Monday, May 31, 2010

Lost in the Louvre

After a most pleasant loooong walk along the city's most-est, mentioned by hubby in the previous post, we reached the Louvre Museum. Contrary to what we thought, it was open on Mondays. Closed on Tuesdays.

Except for Nikki and Noemi, who did some errands, the five of us quickly decided to get tickets and spend the rest of the afternoon inside it till closing time.

The main entrance to the museum is through the large glass and metal pyramid. Below is an underground lobby where you can buy entrance tickets at 9.50 euros each for a full day.

From the underground lobby, you take an escalator going up to any of the three wings of the Louvre: Sully, Richeliu and Denon.The signs are big, you won't miss them.

Because the Louvre is enormous with thousands of works of art--according to its website, 35,000 in all plus 380,000 objects--we agreed that the first thing we wanted to see was the Mona Lisa. It was impossible to see everything in three hours anyway. Not even in a day.

I looked up the lobby and vaguely remembered the sign Richeliu from my first visit with Gino. "Let's go there," I said. I wasn't sure about it, but I thought it sounded, uh, very French. Besides, any entrance would take us to the same places. Correct. But with the size of the Louvre, that could mean a big difference in time.

Here's a piece of advice: If you plan to visit the Louvre, read up prior to going there. Or check out Rick Steve's website for tips. Inside the Louvre, you can easily get lost in wonder. Or simply get lost and wander!

After walking for some time through halls and alleys and admiring great collections, we stopped to check where we were.

"We're on the other side," April said. The Mona Lisa was in Denon, the opposite wing.

Bob and I were getting tired. We had been walking since morning and wanted to take a break. "You can go ahead," we told the younger ones as we looked for a place to sit down. I changed into my slippers too.

I found a bench to rest my tired legs while
reviewing the map.

Although we were getting impatient to get to the Mona Lisa, we were amazed by many interesting murals, artifacts and works of famous artists, several of whom were familiar to my artist husband. He explained artsy things to me, I thought it was better than renting an audio guide that would overload me with information. We kept appreciating the genius that created those works centuries ago.

Finally, we found the Mona Lisa after asking a uniformed museum staff. Tip: If you want to see the Mona Lisa, go to the wing called Denon.

When we finally found this famous painting with the famous smile, we could only frown. Both our cameras had run out of batteries. Along with a crowd of people taking pictures of this glass-encased painting (flash not allowed), we simply spent a few minutes in front of the painting. I was sure Warren or Michelle would be taking its pictures.

The Mona Lisa painting was smaller than I thought
and cordoned off. Certain people were probably given
special privilege to go closer. (Photo above, and a few
others here, were taken by Michelle).

A tour of the Louvre will not only make you tired. It will make you hungry. Bob and I decided to eat at one the museum's cafes and bought a large baguette with ham and cheese. Famished, he took a big bite. "Sobrang kunat! (What a tough bread!)." We ended up taking mini-bites which meant our hunger took a long time to be satisfied. I suggest you bring your own snacks. Bring bottled water too. Then take a break outside by the fountains or in the lobby.

Recharged, we were ready to go back inside, this time to see Venus de Milo. Bob wasn't that enthusiastic, but, hey, when else would he have the chance to see this famous sculpture? I checked the map and led the way to Sully.

Wrong again. It took me a while to figure out where we were. I was normally good with maps but not with the Louvre one. The numbers confused me. But with each mistake, I began to understand the map's logic.

So Venus de Milo is also in Denon! And it was not very far from the Mona Lisa. We could have seen it earlier.

Finally, we entered this hall with several sculptures arranged in a row on each side. Denon, I thought. As soon as I saw a sculpture with missing limbs, I excitedly pointed out to hubby, "There it is! Venus the Milo!"

Bob turned around. "That's a guy!" he exclaimed and chuckled.

"Bakit babae ba yun? (Why, is it female?)" Why would I ask a stupid question like that? Of course I knew Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, not a drag queen. But this boo-boo will go in our book of blunders--Nikki says blonde moments--perhaps to be recalled for a long time...

This is VENUS!

