Two reasons I loved walking around Paris in 2007
A park near my nephews apartment on Rue Dragon, with beguiling benches.
Dans la rue, il est là-art!
In years past I used a small point and shoot Cannon. After dropping and demolishing one camera on a stone floor in Venice, I attached a stout elastic cord for as a camera strap. Long enough to loop across my body, and tuck in a pants or jacket pocket, and stretchy enough to manipulate into any position. That means the camera is always ready to use – not buried in a tote or locked down in a case. It doesn’t get left behind on a table, nor it is vulnerable to theft by pickpockets.
This year I’m using a Sony RX100, which I recently acquired thanks to my appreciation of the amazingly detailed images captured by my friend Dan. This camera came with a narrow, adjustable strap that functions like my handmade ones. Bonus! Along with the camera, I’ll bring the charger, and two memory chips. I lost a chip once (Venice again). Nothing like having 400 photos of Rome poof! vanished! to convince this lazy artist to back up or risk losing everything. I’ll back up the chips on my MacAir and an online photo site.
I consider my iPhone 5S as much a camera as a communication device. I use Camera Plus, along with Hipstamatic and Instagram apps. One of the advantages – besides the fact you always have your phone with you- is it’s less intrusive than a camera.
If you really want to be stealthy, you can attach your iPod earbuds, click the control switch on the cable, and it will take images remotely.
Those images will be backed up on the Cloud and on my MacAir. Hooray for photo stream. The downside is the drain on the phone battery, which doesn’t last anything like as long as the camera battery. I have a Mophie juice pack air case (http://www.mophie.com/shop/battery-cases/juice-pack-air-iphone-5) for my iPhone, which doubles my battery life, and an additional auxiliary battery pack for the iPhone, which extends use from hours to days. It fits in my pocket and attaches by a cable. Not quite as sleek an arrangement as I’d like, but invaluable at, say 5pm, when you come across the ideal image or need to call Uber, and the juice has run out.
Next post – sketchbook selection
I like an organized trip folder for maps, info about my accommodations, lists of places to eat, parks and museums, transportation particulars, itineraries (by day and week, rain and shine versions). I include tips and tricks re: local customs, copies of important documents like my passport and insurance card, and a short list of courtesy words, since I am pathetically monolingual. You may think I am wee bit on the compulsive side of data gathering. I prefer to think of it as a bespoke travel guide.
A couple of days ago I spread out all the information I’ve collected on Paris and Amsterdam. I used our biggest coffee table, since Robert commandeered the dining room table for taxes.
I consolidated and discarded and snapped holes for a three ring binder, my usual MO. After a few days of sorting, it looks like this (below). Upper left is the Amsterdam folder, the Paris folder is open on the right. Newly printed maps in the center.
Today I compiled and cross-referenced lists of cafes, restaurants, bistros, and foodie street markets from my sources – recommendations from friends, Time Out Paris online, TripAdvisor, memoirs, blogs, and random suggestions. I created a personal Google map of the most promising places in the areas I expect to frequent. I printed out a couple of versions – one with the detailed list of name address and description, one that’s just the venue name and address. While I was in the ring with Google maps, (which I can make work, but it’s not pretty) I made another for parks and small museums. If I had better Google Map skills, I’d figure out how to do this in layers, but comparing the printouts side by side gives me a decent overview. If there is a church, a museum, a park, and a bisto/cafe all nearby, I’m golden.
I’ll have one or the other with me when I hit the streets. Sure, I should be able to find the map using my phone, and work out navigation, but – you never know. Batteries run down. Also, staring down at my phone is the opposite of being present in the Parisian moment. I can glance at a bit of folded paper in my hand and go forth, taking it all in. Belt and suspenders, that’s me.
I’ve finished the overall plan. The main doc looks like a month-at-a-glance calendar, with short color-coded notes on where and when to go. Individual docs cover each week with more detailed information.
Let’s break it down.
