Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 54: Paris, France
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Day 53: Paris, France
Day 54: Paris, France
Day 55: Paris, France
Day 56: Paris, France
Day 57: Flying Home



Hotel Moderne St. Germain


Cloudy with a high of 17°C


Day 54: Saturday, October 28    Paris, France

The Louvre

We awoke to a cool, cloudy day and had a good complementary breakfast in the hotel.  We caught the Metro - which is a wonderful way to get around Paris by the way - to the Louvre Museum and arrived at 9:00 am to beat the crowds.  One of our guide books suggested entering via the Carousel du Louvre shopping mall which is underneath the Louvre and accessed from the Palais-Royal Metro station, instead of using the main entrance.  This turned out to be a great idea as we did not have to wait in line.  Because of our destinations on this day, it was one of the very few days that Ken wore pants.

Panorama of two photos of the Louvre and the Glass Pyramid

One of the largest museums in the world, and possibly the most famous of them all is the Louvre. Situated in the 1st arrondissement, at the heart of Paris, this palace is both from an architectural point of view as from an arts perspective one of the must see sights in Paris. It displays about 300,000 works, among them some world-famous like the Mona Lisa from Leonardo da Vinci, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. The first time the immense collection was displayed was in 1789, during the revolution when the Revolutionary Committee decided to open the King's arts collection to the public. The Louvre was built in several stages. It was first built in the sixteenth

century when the Royal family started to move near the fortress of the Louvre. The original keep was then destroyed and it was replaced by a palace.  The main architect was Pierre Lescot, who was appointed in 1546 by the king. The immense building had 2 courtyards and was 2 stories high. Its architecture combines French and Italian features. About a decade later, Catherine de Medici started with another palace project, the Tuileries on the west side of the Louvre. Later, during the second empire, between 1853 and 1857, the Louvre was massively extended by Visconti and Lefuel.

Ken on the staircase leading up to the main entrance to the Louvre

The latest addition to the Louvre was the Glass Pyramid entrance, one of the finest examples of a combination of modern and historic architecture. On request of the late French President Mitterrand, it was designed by the renowned American architect I. M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to come in on the underground floor. It has received mixed reviews, as it contrasts sharply with the design of the surrounding buildings.  The pyramid covers the Louvre entresol and forms part of the new main entrance into the museum.

Kathryn, in green sweater, in front of the Glass Pyramid
Deciding how to spend your time at the Louvre is a real problem.  With over 300,000 works on site, it takes days to see everything.  Unfortunately we only had about three hours so we saw all the really famous paintings and sculptures and then visited a couple of wings that contained art that we were interested in.  If you ever plan to visit the Louvre, do your homework well in advance and make a plan. 
For more information see
You are not allowed to take flash photos in the Louvre and no photos are allowed at all in the Apollo Gallery and in the Denon wing (where the Mona Lisa is located).  The Mona Lisa surprised Ken because it is so much smaller than he thought - 77cm by 53 cm.  It is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bullet proof glass and a formidable railing as you can see in the small photo at right which I found on the Internet. It may be small but the Mona Lisa's enigmatic expression, which seems both alluring and aloof, has given the portrait universal fame.

The Mona Lisa

We exited up the staircase under the pyramid and went out to the courtyard to take in the scenery, where Ken took the photos in the panorama at the top of the page. Just west of the Louvre is the Tuileries Garden which covers about 25 hectares.

I did take several photos at the Louvre wherever I could.  The more famous ones are in the slide show below while the unknown works are in the photo gallery below.  Click on a thumbnail for a larger view.

