Today was Louvre day. We knew that it was big, so we set aside an entire day in our schedule to devote to seeing it. We haven't fully adapted to the time change yet, so we slept a bit late, and I ran down to the Patisserie to get some Croissants for breakfast while Holly got ready to go out.
I got a few croissants from the Patisserie, and a small carton of orange juice from the convenience store next door, and brought them back to our hotel, where we wolfed them down before setting out for the Metro stop.
Seth's Paris Travel Tip #6: Make sure you get yourself a Visite pass for your visit to Paris, it lets you ride the RER trains, the Metro subway, and the bus system all you want for the period of time that your pass covers. There are different zones that you can cover with your pass, and we chose not to cover all of them, which is why we had to purchase our initial train ticket into Paris, but we've been using our pass ever since. The pass is a little paper ticket with a magnetic strip that you feed into a machine that uncermoniously spits it back out at you as you go through the turnstile. It works well enough, but the ergonomics of their turnstiles could use some work, they have installed gates on the back side to thwart turnstile jumpers (like Holly) and you have to shove your way through them after immediately crossing the turnstile and simultaneously retrieving your pass. You have to also be aware that the spring-loaded gate may be on the rebound from the previous passenger, and you don't want to catch it in the teeth as you're looking to grab your ticket.
One bad thing about our hotel is that it really isn't on the main line of the Metro with any of the other tourist attractions, but, transferring is so easy, this is a very minor concern. The Metro lines are all numbered, so we just had to transfer from the 6 Line to the 1 Line at the Charles De Gaulle - Etoile station, which is back at the Arc D'Triumphe in the heart of Paris.
The Louvre metro station has an exit that deposits you right into the basement of the museum, where we passed through security and into the area under the big glass pyramid. This is another place where having that museum pass comes in handy, as there was an extremely long queue at the automated ticket machines, which we completely bypassed as we waved our passes at the ticket control desks.
We stopped in to the post office in the basement to buy some stamps for postcards home, though the helpful clerk actually sold us some pre-stamped enveoples to put the postcards in, as they're cheaper and faster to mail that way. I also used their ATM to augment my Euro supply, though I still had plenty left, I'm not sure how much I'll need this weekend when we visit Normandy, and cash machines will be harder to come by there.
The Louvre is really too big to see in a day, if you want to see everything. Sure, you could physically walk by everything in one day, barely, but you wouldn't see anything, and Louvre Fatigue would set in long before you actually did it.
Fortunately, we excluded much of the museum because Holly doesn't care for much art from the 16th-19th Centuries, which is fine by me, as really, I can only take so many portraits of the Virgin Mary. So, we decided rather quickly to concentrate on the ancient portions of the Louvre for our visit, though we did start by heading towards the Mona Lisa and the rest of the fancy French paintings.
The room containing the Mona Lisa was filled with several hundred people, who all get a few seconds in front of it, then have to move along their way. We didn't even enter the queue, because we got a pretty good look at it from the side, and you have to stand 15 feet back from the painting, which is kept sealed in a protective glass enclosure, so I don't really know how seeing it in person is so much better than having unrestricted access to a good photograph or copy of it. So, we saw enough to say we did it.
I have to say, that I really enjoyed the Musee D'Orsay more than the Louvre on a purely physical basis, it was far less crowded, it wasn't as stuffy and warm, and it is of a manageable size for my art attention span.
After the Mona Lisa, we saw several more famous works of French art, like the Wrath of the Medusa. We then found our way to the Pre-Classical Greek section, and spent the next 5 hours viewing ancient Etruscan, Greek, Assyrian, Roman, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian artifacts and works of art.
Somewhere around 2:00 we noticed that we were really hungry, and after 20 minutes of searching, we managed to find our way back to the center of the Louvre where the cafeteria is. Holly tenatively ordered something that was sort of like french toast, with a lot of cheese, and some ham in it. She at least found it to be partially edible, only scraping off about 15% of the dish to the side of her plate. I ordered a sandwich that was labeled "sasusage and butter", which was an extremely chewy baguette topped with salami and butter. It was decent, though the amount of chewing involved probably made it a net caloric loss. For those of you keeping track, the half-liter bottle of Coke we shared was 3 Euros.
After our lunch, we saw the rest of the ancient exhibits, as well as a few more modern ones trying to find our way out. The highpoint of the museum for Holly was the Winged Victory sculpture, which she says is her favorite piece of sculpture in the world. The highlight for me was finding the exit, as the Louvre is extermely large and hard to navigate. They provide you with maps when you enter, but the maps represent the museum as a few different floors, but in reality the floors are not on the same plane the way they appear to be on the map. There are dozens of staircases up and down to sub-levels, half-levels, and the maps don't reflect any of this. Also the floors have confusing names, there are several ground floors, for instance. Getting around is really rather frustrating, though if you're just looking to see the most famous works, there are simple signs pointing the way to the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the rest of the iconic works on display.
We exited the museum through the big glass pyramid as it started to sprinkle, and snapped some photos outside before making our way to the Tulleries metro stop around 5:00 p.m. After getting back to the Eiffel Tower district, I picked a different route back to our hotel (despite Holly's protests on behalf of her feet) and we found a larger grocery store than the convenience store on our street. Prices were much better in this store, as was the selection, and we loaded up on beverages to keep in our room. We swung by the Patisserie again, and I bought a ham and cheese sandwich to have for supper, along with some Pringles-style potato chips I bought at the grocery store. Holly had a banana, and a croissant leftover from breakfast, before she took a long soak in the bath tub and crashed for a nap.
I gave my aching legs a break, and watched a couple of DVDs that I ripped to my laptop before leaving home. With the rainy weather outside, and our aching legs inside, we decided to spend the evening resting from our last two days of walking.