It seems the Louvre did not only make me tired, sweaty and disoriented. Somewhat dumb too. Effect of too many naked or partially clothed statues with missing limbs and other parts?

Male or female? Another famous sculpture, Nike.

I think I saw more of the Louvre just by getting lost inside it. I ended up in halls I did not see the first time. I'm sure there's still more to see and appreciate. For next time.

We went out of the museum exhausted and visually satiated. Bob and I were was so so ready to go home. Warren, April and Michelle were tired too but still had energy to do jumping stunts for the camera. Young people.

For those of you who will take a self-guided tour of the Louvre, sans an audio guide, and you want to see the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo, go to Denon wing.

Remember, de name is Denon.

Previous, ...and Paris by day

Sunday, May 30, 2010

... and Paris by day

When in Paris for the first time, you'd like to see the most famous tourist spots you've only read about or seen on TV or in the movies. This was my second time, but I was only too willing to retrace the steps that Gino and I had taken before. I don't think tourists like me will ever have enough of the city. I thought it would be good to have hubby, a first-timer, write his impressions of Paris by day. It would be interesting to read an artist's take. So, Bob, take it away...

When the Big ET, the Eiffel Tower, finally came into view that first night in Paris—after emerging from the labyrinthine subway and an exhilarating first ride on the Metro (dirty, smelly, crowded, but fun!)—I thought to myself, "I guess you're not in Kansas anymore, Bobing!". Holy cow! What a sight! Although I've seen it like a billion times in pictures and movies, man, there's nothing like the real thing. There it was, the icon of Paris, all lit up by a million yellow lights.

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

It was drizzling and a huge crowd was gathered at the Trocadero plaza to marvel and of course take snapshots of the famous landmark. I was amused to overhear snatches of Tagalog mixed with many other languages as tourists posed, jostled and pointed. Oohs and ahhs all around. Hawkers of all kinds of trinkets and miniature Eiffel souvenirs bugged us incessantly but we didn't mind. We were wide-eyed innocents in Paris and they could push their wares on our faces all they wanted.

We noticed how there were parts of the tower that were not lit up and surmised that there may be some restoration going on. Suddenly, like a giant Christmas tree, the tower burst into glittering, flashing lights as if a thousand paparazzi perched on the tower started taking pictures of some famous celebrity emerging from a limo. The crowd goes Wow! as a hundred flashes go off. It was cute, I mean the disco lights on the Eiffel, very sweet eye candy.

And it was like that for this fresh-off-the-banca tourist for the most part of the trip: like a little kid in a candy store, everywhere I turned, PERFECTION. Paris is a visual delight, so many artful details in even the most unexpected places. I was lost in the details. Is it like this for all first-timers?, I wondered.

Often I would get left behind by the group because I was too engrossed in some detail on a building or a statue. No art education would be complete without a grand tour of France and Italy, I think. If only I'd had this experience back in college, I wouldn't have ended up even for a short stint, in advertising.

Paris is a work of art. No wonder the fame and glory. I took tons of pictures, which I am now at the time of writing still editing and "enhancing". (Lesson #1: Do not bring a cheap camera (even if it's just a back-up one) on your first trip to Europe, to save you heartache after when you review your photos. Lesson #2: bring your own laptop to transfer your digital pics to at the end of each day. It's such a hassle for the other person to do this for you. Thanks loads to Warren and Michelle, my nephew and niece.)

I loved all the places we went to and I didn't really even bother to ask about the significance or historical value of each one. I was just soaking it all in visually. From the imposing L'Arc de Triomphe, on elegant Champs Elysées with its swanky shops and fashionistas on parade, to the Grand Palais...

...the Alexandre Bridge (the most beautiful bridge in Paris) with its golden horses charioteers and black cherubs and naked women, and those iconic street lamps...

...on to Paris' largest square Place de la Concorde with its oldest monument, the Egyptian obelisk, and fountain of black green and gold...

...the city's oldest garden, Jardin de Tuileries (which Van Gogh had painted)...

and the Louvre! Holy mother of pearl! (I should've trained for a marathon before I did the museum, what a "hike" that was.)

