Paris with my mother (part 3: up and art)

Monday

We planned out Monday as the “day to visit the Louvre.” Not that we were especially ambitious — we weren’t planning to walk every floor or see everything. (According to CNN, taking one minute for each displayed work would take you over two months.) But Mom’s bucket list included seeing the Mona Lisa, so away we went!

We took the train (RER B to Chatelet-Les Halles, then Metro #1 to Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre) and walked in from Rue Rivoli. Again, the Paris Museum Passes saved the day, as we went right in with virtually no line other than the security check. We headed into the lobby and picked up a map so we could figure out which way and how far to go.

I got turned around by the map (they repeat room numbers across sections), so we ended up on the wrong side of the museum at first. So we walked around to the other side, seeing the Winged Victory of Samothrace as we passed through. At least we got to see many interesting pieces of art and history as we worked our way to the room we sought.

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See? CRAZY.

And then we were there. If you haven’t been there, I can sum it up thusly: IT’S CRAZY. You enter the room from one end, and the Mona Lisa is at the other. There are amazing paintings on the other walls, which receive only fleeting attention. There’s no roped-off line in front of the Mona Lisa to guide traffic; instead, a mob just pushes forward to get the perfect picture. (Not view, picture. The Louvre started allowing visitors to take pictures some time ago, resulting in a mess of people snapping photos with their cameras or phones, sometimes using selfie sticks.) Mom ducked into the scrum and managed to get her view and picture before re-emerging.

After that, we decided to see the Venus de Milo sculpture and then make our way out. More walking, more stairs, more walking. Venus de Milo was slightly less crowded, but it was the same kind of picture-taking mob. From there, we had only to exit — ha! IT WAS MILES TO THE EXIT. So we got only as far as the Carrousel du Louvre (an underground mall) before we needed to rest. Mom picked up a few souvenirs and we had some dessert and coffee. At this point, both our nerves were frayed by the distance, the people, and each other. So we had it out — not yelling, not disrespecting, just… had it out. And that was great. Because from that point forward, we better understood each other and were more solicitous, and frankly friendlier.

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The mini-Arc before the storm.

This was tested immediately by going outside to get a few pictures of the pyramids and the mini-Arc at the edge of the Tuileries Gardens. We watched the sky as a storm rushed in, first with rain and then with hail. We huddled under my umbrella and ducked under cover, going back into the mall to go to the train station and home.

Dinner that night was demi-smoked salmon poached in tomatoes, pesto, green beans, shallots and red pepper over tagliatelle, with some wine and chocolate for dessert. The salmon was completely worth the price I paid — retaining its smokiness while taking on all the flavors of the sauce. A fitting end to the day.

Tuesday

I went out early for croissants, only to find the patisserie I had been frequenting was closed. What to do? Oh, right – this is Paris. I went next door, to another patisserie for our breakfast.

Our day was anchored by our only pre-arranged tour, which was for the Eiffel Tower. Mom wanted to return to the Musée d’Orsay after our short visit, so that meant getting out the door early. We took the train to the museum and were inside after about five minutes in line. Mom made a beeline for the rooms we missed on Van Gogh and Gauguin and got to see many of the paintings she wanted. After a swing through the gift shop, we were back outside.

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Believe it or not, this is real and not a painting.

We decided to switch transportation to Uber at this point to make it a little easier before the walking tour to the Eiffel Tower. After a quick stop for coffee, we joined the tour a few minutes before it started. I had purchased the tour from Fat Tire Tours, which offered what we wanted: priority access to the elevator and access to the summit (many tours go only to the second level). The walk from the tour start to the Tower was longer than we expected, but not bad at all, and well worth it to get into the priority line for the elevator. Our tour guide gave us plenty of information about the city, which worked especially well from the second level where we could see so much of Paris. Also, we basically had to go all the way around it as part of the line to the summit elevators. But it was well worth it to get the view from that high up.

IMG_3202After descending the Tower, Mom decided she was up for visiting the Musée Marmottan Monet. This wasn’t on our original plan, but we saw an advertisement for an exhibit called “L’Art et l’Enfant” and thought it was worth checking out. So we took the train up to the 16th Arrondissement for a late lunch and the museum. Mom proclaimed she had the best burger ever at the café/diner/bakery at which we had lunch (sorry America!). The museum itself was very nice. In addition to the exhibit, which spanned centuries, we walked through over one hundred Monet paintings. His son had donated his entire collection to the museum, giving it its name.

We used Uber again to get back to our Airbnb, which was especially valuable given the distance involved. After a brief rest, we had dinner: Steak with green beans, carrots, mushrooms, and shallots, and the rest of our red Burgundy. And so to bed, extremely satisfied with how successful and full the day had been.

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