Last time I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sure I was ever going to finish our Day 5 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Drawn to Bohemia post. Today, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Day 6 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Parisian Palette, and one of the shortest days of the entire tour. And just in time, my feet were killing me. Beci seemed to be doing fine, but I was looking for a park bench and a book today.
Which brings us to our first stop: Jardin Tuileries. These gardens originally belonged to the Tuileries palace which was built by Catherine de’ Medicis, wife of Henry II, starting in 1564. It was expanded in the1600s for Louis XIV, and again for Napoleon, who made it the Imperial residence in 1808.
The Tuileries gardens are particularly French. Large expanses of perfectly flat dirt and gravel with perfectly rectangular trees set in perfectly straight lines. Hedges groomed to the identical height and set at protractor angles. Nature at itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s French best, and quite surprisingly attractive and restful. Our morning walk was a cool one, so the gardens were mostly empty until we got up to the Louvre. There we saw the striking new glass pyramid and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. It was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate France’s military victories in 1805. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also sort of the archway into the gigantic courtyard of the Louvre.
Right next to this were a group of young men playing Soccer. In the courtyard of the Louvre. I guess when it’s in your back yard it’s not as cool. Also with Soccer you’re less likely to break a window than with baseball. Plus these guys were good, in the way that a pickup basketball game in your average inner city court in the US would be good.
At this point we met our guide again, were presented with our tickets, and marched into a side entry to the Museum that none of us even knew existed up to that point. We breezed in thru the special Disney entry (OK, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for any large group) and headed for my favorite part of this particular museum, the Italian sculpture section. I could sit and look at just one or two pieces of meticulously carved marble for hours on end, but we only spent a short bit of time here and then moved on to some of the classic paintings. Some of these paintings are huge. Obviously all of them are beautiful works of art, but some are beautiful and larger than any wall in our house. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re talking 15 feet tall, and 20+ feet wide. Just the ambition of starting a painting like that is amazing. Its, well, its ambitious.
Eventually of course, we made our way into the most popular room in the Louvre, and into what may be the most well known painting in the world. C. M. CoolidgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dogs Playing Poker #2 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ A Bold Bluff.
No wait. I meant the Mona Lisa. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Of course Dogs Playing Poker isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t in the Louvre, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s too new. Only works created before 1849 can be displayed in the Louver. The Dogs series was painted between 1903 and 1910. It would be displayed in the MusÃƒÂ©e d’Orsay across the river, where works from 1849 thru 1914 are displayed. Those created between 1915 and the present, including my favorite artist, Marc Chagall would go in the Pompidou Centre or MusÃƒÂ©e National dÃ‚Â´Art Moderne.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen the da Vinci Code you know right where the Mona Lisa sitsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ except itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been moved. It now sits in a new gallery on its own large protected pedestal wall. There is (finally) ample viewing space for people who want to spend time with the painting, and children are encouraged to go in front of the railing that protects the painting from the long armed adults. Photos are prohibited of course, but that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop people from snapping away, so the picture is also protected by polarized glass.
Our time with the Mona Lisa complete, we moved off to see the rest of the artistic bounty that is to be found in the Louvre, culminating with the Venus de Milo. Even lacking her arms, there is something quite remarkable about this bit of marble. It dates back to the Hellenistic age and was most likely carved by Alexandros of Antioch on the island of Milos, Greece.
We left the MusÃƒÂ©e and returned to the Jardin des Tuileries for a simple lunch in the park. After lunch, time on our own. Several of our group headed back to the foot of the Eifel tower to take a river cruise. Others headed for the OpÃƒÂ©ra Garnier which sits in front of two of the best department stores in Paris (the actual destination). Beci and I took a peaceful walk thru the park and then spent some time organizing photos. When dinner rolled around we debated finding a nice cafÃƒÂ© near the river, but instead decided on a crÃƒÂªperie off the Place de la Concorde.
This was the first time we ran into a language barrier of any kind, and it was fun rather than uncomfortable. The owner of the stand said Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have no EnglishÃ¢â‚¬Â, to which I responded Ã¢â‚¬Å“Je parle peu franÃƒÂ§aisÃ¢â‚¬Â. Unfortunately I think this means something more like Ã¢â‚¬Å“I speak French of a diminutive sizeÃ¢â‚¬Â, but that would only emphasize just how little I speak, so I figured that was just fine. I was able to order Ã¢â‚¬Å“Deux crÃƒÂªpes. Fromage et jambon.Ã¢â‚¬Â His question about Ã¢â‚¬Å“SelÃ¢â‚¬Â threw me for a moment (Salt) but we muddled through. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Deux Coke LiteÃ¢â‚¬Â was clear enough, and then we ran into the big problem. Something which sounded like Ã¢â‚¬Å“dÃ¢â‚¬â„¢snuf a swasan doos urosÃ¢â‚¬Â but was actually Ã¢â‚¬Å“dix-neuf et soixante-douze eurosÃ¢â‚¬Â. Neither would have helped me at that point. Counting in French is a nightmare. So: Ten-Nine and Sixty-Twelve Euros. No really, they say sixty-twelve, and for eighty they say four-twenties. So the final price, 19.72 Euros, including the package of potato chips.
A good day.