Individual Days - France

Last Full Day of Tour

September 29, 2023

Louvre Museum

Our last full day began with a tour of the Louvre. Rather than stay together as a group, we used Rick Steves’ audio guide.

Sully Wing

While most visitors head straight to the Mona Lisa, we fought the urge and followed Rick Steves’ guide. Our first stop was The Gallery of Antiquities containing Greek and Roman statues. Venus de Milo is one of the most famous statues at the Louvre. It is interesting that when she first arrived in 1821, there was debate on whether her missing arms should be restored, but the idea was abandoned.

We continued to walk through the hall filled with statues from the Golden Age of Greece. Across the hall from the Venus de Milo was the statue of the goddess Athena, Pallas of Velletri. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and war, the protector of Athens.

Venus de Milo
Athena, Pallas of Velletri
Funerary Lion

Denon Wing

We ascended the Daru staircase to the Samothrace Landing to view the Winged Victory of Samothrace. When this statue was excavated in 1863, the statue was broken into over 100 fragments, but no head or arms were found. Additional archaeological digs uncovered a hand, thumb, and one finger. The hand is on display in a case on the landing.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

After a fire in 1661, King Louis XIV ordered the restoration of this portion of the Louvre. The area was called the Gallery of Apollo. Apollo was associated with the Greek god of the sun (Helios), and King Louis XIV was known as the Sun King. A majority of the surface of this room is covered in gold leaf.

The gallery houses paintings, tapestries, royal dinnerware, and the French crown jewels.

Rotunda of the Apollo Gallery
Emerald Necklace from Marie-Louise's adornment 1810

The Salon Carré (Original Salon) is one of the Louvre’s most famous rooms. In 1789, a glass roof was added to provide natural light for viewing the paintings. The Virgin and Child by Pesillino shows Mary and Jesus surrounded by St. Zenobius, St. John the Baptist, St. Anthony, and St. Francis of Assisi. More Italian Renaissance paintings of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus were on display in the Grand Gallery.

The Virgin and Child by Pesellino
Virgin and Child surrounded by two angels, Saint Rose and Saint Catherine by Perugino
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci
The Virgin and Child with the little Saint John the Baptist by Raphael

Our audio tour finally took us to the State Room. There is a good reason it is the Louvre’s largest room – the Mona Lisa is on display there. We entered from the side opposite the painting. It was hard to see because the painting was small, and there were so many people. Glad we followed the audio tour, because the timing was perfect. As we entered the room, the large tour groups were just leaving. Within minutes, we were right up in the front to see the Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

The Red Rooms have some of the largest paintings in the Louvre. The first picture shows a close-up of The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of the Empress Joséphine by Jacques-Louis David. The second picture shows the massiveness of the painting, approximately 20 feet tall and 32 feet wide.

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault

The Michelangelo Gallery displays Michelangelo’s Renaissance Italian sculpture masterpieces. As we entered the gallery, we walked through a large arch (Portal of the Stanga) to view Michelangelo’s slave statues (Rebel Slave and Dying Slave). We continued walking through the Armoury Room containing more statues and a beautiful claw foot bathtub. Now that certainly is a statement piece for a bathroom!

The Slaves by Michelangelo
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova
Mercury by John Bologna

Return to Sully Wing

The Hall of the Caryatids was originally a royal ballroom but now displays a collection of ancient sculptures.

The Caryatids by Jean Goujon
Diane of Versailles
Torture of Marsyas

Sadly, the Egyptian exhibits were closed for restorations, but we were able to see the Great Sphinx of Tanis in the Crypt of the Sphinx.

Great Sphinx of Tanis
Ditches and Dungeon

As we continued, we passed through several rooms containing furniture and art objects from the 18th century. The Art of Living at the French Court rooms shows decorative art objects in context, from chairs to chandeliers to tapestries to tassels. This was how the elite lived.

Theseus and the Bull of Marathon Tapestry

Richelieu Wing

The Cour Marly and Cour Puget are courtyards that house sculptures that were made for gardens and public squares. When I. M. Pei and Michel Macary modernized the Louvre in the 1990s, they added glass ceilings to these courtyards. This allows the look and feel of the outdoors while being protected from the elements.

One of my favorites was the Milo of Croton (third picture). Milo, the famous Greek athlete, was a six-time Olympic champion and won 32 wrestling competitions. According to legend, Milo trained by carrying a calf each day from its birth until it became a full-size ox. He showed off by challenging others to feats of strength. For example, he would hold a pomegranate in one hand and challenge others to take it from him. No one was ever successful. But in his age, his arrogance was his downfall. He saw a tree trunk that had a wedge driven into it. He boasted that he could split the tree with his bare hands, but when he pushed his hand into the tree, the wedge fell out and his hand was caught. Unable to free himself, he was helpless against wild beasts. Legend says he was attacked and killed by wolves, but Puget portrayed his demise with a wild lion attacking. If you look closely, you can see the lion’s teeth and claws digging into Milo’s skin. The statue serves as a reminder of the consequences of pride.

