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Published: June 25th 2017
The Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa (French: La Joconde) is a half-length portrait painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci that has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world". The painting is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, and is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel. It is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506, however Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797. (Wikipedia)
Today we made another late-morning start with the goal of visiting the Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and some other sights along the way. In an effort to bypass the local transportation bottlenecks, which will continue through the weekend, we decided to use the metro instead of the buses. But we were soon to find ourselves stymied yet again! The metro line we rode from the École Militaire station blew right by our intended stop at Place de la Concorde, and the next one as well, before making its regular stop at the Place de l'Opera. As a result, Ashley got some unexpected glimpses of the ornate Opéra de Paris, the "bling-bling" on display in the shop windows along the rue de la Paix, and the world famous Hôtel Ritz on the Place Vendôme as we made our way to the Jardin des Tuileries.
We crossed the normally bustling rue de Rivoli, which was closed to vehicle traffic today, and then entered the Jardin des Tuileries. Various amusement rides and food stands were operating on the perimeter of the garden, but the crowds seemed sparse. The weather again today was very pleasant, with a breeze under partly cloudy skies, so
we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the garden's shady promenades to reach the Arc du Carrousel and the entrance to the vast shopping mall under the Louvre. It is possible to enter the museum from this underground mall, and we've always found this route to be much preferable to the above ground entrance via the glass pyramid, where visitor lines can be long and time consuming.
While Dee waited in the underground mall area, Ashley and I breezed through security, purchased tickets, and were inside the Louvre within 10 minutes. As I discussed with Ashley, the Louvre can be an overwhelming experience, especially for the first-time visitor. The museum's vast size and the sheer volume of masterpieces on display present a formidable challenge in choosing a plan of action, since you could easily devote a lifetime to view the entire collection. Over the years, we've found the best way to approach the problem is to "take small bites", i.e., choose a specific exhibit area, type of art (e.g., paintings, sculpture, etc.), or historical era, and then spend about an hour roaming around.
Of course, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece
was at the top of Ashley's list for today's visit,
so we walked slowly along the impressive Grand Gallery, lined with mostly large-format French historical paintings, until we reached the large exhibit room where Mona has pride of place (if not size). She is smaller than most people expect, and difficult to see because of the swarming crowds and the bullet-proof enclosure that guards her enigmatic smile. After jockeying for position among the gawkers, Ashley was able to take some photos of Mona Lisa's smile, while I tried to capture the serious expression on Ashley's face as she concentrated on the task at hand! On our way back to rendezvous with Dee, we passed the iconic sculpture known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace
, in addition to some other examples of classical-era sculpture.
It was almost 3 o'clock when we departed the Louvre via the Cour Carrée, and then walked across the Pont Neuf to reach the Place Dauphine, on the Île de la Cité, in search of a place to eat lunch. However, all of the restaurants were either filled to capacity, or pre-booked with reservations, so we continued on until we reached the Les Deux Palais, a brasserie across the street from the entrance to the Palais
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning "Our Lady of Paris”), is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. (Wikipedia)
de Justice. After lunches of Caesar salad, baguette sandwiches, and onion soup we walked to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, one of the most famous Gothic-style churches in the world. We had wanted to show Ashley the inside of this magnificent cathedral, or suggest that she climb the 400+ steps to reach the top of the northern spire, but the queues for both were hundreds of feet long, even at 5 o'clock in the afternoon!
In front of the cathedral there is a spot on the ground marked with a brass medallion, called Point Zero, the point from which all distances to and from Paris and the rest of France are calculated. Legend has it that if you stand on this spot, you will return to Paris, so Ashley performed the ritual in the hope of returning to the City of Light someday! While Dee rested on a bench in the small park behind Notre-Dame, Ashley and I made our way to the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation on the eastern tip of the Île de la Cité. This sobering memorial is dedicated to the more than 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration
camps during World War II. The vast, hexagonal, dimly-lit crypt opens onto the gallery covered by luminous rods representing the deported people killed in the camps, and there are several rooms where photographs and documents related to these tragic days are on display.
By this time we were ready to find a way back to the apartment, but given the problematic bus and metro services we opted for a taxi. Traffic was extremely heavy, with gridlock on some sections of the riverside highway, so it took us the better part of 45 minutes before we finally reached our home-away-from-home on rue Augereau. Tomorrow is Ashley's 19th birthday, and she's decided to celebrate by eating escargots and watching the Iron Lady "twinkle", so stay tuned for her birthday bash!
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