Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Most Obnoxious Painting in the World

Okay, so on to Sunday. I had plans to wake up super early and get to the Louvre at 7:30 (it was Free Museum Day, like every first of the month) so that I could avoid the huge crowd of tourists. Unfortunately, tired as I was from the crazy physical activity the day before, my body basically falling apart, I didn't wake up until after 8 and didn't get to the Louvre until 9. My body was aching all over. If you had seen me, you probably would have thought that I was in a terrible, terrible mood.

In any case, I got to the Louvre at 9 and, of course, there was a huge line of tourists stretching around the main pyramid, around the front courtyard, through the arches, into the back courtyard. Thankfully, it only took me half an hour to get in. (When I looked out the window at 11am, the line stretched all the way around the back courtyard. Hah.)

So, the first thing I did, of course, was go see the Mona Lisa, to a) make sure I got that done with and didn't have to go back for it later and b) to avoid the crowds that were still pouring in. Of course, I went up several stairs and passed several halls of paintings, ignoring all the Italian art, before I got to the room specifically called "La Salle de la Jaconde," La Jaconde being the formal name of the Mona Lisa. And of course, there was a crowd. Snapping pictures.

That wasn't the surprising part. The actual Mona Lisa is incredibly obnoxious. It's a tiny, tiny painting, maybe 60% smaller than most of the other paintings in the Louvre, set in a glass showcase, towards the bottom end of a huge rectangular slab of wood in the center of the wood. Maybe five feet in front of the showcase is a semi-circular banister and maybe twenty feet out from that is black tape (the kind in airport waiting lines) on all three sides, marking the boundary for the crowd. So, the closest you can get to the painting is about thirty feet. Maybe a bit less. So incredibly obnoxious. Of course, I took a ton of pictures anyway.
So that was that. Afterwards, I went through all the Italian paintings, all the Spanish paintings, and even finished the French paintings that I had not seen the last time. It was difficult this time around to see everything, simply because there were so many people everywhere. Crazy tourists. I also wandered into some rooms that I did not intend to and saw some graphic art, sculpture and antiquities. My feet were dying with every step, my legs were aching, my arms were crying and my stomach was growling. But I forged on, determined to see as many paintings as I could. Oh, and this: (apparently it's famous..)

I also saw my favorite room in the Louvre, La Galerie d'Apollone (or some spelling variation of that). It had a bunch of silverware, cups, goblets, jewelry boxes and other antiquities from prominent French families throughout the ages. It also held the Crown of Charlemagne (created for Napoleon the 1st...I don't get it either) and the crown of some empress.. (yeah, I forgot, sorry).

But the best part was the room itself. Beautiful. Paintings of prominent French mathematicians, kings, philosophers, lawyers, etc. adorned the walls which were otherwise painted and gilded. The ceiling was covered in netting because it is currently undergoing renovation, unfortunately. Still, the room is incredible.

Also, basically all of the Louvre is beautiful. It should be an attraction in itself. Forget the amazing works of incredibly expensive art it contains within. It is, in itself, a work of art. So much I still haven't seen. Oh well. Future trips to Paris!

Okay, so after the Louvre (in which I planned to spend three hours and only spent two and a half on account of my pained body), I decided to go in search of crepes. I (against my better judgment) went back to the crepe place where Maria had bought a crepe the night before (as she said it was delicious and well worth the higher tourist-induced prices) and bought myself a crepe au beurre et sucre. It was incredible. Delicious. The butter literally melted and fell out of the crepe...on to my dress. That was unfortunate. I had a butter stain on my dress the rest of the afternoon.

Well, on to Centre Pompidou. I magically managed to walk a good twenty minutes and find the place. I guess the big tip-off that I had found it was the fountain, surrounded by people, with large plastic sculptures in it. Yes, modern art indeed.

I went around to the entrance, which is basically a huge ramp full of people selling cheap knick knacks, tourists chilling, residents chilling, and little kids running around. Centre Pompidou, in fact, is not so much a museum as a cultural center. It has galleries and expositions and a two-floor museum, but it also has shows, a library, a media center and a kid's workshop (and more, I believe). Very nice place to bring kids to.

