Saturday, 8 May 2010

Paris and the Louvre

For our first anniversary, myself and Maria headed to Paris which was both our first time there and what a great city it turned out to be.

We flew from Leeds Bradford and the airport was very empty. Certainly a sign of the times and our flight was only half full. Charles De Gaulle, which is meant to have the reputation of being extremely hectic was very quiet too. So a plus on having a stress free journey.

From the Charles De Gaulle, we took the train into the centre (18 euros for the both of our tickets) and we decided to get off at a random stop in the centre, which turned out to be Chatelet which seems to be one giant grotesque shopping centre. Getting a grip on the Metro Map we found the line to take us to Bastille where we would be staying. 

We used the Metro to get around Paris and each bought a book of ten tickets for 11 euros, which was just right for our three nights there. The metro is extremely good value for money, on time and with good old fashioned walking, is the way to see the city.

I've put a review of the Hotel we stayed at on Tripadvisor here.The area around the hotel was great, a bit run down but certainly had character. After dumping our bags and filling up with ham and cheese crepes, we headed down to the Seine to walk up to Notre Dame. Lots of activity on the Seine with couples walking, students drinking wine , people juggling and a few couples getting up to a bit of Ooh la laNotre Dame was pretty impressive and the statue of Charlemagne with Asterix the Gaul was pretty good too.

Deciding to go for a drink, we tried to head over to the Latin Quarter not knowing exactly where it was. I think we skirted the outskirts, but we did find a nice corner cafe (3.90 for a 50cl beer) and watched the Parisians go by. For dinner we headed back to the Bastille area and found a sensible looking restaurant along the Avenue Ledru-Rollin where we had a main and a bottle of wine for a little under 40 euros.  We then headed to a road I think which was called the Rue Keller which was full of Bars and restaurants and very few tourists - yeah! The first bar we went into however, we quickly left when it was seven euros for a small beer and headed off to a corner cafe where we bought a bottle of wine and Parisian watched for the rest of the night whilst soaking up the atmosphere.

The next day, we headed over to the Louvre not realising that May 1st was a public holiday in France and the museums were shut. In hope, we tried the Musee d'Orsay but that was closed also.  We had a Polishman try a trick on us with "pretending to find a gold ring" next to where we were sitting, most unsuccessfully.  I have to say though, Paris feels an amazingly safe city, high police prescence and at no time did we come across anywhere, where it didn't feel safe. The Polish guy trying it on, was more embarisngly funny than threatening.

We then walked up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc De Triomphe, which is longer than it looks. The Arc itself is very impressive and Cleopatras needle, with its Gold top gave off a brilliant effect with the sun hitting it. After that, it was a trip to the Musee de L'erotisme along the Rue De Clichy, which was open and a good bit of fun.  As well as having an extensive collection of erotica from antiquity onwards, they also had some modern Frrench eroticism, which in all honesty was a bit pants. To the people of France, I say somewhere along the way you have lost the way of producing good erotica, look to your past.

In the afternoon we headed to the north of the city and the Marche De Pucces which is a huge antique and flea market. As it was our first anniversary paper we split up and headed off with ten euros each, returning with an Asterix book(in French), an old book on the history of Charlemagne(in French) and an old english book entitled "The Gentlemen" by John Halifax. I really liked the Marche Du Pont, lots of interesting paintings and curiosities to be found (one stand was just filled with Human skulls and other anatomical bits and pieces) and looking forward to returning with more spending money.

In the evening we headed over to an area near Place de l'Italie - this was the only time we got a bit lost, though did end up finding a nice area with bars around the  Rue De Cinque. And, not a tourist in sight. We had a few drinks in a couple of the bars around there and also ate nearby (escargot) on Rue Samson at a restaurant with the same name. Which with a starter, main and bottle of wine came in sensible at 57 euros. We then headed back to the Bastille area where we went to a Cafe called Pause and enjoyed some more wine, cigarettes(when in Rome do as the Romans do) and watched more Parisians go by to the early hours. I do like drinking in Europe, we have it so wrong in this country and I think table service is one of the things that make a huge difference. Also, I include myself in this, we have also all become really fat in this country. It was nice seeing thin people everywhere. My faith in civilisation has been restored.

The next day it was up earlyish and we headed first to the D'Orsay. The queue was absolutely huge, so we decided that if were going to queue for anything, it would be the Louvre. Now this was the Coup De Main of our trip. Walking over, I overheard a tourist ask one of the museum staff something about entrances and heard the word "side". So I went up to the guide and in my best stupid tourist guise I asked and she said Oui and not only that, there was no queue for it. We walked straight in through a side door. As it was the first Sunday in the month the museum was also free! To add insult to all the people in the huge queue by the pyramid, which is where we came out of, we walked past the entire queue back up to the side entrance and into the museum again to get my bag from the cloakroom. I then did a little dance.

The Louvre, which is the main reason I wanted to do this post, was unbelievably fantastic. I think my favourite thing was the French rooms with the Ingres's and Chasserieau's. Also seeing certain works of art, which I did not know were in the Louvre and seeing the pure scale of them e.g. The Rape Of Sabine women which was absolutely huge.