Tuesday evening: 1 April Fools Day – After checking one bag, I’ll board Air France with a small carryon packed with a change of clothes, all my electronics, and a few toiletries – most important, a soft padded eyeshade and Boules Quies wax earplugs http://www.quies.com/produit/wax-earplugs/. In a perfect world, I’d snore my way across the Atlantic. More likely I’ll doze in and out a few hours, feeling battered by the rumble and roar of the engines. It’s an 8 and a half hour flight. The first five aren’t so bad, but the last three feel interminable. Add to that the sleepless overnight factor and it’s a grim prospect. Over the years it’s become more of a challenge, and that’s why I go for a chunk of time.
Wednesday 2 – Staggering off the plane at midday, with gritty eyes and rumpled clothes, I’ll be met by the pre-arranged driver at récupération des bagages and taken to the apartment that will be my home for the next three weeks. Three floors up and no elevator (take that, macaroons!). I’ll drop off my bags, make sure the plumbing functions, and head out in search of an ATM. I’ll stroll around the neighborhood, noting where I can find bread, fruit, cheese and milk. Perhaps a coffee, definitely a pastry. If the weather is pretty, I’ll meander over to the Seine. Mostly I will take it easy. Early to bed.
Thursday 3 – Skip out the door to stand at the counter of a café and wolf down a croissant and café creme. Depending on the weather, I’ll either Uber over or take the Metro to the Louvre. I joined des Amis de Louvre last June and membership entitles me to free access to the museum. I’ll wave my card, scamper in the Richelieu entrance, check my coat and dive in. The first destination on my dance card – the Dutch, German and Flemish painters. Hours of staring and sketching and sighing with pleasure. Lunch at a museum café/restaurant TBD. Afterward, a peek at the apartments of Napoleon III, then follow one of the Louvres museum trails via an app on my iPhone or the museum’s audio tour. I’m thinking The Art of Eating, Rituals and Symbolism. http://www.louvre.fr/en/routes/art-eating By 4pm I will be dizzy with jetlag/fatigue and ready to trudge back to the apartment, picking up my dinner from a stops at a boulangerie, fromager and charcuturie en route.
Friday 4 – If I manage to sleep in – unlikely, but possible – and the weather is mild and fair, I’ll explore the Marais, my neighborhood, with the audio tour Walk and Talk Paris . I’ll stop for lunch at one of the multiple possibilities I’ve saved on my TripAdvisor map. app. http://www.tripadvisor.com/apps-icityguides and then try for a big fat nap. My experience in the MFA in Boston taught me that my eyes will give out – feel burry, gritty, dry and weak – by 8pm if I stalk the museum halls all day. Thus the long nap. The Louvre is open until 9:45 tonight, so I’ll drift over around 4pm and do the Still Life audio tour, then eat dinner in the museum. Afterwards I’ll follow the Italian Renaissance audio tour. I think it’s my best shot to see the Italian works in the Denon wing without being crushed underfoot by the throngs of determinded tourists making a beeline for the Mona Lisa.
Saturday 5 – FIguring the Louvre will be jam-packed on the weekend, I have alternative plans. First, browsing at a street market, the Marche Bastille (Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, 9-6, arts & crafts), around the corner from my apartment. If the weather is fine I’ll go there first. If it’s foul I’ll go straight to The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (open 11-6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mus%C3%A9e_de_la_Chasse_et_de_la_Nature. A museum that ‘celebrates the relationships between humans and the natural environment through the traditions and practices of hunting’. I’m paintings a series with similar elements (Catch & Release series) and I’m curious to see how other artists have approached this material.
Sunday 6 – By now I should have my feet under me. So, if it rains, I’ll go to the Musée Carnavalet (23 rue de Sévigné, 10-6) http://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/en/homepage which “tells the story of Paris from a bygone era (a prehistoric dugout canoe dating from 4600 BC) to the present day, in all its immense variety…in keeping with the spirit of the genius of Paris.” It will be a pleasure to visit a compact, curated museum after walking miles in the stone and marble halls of the Louvre. If it’s a pretty day, I’ll do a couple of the Walk and Talk Paris audio guides: La Huchette and St Julien le Pauvre. If my stamina and the weather holds out, I’ll walk to the Pont Alexandre III at sunset. (8:30pm) and watch the lights turn on each of the bridges in succession, until the Eiffel tower lights up. Pow!
