DAY 4: Louvre, Centre Georges Pompidou, Notre Dame & the Latin Quarter

Hello everybody!

Last day in Paris, how sad! I’ve been so amazed about everything all the time and how good times I had with my best friends! Could have spend here more time, though. Today we planned to wake up earlier to pack ourselves up, but somehow it didn’t work out and only I was awake at the time set, hah. The breakfast in our Ibis Budget hotel was great, typical French, and with all our stuff we embussed and were ready to continue in our Parisian trip.

The first stop today was the famous museum/gallery Louvre. I enjoyed the Dutch part the most, I just love their artists, such as Vermeer, Brueghel, Steen, Bosch, Van Leyden, Hals, Ruysch or Van Gogh.

The Louvre, a former fortress and royal palace, is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring museums, a trove of history from the seventh century B.C. to the mid-19th century. Antiquities from the East and West vie for attention with masterpieces by Leonardo and Vermeer; wander aimlessly through its maze of galleries and you’re as likely to stumble into an imperial ballroom as a chamber containing a sphinx. Did you know, that it would take you about three full days to visit every room in this museum?

The collection of the Louvre Museum was first established in the 16th century as the private collection of King Francis I. One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting. The collection grew steadily thanks to donations and purchases by the kings. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Louvre became a national art museum and the private royal collection opened to the public.

The museum has a collection of over one million works of art, of which about 35000 are on display, spread out over three wings of the former palace. The museum has a diverse collection ranging from the Antiquity up to the mid-nineteenth century.

Some of the most famous works of art in the museum are the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and of course Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

After entering the museum through the Louvre Pyramid or via the Carrousel du Louvre, you have access to three large wings: Sully, Richelieu and Denon.

The Sully wing is the oldest part of the Louvre. The second floor holds a collection of French paintings, drawings and prints. One of the highlights is the erotic Turkish Bath, painted in the late 18th century by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

The first and ground floors of the Sully wing display works from the enormous collection of antiquities. In the thirty rooms with Egyptian antiquities you find artifacts and sculptures from Ancient Egypt such as the famous Seated Scribe and a colossal statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. On the ground floor is the statue of Aphrodite, better known as the “Venus of Milo”, one of the highlights of the Louvre’s Greek collection.

For something completely different, you can go to the Lower Ground Floor of the Sully wing where you can see some remnants of the medieval castle of the Louvre.

Paintings from the Middle Ages up to the nineteenth century from across Europe are on the second floor of the Richelieu wing, including many works from master painters such as Rubens and Rembrandt. Some of the most notable works are the Lacemaker from Jan Vermeer and the Virgin of Chancellor Rolin, a fifteenth-century work by the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck. The first floor of the Richelieu wing houses a collection of decorative arts, with objects such as clocks, furniture, china and tapestries.

On the same floor are the sumptuously decorated Napoleon III Apartments. They give you an idea of what the Louvre interior looked like when it was still in use as a royal palace.

The ground and lower ground floor are home to the Louvre’s extensive collection of sculptures. They are arranged around two glass covered courtyards: Cour Puget and Cour Marly. The latter houses the Horses of Marly, large marble sculptures created in the eighteenth century by Guillaume Coustou. Nearby is the Tomb of Philippe Pot, supported by eight Pleurants (“weepers”).
The ground floor also houses a collection of antiquities from the Near East. The main attraction here is the Code of Hammurabi, a large basalt stele from the 18th century B.C., inscribed with the Babylonian law code.

The Denon wing is the most crowded of the three wings of the Louvre Museum; the Mona Lisa, a portrait of a woman by Leonardo da Vinci on the first floor is the biggest crowd puller. There are other masterpieces however, including the Wedding Feast at Cana from Veronese and the Consecration of Emperor Napoleon I by Jacques Louis David. Another star attraction of the museum is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a Greek marble statue displayed at a prominent spot in the atrium connecting the Denon wing with the Sully wing.

The ground floor of the Denon wing houses the museum’s large collection of Roman and Etruscan antiquities as well as a collection of sculptures from the Renaissance to the 19th century. Here you find Antonio Canova’s marble statue of Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Even more famous is Michelangelo’s Dying Slave. On the same floor are eight rooms with artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the America. Medieval sculptures from Europe are displayed on the lower ground floor of the Denon wing.

 

The Louvre was created in several phases. Originally built as a twelfth-century fortress by King Philip II, it was significantly expanded in the fourteenth century during the reign of King Charles V.

Its current palatial appearance goes back to the late 15th century, when the original fortress was demolished and the wing along the Seine river was built. The palace was extended during the 16th century by architect Pierre Lescot, who expanded the palace into a complex with two courtyards. A decade later Catharina de Medici added the Tuileries Palace to the west of the Louvre. Construction on the Louvre was halted for some time when king Louis XIV decided to move to the Versailles Palace.

In the 19th century, during the Second Empire, the Louvre was expanded again with the addition of the Richelieu wing. The wings were extended even further westward during the Third Empire. The Louvre now had four symmetric wings surrounding a large courtyard. This would not last long, as the Communards burned the Tuileries Palace to the ground in 1871, opening up the west side of the palace.