Again, worth the free trip. Also very interestingly constructed. Looks like an industrial building. except for the strangely-colored escalator that takes you up all (six? seven?) floors. Also looks unfinished. But the inside is quite cool, with its bright neon signs and futuristic architecture. Very carnival meets modern decor. Like a fun park for interior designers. So immediately, I start following the crowd up to the fifth floor, where they have their modern and contemporary art, 2-level museum. (Also, view from the top:)

Walking around, looking at all the collections and women contemporary artists and French art from the mid- to late-1900s, I realized that, well...I don't really like contemporary art. The collection of elles@centrepompidou (the female contemporary artists) was a very angry, frightening, graphic and disturbing collection of silent films, films with background audio, photographs, torture devices, and other very strange things. Lots of anger and frustration and resentment from every corner. It was very strikingly displayed, with darkened rooms for the projections and little booths for viewing the videos (and there were warnings in several rooms that "certains oeuvres peuvent heurter la sensibilite du public" but it still really freaked me out. The only cool part was the furniture, where I saw a glass table on bicycle wheels. That was cool.

I did almost all of the contemporary art, and then moved on to the modern art, which I liked even less and so only skimmed through. Also, my body was still begging for some solace, so I decided (after only an hour of wandering) that I would skip the "Dreamlands" exposition that I wanted to see on the next floor, and simply walk home instead. I, of course, had no idea where I was but, like always, managed to find a main road and wander back to the Foyer. I have gotten really quite good at that.

So then I went back, showered, and took a nice, long nap before having a semi-dinner and leaving with Maria to go to the Fete des Tuileries, where we would finally board the Ferris Wheel of Paris. Of course, we passed by the Louvre and the arch in front of the Louvre, and the Jardin des Tuileries (which is absolutely beautiful, like every other park in Paris) and so took a ton of pictures. Like always.

We also took a moment to sit by the fountain in the garden (one of many fountains, actually) and eat chocolate waffles that we had bought at a cheap tobacco store the night before. MM.. delicious. They were actually pretty good, although we got chocolate all over our hands. I also saw a woman eating a candied apple (which I haven't had in YEARS) and asked her to direct me to where I could find them. She pointed to the carnival taking place (with carnival games, little rides, sugary candies, the works) right next to the Ferris Wheel. And then it was Ferris Wheel time.

It was a ridiculous amount of money, but so worth it. We went around three times, super high and pretty slowly (with really cheesy dance music playing in the background) and got incredibly panoramic views of all of Paris. The lights were just coming on everywhere, but there was still light outside, and it was simply magical. So nice.

Afterwards, we took a little stroll through the carnival, laughing and smiling at all the lights and such (yes, cheesy, but it reminded me of the good old days when I could eat all that crap and not worry about gaining 30 pounds) and then took the metro the Marais (very close to where I live, and a historic, Jewish neighborhood). It was time to finally taste the famous Parisian falafels at L'As du Falafel (which always has a line, no matter what time of day or night).

It was getting dark then, but we stood in line anyway and I ordered a chawarma (which I guess is like a falafel, but with turkey?). It was highly amusing seeing dark-skinned Middle Eastern chefs speaking to me in French (and in fact, I didn't understand him when he asked me if I wanted sauce piquante, or hot sauce). After really quickly throwing a bunch of stuff into a pita, wrapping it, and getting me a couple of forks, he gave me the chawarma wrapped in tin foil and I just stared at the behemoth I was meant to eat. It was basically pita bread, filled with pieces of turkey (and maybe chicken?), some kind of yogurt, onions, lettuce and other vegetables and a bunch of other goodness (no hot sauce, unfortunately...). It took me a good while to eat, both with a fork and with my hands. I thought I was going to get it all over my clothes.

It was quite filling, but also quite good. So that was Sunday (yes I'm falling really behind at this point). Hopefully I'll have a chance to write again, later today.

*Also quick story about Saturday. I ran to the bakery next to the foyer Saturday morning to grab a demi-baguette for breakfast but only had 50 centimes, and it costs 55 centimes. So I told the baker that I would owe him 5 centimes and he said okay and let me go. Later that day, I got back late from the adventure park and was afraid the bakery would close so I grabbed five centimes and ran to the bakery (people were staring and laughing) and handed the woman and man standing outside 5 centimes (different man, but very nice, always says hi to me when I pass by). They both smiled, asked me if that was why I was running, took the money and then offered me a croissant. Free of charge. So I went inside and the man handed me a huge croissant. Where else can you do something like this? Nowhere. I love Paris. (Also, he then reminded me to breathe.)

1 comment:

  1. awwww. maybe the stereotypes about people being rude(er) in america are
    fun fact: i've never had a falafel before :(