Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Fought the Louvre and the Louvre Won

Museum day 2 dawned overcast cold and sprinkly, and only got wetter for several hours. We arrived at the main entrance to the Louvre, at the famous glass pyramid, at 9:30, opening time.

We waved our Museum Passports at the guard and walked right in. The central hall was moderately busy.

For comparison, here's what it looked like about 1pm:

We decided to get an audio guide, these having been useful in many other museums. The one at the Louvre is not the simple, "key in the number of the painting and press Play" device of other museums. It is a specially programmed Nintendo DS. Those familiar with the DS know it has four buttons, two joysticks, and two touch-sensitive screens. The Louvre audio guide uses all these interface widgets in a baffling combination.

A short rant by David. This piece of merde was a big disappointment. It is ultra smart, thinks it knows where you are in the museum all the time, but it actually has useful content for one or (rarely) two objects in any room, and often none. And the few commentaries we listened to were bland, generic and uninformative. Then the battery died after less than 2 hours. A complete waste of 5 euros.

We had a plan of sorts: to start with the historic progression of French painting from the middle ages to 1850, which curves through 35 rooms of the 2nd floor of the Richelieu wing.

Wait, how many rooms did you say?

So we strolled along surveying the paintings with glazed and ignorant eyes. Ignorant because, one, the DS had nothing to say about 99% of the images, and two, the Louvre provides only French explanatory labels, except in some rooms there is a rack of info cards in various languages but the English ones were often missing. So we bopped along, stopping in front of images that grabbed us to get what we could out of the painters' names ("Hey, I've heard of Fragonard!") and what we could construe of the French labels.

Which was ok, because it kept us moving at a good pace. We didn't have time to sit and have a lesson.

Half-way around we looked out a window to see the queue for the entrance as it was about 11am.

That line only got longer, curling around two more sides of the courtyard. On a rainy, cold, windy day. Lesson: get to the Louvre at opening time!

After two hours and 30 or so rooms, our common sense called a halt.

"Stop! Your legs are tired and your brains are toast!"

So we went and had lunch in the café and talked about what else to see. We decided to see some of the preserved royal apartments and maybe some statuary. And David wanted to see the hall of Large Format Paintings.

"I want BIG paintings!"

The apartments date to when this building was used as a palace by Emperor Napoleon III, and have been preserved with the original furniture. They are rather ornate.

On the way to the statuary hall we observed the crowd worshiping the Victory of Samothrace.

The two statuary halls are nice: large courtyards that have been roofed over in glass to make bright, airy spaces.

We were very impressed by the "Groom restraining a horse" by Guillaume Coustou.

And amused by the River God of the Marne who apparently has taken up electric guitar.

Then on to the Hall of Extremely Large Paintings, which was getting a bit crowded.

Some of these were really neat, and deserve a longer look. For high drama it's hard to beat "Scene from the Deluge" by Anne Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (not our image, from flickr by "magika42000").

Near the Extremely Large Paintings was the rugby scrum around La Gioconda:

Seriously, it's like this all day every day.

But by now we were about ready to...

So we headed out to take a look at the Garden of the Palais Royale, another tree-filled square with arcades around it. Parisian arborists are brutal pruners.

This would a very pleasant place on a hot day. There is a huge fountain in the center, there are several cafés around it and they put their tables out under the trees, there are trendy shops in the arcades for window-shopping, and so on. Today however it was not so nice. And so to home.

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