Went out to dinner with my darling spouse, son, and his current squeeze. Asked Robert to take a photo of me since I was wearing my prototypical Paris rig – black jeans, black & white patterned shirt and scarf, black hoodie and my new Chucks. I forgot to take out my earbuds, but I’ll be wearing them most of time, so it’s authentic.
The only thing missing is my little backpack. What you can’t see is that my socks are crazy – they will be my blink of color. In this instance they are still b&w but they have cavalier spaniels on them.
First, make a list.
I do a Word doc, make two columns, and divvy it up into four categories – the clothes I’ll wear on the plane, what goes in my daypack (or tote), what gets stowed in my carry-on, and the main luggage. The day before the flight, I’ll assemble everything on the dining room table and cross off each item as I pack. It saves me hours of ‘did I remember this? Did I forget that?’ Anxiety I do not need.
This is the winter/spring version – mostly layering options. The only difference between this and packing for Chicago at Christmas is some short sleeves tees (instead of all long sleeves), the cotton/synthetic Chico pants options and how many eyedrops I’m adding. My winter coat is impervious to cold and I figure leggings can double as thermal underwear if it’s in raining and in the thirties/forties – or the Louvre turns out to be frigid – or I can sashay around in cotton cargos and short sleeves if the weather leaps into the seventies. If it’s in the fifties/sixties, I can layer a short sleeve tee over long sleeve, add the hoodie and vest, mittens and hat, wrap the black pashmina around me and go anywhere.
For clothes, use a simple, color-coordinated scheme that doesn’t show dirt. Paris is easy – black and white with, in honor of Funny Face’s Kay Thomson, a few Schiaparelli pink accents.
My philosophy is If I can’t do without it, find a way to squeeze it in. if I might use it, leave it behind. I am more concerned with over-packing than under-packing. If there is something I need that I did not pack, tant pis, mes amis. I’ve heard they sell clothes in Paris.
I always read a People magazine in the airport. Dr Paul Farmer, infectious diseases expert and medical anthropologist, calls it the Journal of Popular Culture. It reminds me of transient nature of life, and not to take things too seriously. Earplugs save the day when those ubiquitous people with cell yell are sitting near me, or a baby on board the plane is having a rough trip. My iPod, ditto. And I prefer to read rather than watch movies on board, so my Nook won’t leave my hands.
Counter-clockwise, from 11 o’clock
A Longchamps daypack. It’s backpack in style, but much smaller. In it goes my sketchbook, pencil case, half bottle of water, paper map, colored marker, perhaps a few postcards. Ziplocks for walking around snacks of the fruit/cheese/croissant variety, an Ereader, pocket Kleenex for the inevitable underserviced bathroom stalls, a nylon shopping bag that stuffs into its own pouch the size of an apple. No money. So far, no one has ever wanted to filch my sketchbook or water. A small carabiner is clipped to the strap. If I buy something too large to carry in the daypack, I can clip the shopping bag handles to the back strap of the daypack. The backpack can be pulled it around to my front for those tricky Metro rides, or slung tightly under my arm in museums where backpacks of any size are forbidden.
Around my waist and under my jeans is a money belt. Two zippered pockets divided by mesh. Soft, flexible, reasonably comfortable, and most importantly, in fifteen years of international travel, unbreached by thieves. Contains passport, credit cards and cash. This year I’m trying out a clip-on pocket the size of a credit card and zippered.
Another addition this year is a sturdy, lightweight, waterproof bag for a larger sketchbook and pencils, something I’ll take to parks. It has a long strap I’ll wear slung across my chest, so the bag is at hip level.
