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With the exception of French men wearing berets and a string of onions around their necks, many pre-conceptions of what you might imagine Paris to be like, are true. Chic and stylish people do walk around carrying fresh baguettes and wine is cheaper than Coca Cola. 

We all know the capital city of France as the “City of Love“, where tree-lined avenues meet lazy outdoor lunches and breezy boat trips down the Seine, but Paris also has more than its fair share of famous landmarks.  Who hasn’t heard of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Champs-Élysées or the Notre Dame cathedral?

It´s been a long time since our last visit to Paris.  Twenty years, in fact.  On the scale of things, not much has changed, but it was good to renew our acquaintance, even if it was only for such a short visit on our way home from south-east Asia.

We strolled along the banks of the Seine, past the Notre Dame cathedral, inspiration for Victor Hugo´s classic novel, hoping to squeeze in a visit to my favourite museum, Musée d´Orsay .  Sadly, our schedule coincided with the only day of the week that the museum was closed, so we had to make do with the Musée du Louvre instead.    

The Louvre is one of the world’s largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and, a historic monument in it´s own right.  Whilst the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile is enough to draw thousands of visitors each day, if you buy your entrance tickets in advance, or join the ticket queue by 8.30am as we did, getting in isn´t much of a problem.   The Louvre houses more paintings, sculptures and pieces of artwork than anyone can reasonably hope to see in multiple visits, never mind one full morning, but we did our best. 

We knew from our previous visit that the gallery containing the painting of the Mona Lisa would be crowded with people all jockeying for position to take photos of the icon, safely housed behind bullet-proof glass – and this time was no exception.  Still, it´s worth a few minutes to gaze upon Leonardo DaVinci´s most famous work and wonder what he would have made of it all. 

The piece of art that immediately comes to mind if I was to ever consider becoming an international art thief – displaying my ill-gotten gains in a Thomas Crown-style mansion, would be the Winged Victory of Samothrace.  This magnificent marble statue of the Greek goddess Nike, is prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.  There is something about the Winged Victory that really captures my imagination.  She almost took my breath away. The power of the work is enhanced by the fact that her head and arms are missing, adding an ethereal quality that never fails to fill my eyes with tears, to be in the presence of such magnificence.

We took the lift to the top of the Eiffel tower last time we were in Paris, so this time we jumped on the Metro, to the Trocadéro for great views of the tower, instead.  It was a beautiful, Spring day with lovely warm sunshine …. perfect not only for photos, but also for one of those lazy outdoor lunches I mentioned earlier!

This left the rest of the afternoon at the Musée de l´Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens.  The artist, Claude Monet was instrumental in shaping the Orangerie Museum to showcase his masterpieces,  and it is here that eight murals in his collection of Water Lilies are permanently housed.   The first time I saw these paintings,  I was staggered by their sheer scale as I had wrongly imagined them to be of “normal” size.  I am a great fan of Impressionist painters, and Monet in particular, and it is wonderful to be able to see great works of art at such close quarters.