Our itinerary in Paris pretty much revolved around shopping but I made sure I at least get to revisit the Louvre and sneak in a church or two. There is so much to see at the Louvre and I’m sure you’ve all heard the quote that even if you spend just a few minutes looking at each artifact, it would take you at least three months to finish the Louvre. And you have to agree with me that a minute is definitely not enough when you are looking at something as massive and as intricate as Ramesses III’s sarcophagus!
The Louvre, which was built in the 12th century for use as a fortress, used to be the royal residence of the French monarchy until 1682 when Louis XIV moved to Versailles. It housed various offices and academies, until in 1793, it opened the doors of its museum, with mostly paintings from the royal collection on display.
We only had half a day to tour the museum before we had to rush to the stores again, and as it was my friends’ first time, I gamely took on the role of tour guide, making sure to take them to the classics such as Venus de Milo, the whole Egyptian antiquities, and of course, the Mona Lisa.
Navigating the Louvre can be tricky since there are many wings, levels, and sublevels – sometimes, you think you are on the second floor and when you go out a door, you’re in a level between two floors. Confusing! Make sure you have a map with you; if all else fails, the museum personnel are very friendly and helpful. Just pray you get an English-speaking one. My love of all things Egyptian notwithstanding, we still got lost in that particular wing more than once and spent a good thirty minutes walking around in circles around Ramsesses’ red granite sarcophagus (which looks more pink in pictures). I think the “gods” and the mummy might have been playing with us that day. Hahaha (okay, I’ll stop now before I scare myself).
There are so many limestone, clay, and alabaster sculpture in the Egyptian wing. Apart from the ancient accessories and the mummy which I wrote about here, I also love the lapiz lazuli and gold statues and statuettes of gods and goddesses that the ancients were so fond of. Ahh, makes me wish I can go to Egypt right now. It has been my #1 destination since I was a young girl; people say Egypt is a place in love with death but I am in love with Egypt so maybe I have a morbid fascination.
After tiring ourselves getting lost, we went next to the Mona Lisa. It’s the one attraction you couldn’t possibly not see – just follow everyone and you’ll find it. And be ready to brave a sea of angry tourists, elbowing their way to get the best shot of the Mona Lisa. I would have wanted to see it up close but I get nauseous in a crowd, so I just stayed a safe distance away.
After that, we went on a hunt of the famous sculptures scattered all over the museum, such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo, and headed off to find two other famous sculptures I missed during my first visit.
Psyche and Cupid’s love story is one of the first great love stories I am to learn. Psyche’s beauty and how men offered prayer and worship to her instead of Venus, made the goddess of love and beauty so jealous that she sent her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with the worst of men. However, as fate would have it, Cupid himself fell in love with Psyche. The story doesn’t end there and I wouldn’t spoil it all for you; trust though that after several trials, Psyche and Cupid got their happily ever after.
Just a few steps across from the Louvre is the Jardin de Tuileries, separated from each other by the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (located in the Place du Carrousel). This arc commemorates the victories of Napoleon’s army. This is different from the more popular Arc de Triomphe de l’etoile at the Champs Elysees.
The garden was commissioned by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century when she decided to move to the Louvre with her son, the new king Francois II. She had a palace and a garden built near the Louvre, modeled after her native Florence, and the garden was said to be the largest and most beautiful garden in Paris at the time. It was later redesigned by Andre Le Notre, a grandson of one of Catherine’s own gardeners, and the man who also designed the gardens at Versailles.
Various marble and bronze sculptures are strewn about the garden; walking in it is almost akin to walking in a museum. Even though the palace has been destroyed, what remains of the garden is still beautiful and I can only imagine what it must have looked like during Catherine’s time.
There is a cafe and gelato stall in the garden, near the Orangerie, where visitors can relax after a stroll – a not so easy feat considering the park is half a kilometer long and almost as wide. If only I could teleport myself to France. Sigh.