Pockets are indispensable to me. So many advantages! Pockets are handy, within easy reach. You don’t leave them behind on a table or hang them over the back of your chair, an unintentional offering to the poor and temptation to the weak. The small size of a pocket limit curbs the urge to carry around more than you absolutely need.
Right side: iPhone. Mine is in a Mophie case, which is great for extending battery life. From what I’ve read about pickpockets and snatch and grab, I’ll stay way from the doors of the metro, and never put it on a table. I’m going to try to limit my phone use to secure locations, versus bumbling down the streets with my nose in a text. If I need directions over and above my paper map, I’ll leave the phone in my pocket and let Google maps talk to me through my earbud. On the edge of the right pocket I clip my iPod. Don’t judge. Music got me up and down many a hilly street of Edinburgh at the end of a long,hard day of touristing.
Left side: Altoid tin, with change, and walking around cash that’s folded up and clipped with a large paperclip. Oddly enough, no one has ever stolen my mints. That’s where I stash my metro cards too.
Hoodie/ jacket/coat pocket
Right side: a petite Sony rx100 digital camera. Instead of a traditional strap mine has a sturdy elastic cord long enough to reach my pocket without tugging on my neck. Again – I can’t leave it behind or, as has happened, drop it on the stone floor of a Venetian palazzo.
Left side: a couple of sticks of lip balm, and folded paper map from a master map I’ve made numerous enlarged copies of at Kinkos. It has everything I’ve researched added by hand– the museums, shops, bistros, and markets. At the end of a day, I mark off where I’ve been in yellow highlighter and add notes (yarn shops, boulangeries, art supply stores, etc).
Been finding my feet in the City of Light. I’ll start catching up now. It will still be on a day or two of delay since I’d like to think about my experiences, not just report them.
Atlanta’s new international terminal is sleek and squeaky clean, with acres of polished marble and pristine glass. At 6pm it was also mostly empty, a plus for me. When the time came to board, I was surprised at the atmosphere of intense competition and animosity. The seats are assigned, right? Despite the billion prior announcements that passengers are to board in the zone order assigned, there were any number of scofflaws who argued this point, and elderly people throwing elbows and glaring at the families with infants who dared to precede them. One man complained bitterly when a woman who must have been eighty kept trying to cut in. It was more of a hostile mob than a line. And, as I mentioned, the seats are going to be there. Why the rushing and shoving? For the limited space in overhead bins?
Landed groggy but chipper and trotted through Orly terminal halls lined with excellent enlarged early photographs (acrobats in motion). I glided through customs and spent my brief wait time in baggage claim trying to get my phone to work. It took awhile, but Verizon and the iPhone came through. The driver held up my name scribbled on a piece of paper. He drove a very nice town car that wafted the faint odor of expensive men’s cologne and eau de new car. It smelled like business class. Freeways congested with traffic are dishearteningly alike everywhere, so I will draw a veil over that.
The Marais district was obvious from the foot traffic, and the architecture that combined charm and grandeur. The driver pulled up alongside my concierge and I popped out. I got an instant orientation lesson. “That way,” Matthias said, pointing left, “is the river. You see that building that looks like it is at the end of the street? It is on the other side of the river. The other way is our main street. It has everything you could desire. Groceries, pastries, ATM.” He insisted on carrying my luggage and I gratefully let him. Through a wooden door so heavy I have to use both arms and shove with my hip. Down a narrow stone and tile corridor with other ancient doors and wrought iron bannisters branching off of it into a bright, bare stone courtyard. Through an open glass door on the far left, up two flights of narrow, worn wooden steps et voila, I am in my home for the next three weeks in Paris.
I thanked him, unpacked, and headed out on a quest for milk/tea/sugar and cash. The streets were bustling. Not choked, but definitely thronging. Lots of people of every conceivable size, shape, race, and gender. Every last one of them well-dressed and brandishing an iPhone.
