Hello!

Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paris: Scarves and Mona


Monday morning I awoke with the same feeling of bliss.  The weather had turned very marginal and heavier rain was beating upon my windows. As a result, I put on my rain gear and headed out across the street from my hotel to the Boulangerie St. Louis where I bought a couple of Pain au Chocolate en route to The Louvre.  Nothing like warm rolls with bitter dark chocolate melting in the center to make the rain drops flee. Just like The Louvre. The perfect spot to spend a foul weather day.  When I say it was raining, I mean REALLY raining. And I come from a sub-tropical environment so I should know.  Luckily, I knew a side entrance into the museum, through a shopping arcade on the Rue de Rivoli.  With priority access so us folks with museum passes could skip the line.  I slogged down the Isl de Cite and over to the Right Bank.  There were lots of people out.  All of us looking like rats. I passed the east side of the Louvre...

Looks dry doesn't it? I took this shot the day before. On Monday, I was afraid to take my phone out of my jacket pocket for fear it would become saturated.  From this perspective, you continue to the next corner and turn left. Luckily, there are covered arcades all along the street on the north side of the Rue de Rivoli so you can walk along and not get very wet.  Assuming, of course, that you were not wet to start with. Actually, my outerwear was so good that I got a lot of rain on me but didn't get very damp.

I found the "secret" side entrance without difficulty, along with about five hundred other people in on the "secret".  There are a lot of NICE shops under the Louvre...and of course the ubiquitous...



No hiding from the Appleistas.  Not even under the Louvre.  Then, a much more famous sight...


I saw a movie about this place. I KNOW who is buried under that point.  Looking skyward, the view is just as magnificent...


More important, I was closing in on the spot where my priority access would really pay off.  Or not.  One think I learned about Paris is that where there is a priority access point one day, the next day there may not be one. For no apparent reason.  Anyhow, I got to the access point, showed my museum pass....and was told there was no priority access that day.  There, anyhow.  The [really] nice guard directed me to a huge set of marble stairs and said that priority access was upward.  An official sign said so too, as best I could tell.  So up the stairs I went...through a strong looking door....and out into the courtyard of La Pyramides!!



Looks dry doesn't it?  That is because it IS dry.  I also took this in the evening of the day before to the Flood.  This is a very beautiful sight to see in person. I cannot imagine how there could have been such an uproar when the pyramides were constructed. The strong looking door I came out of at the top of the underground stairway was immediately to the left of this photo.  When I came, surprised, outside, a sheet of thick rain drops hit me in the kisser. I thought my LL Bean weatherproof coat was in jeopardy of breach. And, again, not to beat a dead horse, but I've worn this outfit in HURRICANES and stayed dry.  The weather was really monumentally awful.

Which led me to one of those moments of decision. When you can see vast vistas stretching out before you...in opposite directions.  A little cherub on one shoulder saying "this is PARIS...this is the LOUVRE...get in line" a little devil on the other shoulder saying "screw this...you don't stand out in a hurricane in a line with four hundred of your closest friends and wait an hour when there are numerous cozy warm places with........ohhhhhh.......duck..........cheese............WINE.......right nearby".  But I am of Norwegian descent after all.  A Wisconsin boy.  Weather does not deter ME from my appointed rounds.  I strode toward the entry line [barely visible on the near side of the pyramid in the photo] bent over to fight the wind and rain.  Then, I found that the guard had actually told me the truth.  There really was a priority access point and they really did look at my museum pass [luckily it came plastic coated or it would have dissolved] and wave me through into the museum.  I should have felt a twinge of guilt for the other 399 people in the line outside. But I didn't. In the world of sightseeing, it is every man for himself.  That six-day pass cost me about $200 U.S. dollars and they sent it to me at home before I left for France.  A bargain. Even if I had only visited one museum, I would have given that guard $200 to let me cut that line. 

Once you get in under the grande pyramide, you take escalators down into the main museum lobby.  From there you are on your own.  I read that you could spend your life looking at things in the Louvre and I believe it. A brochure said that if you spent three seconds looking at each item on display it would take something like nine months to look at everything.  I had three things on my list of things I HAD to see.  The Winged Victory of Samonthrace, the Venus de Milo, and, of course, the Mona Lisa.  I got two of three.  Apparently they move the Venus about to different places on a whim to torture visitors. I never saw her.  Walking up a grand staircase, however, I was stunned to see Winged Victory...

I knew nothing about this magnificent sculpture until my wife the Irish Redhead Antiquarian, briefed me on it before the trip and said that I had, had, had to get a shot of it and see it in person.  You can learn more of the history of this piece here.  I took a few shots from different angles and emailed them to her from my phone.  She was thrilled!

