MUSÉE DU LOUVRE
The Louvre Palace was built around 1190 as a fortress by King Philippe Auguste’s engineers to protect Paris from invaders. The Louvre remained a fortress until the reign of François I, when the King wanted to regain control of the capital and decided to make the Louvre his main residence. The Louvre underwent extensive renovations during the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XI; however, the later moved to Versailles and the Louvre was abandoned for nearly a century. By the late 1800s, the Louvre had become a site dedicated to arts and sciences, and during the French Revolution, officially opened as a museum to the public. World-famously known for its glass pyramid, this was the latest addition designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei in 1989.
My day began early – I would be visiting the Louvre by myself (as many people recommended). I bought tickets online the night before, which made my waiting time a quarter of everyone else’s. Map and camera in hand, I was ready for my adventure through thousands of years of arts and antiques from all over the world.
My journey through the Louvre began with a collection of Egyptian antiquities, including some amazing mummy portraits, gold amulets, inscriptions on stone and papyrus, and everyday objects. I then found myself in a beautiful courtyard with Greek and Roman sculptures. On the second floor, I began noticing people rushing from room to room, and several signs that led the way to La Jaconde.
The “Monalisa” by Leonardo da Vinci is unarguably the most famous piece in the Louvre, if not, the most recognizable painting in the world. La Jaconde has been a victim of theft and vandalism several times; first being stolen in 1911 by an Italian patriot who believed the work of art should have been displayed in an Italian museum.
Painted in the early 1500s, the Monalisa is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini. Since the 16th century, the painting has been the property of France, acquired by King Francis I. Now bulletproof glass shielded, the Monailsa is viewed by more than 6 milion people each year, and last week, I was one of them.
Much more beautiful and impressive in my opinion is “The Wedding at Cana” by Paolo Veronese, which is displayed right across from The Monalisa. Despite being enormous, the majority of the people in that room would rather pile up and try to take a selfie with da Vinci’s chef-d’oeuvre. To each their own, right? The size, colors, and everything going on in Veronese’s oil painting was simply captivating to me.
Another highlight of the Louvre’s collection for me was “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix. The painting celebrates the French Revolution, and the woman holding France’s flag remains a symbol of liberty and the French republic. Coldplay’s fourth studio album, titled “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends”, uses Delacroix’s painting for its cover, which is a cool fact if you’ve listened to some of the songs in the album – the main themes of Viva la Vida are love, war, and revolution.
Another crowd favorite was the crown diamonds of the coronation of Louis X. I was also stunned by the luxurious Napoloen III apartments. The second and final floor of the Louvre housed more European paintings, including 14th-19th century French paintings as well as German, Flemish, Dutch, Belgian, and Scandinavian paintings. Vising the museum was exhausting (in a good way). I could have definitely spent more time appreciating the lesser-known works of arts – who knows what gem I could have found? Yet, I had only a few days left in Paris, and was ready for the next adventure.
JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG
It was a lovely afternoon, and as I waited for Helena to finish classes, I strolled from the Louvre to the Luxembourg Garden. Along the way, of course I took my time and stopped to admire some charming views: the Seine, the front façade of the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, and of course the beautiful gardens.
The Jardin Du Luxembourg was built in 1612, envisioned by Marie de’ Medici – the widow of Henry IV of France. She purchased the hotel du Luxembourg, and commissioned a French architect to design the gardens in an Italian style. She had spent her youth at the Pitti Palace in Florence and was highly inspired to create something similar in Paris. The gardens have been expanded significantly since then, but remain a popular green area in Paris.
NOTRE DAME + MONTMARTRE
The next day, we met with some of Helena’s friends for lunch at the most delicious Moroccan restaurant. I had never tried Moroccan before, but God I was not disappointed. The restaurant is called Lemechoui du Prince and even the decoration was stunning with garnet color accents and emerald tiles. I learned from Helena that the popular dish is the tajine, a slow-cooked savory stew made with your meat of choice, vegetables, dried fruts, spices, and nuts. I ordered the Casablanca tangine, with chicken, prunes, almonds, dry raisins, honey, and cinnamon. We also ordered a side of couscous and it was the most delicious meal, a perfect combination between sweet and tangy!
Stuffed, we made our way to Notre Dame de Paris – I had first intended to go in the cathedral, but seeing the line I quickly changed my mind. The gothic cathedral is one of the most known churches in the world, and my parents both went to the University of Notre Dame, so I had my reasons for wanting to see it. The gargoyles were exactly how I pictured them to be. The east side of the cathedral was lovely, and so was the little park, but of course the western façade was stunning too! I’ll definitely have to return to see the interior.
We finished the day with a visit to Montmartre, a hill in the 18th arrondissement and the highest point in the city. Now a popular nightclub district, during the Belle Époque artists such as Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso lived and worked in Montmartre. The beautiful Sacré-Coeur Basilica was illuminated, and dozens of people gathered on the stairs drinking wine, and singing to a reggae group who played “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. We sat on the stairs to take in the view, and even though my camera had ran out of battery (typical) I took a few seconds to just enjoy the moment. My time in Paris was almost over, yet I had compiled so many memories and felt so many emotions during the trip that would last a lifetime… I felt very grateful to fulfilling one of my biggest dreams and visiting this wonderful city!
THE LAST HOURS
My train was not leaving until the evening, so on my last morning in Paris, Helena and I took a walk to the Eiffel Tower to see it one last time during the day. The sun was finally shinning again, and the tower looked as beautiful as ever. I cannot state enough how much I loved this city; Audrey Hepburn was right, Paris is always a good idea. On our way to the station, we stopped for more croissants – even the mundane feels so magical when you are in Paris. And to quote my friend Sarah, who confessed she was feeling a little homesick, “Even if you are having a bad day in Paris, you’re still in Paris.”