Ianna goes to Europe: Le Louvre et Les Macarons
We knew our last full day in Paris was predicted to be a rainy one, so we planned to spend it inside the Louvre. Thanks to our collection of travel guides, we went through the underground shopping mall, le Carrousel du Louvre, to one of the underground entrances. Still a line, but not as long as the one outside the pyramid, exposed to the elements. We stayed dry and cozy, and soon we were at a kiosk purchasing our tickets.
Public Service Announcement: We had the Rick Steves audio tour cued up on our iPhones, but decided to download the advertised Louvre app so we could look up information for any detours we might make. This was a mistake, as the free wifi at the Louvre, limited to the app, would only let you download the app itself, and not the content. Unless you download the app AND content before you visit, it's not worth the money.
I knew the museum was massive, but I was still surprised at the size, and the entrance. Museums I've visited before have one entrance. The Louvre has three. Once you pass through security to the underground atrium, you use your ticket to enter at one of the three wings, which ultimately are all connected by labyrinthine passages and stairs.
We paused for a quick lunch in the atrium before diving into the collections. And even though we were at one of the busiest tourist attractions in the city, the pre-made sandwiches we picked up in the atrium were delicious, on perfectly crisp and chewy bread. (How do you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. Oh, symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way. —Colette in Ratatouille)
We followed Rick Steves around the museum, pausing for a detour only once, into the Ancient Egypt collection, which neither Ian or I wanted to miss.
It felt like we were traveling along a timeline more vivid than anything in a school textbook with its flat photographs. Each time period and culture illustrated with countless pieces of priceless artifacts and artwork. That bust of Caesar, that exact piece of stone, was in existence when Jesus walked the earth. That statue watched over ancient cultures that have come and gone, leaving behind only art and ruins. That painting was commissioned by His Imperial Majesty Napoleon I.
Rick Steves guided us to several of the museum's most famous pieces, but none more so than the Mona Lisa. We were warned that she was smaller than one might expect, so what surprised us the most was the setting. The crowd pressing up to the security line with cameras popping up everywhere was a scene you expect to see on television coverage of the red carpet at an award show. It is almost unbelievable that a centuries old painting can command as much attention as a current celebrity. But when you see Leonardo da Vinci's work, you understand why.
Everyone talks about the Mona Lisa, but the painting that captivated me was The Virgin and Child with St. Anne. (I can now imagine what the Mona Lisa looks like under the layers of varnish.)
We also got to see Napoleon's Coronation for the second time; a copy painted by the original artist hangs at Versailles. How someone paints a canvas on such a grand scale is mind boggling.
We finished our tour with Michelangelo's famous slaves, then headed back out into the rain to cross off a few final items from our must-see in Paris list.
We stopped by the original Angelina for a last cup of le chocolat chaud l'africain, and Ladurée for the world famous macarons. The challenge was to pick just eight flavors for our box, while neat pyramids of the famous treats beckoned from the other side of the glass.
Laden with packages, we headed back to Montmartre, stopping for dinner at a café in Montmartre to enjoy our final dinner in Paris. We took our time to enjoy every bite of mussels with tomatoes and garlic (him) and steak-frites (me) before heading back to the apartment to pack our things, so we would be ready for our 10 a.m. check out time.
The next morning, we lugged our suitcases down all 75 stairs, took a photo in front of the building's beautiful blue front door, glanced up for one last look at le moulin, and paused for one final crêpe breakfast at the café at the bottom of our street. A quick metro ride (with our prized Navigo passes), and we were at the train station waiting to depart for Germany.
We bid au revoir (and, avec optimisme, à bientôt) to Paris, and got ready to say hallo to Ren (with our tasty macarons to help keep us occupied on the train, of course).
See all our photos from Paris on Flickr, and catch up on our trip posts.
*We turned our celebrity couple name, bestowed by my brother Caleb, into an Instagram hashtag (#iannagoestoeurope) and now it's virtually impossible to refer to our trip in any other way.