Monday, April 2, 2012

Paris Day 4 or That's A Lot of Art or The Best Duck I've Ever Had

Today was the day we would tackle the Louvre.  We began our morning by loading our phones with Louvre Top 100   this app was free (!) and it was a great option for us since we had done very little trip preparation.  For those unfamiliar with the Louvre (I must admit all I knew about the Louvre was written in The Da Vinci Code), it is HUGE and INTIMIDATING and houses some of the most beautiful works of art one may ever see.  We opted for the phone app rather than paying 5 euros a piece for headsets which you can rent after waiting in a line at the museum.  This app has its ups and its downs but overall we really appreciated it.  We loved that you have the option to listen to it or read.  We chose to read a) because it helped us pay attention better and b) because we forgot our headphones in the apartment.

On our way, we stopped at this little patisserie I had been eyeing just a few doors down from our apartment.  It's decor was mostly white with pops of pink and orange and most of the pastries were covered by large glass domes.  This was probably one of the best decisions we made the whole trip.  We both got chocolate croissants and we were instantly hooked.  These weren't just any croissants, they were the perfect balance of soft, flaky, buttery goodness with semi sweet chocolate I have ever had.  I guess I should also mention that I usually don't even like croissants but in Paris they're quite good and these were excellent!  (This particular place we went to seems to have a reputation about town as being one of the best patisseries around, and it's hard to disagree: La Patisserie des Reves)

Upon arrival to the Louvre we realized why people say to get there early.  There was a ridiculous line of people waiting to get in.  Russell had heard there was a "secret" entrance but we never found it.  Luckily our Paris Museum Passes came through and we didn't have to stand in the line at all.  That's right- we could've spent at minimum an hour standing in lines but instead we skipped right ahead, flashed our passes and wasted no time getting to the main event!

We spent about 30 minutes getting oriented to the museum.  Neither of us are very good at directions but when you put both of us together we look like blind mice.  We walked in a large circle about 3 times before figuring it out.  We didn't take as many pictures as we should have (of course) but I will include some pictures that I have found on google images (and I will cite them) so you can see some of the beauty that stood before us.

Psyche Revived by Cupid: This was one of Russell's favorites.  It truly is a beautiful sculpture.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that all of the beautiful fluid movements depicted in these sculptures is actually cold, hard stone.

Borghese Gladiator: This was one of my favorite sculptures.  This is one of the oldest correctly proportioned statues in recorded history- believed to have been created in 100 BCE.  I couldn't believe the accuracy and detail.

Venus de Milo: Also very cool!

Winged Victory of Samothrace: The beauty of this sculpture can only be appreciated when you are standing in front of her.  The story of this statue is also fantastic.  The way the artist was able to portray the drape of fabric is amazing and this statue is quite big!

Crown of Louis XV of France: This crown was actually a disappointment when we realized that the real stones had been removed and the ones in the crown are now only glass...imagining the stones was pretty cool but I wanted to see the real ones!

We then went on to look at A LOT of paintings!  So many in fact that I can't even begin to tell you even half of what we saw.  I can tell you that most of them were quite impressive.  Our favorites were:

The Wedding at Cana was my very favorite!  I think we spent about 20 minutes standing in front of it.  Its placed on the wall opposite of the Mona Lisa which I think was a horrible idea because The Wedding at Cana is extremely huge and grand and complex and the Mona Lisa is, well, small and behind a million feet of glass surrounded by a crowd of smelly people.

The Coronation of Napoleon: Russell's favorite painting since he was a child and visited the Louvre really is a beautiful painting.  Napoleon thought so much of himself that he commissioned the painting which depicts him crowning himself king.  No one did that, I'd say he was pretty tacky.  Anyway, the painting is very beautiful and we probably spend another 20 minutes sitting in front of it.

We were pretty much museum'd out at this point.  I think we spent a little over 3 hours in the museum and barely broke the surface of what there is to see in that awesome place... and we were hungry.  If you haven't figured it out by now, if I'm hungry I can't really do anything else but find food.

