Around Paris

Today I had cheese baguette for breakfast.  Even with coffee the cost only came out to €5.  The cheese smelled funny though, and I’m not sure if I will be able to bring myself to eat it again.

I visited the Louvre Museum today.  Shame on me, but I had forgotten that the Mona Lisa is located at the Louvre.  It didn’t take long for me to figure it out though because there were signs pointing to it’s location all around the grand museum.  The painting is housed in the Denin section, and as I made my way there, a foul stench filled the air.  It smelled like someone had exploded a stink bomb in the stairwell. I tried to fan it away, but to no avail.  I think the smell was a combination of body odor and the odors emanating from the nearby restrooms.  I finally made it to the Mona Lisa, the popularity of which was immediately evident.  A huge crowd was gathered around Da Vinci’s masterpiece.  Despite numerous signs prohibiting photography, everyone’s cameras were out and clicking away.  She, Mona Lisa, must feel like such a celebrity, I thought, and she plays the part well with her smug smile and coy glance.  I remember reading somewhere that people tend to identify one piece or symbol of an entire field as the epitome of the whole.  As in, the Colosseum in Rome may represent all of Roman architecture, Hamlet represents all of literature, etc.  The Mona Lisa, I read, stands as the epitome of art for many people, especially for those who are not very knowledgeable of art.  What a presumptuous honor, I mused.  The crowd jostled to get closer to the painting.  The cameras clicked away.  Mona Lisa smiled smugly from behind her glass panel.

I learned that the Venus de Milo is also located at the Louvre.  I tracked it down to find a crowd gathered around it as well.  For a piece that’s not even whole – it’s missing both arms – it’s quite popular.  There is a certain tension in the body as it twists upward that I did find charming.  Another sculpture that really stood out for me was of a lion attacking a man who is trapped with one hand caught in a crack of a massive, broken tree.  I forget the man’s name, but the story goes that in his old age he tried to prove his strength by breaking the tree apart.  He used to be a renowned athlete, and he could not accept that old age had weakened him.  His hand got stuck, and wild animals devoured him.  The sculpture is very impressive.  The ferocity of the lion with its taught body and unforgiving jaws and the man’s anguish as he twists his body to ward off the hungry beast with one hand are beautifully sculpted.  The piece also conveys a poignant message about the inevitability of old age.  We must all face it eventually.

I checked out the Islamic art exhibit as well, and I found it quite sparse.  The museum had some finely crafted swords and knives with beautiful hilts and blades on display, but not much else of interest.

I made my way through the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden).  It’s a long stretch of grass, shrubs, and trees adjacent to the Louvre.  I followed the dirt path through the park.  I came across a large fountain in the center of the park where several boys were floating miniature sailboats.  A man stood with a cart of sailboats nearby, renting them out to the kids.  The boys circled the fountain carrying long poles, which they used to prod the boats away from the sides.  Walking further I arrived at the Place de la Concorde where the Egyptian obelisk stands.  I remember learning about this obelisk when I visited Luxor, Egypt in 2006.  Mohammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt at the time, gave it to France in exchange for a clock tower.  The clock never worked, but here it was, that very same missing obelisk.

I took a bus to Champs Elysees earlier tonight.  It is a brighly-lit avenue that is known for its shopping.  It starts at the massive Arc de Triomphe Etoile, which was built by Napolean to commemorate his victories.  Walking down the avenue I came across a throng of people waiting in line outside a Virgin Megastore.  I asked a security guard what was going on, but he didn’t speak English.  He still wanted to help and said hesitatingly, “Arapotre?”  I didn’t understand him, so I asked a girl who was waiting in line.  Turned out they were all waiting for the launch of the next and last book in the Harry Potter series.  Of course.

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