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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Paris Diary: Day at the Louvre!

August 25, 2013


We awoke to a wet cool Paris day. Our breakfast is included here at the Hotel Ibis Paris, as it was in London. The dining hall resembled a Clock Work Orange set with mod futuristic late 60's/ early seventies bright tacky colours, shapes and designs. Everything matched, even the cups and plates.

In London we got a grand British breakfast buffet with eggs, ham, sausage, toast, buns, fruit etc. etc. Here we got a continental breakfast. Disappointing at first but then we took to the hot bread sticks with butter, fresh cheese, figs, and hand squeezed juice. Quite nice actually.

Once again the hotel had a coffee machine that poured out some sort of foul chemical brew. The café au lait, and cappuccinos in both countries are nice at most restaurants but forget about the so called Café Americano. They totally don't get "coffee" like we enjoy it. We have our own North American coffee shop culture. Never really thought about it before but I now think so. Plus the beans here are sharp and bitter, not very full bodied. Arabian perhaps?

We came back to our room to get ready to go out for the day. We are quite tired from all the walking and travelling. Go, go, go. Quite frankly I fell back asleep until lunch, then we set out for the Louvre.


It is situated in a grand sprawling endless series of rich buildings and halls, four stories in all. U shaped. There are many gardens, statues, and a vast cement plaza with the famous glass pyramid in the middle. There was a huge line up, a few hours long at least, and that was just to buy a ticket. Then there is another long line up for a security check.

I knew this was not going to work. Long line ups totally freak me out. I get too impatient and anxious. So I talked to one of the workers. Explained my dilemma. Politely but frank. He told me about the "other entrance." We walked the length of the Louvre, to the stone arch and made a few turns. Walked into an empty room, got our tickets and walked past a disinterested security guard straight into the museum! Incredible. Unbelievable. Plus completely public and legit. We could look out the windows at the long, long miserable line up waiting in the rain, whereas we were dry, happy and inside the Louvre!

I could tell you where the entrance is but it's just too good to be true. Why ruin it? Email me and I will give you the details. But otherwise, shhhhhh! Let's not spoil a great opportunity.


We mostly explored the ground floor, checking the Italian paintings. Then the very early exhibits from the Greek, Roman and Egyptian eras. Art, sculptures, and artifacts going back in some cases up to 3700 years ago. Classic civilizations have always fascinated me, use to love teaching the class when it was offered. It's fascinating how empires rise and fall. Rising from the dust of past ages into which they eventually return again. From dust we come, into the dust we shall return. All things, in time. A lesson for our life and times too. Nothing is permanent except perhaps for human nature. Then again we only get a little bit better or worse, all pretenses, monuments and the veneer of being civilized notwithstanding.

I am a big fan of the ancient historian Thucydides. He once said that whomever forgets their history is doomed to repeat it. That in essence is the human condition. Sound too pessimistic cynical or realistic? Take your pick. Its all the same to me.

My favourite comment of the day was by a perturbed fellow tourist who loudly exclaimed to all present that he didn't know he was coming to visit a "religious museum". Indeed, whether it be Christian, Roman, Greek, Egyptians etc etc etc, the artwork  + symbolism overwhelmingly reflects the cultural images of and beliefs in a civilizations deities, whatever they might be. Take that away and there probably wouldn't be much left to the Louvre. Or for that matter, I would suspect, any civilization even if their gods and beliefs are strictly secular, human or material ones. What did he expect?


The Mona Lisa and Venus di Mila were must sees, and very popular at that too. Packed rooms. Crowds vying for position with their cameras and so on. They are, of course, both excellent and got me wondering more about the nature of art. We can learn a lot by considering different so called important or influential examples of good art. This is true. I think so. However I definitely saw a lot of other pieces that I enjoyed a lot more than these two famous and much acclaimed artifacts, though they were marvellous too.

I've often thought that after all is said and done its really what appeals to your own aesthetic that matters most, that is, what one likes or speaks to you. Otherwise any high falootin' art snobbery or definitive standards of excellence are very questionable indeed. Why is this or that so excellent? Because somebody else has decided so and everybody else feels they must follow suit? Are too lazy, afraid or intimidated to feel they can have an inner individual aesthetic of their own?


I love being exposed to and challenged by different types of art, be it in the form of photography, paintings, sculpture, music, dance what have you. But ultimately its subjective what I decide I like or not. I'm happy to debate the pros and cons. Regardless of whatever some expert arbitrator of good taste might have decided it is, what I find pleasing is what really matters most to me. Otherwise it's bullshit. Maybe that's why a lot of folk just dont really enjoy or appreciate art? Worrying that they aren't right or are uncertain about what they are supposed to like? Concerned with what others will think? Think about it sometime.

I once had an artist friend of some renown. I lost track of him over the years. Anyway, I asked him what his paintings were about. What did they mean? He said he really didn't know. He just felt like doing something and did it. It either felt right or not. He invited me to come over every so often. We'd laugh it up, get stoned and have fun making up names for his finished art pieces. Then he'd title them accordingly. I'd go to his shows afterwards to watch. Folks would ask him, so what does it mean? Why did you call it that?!?


Tuckered out at the Louvre + we only saw but a small part of the many exhibits!

He'd ask them what they thought it meant. They might be perplexed but eventually would come up with something or other. "Yes", he'd say, "you are absolutely right! That's it!" 

They would invariably leave very pleased with their purchase, quite confident they knew what it meant. I thought the paintings were quite nice. So did a lot of other people it seems. Abstract angels with no mouths. Strange contrasting shapes. Collages of pastel colour and current or past images. Very impressionist landscapes, places unknown. Sound bad? Really, who's to say whether the buyers weren't absolutely right. What does it matter really to anyone else if you happen to like it or not?

Good Lord people: Think and feel for yourself!!!


There was a local critic who critiqued his work analyzing it at great length, explaining all. My friend would marvel at how he ever figured it all out at the art socials and so on. It was worth a lot of good, free advertising but really he considered him an insufferable snob.

For what its worth, if folks were honest and upfront with him personally and as an artist, he would treat them the same. Otherwise it was just good fun playing the game to much acclaim.


Anyway, Janet and I left the Louvre rather tired and exhausted at closing time, 5:45 pm. Crossed the street to a very quaint little corner salon where we enjoyed the good service, and simple but tasty cuisine over a few café au lait. We were going to walk to the Arch of Triumph but it was still cold and wet so we decided to just call it a night. A very good full day in Paris. It will be nice to just relax back in our room.

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