Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Le Louvre (by Lisa)

Can you believe it? Here a month and we’re just now visiting the most famous museum in the world. The Smithsonian is called America’s Attic, for me “Le Louvre” que veut dire (means) The World’s Treasure. It seems any antiquity that is discovered and dug up makes its way to the Louvre. Does Greece have any Greek statues? Joëlle, my French teacher in Ashland, told me that as soon as the Parisians learned the Germans were coming they went to the Louvre, collected all the treasure, took it home and hid it. Then after the war and liberation they brought it all back. She claims not one piece went missing. That is hard enough to believe. Harder to believe is how some of these massive pieces were carried away and stashed for 4 years.

I think we put this museum off because of its sheer enormity. I’ve been here of course--found my way to Mona Lisa and gazed at her behind her glass window over the heads and cameras of fellow tourists. There is now a guide ribbon to keep the traffic flowing in front of her. Irie wanted to visit this museum as she became familiar with it after our trips to the Tuileries Garden, the carnival and the shopping area down below. She remained astounded that a royal family would need such a big house, even after I told her about all the company they invited over. She then became interested in seeing “Lisa.”

For this Louvre trip I prepared. I remembered my own glazed-look aimless wanderings alternating with tourist horde crush. I listened as other students in my French class warned, “Do the research! Know what you want to see before you go! Set your route!” One could really spend years there and not repeat objets d’art. The night before, I went on the website, I found thematic tours and selected Masterpieces (you know, the biggies) and “Outsized” which was aimed at kids. In all this involved 15 works, spread over a manageable area of real estate, but with very specific directions. Just for fun I noted an optional add-on in case we whipped it off quick--Egyptian Antiquities.

We set the alarm.

This family, pathetically claiming to still be on Pacific Time and generally sleeping in until 9:30 or 10, actually arrived at the Louvre, via Metro, by 9am opening time on a Monday morning. Busy, but not crowded. First stop: Venus de Milo, also known as Aphrodite in the Greek. By studying ahead of time I learned she represents Ideal Beauty. She is lovely, but her face is rather empty--vacant eyes, lack of facial musculature, really no affect. But I had already been spoiled by the magnificent Rodin museum--that guy knew how to sculpt human agony as well as bliss, showing up in body and face. Venus is so lovely and commanding she has her own room, and these early birds only had to share her with a few other tourists. We rolled along with our directions, tantalized by other works along the way, and tantalized by the building we were in. The Louvre is gorgeous, quite surprising actually, that the monarchy abandoned it for Versailles. Talk about use of skylights! To connect from the Sully wing to the Denon, our tour led us into the sous-sol (underground) Louvre, and as one circles an old base of a crumbling donjon, in semidarkness, the contrast of Medieval and Renaissance France is very clear.

Once we arrived at stop #2, Mona Lisa, the crowds were there. Irie complained of feeling small when she got shoved and stepped on (mostly by Italians!). Of note, she doesn’t feel small surrounded by grandeur, only by seas of humanity. Ok, still early, this will be the most crowded place, onward! My directions kept us in the same general area (good planning) and we knocked off some MASSIVE paintings (Feast at Canna, Coronation of Napolean), paintings that were remarkable for technique (Oath of Horatii, Oldalisque) and/or subject matter (Raft of the Medusa, Liberty Leading the People). It is noteworthy that some of these paintings documented actual events and that the painters were considered the photojournalists of their time. We made it through the Top Ten Masterpieces (see photogallery) and Irie still had a little bit of steam so we switched course to the Richelieu wing to see the OUTSIZED tour. Oops. By now the hordes were there and the slow muck of oozing human lava flow trapped us. My directions (“make 2 lefts, go through the doorway, admire the ____ on your way, turn back around and go through....”) became useless as we found ourselves swept back around Venus, then Winged Victory of Samothrace again and again. We did find Egyptian Antiquities! Or rather, found ourselves in them.

Time to go! Past time to go! J’en ai marre! How to get out? Dad! This way! I didn’t write those directions down, and it wouldn’t have helped. To know where you are and to know where you want to go, look out the window. Like a beacon the Pyramid guided the way.
On to Greek food, thank you Aphrodite.


Norm said...

Hey you guys, you need a GPS system so that you can find your way. Love Dad

Mom & Dad Browne said...

Cool. can'tait to see it

Mom & Dad Browne

ps Maybe I should take my GPS

Cathy Blais said...

I will send you an e-mail too but I have to tell you about the trip back on the Queen Mary 2 (we hit a storm force 11 storm (30 foot waves)) and earlier in the trip, the Queen Mary lost power and we drifted for 2 hours somewhere near (but far) from Ireland! Sounds like you are having fun being tourists...maybe one day when we visit France (it's always family stuff for us). Also sounds like you are "living it" too. I will check back to hear about your place in the south of France.
Cathy Blais (from Boston, on the Queen Mary 2 trip over)