I can't do justice to the rest of this museum day.  It was everything people say it is and a lot more...just another hallway in the former royal palace...


Got to have some fancy mummies...



Some decorative art for a lady's dressing table from about 1680...


Decorative art from 1765...


Egyptian miniature god and servants....from...well a LONG time ago...[my wife is the antiquities expert, not me]...

Crown jewels are a must...

from Louis the XV ["the beloved", he invented the Baba Au Rhum...]


...then.....finally.....

...the hallway leading to the Mona Lisa's room.  It was really not as cramped as it looks since this is a huge hallway.  When I got to the door of the room, I got my favorite photo of the trip so far...

Mosh pit time, baby!!!! This room was a lot MORE crowded than it looks.  I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic, that's all I can say.  And I'm glad the ceilings are VERY high in this room.  After a bit, and the distinct feeling as I got closer that I was playing in, and losing, a rugby match somewhere in China, I got close enough to really look her in the eye...

The photo would have been better but for the glare off of the man's head in front of me.  I'm not sure, but I think someone addressed him as Charlie Brown.  The protective glass in front of the painting and the wooden barricade didn't help either.

I was sort of disappointed in the Mona Lisa to tell you the truth.  Too small.  Too many people.  Too much between you and the painting.  I got out of that room as fast as possible and spent a few more hours looking at one excellent exhibit after another including fancy soldiers...

...even fancier courtesans...

and, as far as I could tell, the only portrait of an attorney in the entire Louvre...

...looks sort of like me on a good trial day...

Finally, however, I had seen enough.  The Louve is so spectacular, you get a sort of sensory overload after some period of time.  They could use a few bars scattered about inside.  I'll admit, when I wandered past what seemed to be the entry to the museum restaurant it smelled wonderful.  But by then I was done.  Out of focus. Blinded by the [gilt tinted] light. I had to go to Angelina.  For "the best hot chocolate in the world".

You see, I have more than a few partners in my firm.  One in particular has been to Paris several times. When he learned of the plan for my trip, he bounded over to me and said that I had......HAD......to go to Cafe Angelina and get hot chocolate. He swore it was the best in the world.  He made ME swear a quest that I would have some and send him a photo of it. The memory of the treat was that good to him.  As this fellow is a great friend, and not prone to effusion, I swore the quest.  I headed out of the Louvre and headed toward Cafe Angelina, some blocks up the Rue De Rivoli.  When I got to the front door of the Cafe...


...I found myself stymied.  There were about fifty people waiting in a line.  That did not appear to be moving. I was cold, hungry, THIRSTY and not about to stand in line for an undetermined length of time.  Even thought the hot chocolate sounded like just the thing at that point in a soggy day.  But I had sworn a quest.  I stared at the door.  At the line.  I calculated that I still had five days in Paris.  And I shoved off to accomplish another trip objective.  The most expensive cocktail in Paris.  The Hemingway Bar.  The Ritz Hotel. 


The rain poured down.  I aimed for the Place Vendome and sallied forth...[Monday to be continued...]

5 comments:

Turling said...

Well done, and you're not even halfway done with the trip.

A few thoughts, yes the 'secret' entrance is anything but. I fear what the main entrance looks like.

We were lucky on the Venus de Milo. Just stumbled upon it. They must have put it in a good spot that day.

Lastly, I now tell people who are going to the Louvre to skip the Mona Lisa. Big let down. It does help, though, if you have a 9 year old whom you promise a crepe with chocolate if he makes his way to the front to get a picture. He dove into the crowd and I swear people were being hurled several feet off the ground. It was quite a Tom and Jerry moment. I thought he was going to bring the darn picture back from the wall, hence the power of the chocolate crepe.

M.Lane said...

Turling, the main entrance at the pyramides is actually less jammed, although more rainy.

The thought of your 9 yr old agent provocateur is a scream. Chocolate crepes are magic. Even better are the ones with hazlenut cream.

ML

Suburban Princess said...

Loving these Paris posts! When I saw the Mona Lisa in Toronto I got up to it and said 'That's it??' and decided going to lunch was a much better use of my time. It is quite disappointing for the untrained eye. After taking a colour theory course in college I would like to see it again just to see what I learned back then in a real life painting.

piedmontinbrooklyn.com said...

Great shots of the Louvre. I got some of the exact same shots, including the crowds around the Mona Lisa!

M.Lane said...

Princess, at lease we can say we saw it.

Piedmont....thanks for the comment! From looking at your blog posts I know your pics were a lot better than mine!

ML