Under The Bridge

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
Trip End Oct 10, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Ibis Grand Boulevards Opera

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Today was our last day in Paris for this part of the trip. We decided to tackle the Louvre and see how long our attention span for large museums and large crowds would last. Both of us had been to the Louvre before, and seen the "Big Three", so we were keen to get around and see some of the lesser known areas. We started early to avoid the crowds and found the courtyard with the glass pyramids fairly deserted when we arrived at 9.30am. We headed straight for the top floor of the Richelieu wing and had a look at the Flemish and Dutch painters. I wanted to take Matt to see Vermeer's painting "The Lacemaker" but that section was closed. We wandered through Napoleon III apartments which were just as impressive the second time, lots of chintzy furniture, ruby red curtains and magnificent chandeliers. We were both really impressed with the French sculpture garden, as it is housed in a beautiful courtyard with lots of natural light filtering in through the glass roof. We then headed to the Sully wing through all the Egyptian antiquities. The sarcophagi we saw were pretty impressive, and Matt was highly amused to see that they had painted semi-naked women on the insides of the lids. I guess if you going to be stuck in the afterlife then having some pornography to look at may make the time pass a little quicker...

A favourite at the Louvre is wandering down amongst the ruins of the medieval fortress that was the old Louvre. It is a dimly lit path following the outside of the remaining ramparts. What I didn't realise until Matt showed me is that you can get inside to see the remains of the original tower. Sometimes it is handy having an ex-tour manager as a husband.
With our museum tolerance starting to fade we decided to do a quick whip around of the "Big Three", the Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. Like the worst kind of tourists, we pushed past the crowds all headed in the same direction, following the signs to the Holy Grail of the Louvre, the Mona Lisa. We snapped a few shots along the way, and in less than 30 minutes had seen the three things that almost every visitor to the Louvre wants to tick off their list. Enough for one day.
Another of the slightly unusual things we decided to do while in Paris, was to do a cruise on Canal St Martin. The cruise starts way out in the suburbs at Park de Villette, and travels along Canal St Martin through a series of 6 locks to Bastille, where it passes through a 2km tunnel under the streets of Paris. It finishes by travelling down the Seine to Musee d'Orsay. After the hectic pace of the past few days it was nice to sit on the front deck of the boat, in the sunshine, and just take in the scenery. I had never been through a lock before, and it was interesting to see how they work. There was a constant crowd of people standing on the banks looking on every time we went through one. We even went through a couple of old swing bridges, where a section of the bridge swings at 90 degrees to allow the boat to pass. The highlight was definitely the tunnel, which had an eerie green glow and passed us directly below the site of the old Bastille prison. The French guide told us that the tunnel was actually built using stone from the Bastille when it was pulled down in 1790.
We disembarked at the Musee d'Orsay and by pure chance it happened to be Thursday, the one night that it is open late. Using our museum passes again, we avoided the queue and headed in for a look. This is my favourite museum in Paris, and the place where I discovered that I love Impressionist art. We revisited some of my favourites such as Van Gogh, Degas. I was again quite taken by the Degas statue of the tiny ballerina. She is just gorgeous. Sadly my favourite Van Gogh painting, Starry Night over the Rhone, was on loan so we didn't get to see it. The Musee d'Orsay is in an old railway station and is such a spectacular building. It is worth going in just to see the sculpture gallery with the high arched ceilings.
Hungry and all museumed-out, we headed along the Left Bank to the Latin Quarter for dinner. We ate Greek gyros, served by an Indian gentleman, in the Latin Quarter, in France. Talk about multi-cultural!! We had been stalked by an enormous grey storm cloud all the way from the d'Orsay, so by the time we had eaten our meal it was pouring rain. We ran for the Metro, along with everyone else in Paris, and crammed in like wet sardines for the journey home.
We are kind of sad to be leaving Paris, but looking forward to the next part of our trip. We have seen so much of this city in the past 4 days, but still keep finding so much more to see. Thankfully we have another 2 days at the end before we fly home to look forward to.
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