Wednesday was Louvreday! We were excited to return to the museum Jeff had seen twice and I had seen once before, but after walking in the rain all day Tuesday, Jeff had developed a sore throat, not a good sign. He was determined to enjoy the day, and we took the Metro to the museum.
Jeff's sore throat made me think about the thousands of disease-spreading opportunities in the Metro system. I have germophobic friends who would shudder at the thought of us holding onto Metro poles, pushing buttons, opening doors, using escalators and walking up stairs while grabbing handrails, and so on, and then tearing baguettes apart with our bare hands and eating them on the street without even bothering to wash our hands first. What can I say? I probably have hepatitis now.
The Louvre, finally open after three days, was an instant mob scene, and we had made a point to get an early start. We had also read about some secret side entrances, found one, and avoided the line inside the pyramid.
If you've never been to the Louvre, its three multi-floor buildings/palaces are arranged in a U shape around the pyramid entrance. Each building could keep an art lover occupied for an entire day, and it's not like there's much "filler" going on. But here are the things that make the Louvre daunting.
- 15,000 visitors per day = crowd fatigue
- 652,300 square feet = foot fatigue
- 35,000 works of art = eye fatigue
With a starting-to-be-sick Jeff in tow, I made sure we hit the biggies, and this was enough to keep us busy for two or three hours (lost track). Highlights of the highlights:
The Nike of Samothrace (gorgeous photo by Jeff), my favorite Greek sculpture. It's at the top of a huge staircase. When I encountered it for the first time years ago, I approached it through a side door, and while I still cried when I saw it, talk about anticlimactic. I wanted the Nike from Funny Face!
So that's what we got this time. Bonus points to me for wearing red in the Louvre.
I was also reaquainted with Dying Slave by Michelangelo, which is the sexiest thing in the Louvre if you ask me, and Jeff and I don't think he's dying.
Meanwhile other Leonardos went virtually unnoticed, such as La Belle Ferroniere.
She is soooo jealous of the Bono.
It is always a thrill to see this beautifully-painted, extra vertebrae-having Ingres:
I'd love to paint a portrait this beautifully direct (Ingres' Portrait of Louis-Francois Bertin):
One massive room contained two mural-sized art history favorites...
Eugene Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus. His kingdom is under attack and he is about to drink poison while his possessions are destroyed (Jeff: "that white horse is like, I want no part of this"), and...
...The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault. Boating disaster, dead bodies, life raft, tiny rescue ship on the horizon incredible composition. And because we were in France and this post needs more nudity...
...it's Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.
One ancient Egyptian scultpure I had missed the first time around was Seated Scribe, and I was so happy to see him (surprisingly small; I thought he was life-sized).
We got turned around and passed a row of identical Egyptian baboons a few times...
...all of whom seemed to be saying...
I am obviously leaving out so, so many others, and I feel bad about it, but how can you possibly hope to cover the Louvre in a blog post? How? These were the ones that amused us that day. We had covered two of the three buildings, Jeff was thirsty, and the hoardes of people were getting to us. Feeling like we'd had a good-enough dose of the Louvre, we decided to skip the third building. Again, we'd already seen it, and while I missed the Vermeers and Rembrandts, something about taking off gave me a playing-hooky kind of feeling.
Our vacation! We make the rules!
Plus we were hungry. Jeff led us to La Regalade Saint Honore, a small, slightly more upscale place than the previous day's restaurant. He found it on Paris By Mouth. While we waited for our table, we looked inside Gosselin, the patisserie next door, and I took many photos of their gorgeous cakes (I'm obsessed with these four)...
...and many other treats. Such as:
I was so blinded by the beauty of the green figs that I'm only just now noticing the little sign that says "DIVORCE." What kind of sweet thing calls itself Divorce?
At La Regalade, we were seated at the table by the left window, great for people-watching. Two waitresses who could switch from French to English *like that* took good care of us, smiling when they changed our spotless plates. The lunch menu was in French:
Excuse me, you printed your menu in Comic Sans?! Suddenly this place was slightly less intimidating.
We were offered a giant amuse bouche in the form of some pickles and chicken terrine, which we spread on baguette slices. It reminded me of something Mom used to make when I was a teenager, and I ate it for breakfast many mornings before school. Tasty and oddly familiar.
We threw caution to the wind and ordered things containing words we thought we recognized. Me: tartlette, supreme, chocolate/caramel/praline/Toblerone. Jeff: coquilles, supreme, souffle chaud a Grand-Marnier. We didn't realize we had ordered identical plats, as I had vascillated before deciding, but all in all it was fun to order this way. Trust the chef!
Jeff received on-the-shell scallops with herbs and Parmesan (he loved them).
My "tartlette" consisted of a flaky rectangular crust topped with an olive/tomato tapenade. On top of that was beautifully sliced, rare salmon, lightly dressed greens, and a parmesan crisp. It couldn't have been more delicious. Trust!
Oh my. This was our main course. Chicken breast wrapped around foie gras with gnocchi, mushrooms, and asparagus in a cream sauce. The gnocchi were extraordinarily delicate little pillows, the sauce was positively voluptuous, and the vegetables perfectly cooked. The portions were exactly the right size, too.
I don't think I'll ever get over this photo. That chocolate thing? That chocolate thing was mine: caramel pudding topped with a milk chocolate layer (ganache?). Inside: some kind of praline cookie and triangles of Toblerone. And look at Jeff's darling, perfect souffle, the first he'd ever eaten. I want to go back to there!
And do you know what we did next? We hit the patisserie next door and got more sweets (a chocolate tartlette for me, and a Paris brest for Jeff), which we ate while sitting beside a sunny Tuileries fountain. I was merely doing research--what were their tart crusts like? And Jeff wanted to eat a brest.
Jeff also wanted me to see the Orangerie, a small jewel box of a museum that is home to eight of Monet's large-format water lily paintings. I had seen these (or at least some like these) in Chicago years ago, so I knew what it was like to stand in front of them, but the Orangerie has two oval-shaped rooms built especially for them. One showed the lilies at sunrise, and the other showed them at dusk.
Up close, the paintings approached pure abstraction, with their complex, luminous surfaces composed of many colors scumbled on top of each other. If you go to Paris, you simply must see them.
I'm so crazy about that turquoise section.
Jeff and I have an ugly gray wall on the west side of our house, and the water lilies inspired us to possibly paint a similar mural on it. I think I might--might!--be able to pull that off.
The Orangerie houses many other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist second-stringers, but talk about having a hard act to follow! We toured the other galleries, but I was so blown away by the Monets that I can't remember much about them.
After another leisurely walk through the gardens, we went home. The apartment was becoming home to us! We hit a pharmacy near our building, where Jeff got some French cold medicine.
Later that night, in a snacky mood, we walked up Rue Moufettard in search of crepes. I have never been all that impressed with crepes, especially when you fold them into cones and wrap them in sweaty pieces of paper. They're useful as Nutella delivery devices, and I like watching people make them, but for the most part I found that night's crepes to be tasteless and rubbery.
Ohh, Paris spoiled us so thoroughly. Just looking at that photo makes me want to eat about 25 of them now.
On to Part 7!