The most recent addition to the Louvre was the construction of the Louvre Pyramid, which functions as the museum’s main entrance. The pyramid was built in 1989 by the renowned American architect I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to enter the underground floor.

The modern addition originally received mixed reviews, as it contrasts sharply with the classical design of the surrounding buildings, but today it is generally accepted as a clever solution which has given the museum a spacious central entrance without the need to touch the historic patrimony.

On foot we walked past Pont des Arts, 59 Rivoli and Saint-Merri Church (what a masterpiece!) to Le Centre Pompidou. The centre is very beautiful and interesting, but quite…yeah, also very overpriced.

Also known as Passerelle des Arts, the Pont des Arts is situated between the Institut de France and the Louvre. Built between 1801 and 1804, it was the first iron bridge in Paris. Reserved for pedestrians, the footbridge makes for a pleasant stroll with family and friends. It’s a good location for holiday photos, as it offers fine views of the Seine and its monuments. The bridge is especially popular with couples.

 

In such a classical part of Paris filled with elegant historic architecture, 59 Rivoli is a bohemian breath of fresh air. Take time out to watch artists at work in the 30 ateliers (studios) strung on six floors of the long-abandoned bank building, now a legalised squat where some of Paris’ most creative talent works (but doesn’t live). The ground-floor gallery hosts a new exhibition every fortnight and free gigs, concerts and shows pack the place out at weekends.

 

Saint-Merry Church is located in the historical Rive Droite, in the heart of the Marais. For centuries it remained a vast swamp, mostly deserted, except for a few religious buildings scattered here and there. One of them was the small Chapelle St-Pierre-des-Bois. The tiny chapel was erected in the 6th century along the old Roman road (the current Rue St-Martin) that linked Paris to the north of France. Little is known of Medericus, Mederic or Merri, the abbot of Saint-Martin d’Autun Abbey. We only know of the miracles he performed during his lifetime. It’s indeed believed that he died around 700 A.D., while on a pilgrimage on the Rive Droite of Paris where he was buried. As miracles kept occurring over his tomb, it seemed logical that the Church of Rome should make him the patron saint of the Rive Droite.

A church was therefore built in the late 9th century, in order to replace the chapel and shelter his precious relics. This church was rebuilt in the 13th century. It was eventually replaced by the current church during the 16th century. A much larger church was indeed needed then in order to serve the ever-growing population of this popular shopping district! The Flamboyant Gothic Saint-Merry Church was significantly altered during the 18th century. All its statues date from the 19th century. It, however, contains one of the oldest bells in France. This bell was indeed cast in 1331 and escaped destruction during the French Revolution. May be another miracle performed by the saint?

Saint-Merry Church contains also one of the oldest fonts in Paris and a superb organ rebuilt in 1781 and played by the composer Camille Saint-Saens! Saint-Merri’s tomb was in the crypt, however, don’t expect to see it as it has long gone.

Saint-Merry was the parish church of the Italian moneylenders and bankers established in the nearby Rue des Lombards. It was therefore one of the wealthiest and most lavishly decorated churches in Paris. Amazingly, it was also the church where Paris prostitutes came to repent during the Middle-Ages after cashing in on their charms in the surrounding streets. The church was indeed located right in their “working zone”. Saint-Merry Church is still an active and friendly place of  worship run by the Centre Pastoral Halles Beaubourg.

You can also enjoy the concert given by the Académie Vocale de Paris every Saturday throughout the year. Or, you can simply walk in and admire its splendid architecture.

 

Le Centre Georges Pompidou  is a great modern art museum located in the fourth arrondissement. The museum is known more for its crazy exterior than the actual artwork it houses; the architects decided to expose the things that are normally hidden in the construction of buildings, so they put things like the plumbing and beams and elevators on the outside, and painted them bright colors to draw attention to them. It makes for a really eye-grabbing (some might say eye-straining) effect, and the building really stands out whenever you’re wandering around the Marais and other surrounding neighborhoods. Nothing else in Paris looks like the Pomidou Center, and so even when you just see a sliver of it in the distance through two other buildings, you know exactly what it is.

The collections in the museum are really impressive, and seem to change drastically really ofen. The permanent collection at the Pompidou contains for example a dozen or so Picassos; it really blows me away to see these paintings that I’ve seen in books all my life and suddenly be standing so close to the real thing.

When visiting the Pompidou, keep in mind that there are two entrances: there’s the large main entrance in front, at the bottom of a wide, sloping place (always full of street artists, muscians, and various other characters and performers), and another smaller entrance all the way around in the back of the building. The back entrance often has less of a wait, but sometimes the line is just as long as out front. In any case, it’s worth taking a walk around the building to check before comitting to a line. If you enter through the back, you’ll be upstairs, so head right down to the ticket windows on the ground floor.

Both the entrances in the front and back are just to get you through security, and then once you’re inside you can buy your tickets. The ticket lines seems to move a lot faster than the lines for security.

To enter the collections, you have to go up a series of escalators that are contained in a big, zigzagged plexiglass tube that snakes its way up the side of the museum. Make sure to go all the way to the top, even if you’re not visiting the galleries up there, to see an amazing view of Paris with lots of recognizable landmarks.

