Touring the City by Foot
09.07.2010 - 09.07.2010 31 °C
Here we are last night as we left our hotel for dinner - still smiling after a very long day (30+ degrees) walking around the city and The Louvre. I'd recommend doing the walking tours if they're available (and weather permitting).
We started our day with a walk down the Rue de Richelieu to the famous Louvre - about a 10 minute walk. We stopped at a delightful little bouangerie/patisserie. It was an ideal opportunity to practise my extremely bad French with the friendly owner.
This was my 3rd visit to the Louvre and I have still only seen a fraction of the 5 thousand pieces of art, sculptures and artifacts. I honestly believe that it would take years to view and learn something of the history of each piece. When I walked in I couldn't help but squeal with delight, like a child in a toy or sweet shop.
I wanted to get to the Louvre early to purchase our tickets and also to see a couple of the more famous treasures before the crowds arrived.
My first stop was the beautiful Mona Lisa. The first time I saw her I must admit that I was a little disappointed.
She was much smaller than I'd imagined. Having overcome the shock, I've grown to appreciate her beauty and decided that this is an example of where size really doesn't matter.
The first time I visited the Louvre was in 2004 with my four children. To get to see this beautiful painting we had to wait in a long queue. On this occasion, we were able to walk up to the barrier and view her at our leisure. It's surprising how relatively quiet Paris is at this normally busy time of year. When I was here exactly 2 years ago the area was full of tourists - perhaps the economy has something to do with it. ?
Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo
Acquired by Francis I in 1518, acclaimed by artists of the day, the Mona Lisa – also known as La Gioconda – only earned her worldwide fame in the 20th century, more on account of her "adventures" theft (1911–14), stoning (1956), travels to the United States (1963) and Tokyo and Moscow (1974) — than her outstanding qualities. Da Vinci’s dazzling, almost magical technique models the forms through his use of glazes (very diluted, quasi-transparent layers of paint), playing with light and shade effects by making the contours hazy ("sfumato"). Aerial perspective, moving from brown to blue, creates, through the density of the air, an abstract landscape made up of earth and water. What a pity that the colors darken as the varnish ages: the sleeves were once saffron yellow. The model’s identity has given rise to the oddest suggestions at times, even going as far as to say that she was a man. It is probably a portrait, begun in Florence between 1503 and 1507, of Monna ("Mrs.") Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Her smile could thus be a symbol of her name, "gioconda" also meaning "cheerful."
While this is one of the period’s largest portraits, painted on a single, very thin (12 mm) poplar board, it is not an ostentatious image of a rich bourgeoise lady, although her pose and attire and the absence of eyelashes and eyebrows are in keeping with the elegance of her station. It is above all an ideal portrait, reflecting Renaissance interest in Platonic theory, when the beauty of the body was seen as that of the soul.
From the Louvre we made our way to Place Saint Michel where we met with our guide and started our walking tour.
The walking tour took us all over the city:
• Notre Dame de Paris
• The Latin Quarter
• Pont Neuf
• The Louvre
• Palais Royal
• Haussmann's Renovations
• Eiffel Tower
• Tuileries Gardens
• Les Invalides
• Académie Française
• Opéra Garnier
• Musée d'Orsay
• Pont Alexandre III
• Napoléon's Tomb
• Assemblé Nationale
• Arc de Triomphe
• Grand & Petit Palais
• Place de la Concorde
The commentary was both informative AND amusing - even on a very hot day!
Obviously in 3.5 hours you don't get to go into all the places above, you do become orientated and have a good idea where to return to for a more in-depth visit.
Some of the sights on the walking tour:
This is the current Paris Police Headquarters (Prefecture de Police) - once the Nazi Headquarters during the occupation in WWII. It's located on the Ile de la Cite - one of two natural islands in the Seine. Bullet holes from French resistance fighters are still visible on the building.
Once the walking tour was over we returned to The Louvre for another 4 hours.
We walked back to the hotel, freshened up and went out for dinner - at least I managed to stay awake until 11pm.
Paris is a beautiful city.