Tag Archives: louvre

reality bites: “quatre jours” (continued, journée 4)

quatre jours : “four days”

Journée quatre : Paris monumental
Landmarks, museums and other touristic sites that are actually worth seeing.

Where’s Sacre Coeur?

1. Montmartre
C’est à vous de décider.  Start the day at Montmartre, or end the day at Montmartre.  It’s a difficult choice to say the least.  I prefer le matin, when the neighborhood is quieter and you might actually see locals milling about.  Not to mention that le village de Montmartre has some of the best boulangeries in Paris.  On my most recent trip to Paris, I stayed à deux pas de Place d’Abbesses.  Easy to get to by métro (Abbesses), this is the perfect place to start your Montmartre stroll.  Start buy buying one of those famous baguettes.  I’m a fan of Au Levain d’Antan, the 2011 winner.  And for those who prefer to eat something other than a baguette, I recommend the 2010 winner, Le Grenier à Pain.  But make sure whatever you buy is chaud, or ça ne vaut pas le coup.

2. Sacre Coeur
Rather than climbing up to Sacre Coeur via the grand staircase, head the back way.  Leave Place d’Abbesses via Rue la Vieuville, and hang a gauche on Rue des Trois Frères.  Meander towards Rue Lepic, which you can then climb uphill until you reach Rue Norvins, which will lead you to Place du Tertre.  The touristy-ness of this spot rivals the lines at the Eiffel Tower, so pass through quickly and faites gaffe à ton portefeuilleRue Azais will curve you around to Sacre Coeur.  The pristine white basilica is worth a visit, despite its unfortunate history and the shady characters that set up shop on its steps.  You can descend the steps for an alternate view on the way down.  From there, make your way down to Pigalle.

The infamous Red Windmill…

3. Pigalle
As the red-light district of Paris (though the prostituées of Strasbourg Saint-Denis might give Pigalle a run for it’s money), Pigalle is an excellent place to expore – during the daytime – unless you are an experienced Parisian wanderer.  Wander the stretch between métro Pigalle and métro Blanche, and while minding the sex shops, keep a look out for the interesting clandestin streets and gated homes tucked in on the right-hand side Boulevard de Clichy.  The Cité Veron, for example, is the former home of the famous Parisians Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian.

“Goodbye Mother”, Pere Lachaise

4. Père Lachaise
I’m not usually one to advocate the métro over walking, but there’s quite a bit of ground to cover between Pigalle and Père Lachaise, so get on the ligne 2 at Blanche and head to the métro stop Père Lachaise.  This famous cemetary is absolutely gorgeous, and totally impossible to navigate.  (Jim Morrison’s grave is anti-climactic at best, by the way).  Mes conseils? Don’t go in with a plan to find any grave in particular.  In fact, I quite enjoy meandering through Père Lachaise without a but.  It avoids the inevitable frustration of not finding the specific graves you’d like to see, and I quite prefer daydreaming about all the lesser-known souls who are enterré there.  Budget your time wisely, and try to keep a sense of direction – or else you’ll lose the full day here.

5. Possibilités…
At this point, it’s up to chacun to choose their priority, based on his or her interests.  Here’s a liste of other places worth visiting.

The Eiffel Tower, as seen from Trocadero

5a. Tour Eiffel
Well, if you must, you must.  But if il faut que vous voyez le Tour Eiffel, I’m at least going to make a few suggestions of how to see it.
Option #1 : Head to Trocadero.  You’ll be across the river here, with splendid views/photo opps.  And you’ll get a taste of the ritzier neighborhoods of Paris.
Option #2 : Take a ride on a Bateau Mouche.  There are many companies operating these river boats, and they really do offer some unique and lovely views of the Eiffel Tower (among other monuments).
Option #3 : For the absolutely stubborn among us, the Champ de Mars it is.  Do not bother with trying to climb the Tour (although I know some people will still insister), rather view it from a far (and eventually closer) in this large public garden.  Avoid the women asking if you speak English.  Trust me, you don’t.

One of the lovely sculptures from the Salle de Fetes.

5b. Musée d’Orsay
This museum really is lovely, with a splendid impressionist collection (not to mention sculptures so gorgeous that you might actually forget you came for Monet).  My favorite room is the Salles de Fêtes.  And I highly recommend checking out the Courbet paintings as well.

