Thursday, June 10, 2010

Paris Travel Guide: Marie Antoinette & Getting Dissed by Mona Lisa

Bonjour Bloggy Friends,

Today we walked to the Île de la Cité, an island on the Seine that is home to Notre Dame and other famous sites. We returned there to get a look inside chapel Saint-Chapel, which was built by Louis IX specifically as a showcase for his latest purchase, the Crown of Thorns. The structure is almost completely made up of tall stain glass windows (pictured) decorated with scenes from the Bible. Though the sanctuary is quite magnificent, it only took a fraction of the time to build than Notre Dame because the king was in a hurry to put his famous relic on display. I thought it was gorgeous but much of the aura was lost due to construction being done on one whole side of the chapel. Instead of windows we were forced to look at a tower of cruddy scaffolding. These things happen.

Our next stop was the big momma of art museums, the Louvre. On the way, however, we meandered into the Conciergerie. The big draw for me here was that this is where one of my favorite historical figures, Marie Antoinette, was held captive before her execution. The place was pretty cheesy - with dummies representing Antoinette and other captives in fake prison cells - but moving moments weren't completely lacking. The walls of one room were adorned with names of the more than 1200 victims of the guillotine during the French Revolution. It was neat to scroll through to find Marie and Louis' quietly among them (pictured right). I also enjoyed standing in the actual spot of the famous queen's cell, which has sense been turned into a tasteful memorial with plaques and paintings and such.

Finally at the Louve, we took an obligatory photo in front of the pyramid and grabbed our Rick Steves guide book to seek out the essentials. My favorites were the vivacious Venus de Milo statue, the glorious Winged Victory of Samothrace and DaVinci's La Belle Ferronnière (pictured left). My grandmother had a copy of the latter hanging in her home when I was a kid, so it brought back nice memories. When we finally made it to the Mona Lisa I had to admit I was pretty disappointed. Not only was she surrounded by eighteen layers of onlookers but she was encased in a hazy plastic case that made getting a good snapshot impossible. I guess that's what happens when you're one of the most gawked at paintings on the planet. What a diva.

That evening we had a nice Thai dinner in the Marais before heading home for a little R&R. We have big plans to see Versailles tomorrow, so we wanted to be nice and rested. Stay tuned...

I"ll chat with you soon.

Love, Josh


Bill Fogle said...

Hi! Your photos are so bright and pretty! Gosh, your blog today is so DA VINCI CODE!

I love that spot on the Ill de la Cite, right at the end there, like the prow of a boat, where you can sit. The Wikipedia photo was huge and I got to see up close.

First glass of wine here! Miss you.

Anonymous said...

are you in Paris NOW ?? you're in my city and i don't know it ??! oh my god, ... it's like missing my mother's birthday !! sorry, i'm maybe a bit overwhelmed ... but i like your work so much, it always makes me feel happy, and this Louvre video is probably the most enchanting i've ever seen :o) i want to meet you two in person, even for two minutes :-))

Casey said...

Lovely video of course. I've always heard that Mona is kind of a ho hum experience--I guess b/c it's so small.

I love the Lady Leading Liberty or whatever painting. I've seen that many times in art history books. Awesome.