We started off Monday, our first full day in Paris, with an early lunch at McDonald's. Yes that's a Heineken next to the Royal With Cheese on our tray. C'est Tout Ce Que J'aime...which is the French way McDonald's should be paying me to say I'm lovin' it in my blog.
With our sponsor satisfied for the afternoon, we walked to one of the largest and most famous museums in the world, the Musée de Louvre. A palace was first founded on the site in 1190 while the first wing of the gargantuan edifice as it appears today was begun in 1546. You can see remnants of the original fortress' foundation in the lower depths of the basement.
Generations of kings made their marks with a series of additions and renovations to make the renowned palace the repository for art, archaeology, history and architecture it is today. The museum was first opened to the public during the French Revolution on November 8, 1793 and improvement to the facility is virtually ongoing. The latest major addition, the Crystal Pyramid entrance designed by I.M. Pei, was inaugurated in 1989.
Nearly 100,000 objects are displayed from prehistory to the 19th century in 652,300 square feet of exhibition space but, like most people, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa. The room in which the painting is displayed is always filled with a crowded mass of people jostling for a closer look.
After slowly barging our way through to the front, we were rewarded with a view of Leonardo DaVinci's 1503∼1506 magazine-sized masterpiece. We lingered taking photos as long as we could before we left to wander through the halls toward the Vénus de Milo. The famous statue of a goddess, perhaps Aphrodite, was sculpted around 100 B.C., then was discovered on a Greek island in 1820 and gained instant acclaim upon being placed in the Louvre a year later. How her arms were positioned and what she may have held are questions that hold the key to her identity and are points of endless speculation.
Of course we saw many other stunning works of art such as this painting of Leonidas at Thermopylae (1814) by Jacques-Louis David. It shows the Spartan king and his soldiers preparing for battle in their uniquely Greek way. Apparently 300 could have been a way more historically accurate and titillating movie.
Speaking of titillating, this oft-photographed sculpture in a main foyer of the museum captures the metaphor of Roman charity in the image of a young woman giving her breast to an old man. Let's just say this piece of chiseled stone embodies the essence of the Louvre in our children's eyes. When Betsy asked them what they liked best about the museum, they each agreed it was "all the boobies." We're pretty sure they were kidding and that they really did enjoy the, um, exposure they received to the world of classic art.
Of course the visit was informative and inspirational and we enjoyed the opportunity to seriously contemplate the size and depth of the collection. The kids had many questions about what they saw and we enjoyed discussing the history and meanings behind the more provocative pieces. One of Betsy's favorites was another by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon's official painter who, in 1807, completed The Coronation of Napoleon. The massive canvas is over 500 square feet and is an indulgent and servile commemoration of Napoleon's self-imposed ascension to power. Here's a fascinating history of the painting including details about how David had to change the pope's attitude and include Napoleon's mother among the onlookers to appease the new king.
After our fill of artwork, we enjoyed a snack and some refreshingly cool, intermittent rain around a fountain in the Jardin des Tuileries where we shared some of our cookies with the bold parisian pigeons.
Next we visited the Jardin du Luxembourg which is the second largest public park in Paris. Statues, fountains, play areas and a famously calm atmosphere made for a relaxing end to our busy day of sightseeing.
Finally, after dinner at a pizzeria across the street from our hotel, we settled in back at the room to watch Dark Shadows, an underrated Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie that we all found funny and clever.
By the way, several fans of our blog may have noticed our tendency to place our treasured offspring smack in the middle of many of the photos showing the incredible locations we've been visiting.
Well a painting we saw in the "History of the Louvre" gallery proved that it's been going on for centuries...and it used to be a lot more expensive and time consuming than just pulling a camera phone out of dad's pocket!