Munch, the waiter, poulet frites and the Egyptian wing in the Louvre
Last day in Paris for this trip. Make the most of it. Breakfast downstairs in the hotel. It was grey and threatening rain. The concierge asked whether we had umbrellas, but I told him it wouldn’t rain on us. “That’s what I like, an optimist,” came the reply.
We decided to see the Munch exhibition at the Pinacothèque de Paris near the Madeleine church. Most people, myself included, know Munch for The Scream and little else. The show was a revelation. Over 150 pieces in all, many from private collections including wonderful impressionist landscapes and portraits, and later on, more abstract work. It seems that meeting Matissea was a big turning point in Munch’s life, which seemed to have the immediate effect of lightened his colour choices and bringing a new seemingly more optimistic view to his work. Munch lived in several cities in Europe, and interestingly, arrived in Paris in 1889, in time for the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower.
After the show we walked along Rue St Honoré – great for window shopping or black Amex card shopping – and found ourselves close to the Louvre. We had been sort of avoiding it.
We’d both been to the Louvre a number of times, and without a specific plan, it can quickly be overwhelming. But skies were grey, so we decided to see the Egyptian galleries. And, since I’d never been in the shopping area underneath I.M. Pei’s pyramid, I wanted to see that too.
Before we did a few hours in the Louvre, it was time to eat. Across the street were a row of restaurants. The first one was packed, so we went next door where we found a table. Since we’d been here, we hadn’t yet had a classic “poulet frites” lunch, so this was our chance. The chicken was perfect, the wine was good like a house wine should be, but the most interesting part was the interaction with our waiter. Somehow he managed to work it into the conversation (I’m sure he had this line of patter worked out pretty well) that people seem to think that tips are included and therefore don’t tip the waiters, but that it wasn’t the case. Well…. we knew we were tourists, but we also knew that it was in fact the case. But, big shots that we were, we left him a tip, on top of the one that was already built it.
The shopping area has among other things, an Apple store. It was the day after the launch of the iPad, and line-ups were long. One line for those who wanted an iPad, one for everyone else. Like every other Apple store I’ve been in, it was packed. Had a quick look around – interesting to see all the iconic Apple posters in French, and then bought tickets for the Louvre.
Our entrance took us through an exhibit on the history of the Louvre itself. They had exposed some of the original foundations from the 12th and 13th century. Once through there (we could have spent hours just there), we came to the Egyptian galleries.
Wow – so much to absorb. Room after room of statues, jewelry, royal housewares – all exhibited in what was once itself a palace. It’s like trying to eat a whole triple chocolate cake going through there. But, you can only marvel. Looking at so much Egyptian statuary, you’re struck by how much they valued art, how wealthy the country must have been to hire so many skilled artisans, and how much slower life was then. So much handwork from large carved fronts of buildings, rows of statues, right down to the smallest most intricate necklaces and earrings.
You wished you could touch some of it, especially the statues. So sensuous. But, non! However, consider this – you’re allowed to take photographs anywhere (no flash please), unlike some hometown galleries (hello Art Gallery of Ontario).