I brought the right clothes (insert sigh of relief). All the women are wearing a variation of leggings or tight, narrow-legged jeans. They all seem to wear scarves too. Lots of variation on the stylish shoe. Again , nine out of ten people on the street are on their phones. I had read I ought to leave mine in the bottom of my bag, but what’s the point? Every one has got one in hand as they walk, sit, stand, or pedal their bikes, and are they are all furiously talking or tapping away.
They are all moving fast and if any give gives me away, it’s that my eyes linger here and there. On the main street was everything, just as Mathais had said. I pulled out some cash from the ATM. No one jostled me or swarmed me or grabbed for my money or anything. I bought staples in Monoprix and got an lovely brie and tomato baguette, and a slice of tarte tat in for my diner from the corner patisserie, Miss Manon.
I probably brought too many clothes, and I doubt I will ever wear my winter coat. It’s mid-seventies and I am comfortable in a long sleeve shirt, and too warm with the hoodie added. Can’t figure out how to get the induction cooktop to come on for the life of me, but I can work the microwave so it’s okay for now. Typing this in an effort to keep my eyes open until 7:30.
It’s very, very quiet in the back courtyard. Lucked out there. Yawning and blinking Tomorrow, the Louvre.
I woke up several times in the night, people coming home at 1am are in a chatty mood apparently, but went back to sleep quickly. I got up at 7:30, dressed in my conquer Paris best, and ventured forth. The first person I saw, a young man leaving the building, glanced behind himself as he exited, saw me at the end of the long corridor and waited, holding the door for me. That turned out to be an omen.
I didn’t walk two blocks before I turned around and went back to ditch my light raincoat, gloves, and hat. Though the weather.com temperature was 56, it felt much warmer. At the wonderful boulangerie/patisserie on the corner, and I grabbed a noisette, (espresso with a tablespoon of steamed milk and a dot of foam), walked to the Metro, bought a ticket from the machine. It was happy to take my 5 euro note and give me a ticket and change. There was an Australian woman and a Japanese man at the machines beside me, and I felt right at home. Using my baby pigeon French, I asked the janitor which train to take and he directed me. Again, everyone on the train was on their iphone, except for one old woman reading a book. I turned on my iPod Paris mix and counted stations to the Louvre. Maybe six minutes. Everyone was clean and nicely dressed; scarves tied and draped with panache and jackets that fitted precisely. Lots of high-heeled boots and Converse sneakers in various colors. A few beautifully embellished ballet flats.
I jumped off at the Louvre to Pharell’s ‘Get Lucky,’ and metaphorically danced my way down the tunnel made from the walls of the moat. As I entered the Louvre, the playlist switched to ‘Happy’. Seriously. I had a big, stupid grin on my face. Walked past the long snaking line to a guard to ask where I should go, showing my Des Ami de Louvre card, and he pulled aside the barrier and waved me through. I was in a line of none. Joy! Walked to the security and they gestured me to the head of that line, then waved me through. Yes!
I headed like a homing pigeon to the Flemish and Dutch paintings on the second floor of the Richelieu wing. Didn’t make it past the escalator. Turned right into the vast, airy, light-filled atrium with sculpture on multiple levels. Started drawing this wonderful cast bronze nude man, and that was it for an hour or so. I noticed his hands, which appear bound, aren’t. He’s holding the rope behind his back, it isn’t knotted or tied anywhere.
Afterward I headed on to the Northern painters. Ducked through a hall that turned out to be a darkened room lined with small portraits. Very Holbein-esque. Glorious frames and gorgeous detail. Time stopped again, and so did I. Finally got to the Netherlands and Germany rooms and I knew they would be good but it’s a banquet! A feast! It took me two hours to get through 21 rooms. That may sound like a lot, but on the second floor of this Richelieu wing there are 116 rooms.
What does that mean for my daily plan? I started laughing around noon. It’s confetti, that’s what. All those – I’ll see the Dutch then go to the Napoleon apartments, then tour the Middle ages section blah blahblah.