The French have finesse, I observed, from the photographic coverings on the buildings that were being renovated, to the manhole covers and door knockers, everything was done in good taste and elegance. As Nikki would often interject with glee, "Ooh la la!"


(Hubby will be writing in this series again. Thanks, Michelle, for the photos above.)

Previous, Paris by night

Friday, May 28, 2010

Paris by night

The night Bob and I arrived, Nikki took our group to Palais de Chaillot, also named Trocadero, situated on top of a hill, for a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower.

I think the Eiffel Tower is a must-see at night. It is a must-see at daytime too, but at night you'll see the lofty Tower in all its sparkling glory. You'll be scintillated when the lights flicker for 10 minutes on the hour even as the spotlight at the top continues to beam across the sky. I was!

Awesome! In the foreground are the Varsovie fountains in the Trocadero Garden.

We walked down the the steps through the Trocadero Garden and crossed the Pont d'Iéna or Iéna Bridge.

Bob and me on Pont-d'Iéna (photo by Michelle)

To cap the evening, we took a boat cruise that started near the foot of the Eiffel Tower. This one-hour sightseeing cruise on the Seine River gave us a view at night of several historic buildings and monuments along the river banks and several ornate bridges crossing the Seine.

We took a boat cruise operated by Bateaux Parisiens,
11 euros per person. (photo by Michelle)

There's a bridge called Pont-Marie, also known as the bridge of lovers. According to legend, if you kiss under Pont-Marie and wish for eternal love, it would be granted. I actually saw a couple kiss as our boat passed under this bridge while La Vie En Rose was playing. Très romantique!

You can choose to take a lunch cruise or dinner cruise and enjoy authentic French cuisine for a higher price of course. Bring your sweetie. According to those who have done this, the food is fabulous, prepared by a great chef and his team. Delish!

If you want to go on a cheaper date, just sit by the river bank and watch the boats go by. Then walk over to one of the bridges. Kurips! 

Regardless, Paris is Paris. It offers a wide gamut of sightseeing and romantic choices. If you have money to splurge, you can go on the higher end. If not, there are many public sites to have a great time for free.

Ahh, Paris by night. The most-lit city in the world, hence, nicknamed City of Light. La Ville-Lumière. I fell in love with it. I dream of going back.

Next, Paris by day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

French connection

A few weeks ago, six family members on my hubby's side traveled to Paris where a niece is finishing her MA this year. These included my sis-in-law and her daughter from the Philippines, a nephew and niece from the US, and Bob and me from Canada. There were more of us originally in this reunion of sorts, but things came up and others backed out.

Seven was still a good number and a lot of fun. We all stayed at Nikki's apartment in Rueil Malmaison located in the Paris suburbs.

Our band of seven consisted of (L-R) Warren, Michelle,
Nikki, Noemi, myself, April and hubby on the cam

Prior to the trip, many emails went back and forth until we found a happy compromise considering our time, budget, and travel preferences. In the end, we agreed on Paris, Brittany and Normandy in Northern France...

Map of France (adapted from

...then the Amalfi Coast in Campania, Southern Italy.

Map of Italy (adapted from

Except for Nikki, we all had "open jaw" tickets. Bob and I were scheduled to fly out of Rome and the others out of Naples.

In France, I always found it convenient and reassuring to be with someone who understood and spoke the language. Two years ago, when I visited my son Gino in Provence, he did all the talking. (You may read about our adventures and misadventures in my blog entries starting October 2007). This time around, it was Nikki. Ooh la la!

Their fluency in the language never failed to impress me. How in the world did they learn to speak like that? They sounded so confident in talking with bus drivers, waiters, stall vendors, ticket counter agents... I, on the other hand, could only say Bonjour and Merci. After that, I went back to looking dumb.

It was indeed very helpful to be with someone who spoke French in France, but there was an added advantage if that someone was living in-country. First, we had a place to stay, never mind if some had to sleep in the living room.

Noemi opening the door to Nikki's apartment.

Second, we not only had a spokesperson, we also had a travel guide who could reliably navigate the city streets and the Paris Metro!

Waiting for our ride at the Charles de Gaulle station

Nikki organized the France leg of our holidays and did it well. I will write about the highlights of our French escapade in my next entries.