5c. Musée Rodin
By far, one of the most loved small museums in Paris, this gorgeous gardened enclave houses some of the most sensual sculpture around.  It is a must-see for any fans of la sculpture – though I warn you, Rodin was far from a stand-up guy (some of the sculptures credited to him were later found to be those of his famous mistress Camille Claudel).

The Louvre

5d. Le Louvre
If you haven’t fit it in already, the Louvre is just breathtaking.  I sometimes dissuade first-time Parisian visitors from visiting (at least without a trusty guide or former art history student), because you can really lose a day (or days) in there.  My favorite things to see?  The appartements of Napoleon III, the sculpture courtyards (Cours Marly, Cours Puget) and nearby Assyrian guards, the Winged Victory and Galerie d’Apollon, the large-format French paintings (David, Géricault, etc.), the Salle des Caryatides, the and the Egyptian wing.  (I spent two days a week -minimum- in the Louvre when I was an Erasmus student, so I’ve seen everything, multiple times).  These collections are sadly not all next to each other – so plan your attack systematically.  (And beware the 3-hour museum exhaustion barrier.  It is very, very real.  And sometimes will sneak up on you as soon as hour 2).

5e.  Ne faites rien de tout (Don’t do anything)
 Any of the above choix make for a long and exhausting day – so feel free to also take the rest of the afternoon/evening off and grab a verre du vin.  If you choose this option, well…you’re more parisien than I thought.

(Back to the beginning)


C’est à vous de décider > It’s up to you to decide

le matin > the morning

à deux pas de > two steps from

chaud > hot

ça ne vaut pas le coup > it’s not worth it

faites gaffe à ton portefeuille > watch out for your wallet

prostituées > prostitutes (also known as femmes de bonheur – women of happiness)

ligne 2 > line 2 (of the metro)

Mes conseils > My advice

but > goal

enterré > buried

chacun > each

liste > list

il faut que vous voyez le Tour Eiffel > If you must see the Eiffel Tower

monuments > monuments

Tour > Tower

insister > insist

appartements > apartments

choix > choices

verre du vin > glass of wine

parisien > parisian



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typique : “musée”

musée (n.m.) : museum.

IMG_3148The past week was a sight for sore eyes (if such things exist in Paris), as this ancienne étudiante of art history hit up the Musée du Louvre and Paris’ center for l’art contemporain, the 104.

L’année passée, when I was in Paris, I was taking cours en l’histoire de l’art at the Sorbonne (Paris IV), so I’ve actually already been to the Louvre upwards of 25 times or so, but I love going with a visite guidée because I’m bound to see things I haven’t previously noticed or found particularly interesting.  Plus, thanks to the fact that Napoleon a volé an astounding number of incomparable oeuvres from different countries around the world, you’ll not likely to ever feel that you’ve exhausted the ressources ésthetiques that the Louvre has to offer (and Francois Ier’s commandes aren’t hurting the collection either).

IMG_3152On trip no. 1 to the Louvre, our professeur decided to take us through the Italian painting collections.  Here you’ll find Giotto, Da Vinci, Raphael, et Caravaggio, but an unexpected addition to the early Italian paintings collection (housed in the Salon de Peinture historically used for the annual  exhibits organized by the Académie royale de peinture et sculpture) was a contemporary work by Pierre Soulages.  This isn’t the first time that contemporary art has invaded the Louvre or the nearby gardens.  (Two examples I recall are those of spring ’08 : the famous exposition of Louise Bourgeois‘ giant spider in the Tuileries and Jan IMG_3160Fabre‘s invasion of the Northern Schools’ galleries.)  The unlikely juxtaposition of Soulage is (like it was for Bourgeois) a reference to his current retrospective at Centre Pompidou.

Another less-predictable aspect of our 1st evening at the Louvre was a visit to the african art galleries, said to be “inaugurées” by former president Jacques Chirac…which according to our prof. essentially means that he forced the conservateurs at the Louvre to add African art to the heavily occidental collections.  My favorite work in these galleries was a lanky wood-carved statue (which despite it’s nearly anorexic silhouette was sporting perky curves in all the right places).