Myself and Maria made a few notes on pieces which we liked as we went around which are;

John Martin (Pandaemonuim) Paradise Lost
This was actually the fist painting we saw and very cool, based on the poem by John Milton

Pierre - Paul Prudh'on The soul breaks its connection with earth
There was also the working sketches for this in the museum as well

Bacchanalia of Children SAUVAGE, Piat-Joseph
Very freaky, it is a painting, but looks unbelievably 3D

Claude Joseph Vernet - Clair De lune
The photo there does this no justice at all, it really grabs your eye when you come into the room and the light and dark in the picture really contrast.

Unbelivable collection, all throughout the museum and this is an artist, except for the Turkish baths picture  I used in an animation called The Gallery, I knew very little of his work.

Theodore Chasserieu
Maria particullar liked the Suzanne and like Ingres, a great colleciton of works in the museum

Nicolas De Largille - Study of Hands
Wonderfully weird and very eye catching

Francois Biard - Magdalena Bay
Very striking and again, the photo does not do it justice. It was also surprisngly the only time in the Louvre we came across some daft American tourists(no offence to my American friends, its just you guys don't have the best track record as tourists in Europe) who was moaning that the sky looked "magical" - its the friggin Aurora Borealis for fecks sake.
Lots of works, including a very realistic profile of a lion and The Raft of Medusa.There was also a warm up painting of the raft of Medusa which was very interesting to see

Reason I noted this one down, was the Loricca segmenta armour the man is wearing. Don't often see it as metal in paintings, most of the time artists show it was leather . Curious to find out more.

Andrea Mantegna - Isola di Carturo
Possibly my favourite  and one, when heading back will be heading to see first.

Eugène Delacroix - Orphan Girl at the cemetry
This was fantastic, I like to think that this was something the artist actually saw and then painted at a later date. Look at also the entire detail in the face, then the blandish background. Dare I use the word Juxtaposition? Also of note was Delacroix Lady of liberty which makes you want to storm parliament.

Sadly wrote down Dejert and Renard de saint, but have been unable to tie them back to what I saw from googling. I was surprised you could actually take photo's in there, I didn't take any of the works themselves, as that kind of defies the point. Watched in amazement at the people, who were like machines clicking away every second at every artwork with out ever looking at the work itself, except through the screen on their camera.

I did take some photos of the pseudo reliefs and some of the rooms and antiquities. I am freaked out by pseudo reliefs as brain can not compute. When we were in Florence, there were some even more amazing ones than in the Louvre in the Palazzo Pitti.

On the subject of antiquities, wasn't planning of looking at much of the stuff there as was more in an art mood, but was very glad to see the reliefs from the Palace of Susa  especially as I did not know they were there. Coincidently been reading the week before about the blue paint and glazed tiles they used  (copper salts in the sands -it's more interesting than it sounds)

After the Louvre, it was back onto the Metro and over to the Musée d'Art Moderne. The building it was in was interesting, but looked very sad. There was grafitti on the walls, litter in the fountains. I have to say, wern't overly impressed with the collection either. I do not know if that is because in the last few years have maybe been oversaturated with modern art. Also, I like to find a reality in a picture. Don't care what reality it is, but alot of the stuff in there was just squiggles and dots. But it was a good contrast to the Louvre. Also, some great views of the Eiffel Tower. 

In the evening, it was back to the Bastille area, and as it was our actual anniversary on that day , we headed over to a restaurant called Square Trousseau nearby which was very atmospheric. It was done out with back wood, gilt mirrors and brass piping and we toasted our anniversary with champagne. The food was excellent and the servings were large, I struggled to finish the Veal which I had a main as it was literally an entire plate, in a very rich and nice sauce. Maria fared better with the lamb. 

A very nice touch was there was brown paper on all the tables and chalks. We managed to fill up our table with the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, Picasso, Mondrians, Eros, monsters and Le Chat Chien (more of than after the break...)

After dinner, we took a short walk to a lively, but not too lively bar near some of the hostels in the area where we spent out last  night drinking wine and also their Cheap Blonde beer. This was a beer, that even  the bar staff had no idea what it was. Chatting to the bar maid outside having a cigarette, who was an American, we also got free Beers.

All in all and excellent trip and looking forward to going back to Paris (got Athens and Berlin to go first) I think my favourite thing about the entire trip was just sitting in the cafes, watching the Parisians go by and soaking up the atmosphere. Can highly recommend.

More Photos Here
And Here


  1. Wonderful! The Louvre is fascinating...and huge!

    You're right about Americans and their reputations as travelers. It's embarrassing. Most are gauche. My husband and I try to travel in groups from different countries (and never wear white athletic shoes.:)) Our (dismal) efforts to speak the native language has always gotten us further than the odious people who insist that everybody conform to American standards. I could fill this page with stupid examples. LOL!

  2. What a wonderful piece Chance. This definitely makes me want to go to Paris. I would just need to be knocked out for the plane ride. :) And I promise not to act like a true American tourist. ;)

    I had no idea you and Maria were married. Happy anniversary!

  3. I'm American & I live in Paris. While I don't worry about my footwear much - if French people can wear white sneakers, then I can, too - I have occasionally stopped talking when encountering American tourists, lest they zoom in on me as one of their people. Then again, I am a big jerk & tend to find any loud tourists irritating.

    Glad to see that you made the most of your few days here & truly enjoyed it. People watching from a nice café really is one of the best activities going around here. ;)

    I haven't been to Athens (yet) but can definitely recommend a visit to Berlin - I prefer it to Paris. ;)

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