Four Defeated Nations by Martin Desjardins
Milo of Croton by Pierre Puget
Fame Straddles Pegasus (top) and The Seine (bottom) by Antoine Coysevox
Mercury Straddling Pegasus by Antoine Coysevox
Children with a Goat by Jacques Sarazin
Daphne Chased by Apollo by Nicolas Coustou

I got a good chuckle looking at the statue of the two chubby children stuffing food into a goat’s mouth. Next, we ascended the Lefuel Staircase before leaving the museum. Time to walk the gardens and get some lunch.

Fame by Peter Biard
Vénus Médicis

Lunch

After leaving the Louvre Museum, we walked past the gilded bronze statue of Joan of Arc in the Place des Pyramides. We stopped at a lovely neighborhood cafe, Le Musset. We found a table outdoors, both of us facing the street to people watch while we ate. Our server was super patient as we tried to use our limited French vocabulary.

I ordered the Croque Madame, and Mark selected the free-range roast chicken, home fries, thyme, and rosemary jus. Just what we needed to refuel for more exploring.

Domaine National du Palais Royal

The Palais-Royal was originally a French royal palace, but it now serves as the Ministry of Culture, Council of State, and Constitutional Council. We didn’t tour the inside of the buildings but instead walked around the courtyards and gardens where we saw several contemporary art displays.

In the Courtyard of Honor, there were the Columns of Buren and the Spheres of the fountain. The columns were raised and lowered individually, changing the look of the courtyard. Rather than a traditional fountain, water flowed subtly over the spheres.

The scaffolding in the second to last picture is an artwork. With so much restoration work going on in Paris (preparing for the summer Olympics), we thought this was a construction area. We were wrong. The Reflexions installation composed entirely of glass pays homage to builders while inviting the public to reflect on humanity’s role in shaping the world of tomorrow. The artist, Barrois, stated that the work “embodies the essence of light and represents a promise of hope, beauty, and light.” This contemporary art went completely over our heads. Time to head back to the gardens outside the Louvre Museum to see if we have better luck understanding the artwork there.

River Nymph Fountain
Columns of Buren in the Courtyard of Honor
Spheres of the Palais Royal Fountain
Reflexions by Emmanuel Barrois

Jardin des Tuileries

The Tuileries Garden became a public garden adjacent to the Louvre after the French Revolution. Some of the areas were under restoration (the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel), but we were able to stroll around and take in the scenery. There were some flowers, but we can just imagine how beautiful the area would be in the spring or summer.

Diana's Nymph by Louis Auguste Edmond Lévêque
Theseus Fighting the Minotaur by Etienne Jules Ramey
The Sons of Cain by Paul Landowski

We walked through the 6th arrondissement towards the Panthéon.

Panthéon

The Panthéon was originally built as a church but was transformed into a mausoleum for the remains of distinguished French citizens after the French Revolution. We started our tour by heading to the dome for spectacular views of Paris.

Town Hall
Corinthian Columns
Sacré-Cœur Basilica perched on hilltop
Saint Étienne du Mont
Joan of Arc at the Stake in Rouen by Jules Lenepveu
To the Orators and Publicists of the Restoration by Laurent Honoré Marqueste
The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve
Foucault Pendulum
To the Glory of the Generals of the French Revolution by Paul-Jean-Baptiste Gasq
The National Convention by François-Léon Siccard
The Unknown Dead Heroes of France by Louis-Henri Bouchard

Saint Étienne du Mont

Next to the Panthéon, we visited the Saint Étienne du Mont, a church and shrine of St. Genevieve.

Final Group Dinner

For dinner, we met at La Terrasse Ecole Militaire, a quintessential Parisian brasserie. Lisa had reserved tables in the upstairs dining room with a panoramic view. We reminisced about our 21 days together. Lisa gave each of us thank you cards written in various languages that we learned throughout our trip.

For our first course, Mark chose the French Onion Soup, and I selected the Tomatoes and Burratina.

For the main course, Mark and I both chose the Roasted Chicken Suprême and mashed potatoes.

Desserts included chocolate molten cake and upside-down apple cake. A sweet ending to a wonderful tour.

Eiffel Tower at Night

After dinner, most of the group decided to head back towards our hotel to view the Eiffel Tower from a distance. We wanted a closer view, so we hopped on the Metro outside the restaurant and headed to Pont de Bir Hakeim bridge. We walked over the bridge, along the Seine, through the Jardins du Trocadéro, and found a viewing spot at the Palais de Chaillot.

France Reborn by Holger Wederkinch

We took the Metro to the Louvre so we could view the area at night. Paris at night was magical. Even from our hotel room, we were able to get one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower before falling sleep.

We walked 13.3 miles today.

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