Um, no. No, I won’t. If I get through the Dutch in two days, it will be a miracle. And I want to go back to see some of the pieces many times. There’s a Brueghal that has a teeming landscape filled with people I can barely see, they are so small – maybe the size of half of my little fingernail, but perfectly proportioned and exquisitely detailed. How did he do that? With a microscope? And the subtle expressions on the portraits, and the freaking detail of embroidery and the luminosity of the skin. I’m dizzy with admiration and envy.
I tore myself away at noon because I’d skipped breakfast. Ate a Croque Monsieur – grilled ham and cheese dipped in egg and fried- with a side salad (15E), followed by a Viennese café; espresso covered in whipped cream (7E.) I showed my card thinking ya never know, and sure enough, got a price break. Remembered service was comprise, so no tip. It’s still pricey but well worth it. I particularly enjoyed the view of the famous glass pyramid in the courtyard that came with my meal. Successfully ordered a carafe d’eau (free pitcher of water) and drank the whole thing. Back to the Flemish world and by 3:30 crossed over to the Dutch section to find it’s closed on Thursdays. A good thing, as by then, my feet hurt and I was flat worn out. I went back to the great sculpture hall. This time I sat behind the marble runner who brought word of the victory at marathon. Drew until 4.
et out and walked to St. Sulpice. Saw many interesting shops en route. My favorite was a clock maker. I asked permission to take photos of his windows. He turned out to be a national treasure, an acknowleged master of the clockworkery with a certificate to that effect. I was mesmerized by the pieces and parts. We bonded over gears. Very tired by 6, so grabbed a taxi waiting at a stand. The driver had gray hair in a ponytail, was listening to Led Zeppelin, and introduced himself as a old hippie. He visited San Francisco in ’72, lived in the Haight, and was a follower of Jimi Hendrix. We had a grand time reminiscing – Country Joe and the Fish! Oui! Le Grace Slick! Oui! Grateful Dead! Bien sur!
I’m flat on my back on my comfortable queen bed, with the 15C beams overhead. Dinner was tomato and brie on Baguette, Earl Grey tea, and a warmed slice of tart tatin. I finally figured out how to make the weird induction cooktop work.
Here’s what happened today to belie the Parisians reputation for rudeness. 1. That guy who held the door for me 2. The janitor who pointed me in the right train direction. 3 A lady who caught my eye and to let me know my scarf was trailing on the ground. 4. The man who stopped his cell phone chat to give me directions to the right exit. 5. I did a spectacularly clumsy semi-fall, tripping over a low curb I failed to see, pinwheeling my arms and staggering, before breaking my fall by grabbing on the edge of a stone bench before I hit the stone walkway. I didn’t hurt myself, but two people who were briskly walking by stopped to make sure I was okay.
Figured out I need to carry my battery pack – my iphone was down to 13% by 3pm. Not nearly as paranoid about the scammers/beggars. No eye contact and purposeful walking does the trick. I’m using my backpack as a desk for my drawing instead of putting it down anywhere. This is not the Paris I dimly remember from 1971. This is the Paris of my dreams.
Friday – Off to the Metro, which is indeed a breeze to use for the Louvre. The entry corridors and halls are jammed – midday is prime time – but again, I am waved past the lines and today bound straight into the arms of the Dutch, German and Russian painters. I elect to go without an audio guide, and pay attention to where my eyes go and my fancy pulls me. The twin themes of the day are ladies reading – naked, elaborately dressed, and on sarcophagi – and shoes. Fops, knights, maidens and emperors all have the most astonishing footwear.
Around three I am limping, just a little. My feet ache, quelle surprise. Now I’m hungry and decide to set off in search Café Renard in the Tuilaries. Out I go and realize the Louvre is overwarm and stuffy because it’s glorious outside, cool and fresh. I am halfway through the garden at the round pool when I have the I’ve been here before, déjà vu feeling and realized I know this place from paintings, particularly the impressionists.