Possibly of interest, there’s a cafe located up on the mezzanine of the museum, and it’s a nice place to take a break, read or just enjoy the ambience. Everything is very overpriced in my opinion. There’s free wifi in the cafe, but you have to sign up on the Pompidou’s website (it’ll come up automatically when you connect), and you can only use the wifi for ninety minutes a day. There are also a few wall sockets you can use in the cafe area if you’re lucky enough to get one, and there are a few located along the upstairs back wall of the museum as well; you’ll probably see a few young people sitting on the floor there, plugged in and typing away.

The very top floor of the museum houses a semi-fancy restaurant called Le Georges, which this starving writer/artist had the pleasure of sampling once long ago, on his accountant’s dime. This place is a riot because it’s decorated in a really over-the-top modern art style, with big curvy alien-esque pods and stark white, geometric, angular furniture; almost like a caricature of a snobby, artsy restaurant in a film. The view from the restaurant is absolutely stunning as well.

Before heading to Latin Quarter for the dinner we wanted to see one another dominant of the town of Paris – famous Notre Dame. While waiting in the line (which was so long!) we took some great photos…well, read till the end to see them, haha.

Notre Dame de Paris is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and is distinguished for its size, antiquity, and architectural interest.

Notre-Dame lies at the eastern end of the Île de la Cité and was built on the ruins of two earlier churches, which were themselves predated by a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. The cathedral was initiated by Maurice de Sully, bishopof Paris, who about 1160 conceived the idea of converting into a single building, on a larger scale, the ruins of the two earlier basilicas. The foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander III in 1163, and the high altar was consecrated in 1189. The choir, the western facade, and the nave were completed by 1250, and porches, chapels, and other embellishments were added over the next 100 years.

Notre-Dame Cathedral consists of a choir and apse, a short transept, and a nave flanked by double aisles and square chapels. Its central spire was added during restoration in the 19th century. The interior of the cathedral is 130 by 48 metres in plan, and the roof is 35 metres high. Two massive early Gothic towers crown the western facade, which is divided into three stories and has its doors adorned with fine early Gothic carvings and surmounted by a row of figures of Old Testament kings. The two towers are 68 metres high; the spires with which they were to be crowned were never added. At the cathedral’s east end, the apse has large clerestory windows and is supported by single-arch flying buttresses of the more daring Rayonnant Gothic style, especially notable for their boldness and grace. The cathedral’s three great rose windows alone retain their 13th century glass.

Notre Dame Cathedral suffered damage and deterioration through the centuries, and after the French Revolution it was rescued from possible destruction by Napoleon, who crowned himself emperor of the French in the cathedral in 1804. Notre Dame underwent major restorations by the French architect E.-E. Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-19th century. The cathedral is also the setting for Victor Hugo’s historical novel Notre-Dame de Paris (1831).

Outside the cathedral at the back is a nice park and a great view on some kind of pedestals, that’s a very interesting look.

Finally time to sit down! In Latin Quarter we found one terrific restaurant (three delicious courses for only 12€!) where we spent rest of the evening until we were about to catch our bus leading back home.

Quartier Latin – the name alone evokes images of bohemian Paris at its height. In spite of its indisputable gentrification and the loss of its former identity, the myriad streets surrounding what was the left bank’s true student and intellectual center continues to attract tourists and Parisians who hope to discover, or possibly resurrect, a little of that electric sense of change we read of in Camus, Sartre and Beckett.

The heart of St. Michel is still the Place St. Michel (Metro St. Michel) with its baroque fountain of St. Michel killing a demon of some sort. This was once the site of numerous protests and social uprisings. One of the main events of French resistance to the occupying Nazis took place in the square, and in the now legendary riots of 1968, students took charge of the square in the face of tear gas and police clubs, declaring it an independent state. Odd as this may sound, it led workers to rally the same cause by announcing mass strikes, which led to the eventual fall of De Gaulle’s government. This was once the “Washington Square Park” of Paris, filled with hippies, artists, writers, poets, dancers, musicians and art students. Nowadays you can find here mainly tourists and local artists and musicians.

The Latin Quarter is bisected by the Boulevard St. Germain and the Boulevard St. Michel. These are the two main arteries running through the area, with the hundreds of crooked streets leading off them like capillaries. The tree lined Place St. André des Arts, which was a gathering place for many French artists, is still ringed with bistros and restaurants. Walk up St. Michel until you reach the intersection of Blv. St. Germain. The two streets intersect near the Cluny Museum on Boulevard St. Michel, a museum well worth visiting. It’s set inside the ancient Roman baths (an astounding feat of architecture in itself) and filled with incredible artifacts and artwork from Medieval Europe, I find it to be one of the most interesting and beautiful museums in Paris. Inside you will find the famous “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries as well as the original heads knocked from the statues at the Notre Dame Cathedral, stained glass, jewelry, early paintings, stonework, and even a medieval garden.

And now another 25 hours in bus are ahead us! Great!

Oh man, what sacrifices do I have to bear! haha. Well, that was our Paris trip, already looking forward for the next one with my beautiful besties 🙂

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🙂

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