We decided to have a big lunch since dinner last night was a flop and we weren't able to go to Lescure. I am so glad we made this decision because Elizabeth was right, the duck confit is to die for.  This tiny little restaurant in the corner of the back of a street has about 5 tables that seat around 10 people.  It doesn't matter if you know the people next to you or not, you get seated family style.  We were seated at the opposite end of a table of business men and women.  The entire restaurant was filled with French people, we were definitely the only non-french speakers in the house, so we knew we were in for a treat!

Our waiter was kind and jovial and was humored by our excitement to eat.  We began our meal with bread, hard sausage, cheese and the best mustard you have ever eaten.  Later we would find that many restaurants had this mustard.  It must come pre-prepared but I've never had anything like it.  We decided to order 1 prix fixe menu and then add 1 entree (we did this a lot because it's usually a great deal but there was no way we could eat 2 full 3 course meals).  A great thing about the prix fixe menu at L'escure was that it came with almost a 1/2 bottle of wine so we had two glasses and split it for the same price it would've cost for each of us to have one glass from the regular menu.

Russell had chicken with rice and tomatoes.  You could tell that the sauce was made in the kitchen and that it had simmered for quite some time.  I had the duck confit.  It was the largest duck leg I have ever seen and it was surrounded by potatoes and cabbage that had been cooked in the duck fat.  When I say there was no food left on my plate, there was literally nothing but a bone.  Uncharacteristic of me I even ate the skin.  I usually don't even eat leg meat and there was a time in my life that I wouldn't eat meat still on a bone.  The meat just fell off and melted in my mouth.  I think I may have had to close my eyes to eat it.  The potatoes and cabbage had so much flavor and the cabbage really brightened the dish (I used the word brightened because it makes me feel like a food critic).  Our waiter was surprised at the amount of food I had put down and I think he may have made fun of me to Russell in French but I have no clue because all I can say is "bon jour" and "merci" and I sound ridiculous when I say it. Our final course was a caramel pot du creme.  I loved it more than Russell, I think.  He's not really into custards but it took me back to my childhood when my mom would make egg custard cups and pudding.  This custard had the perfect texture and the caramel was outstanding.

After our leisurely and satisfying lunch, we were ready to head back out to the museum circuit again.  At the opposite end of the Tullerie gardens is Musee de L'Orangerie which houses a large collection of impressionist work.  I think I preferred this museum to the Louvre because it is smaller and more focused.  I could really absorb what was in front of me instead of switching gears between medium and time period.  I guess what this really means is I don't know that much about art and simple is better.

I really love the impressionist period of art.  I realize that the technique is not as complex as what was happening in the Renaissance but I love the colors and the whimsical nature of it.  I'd rather have an impressionist piece on my wall any day.

The layout of this museum is great.  It leads you right through it's twists and turns and before you know it you've seen the whole collection and it's leading you back up the stairs.  Just when you think you've seen everything there is to see at the Musee de L'Orangerie you realize there is more.  In the upper floor are two white rooms- white ceiling, walls, floor and benches.  Surrounding the walls are the Matisse Water Lily paintings.  The rooms are silent and people are sitting quietly and looking.  These paintings are truly breathtaking.  I don't know what it is about them.  When you look closely there's just spots of paint but when you look at the big picture, those spots make beautifully flowing art.  This was probably one of the day's highlights.

Upon leaving the Musee L'Orangerie, we headed back home again.  We thought we might take a boat ride on the Saine since we finally figured out where to get on a boat, but it had begun to drizzle and we thought the scenery might not be as pretty.  Once home, we regrouped and talked about whether we would take an overnight trip somewhere.  In the end, we decided we'd go to Versailles which is only about 45 minutes from the city by train.  We decided that since we'd been doing so much wandering and getting lost, that there was still more we'd like to see and do in Paris.  In the beginning we thought we'd fly through everything and be ready for a change by the weekend, but we weren't!

We decided that we'd go for a lighter dinner since we'd eaten such a big lunch.  We'd read about a great beer place and since we had determined that we wouldn't be going to Brussels or Bruges, this would be the next best thing.  My map skills told me that the place was very close (it wasn't because I'm terrible at reading maps).  Of couse we got lost walking to dinner but luckily this place was actually open!  We sat outside and had good beer, pretty good sausages and terrible fries and then went inside to split a beer for dessert it was about the sweetest beer I've ever had and I'll probably never order it again.

We stopped at a little crepe stand on the way home and finished off our evening there!

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