Trees are in pink blossom, violets and dandelions dot the grass, tulips and daffodils are still in flower. The gravel in the broad walkway has been ground into a fine powder by the feet of a million tourists, and gray dust coats my black jeans from the calf down. I find the café amidst the trees, have an indifferent mini-quiche Lorraine and a delicious cappuccino Viennese. I worry for two seconds about the advisability of caffeine so late in the day, but figure I need whatever it takes get to keep me upright until 9.
Back through the gardens to the Louvre, this time to listening to Jason Aldean’s Take A Little Ride’. On the way back noticed the original statue of the centaur carrying off the maiden. I’ve posted a photo of it on Facebook, captioned Robert and I leaving on our honeymoon, but didn’t know where it was from. I asked a passing Asian tourist to take my photo with it, and she obliged, but alas, the idea I wanted the statue in the frame didn’t translate.
By now my feet were numb and my calves and knees ached. I went straight to the grand hall of statues, sat on some handy steps and drew the front of one of the statues I sketched yesterday. After an hour I was joined by three small children, (maybe 4, 7 and 9) They asked questions – how long does this take to do? What’s the easiest part to draw? Where do you get this toned paper sketchbook? What part do you have left to do? The most curious and vocal was the middle child, a girl, who fielded the questions her little brother asked and told me they were from Dubai. The youngest one sat down and leaned against my side to watch me draw. They were fearless and fascinated. I told her to Google art supply stores in Paris, and bring a sketchbook with her tomorrow, recalling how much my son had enjoyed that when he was in Rome with me. They were clearly well to do and educated; her English was excellent and they were all well mannered and unafraid of even strange adults. They were with me maybe 20 minutes, while their caretakers watched them from a distance. I have all kinds of backstories for them in my head.
Eventually they left and I finished the drawing. It was only 7, so I decided to visit the Napoleon III apartments. Needless to say, he put the grand in grandeur, the decor version of shock and awe. The only thing that really got to me was the bed of Madame Recamier (violet and yellow silk, and Egyptian influences on the frame), and the chair throne. Just the initial B, but in truly extraordinary embroidery. You know your feet hurt when the strongest impression of the apartments are the wooden floors, so yielding after hours on unforgiving marble.
Somehow wandered into the medieval section and was limping through it when I realized I might run out of ability to walk before the Louvre closed, so made my way towards Denon wing where the masters of the Italian renaissance and Miss Mona reside.
The stairs were still swarming with people, but as many were leaving as were arriving, so that was a hopeful sign. Slowly made my way into the grand hall. Ah, no wonder its packed out. It’s not just Mona, it’s the grace and magnificence that Raphael and da Vinci and Titian and all their brethren possess in such abundance. It’s the greatest hits of the renaissance album. Everything’s excellent.
The best part was a surprise. There were young people stationed throughout, wearing orange and black teeshirts with ‘Les Jeunes ont la Parole’ printed on them. Orange is the new black even here. They were art history students and this turned out to be a part of their curriculum, to explain various works of art in depth. They spoke a charming if rudimentary English, better than my toddler French for sure.
There was a gawky, red-headed lad in front of Veronese’s ginourmas Wedding in Cana. He held an ipad in has hand while he walked me through the various elements – how it came to France as a spoil of Napoleonic war, transported from Italy by soldiers who cut it in half, the identity of some of the figures, the way Mary looks as if she is holding an invisible wine cup, a hint to her son to get cracking with the miracle. Talking with someone as interested as I am is rare, you know? A young woman discussed Correggio’s Mystical Marriage of Catherine and St. Stephen all sublime tenderness and repose in the faces with brutal scenes of their martyrdoms in the background. One older woman student and I talked about finding our bliss in art after our children were launched,, as well as some fascinating details about Raphael’s portrait of the perfect gentleman Baldassare Clastiglione. On my way to the exit, I said hey to Mona, who seems to be mostly used as a selfie photo op. She said to tell y’all hi.
Barely able to walk by now, in pain up to my hips, I limped to the street, found the correct Metro in the dark, stumbled to my apartment and collapsed. Ate an éclair and a cup of tea at 10:30 for dinner. More anon.