Friday, January 02, 2009

The Glories of XVIII th Century France

We spent our last day in Paris reliving the glory of 17th and 18th century France…..Versailles Palace although aging definitely gives one a sense of how fantastic it must have been when the Sun King walked its corridors. Some interesting trivia….apparently after WW I it was in terrible disrepair and JD Rockefeller made a huge contribution to fix it up….consequently there is a plaque in the welcome hall commemorating his generosity from the people of France….(there has been such great support between France and the US historically that it is so unfortunate that there has been this animosity in the last decade…hopefully this is a temporary thing)

The Louvre was generally underwhelming….This was my third visit to the Louvre but my first as an adult and my first since the addition of the IM Pei Pyramid (I hated it initially but after about forty minutes staring at it, freezing to death (-12 degs C today) as we waited to get in, it did kinda grow on me and I began to appreciate (slightly) the juxtaposition of this supremely modern object against the classical style of the Louvre's facade - I still think it is an acquired taste though….the first reaction for me was to say "what the hell were they thinking?")….

I was actually quite bored with the Louvre after an hour…there only so much nude Greek anatomically correct male marble statues and paintings of the baby Jesus suckling at Mary's exposed bosom that one can take before tuning out completely…..After a while to make it more interesting I would look at a painting from afar and try and guess what the scene was depicting……since most scenes in the neo classical period are either from the Bible, the Iliad or the Odyssey I got a few right but after a few attempts even this… made up version of "Louvre Pictionary" also started to lose its thrill…..The one thing I did love was when sometimes the artist would take great leaps of imagination and throw in something surreal… depicting Job at the foot of the cross on Golgotha for example…..or the boy David carrying Goliaths severed head that seemed to be the size of a boulder and as big as David's entire body….

I won't comment much on the Mona Lisa other than to say that its always struck me as completely boring and an unworthy symbol of Leonardo's consummate genius…...I've also never understood the general publics fascination with the painting…..

Venus de Milo is more interesting…..from the rear…I was unaware that she is showing some serious crack…..clear proof that the Greek sculptors had hip hop influences :) (what was missing was the semi exposed Tommy Hilfiger or CK Boxers though)

We hit the Egyptology section which was more interesting especially the non mummy and non sarcophagus exhibits….I found the Egyptian furniture, jewelery and women's toiletry kits (tweezers, combs, brushes etc) extremely fascinating since these were typically about 2500 to 3500 years old (i.e. they were made when Abraham was alive - just to put their age in perspective :). I fully expected the Rosetta stone to be part of the collection (since it was Napoleon who found it during the Egyptian invasion) but was politely told it was in the British Museum (damn British….they steal everything from everybody!!)

I am actually pleasantly surprised the French are not as unfriendly as I expected…in fact on average they are quite friendly and helpful (another stereotype blown :). I find that it’s the French folks that work in the hospitality business that are terrible in my opinion…most of them should not work in the hospitality business period...…they are cold and completely indifferent to the customer….

And for my final observation of useless trivia :)….….most French cabbies (based on a highly non empirical casual observation by myself and my lovely wife) seem to be white Frenchmen…..hardly a minority to be seen driving a taxicab!!!!….This is probably the first advanced country I've visited where the cabbies are native born folk and not immigrants (actually not Indian or Pakistani to be honest)…I'm assuming its got something to do with the taxicab unions perhaps….or maybe we are just imagining things!!

Spain is next…..


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