Geo: 48.8566, 2.35097
The Louvre is a big place! If you want to see some of it without huge crowds, try to get there early. That was our goal today, to arrive when the museum opened at 9. We started walking a little after 8 and, according to Google Maps, it is a 2.2 mile walk (so Mom, maybe my pedometer is not so incorrect after all). It was a cloudy and cool morning and the walk along the river was nicer than the evening before when we were already tired from a long day. We arrived at the intersection with the Champs Elysees, which is the location of the famous Obelisk. This was a gift from Egypt and is also the area where the guillotine was located during the French Revolution. Thousands of people, including Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, lost their heads here. Luckily, there was nothing like that happening today. Just some raindrops that began falling as we entered the Jardin des Tuileries. The garden was nice and quiet so early in the morning, but the rain kept falling and some people (Renee and Matthew) hadn't kept their umbrellas in their camera bags. Luckily, we made it to the Pyramid
entrance and did not have to stand in the pouring rain for too long as we had our Museum Pass and found out they had a separate line for that. Once inside, there are different ticket windows where you can wait in line or you can grab your map and head right in if you have the Pass.
The Louvre is a bit confusing but there are signs pointing to the most well known items. We were headed to the Mona Lisa first before finding breakfast so we could avoid the crowds. We followed the wrong sign at first, but ended up at the Winged Victory, which was on our list to see anyway. Backtracking, we found the right sign for Mona and continued following the trail. You pass many great works of art that probably don't get looked at because everyone is heading to see a specific work and they just walk past. We did walk quickly through, but also took some time to glimpse a few of the other impressive paintings along the way. The Mona Lisa itself is quite small (some of the other paintings take up most of a wall) and has a swarm of people around
it. Renee said this crowd was small compared to when she was there and couldn't even get to the front to take a picture. It's hard to take time to really look at a painting that is so famous because everyone wants a picture and they move in to get their shot. It's much easier to spend time looking at everything else in the museum. We also saw the Venus de Milo, which is another crowded work and it's again good to be there early.
By this time it was close to 10 and we needed some breakfast/lunch. We found a cafe in the Richelieu wing to finally get something to eat. I had a sandwich and an eclair. MMM.
The plan for the rest of our visit was to see the Ancient Mesopotamian works. This area of the museum was much quieter. We saw some nice marble statues in the French Sculptures wing, Hammurabi's Code in the Mesopotamia wing and the Colossal Statue of Ramesses II in the Egyptian wing. There were also many interesting statues and carvings along the way and we appreciated the quietness after the bustle of the portraits area.
This was the end of our visit to the
Louvre. There is roughly 17km full of exhibits so you can't see everything in one visit. We did not go to the 2nd floor and we saw fractions of the works on the 1st, Ground and Lower Ground floors. I am usually not a fan of art museums, but this one was pretty good, with a wide variety of types and styles of works.
It was no longer raining when we exited so we decided to take advantage of the weather and walk. Luckily, the Champs-Elysees Christmas Market started right across from the end of the Tuileries. This market runs for many blocks, on both sides of the street. There are food vendors, clothes vendors, knick knack vendors etc. There are lots of good smells and cheery Christmas music playing. We found a place selling macaroons for only 1.5 euros! I had an apricot one and it was delicious! Crumbly cookie outside and gooey apricot inside. Now we can add that to our list of French desserts we have tried. One of the little booths was selling loose leaf tea and we stopped to smell them all. Of course then we had to buy some and I chose the Noel de
Paris which smelled delicious and was one of the only French ones available. And then we walked by a crepe stand that had goat cheese crepes so I got one of them as well. MMM!
We walked the rest of the way up Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. The street is lined with fancy shops full of things I could never afford. At the Arc, there is a pedestrian walkway that goes under the street, which is good because the traffic is ridiculous here with 12 streets that spoke out from the circle. The Arc was built between 1806 and 1836 and has a nice set of 284 stairs you can climb to the top. There is an entrance fee, but it is also part of the Museum Pass! The staircase starts out as a spiral which is quite dizzying and requires several breaks. Then you think you must be to the top, but you are just at a mezzanine level and still have more to go. Luckily, the rest of the steps are straight and slightly easier. The view from the top is worth the climb. All of Paris spreads out before you and makes for some great photos.
There is a gift shop at the mezzanine level which is a good place to rest your legs and then continue your journey back to the ground.
That was the end of our list of things to do for today. A rest in the room before dinner was a nice treat. We ate dinner at Fleurus cafe, which is just a few buildings down from our hotel on the corner. This was the night for escargots! We ordered 6 and shared them. The waiter nicely demonstrated how to get the snail out of the shell, but Renee and I could not get it to work so Matthew had to scoop them all out for us. The waiter also told us to eat them on a small piece of bread. Matthew went first and said it was delicious. Renee and I had a harder time working up to eat them, but when we did, we also discovered that they were delicious! The snails were in a pesto type sauce, which was mostly what you tasted. They weren't really rubbery and all in all were a great starter. I ordered the onion soup, which I had never had before. It also was
delicious. The soup came with three pieces of crusty bread covered in cheese floating on top of it. A very satisfying dinner. Matthew was looking for a specific dessert he had seen somewhere so we went for a little walk to try to find it. We did not, but we got some pain au chocolats for our breakfast and then stopped at the Kleber Cafe for a dessert. Strawberry sorbet was a great palate cleanser after the salty soup and escargot.
We went about 8.3 miles today so the least walking of the 3 days so far!
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