The 45 minute Louvre tour
So, I was in Paris this week. Aside from walking along the Champ Elysees enjoying the first warmth of spring, I had a training to attend. And the wildest party I have been since err… the last McKinsey training (Note to self: Why do we have the wildest parties?)
Anyhow, on the last day I decided to do my favourite Parisian walk – Arc du Triomphe to Place de la Concorde to Jardins Tuilleries, the Louvre, and then along the Seine through Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf, Notre Dame ending at the Trocadero overlooking the Eiffel, with a colleague.
When we got to the end of the Tuilleries, he told me that he had never been inside the Louvre! So, he got the 45 minute Louvre tour.
Now, though the Louvre is not my favourite museum (Musee d’Orsay, Villa Borghese, MOMA and the del Prado top the list), it is the one I have visited the most. The reason for that was, of course, during exchange we came to Paris every Friday in time for the “free evening visit for students”. Free being the tune I liked the most, I dragged the guys – much to their dismay- to the Louvre and proceeded to give them a much maligned culture class. That meant that in a month, I could take anyone into the Louvre, proceed to start from the pyramids and take them into a tour that did not begin and end at “This is the Mona Lisa. Thank you all.”
So, here it is, for the delectation of all you fine folk (and for you to sound awfully knowledgeable):
The 45 minute Louvre tour. You are welcome.
Hopefully by now you have gone through security checks and down the sets of escalators into the open foyer under the main Pyramid.
Start at the information desk and grab yourself an information map (in English, or French if you are FancyPants). Take two, if you are like me and crumple them up. Walk with determined steps towards the set of escalators that lead towards the middle wing, Sully.
1) Medieval Louvre: Go to the basement section of Sully (turn left every time) and you will find yourself under the palace and in the old fortress area of the Louvre. The walls are more than a metre thick and made of smooth stone. This are the last remnants of when the Louvre was an armored and moated fort on the banks of the Seine. The pretty chateau had teeth then and how. You will walk around the donjon here, which is essentially a little tower that formed the heart of the fort [13th - 15th century]
2) Egyptian wing: Walk out of the basement and upwards into the Egyptian wing to visit Rameses. There is a standard Sphinx (La tete du roi, corps de lion, as the French put it) in the passage. Say hello and also drop it in conversation that the noses of these statues are typically the first to go, since they lack support. Walk up into the Egyptian wing and go into the tomb. There are still smears of red there that mineral based pigments that were ground out of rock in Upper Egypt. There is also a statue of Horus (he’s the guy with the face of a hawk) in the standard “I am offering this to Amun-Ra” posture (One foot out, both hands extended), wearing the nemes cobra and the headdress of the pharaoh. Lastly, say hi to the Colossus of Rameses the II or the Great. Incidentally, he had red hair. Who said gingers couldn’t rule the world?
3) Venus di Milo: Walk out of Sully and towards Denon on the same floor. You will start seeing Greek statues now. They are easily identifiable since they’re usually naked. Drift sideways to the left and you will find yourself next to the Venus di Milo. Venus (or Aphrodite) is usually identified by the apple she holds in her hands – the one she won from Paris for being the most beautiful woman in the world. This one, of course, has no hands on display.
4) Room of the Caryatids: Move sideways again into the Greek antiquities room and you will find the room of the Caryatids. Two things to see here: The spectacular room itself with its heavily engraved and sculpted pillars (which are women, like the temple of Artemis in the Acropolis) and the resident sculpture of the Recumbent Hermaphrodite. Walk around the statue, gape a bit and leave.
5) Winged Victory of Samuthrace: Walk up the stairs from the Roman and Etruscan antiquities to the Mezzanine. On one of the shallow steps you will find a brass disc with the word Arago (Hello, Da Vinci Code) that marks the Paris meridian (There are others in the courtyard and in Richelieu wing). Walk upwards again and see the gigantic statue of the Winged Victory on a plinth shaped like a ship. She was found off the coast of modern day Turkey and is the Goddess Victory with wings (Duh). Typically, these used to be the mast heads on ships – this was just made in stone.
[To be continued]