Day 18. Orangerie and Louvre.
Today was museum day, pretty much. It was museum day because we looked at the forecast last week and saw the next couple days are going to be in the upper 90's (35C).
We started the day by heading down to the Eiffel Tower so the kids could get their names painted in bright colors by a sidewalk artist. This cost €5 each as opposed to the $25 Jackie spent a couple years ago for Beau to have her name done at Orlando. From the dockside at the Eiffel Tower, we got on the boat again and headed to the Orsay Museum dock.
At the Orsay, we walked toward the Orangerie Museum through the Tuileries gardens. In the middle of the gardens is a café and we decided we needed a snack before entering the museums. Beau has fallen for the "Croque Monsieur", ordering it everywhere we go. I had a large breakfast, so I went light, ordering carpaccio (raw, thin-shaved beef, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and covered with parmesan cheese).
To the Orangerie we went. Elijah and Jackie together with Beau coming with me. We've found it works best to go in pairs rather than all four of us together. Jackie and Elijah had gone on in while Beau and I tarried in the gardens a bit. We entered the short queue for the museum behind a tour group of about 15 middle-school students, mostly girls. They were laughing and cutting up like girls do and the headmaster was trying to keep them in line. He was a 60ish fellow with a strong northern England or Scottish accent. The girls chattered on and Beau was infected by it. "They all sound like Hermione Granger", she whispered to me.
One of the few boys stepped back and addressed us. "Are you from America?" he asked, sounding every bit like Oliver Twist. "Yes we are", I replied. One of the leading girls turned around and asked Beau "Where in the States are you from? My Da' may move us to Michigan." Beau told her we were from Oklahoma and she said "That's smart". "Smart?" I asked. "Smart, you know, 'cool'". Alright, we're from the cool part.
A bit more chatting with the kids, we discovered that they were from Manchester. The boy wanted to know if we played football in Oklahoma. I started to tell him we play a different kind of football mostly when the lead girl chimed in, "They call it soccer in the States and they don't play soccer there." I didn't bother reminding her who won the last World Cup match between England and USA on an own-goal in 2010. UpdateAs Paul Jones and Scott Hume have reminded me, our women's team is also better than England, having won the World Cup only a few weeks ago (while we were in Amsterdam).
The Orangerie is best known as the home for Monet's Water Lilies. You may have seen these in an art book. The thing to know is that there isn't just one painting. There are at least 8. These paintings aren't small canvases, either--they are 6 or 7 feet high (2m+) and some as large as 50 feet long (15m). They vary in primary color, although most have lots of greens and blues, with some flourishes of pink or yellow in them. It's quite calming to be in the room.
The rest of the Orangerie is a mixture of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works donated by the estate of the widow of two famous art collectors. It's a good collection of Sisleys, Cezannes and Renoirs as well as a smattering of Picasso and a few others. Beau is a bit embarrassed by the nudity and turns her head. I told her not to be embarrassed by it because we all came into this world as naked as those paintings and the human body is nothing to be ashamed of or outraged by. She doesn't buy it yet, but perhaps some day.
We left the Orangerie and after a couple text messages discovered that Jackie and Elijah had already left and were in the Louvre, about mile (1.5 km) away. I decided we needed a break, so we took a bicycle taxi between the two.
Ah, the Louvre. It's a really big museum and more than just a bunch of fat babies and Madonnas. We avoided the mad crowd that was only there to see the Mona Lisa and headed toward the sculpture garden, which is excellent. Through other salons devoted to art in different times of Romans and Greeks. A few salons had an assortment of Impressionist works, but not many.
Finally, we decided to brave the masses and see the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa. It's a shame how these two works capture people's imagination when there are so many excellent things to see there. The Mona Lisa is a small painting, about the size of calendar, but there were 300 people queued up to get a selfie in front of it. It's quite disturbing that this is what cultural immersion amounts to these days, but there is nothing to do but look from the sides and sigh.
From Mona Lisa, we walked to a side gallery of the museum where the crowds thinned out again. We found the Egyptian antiquities and looked at the sarcophagus and burial vaults of the ancient Egyptians. This is a very nice part of the museum and I was actually thankful all the masses were elsewhere. From the Egyptian area, we found the treasures of ancient Babylonia, which includes giant 20' (6m) stone columns that signified the kings of ancient Persia. We located the stone with the carving of the Code of Hammurabi, upon which many ideas of modern law are based.
We met up with Jackie and Elijah at a café not far outside the Louvre. We ate and discussed all the things we'd seen during the day. I ordered a charcuterie of mixed meats and cheeses. We do this once or twice a month with my sister Michelle, but this one was quite different. The salami was very greasy and a couple of the lumps were pates. It was difficult to get more than a bite or two of the pate down. The cheeses were mostly good, but I had a little problem with the camembert. The waiter gave me a disapproving cluck for not finishing the pate. I told him there wasn't enough beer in my glass to get it all down.
By this time, it was 9:00 PM and we headed toward the Metro. We exited at the Etoile station, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. We walked through the tunnel to the entrance of the Arc and had our bags checked. The Arc normally requires a visitor to climb 284 steps to the top, but Jackie has been hobbled this trip and is walking with my monopod as a cane, so they let her (and us) take the lift.
The view from the top of the Arc is marvelous. We were there as the sun was setting and there were about a hundred other visitors. We waited in line to take a few photos and Beau used her selfie-stick. Jackie and Elijah rode the lift down while Beau and I took a winding spiral staircase down. At the bottom, I was winded and dizzy.
The walk home was slow on a beautiful night. Traffic was light and the sky was still lit with a faint glow of blue. The time was 11:00 PM when we returned, having walked 24,100 steps.
Something has gone wrong on my camera data card. I'll have to mess with it tomorrow. Fortunately, I pulled all the files from it last night, so at worst I've only lost one day of photos. I have a spare card, so I'll use it tomorrow when we visit the Versailles Palace.