Wikipedia). Therefore, you will need to be selective about what you choose to see. I believe I heard the guide say that if you were to view & read the descriptions of every item in the Louvre without stopping (24/7), it would take you 9 months to see the entire thing! All of the descriptions are in French but you can pick up sheets with translations in each exhibit. The most famous items in the Louvre are:
■Mona Lisa -- Painted by Leonardo da Vinci. This is the portrait he painted of a woman named Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant. King Francis I fell in love with the painting and made it the centerpiece of his small collection of Italian centerpieces. He originally named the portrait, "La Gioconda" -- both her last name and a play on the Italian word for "happy woman." However, we know it as the contraction for the Italian phrase, "my lady Lisa"...Mona Lisa (source Rick Steves). I was a bit disappointed as the painting is dark, small and hidden behind a pane of glass which made it hard to get a good picture. Still, it was awesome to see in person (even if I don't have the artistic eye to see why this is such a beautiful painting).
■Venus de Milo – This Greek statue of Aphrodite is named for the island where it was discovered (Melos), and dates to roughly 100 B.C.E.
■The Wedding at Cana – This enormous (and I do mean ENORMOUS) 16th century painting by Veronese shows the Biblical story where Christ turned water into wine. It's opposite the Mona Lisa and it basically shows love of beautiful things gone crazy. I tried to get a picture but it's massive & I didn't have the right camera to capture it. However, I am posting a picture so you can see what it looks like.
■Michelangelo’s Slaves – There are two unfinished carvings by Michelangelo at the Louvre, called the Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave.
■Winged Victory – This Greek statue is located at the top of a staircase in the Louvre and one of the most famous sculptural figures in the world. It dates from the 2nd or 3rd century B.C.E. and depicts the Greek goddess of victory, Nike.
■Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss Antonio Canova's statue was first commissioned in 1787 and exemplifies the Neoclassical devotion to love and emotion. It represents the god Cupid in the height of love and tenderness, immediately after awakening the lifeless Psyche with a kiss, a scene excerpted from Lucius Apuleius' The Golden Ass.
We also viewed Egyptian antiquities
And here are a few other favorites...
We leave the Louvre when it closes at 5:30 and head over to a cafe for cafe au lait. Then, we walk to the Chatelet area of Paris.
Oscar the Grouch
Somehow, I don't think this has been sanctioned & approved by Lady O.
Paris Ghost Tour
You know I couldn't resist doing this. The Paris Ghost Walk is an English language evening walking tour exploring the mysterious “Darkside of the City of Lights.” Our guide walks us around Chatelet area of Paris while presenting stories of alchemy, murder, haunted history, urban legends, myths and legends! Some of the ghost stories include the ghosts of Marie Antoinette, Louis XVII, The Red Man, Nicolas Flamel, lovers of the Eiffel Tower, lost spirits in the catacombs, real vampires, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
Our guide, Francois. He really tried to take it to another level by wearing fake vampire fangs. LOL
We start off by going to the house where Nicolas Flamel used to live. Francois asked the group (there were 8 of us) if anybody had heard of him. I raised my hand and said that I knew him from Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone. That's right. I ain't ashamed that I love Harry. Y'all know that. Why did Francois say, "That's nice. Not all of us get our history from a Harry Potter book."? Um, what? You already know what my face looked like. Buddy, I have a BA in History. Don't play with me. So, I gave him the side-eye for a good 30 minutes. Afterwards, I guess he wanted to be buddies so he tried to incorporate Harry into everything. Stop it, Francy. Just conjure up a ghost so I can take a picture. Sigh. Back to the story. If you read Harry, then you know the EXACT SAME STORY that Francy told us. Nick was into alchemy and he and his wife found the right chemical formula for everlasting life. Only Nick drank it...Mrs. Nick did not. They traveled to Spain and other places learning more about alchemy and became rich. Once Mrs. Nick died, Nick lived a while, then "pretended" to die. The church he had built contained his coffin but when it was looted, no body could be found. The legend is that old Nick is hanging around today...he may be your co-worker.
Next stop is the Cemetery of the Innocents which was the oldest and largest cemetery in Paris . This fountain sits upon where the cemetery used to be. Apparently, this is where they used to bury the paupers. But, it became overcrowded (it contained the bones of 6 million people!) and stank to high heaven. They used the bones to build walls and everything. They dug up all the bones in order to put in the Metro system. Those bones are now located in the catacombs. I cannot tell you how much I want to visit the catacombs which is supposed to have an entire secret "rogue" society...they show films, party...everything! I thought for sure I'd see Casper at the former cemetery but no dice.
Apparently, there was a rat problem back in the day. Rat Trap Shop...awesome!
Lost love at the Eiffel Tower I can't remember the names of the people involved in this story so I'm just going to make some up. Once upon a time in NYC, a no-count fraudster (we'll call him Roscoe) knocked up a woman who had his son (Roscoe Jr.). After RJ became a teenager, he wanted to know his dad and apparently carried the same scamming genes. So, Roscoe & RJ hook up and decided to go to Paris and "sell" the Eiffel Tower. Don't ask me how this makes sense but go with it. While they are looking for someone to scam, RJ falls in love with Chantel. They are able to "sell" it to some unsuspecting fool and when it comes time to leave, RJ can't let his baby boo go. So, he stays in Paris while Roscoe goes back to NYC with his money. RJ asks Chantel's daddy for her hand in marriage. He says yes as long as RJ doesn't propose to Chantel on the Eiffel Tower because it's tacky and would ruin the family name. RJ didn't hear any of that and takes Chantell to the Eiffel Tower and proposes. Chantel is mortified and as she's backing up, falls from the top (they didn't have guardrails back in the day). It's said that you can still hear her screaming for the top of the tower. Fun fact...Tom Cruise proposed to Katie on top of the Eiffel Tower
Paris Night Bike Tour
I covered this in my 2010 Paris blog post (linked above) but wanted to add a couple of things.
You can't unlock love...
The locks above are located on the bridge in front of the Notre Dame. It's supposed to symbolize that love can't be unlocked or broken. The keys are thrown into the Seine after they locks are secured. I'm not sure what the combination locks are supposed to mean...maybe those are the locks for folks that have pre-nups
Berthillion Ice Cream...the most wonderful ice cream in Paris! Seriously. Last year I had raspberry, this year it was chocolate. And, it was so delicious! You've got to check it out whenever you go to Paris. It's right on the corner as your cross Pont St. Louis to go to Ile St. Louis (where all the rich folks live) -- almost across the street from the Notre Dame.
The Louvre at night.
The Seine river cruise!
The magnificent Eiffel Tower. The light display occurs every 5 minutes and contains 50,000 lightbulbs (5K on each side).
One of the greatest travel items I have is this emergency toilet kit!
I needed that sucker several times due to the restrooms being out of toilet paper, soap, etc.
Another thing I noticed is that earbuds are out of style...it's all about rockin' the big earphones...like you are a dj. Everybody was rockin' these.
Like London, Paris is a city that you can visit time and time again without ever getting bored or running out of things to see and do. I absolutely ADORE Paris. From the cafes to the architecture to the overall beauty of it...it's phenomenal. I don't really pay close attention to mens wear but let me tell you...the men in Paris are S.H.A.R.P. Very crisp & tailored. These folks make you really think about what to wear each day. No baseball caps or sweats. I cannot wait to go back during New Years. I miss it already!