A Late Afternoon Snack

009After a long day of walking took us ultimately to the Pantheon, Richard and I walked around the Panthon neighborhood and found an excellent fromagerie. Some sheep’s milk cheese, some goat’s milk cheese, and some Morbier, a fresh baguette, and some wine purchased at the nearby wine shop, and we were ready to have a snack and play some cribbage.

The bread, cheese, and wine here are very inexpensive but of very good quality. I would gladly eat cheese and baguette just about every day of the week.

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Last Visit To The Louvre

Today Richard, Russell and I visited the Louvre. I think it will probably be my last visit. If you’ve been to the Louvre, you may understand what I mean. If you’ve never been there, you won’t. You’ll read the guidebooks, and they will tell you that you absolutely must visit the Louvre, and you will go — because you absolutely must visit the Louvre if you come to Paris. I’m betting, though, that you probably won’t enjoy it.

Today we bypassed the long line for tickets because we had a museum pass, which is crucial — otherwise, you could wait for an hour or more just to get a chance to buy a ticket. Once inside, we headed to the wing of the museum that houses the Mona Lisa and thousands of other paintings from the Renaissance. When you get to the room that houses Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, prepare for a scrum. The room is a wild melee of people elbowing to get close to the painting and taking “selfies.” It’s not a positive reflection of humanity, and it’s simply impossible to enjoy the painting in anything approaching quiet contemplation. The experiences in front of the other famous items at the Louvre, like Venus de Milo, are similarly unpleasant mob scenes.

It’s hard to get away from the crowds, and it’s hard to appreciate the artwork when any movement is likely to insert you into a picture taken by another tourist. And there really is too much to see — room after room after room of Egyptian antiquities, or Roman statues, or Greek busts. I found myself thinking that, if I were an Egyptian visitor, I’d be upset that my cultural heritage has been taken and warehoused in faraway Paris, in a place where countless riches from other countries are on display.

005If you want to focus on one area, such as Flemish and Dutch paintings, you could fill an entire day. And be prepared to walk through room after room of hundreds of Madonna and child and Biblical paintings, still life paintings of gutted animal carcasses, landscapes and sea paintings, arranged in rooms where dozens of pieces are on display cheek by jowl and even the ceilings are painted masterpieces. It’s just too much. At the end of our visit I searched for a room that was quiet and suited for enjoying art, and found a room of beautiful medieval tapestries that would have been worth a separate visit if they had been located in virtually any other museum in the world. In the Louvre, however, they are an afterthought — as the picture included with this post indicates.

After a few hours we departed, having walked for miles on marble floors until our feet ached and our necks were tied in knots, and I swore that I had had enough of clustering, clamoring tourists, and walls crammed with paintings, and bustling guides. I think this will be my last visit to the Louvre.

A Temporary Day Along The Champs Elysees

Yesterday we took the Metro to the Champs Elysees stop and got out to take a Christmas Day stroll down the grandest of Paris’ grand boulevards.

043The sidewalks along the section of the Champs Elysees nearest the Place de la Concorde were crammed with temporary wooden structures that looked like Alpine huts that were gaily decorated with lights and tree trimmings. There also were bright holiday decorations at the corners and on the fountains.

All of the huts were selling something. The most popular offerings were consumables, and the trade was brisk. Judging from the number of stands that were selling it, and the number of people who were drinking it, hot spiced wine is a popular Parisian treat during the holidays. It was just too early in the day for me to try it.

In addition to the spiced wine, people were noshing on hot, made-to-order crepes, hot sandwiches, popcorn, and some high-end and low-end candies. It being Christmas Day, I looked for some chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but no such luck.044