We jumped on the Metro to go to buy tickets to the Folies Bergère, a Parisian music hall which was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s through the 1920s.  Shows featured elaborate costumes; the women's were frequently revealing, and shows often contained a good deal of nudity.  When we got off the train, Ken got his sense of direction twisted and headed off the wrong way, map in hand.  Kathryn knew he was going the wrong way but foolishly let him have his way.  After wandering for awhile, Ken listened to
Folies Bergère
Kathryn and we found the theatre.  We wanted to see something that was different and thought we would enjoy this type of famous French 'culture', so we bought tickets for the next night.  Luckily, just as we left the theatre, ken noticed that we had purchased tickets to Cabaret, a musical which was now running at the Folies Bergère.  It seems the burlesque type shows had stopped running here in the 90's.  We had already seen performances of Cabaret in Canada and Kathryn had to practically beg to get our money back.
So it was back on the Metro to the community of Montmartre to get ticket to Moulin Rouge.  Moulin Rouge (French for Red Mill or windmill) is a traditional cabaret, built in 1889. Situated in the red-light district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy, it is recognized by the large red imitation windmill on its roof.  Over the past hundred years, the Moulin Rouge has remained a popular tourist destination, offering musical dance entertainment for adult visitors from around

Moulin Rouge

the world. Much of the romance from turn-of-the-century France is still present in the club's decor.  Unfortunately, it was sold out until Tuesday and that was the day we were leaving -strike two.  Pigalle has long been notorious as a popular hotspot for the more risqué crowd.  We walked around and looked at the various sex shops, peep shows, strip clubs, cabarets and general adults-only, X-rated adventures.
We then walked a few blocks north uphill to Montmartre's other famous location, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.  The "Basilica of the Sacred Heart" is a Roman Catholic basilica and popular landmark in Paris, dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The basilica is made of Chateau-Landon stone which secretes calcite when wet and bleaches the facade white.  The basilica is located at the summit of the Montmartre butte and, next to the Eiffel Tower, is the highest point in the city. The Sacré-Coeur district offers many spectacular views on Paris. Its village-like streets and squares, its cafés and restaurants, its painters on the Place du Tertre attract many tourists.  You can walk up the steep steps to the top of the
Sacré Coeur.  Ken can be seen in the arch on the right with his hand raised.
hill but we chose to ride the funicular cable railway which travels up the steep hill side, and which was included with our Métro pass.
We rode the Metro back to our hotel and got off at the St.-Michel station.  The used-book sellers ('les bouquiniste') you see along the quais of the Seine around Notre-Dame are a Parisian fixture. It seems they've been here forever — at least since the mid-1500s, when shops and stalls lined most of the bridges in Paris. In 1557, they were labeled as thieves for selling forbidden Protestant pamphlets during the Wars of Religion (Parisians were staunchly Catholic). First using wheelbarrows to transport and sell their goods, these hardy entrepreneurs eventually fastened trays with thin leather straps to the parapets of the bridges. After the Revolution, business boomed when entire libraries were seized from

Bouquinistes on Quai St.-Michel with Notre Dame in the background

nobles or clergymen and ended up for sale cheap on the banks of the Seine. In 1891, bouquinistes received permission to permanently attach their boxes to the quaysides. Today, the waiting list is eight years to become one of Paris' 250 bouquinistes. Each bouquiniste is given four boxes (boîtes — each 6 feet long, 14 inches high, and 2.5 feet deep), and rent is paid only for the stone on which the boxes rest (less than €100 per year). The most coveted spots are awarded based on seniority. Maintenance costs, including the required vert wagon paint (the green color of old train cars), is paid by the bouquinistes. With little overhead, prices are usually cheaper than in most shops. While these days tourists buy magnets and posters more than vintage books, officially the city allows no more than one box of souvenirs for every three boxes of books. Bouquinistes must be open at least four days a week. And yes, they do leave everything inside when they lock up at night; metal bars and padlocks keep things safe.
We found an outdoor table at a restaurant across the street from Notre Dame and had a late lunch.  We sat for hours just watching people - tourists and locals - pass by.  It was a very entertaining way to pass the time.
We then went back to the hotel.  Ken was under the weather again and needed a nap.  Kathryn later went back to the Place Maubert Market for sandwiches and fruit and, of course, lemon tarts for dinner.
Ken having coffee on the Quai

Click here for a slide show of Day 54 photos.

Day 55

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