Our next Louvre visit primarily focused on the two cours de sculpture (Marly & Puget), formerly outside areas of the palais which have since been turned into green-house-like pavilions.  We visited IMG_3180the sculpture of Voltaire by Pigalle,  scandalous for depicting an old man in the style of hunky war heroes, as well as the galleries of small sculpture, created to gain éntrée to the annual salons.  But probably my favorite sculpture moment was when my fairly proper professor turned to us and said “Ah!  Il devient un peu chaud, n’est-ce pas?” (Oh!  It’s getting a bit hot, isn’t it?).  This delightful joke was referencing a work where a satyr was aggressively taking advantage of his woman of choice (though from the look on her face, she didn’t seem to mind one bit).

The day after our 2nd Louvre visit, I went to the CENTQUATRE a contemporary art and cultural center located in the 19thIMG_3194 arrondissement, for a conference discussing art and cuisine.  The space was actually gorgeous, home to the former city funeral services, and offered an array of funky, wacky, and kitschy items to peruse at your leisure.  However, the most interesting artistic element of the conference was an intervention by Philippe Mayaux, sculpteur who in 2006 had an exhibition called “Hors d’oeuvres” featuring a series Savoureux de toi (literally “tasting/appetizing of you”).  To create this series he sculpted different parts of of his wife’s body in chocolate and then reassembled them in a manner resembling the typical goodies you would find at a local pastry shop (only made of fingers, bones, and genitals, among other body parts).  And yes, every piece of work was 100% comestible.  As a lover of food and a peruser of wacky conceptual art, this was clearly the highlight (or at least the most intriguing encounter) of my semaine of art outings.


ancienne étudiante > former student

l’art contemporain > contemporary art

Musée du Louvre > the Louvre Museum

L’année passée > Last year

cours en l’histoire de l’art > art history courses

visite guidée > guided visits

a volé > stole

oeuvres > works

ressources ésthetiques > aesthetic resources

commandes > commissions (i.e. when a patron asks an artist to create a certain work)

professeur > professor

Académie royale de peinture et sculpture > “The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture”, founded in 1648; a historically conservative and all-powerful group of leading artists, most famous for their annual salons (starting in 1663) to exhibit the works of members of the academy.  It no longer exists as it was replaced by the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Academy) and finally, the Institut de France (French Institut).

exposition > exhibition

inaugurées > inaugurated/unveiled

conservateurs > curators (who happened in the case of the Louvre to have been rather conservative concerning the issue of the african art galleries…oh the humor of french linguistics)

occidental > western, typical of western culture

cours de sculpture > sculpture courtyards

palais > palace (The Louvre was once the royal palace of the French monarchs)

éntrée > entry

intervention > presentation (in the context of a conference)

sculpteur > sculptor

comestible > edible

semaine > week

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reality bites: “honte”

honte (n.f.): shame; (avoir honte > to be ashamed)

So I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with the French nouvelles, reading the “Metroquotidien and the “Figaro” chaque mercredi, or even just keeping up with the French radio podcasts.  However, I don’t read the US news much and most of the time when they talk about the Etats-Unis -stuff like healthcare reform or whether the Olympics will be in Chicago- I don’t feel particularly connected to the subject their discussing.

This week, the reference to Amérique in the journaux had nothing to do with our domestic policy, Barack Obama, or our government in the slightest.  And while I usually enjoy this a-political deviations from the norm (like when they showed a picture of Lady Gaga “trop stylé” at the MTV Music Video Awards)-  this time, j’ai honte.

Oh, comme j’ai honte! The Louvre has decided to add  a McDonald’s in the shopping center below the museum (“Carousel du Louvre”).

But pire, their justification for this choice is just a slap in the face to any expat trying to escape the American stereotype.  “…cet espace est conçu autour des cuisines du monde. Il y a des restaurants marocain, un indonésien, un italien… MacDo sera le restaurant américain”. (The space is conceived around [the idea] of world cuisine.  There are morrocan, indonesian, italian restauarants…and McDonald’s will be the american restaurant).  …Comme j’ai honte!

There’s really not much more to say  than that.

Check out this link if you want more info > http://www3.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/opinion/2009/Oct/6/.


nouvelles > news

“Metro”quotidien > daily Metro newspaper

“Figaro” chaque mercredi > the Figaro every wednesday

Etats-Unis > United States

Amérique > America

journaux > newspapers

trop stylé > dressed in a really stylish/outlandish fashion

j’ai honte > I’m ashamed

Oh, comme j’ai honte! > Oh, how I am ashamed!

pire > worse

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