The Louvre

We awake to the sound of steady rain. I realise as we leave the hotel that I have not worn a raincoat since primary school and that I had completely overlooked the loss of peripheral vision once you lift the hood onto your head.

The indignant beep of a horn on the very first zebra crossing rams my situation home. Zebra crossings in Paris have very different meanings to in Australia. Each one has a walk/don’t walk light and stepping onto a crossing and blocking a Parisian native draws their ire. I am sure they have a points system operating for we have had people speed up and aim for us previously. Luckily the driver of this car may have thought that the damage of having a large grey haired stupid tourist bouncing off his bonnet was just not worth enough points.

We head towards the Louvre taking close to the shortest route this time, staying approximately one block back off the Seine so we don’t walk the same path twice. Beautiful sights are everywhere, grand museum entries, an elaborately decorated church with four people praying inside, a beautiful roundabout at the centre of which is a fountain surrounded by purple flowers.

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We make our way to the Place de la Concorde where we had not stopped the previous day. The Place de la Concorde is a large busy intersection with a monolith covered in hieroglyphs at its centre and a large fountain at each end. Pam does her best ‘Singing in the Rain’ impression.

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We cross the road and have the gardens and broad gravel walkway of the Jardin de Tuileries to ourselves. Amazing.

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Having braved the relatively short queue, thanks to the rain and early hour, we enter the pyramid of the Louvre.

There are no words to describe the Louvre in its entirety, for example there are fifty thousand (50 000!) sculptures in the sections devoted to such expression of art. Words like sprawling, massive, diverse, eclectic just do not do it justice. The walls and ceilings of the building are huge and often covered in frescos and murals that are spectacular art works in themselves.

I have to keep reminding myself, look up, look up.

Everywhere we go eyes from the distant past hold us in their frozen gaze. It is simultaneously beautiful and eerie.

So many of the works we see have messages that have political, social and personal importance relevant to the time each work was produced. You could spend entire days in any of the single massive rooms and still have much to learn.

For instance a double sided painting David et Goliath by Daniele da Voterra, where each side of a piece of slate has been covered with different aspects of the scene where David is just about to behead Goliath. There are slight differences in movement on each side and I realise that Walt Disney has been trumped by four hundred years.

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Or the haunting The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault that depicts the remaining survivors of a shipwreck aboard a raft constructed from the wreckage. 147 people set off on this raft and the painting depicts the fifteen remaining after dehydration, murder and cannibalism have thinned their ranks thirteen days later. This huge un-commissioned work was seen as condemnation of the ruling classes and was completed by the painter at the age of twenty seven.

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Pam and I spend six hours blazing through the Louvre and probably see less than one tenth of the works on display.

By this time we are both exhausted and we still have the six kilometer walk back to the hotel.

Outside the Louvre where we have spent the last six hours gaping the rain continues, however during our walk back it abates to a fine drizzle. During the time since we were at the Pont Alexandre III yesterday some clever soul has mounted an orange witch’s hat on one of the bridges statues, we see a bicycle made for twenty six (thirteen people on each side pedaling, eight umbrellas down the middle) that puts the Goodies to shame.

The rain has turned the grey bark of the many trees lining the streets and footpaths black, massive statues line the footpath on our walk back along the Seine.

One grim statue is dedicated to the 1915 genocide of one and a half million Armenians and my mind reels again at the circular nature of human history and our reluctance to learn from our past behaviour.

Paris is spectacular and thought provoking rain or shine.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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