Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Louvre - pre-posting ramblings

We pretty much stayed in one place today - the Louvre. We spent over 9 hours there and saw over 3/4 of the place. The remaining portion, mostly paintings from the last 2-300 years are very low on my priority list. I tend towards more ancient history and, while I do enjoy art from those eras, you can't see everything - at least not in one day. In, fact we decided last night to scale back our (okay, my overachieving) ambitious schedule and spend more time just wandering around. Juli and I both noticed that the things we enjoyed the most were the accidental discoveries like a gorgeous little church I had never heard of tucked into the Latin Quarter we stumbled into or taking the time to enjoy the buskers and street performers, engaging locals in conversation. BTW if anyone ever tells you the French, particularly Parisians, are rude or snobs, burn their passport and never let them leave the US. Its absolutely not true. They have been consistently polite, kind, and helpful. All you have to do is greet them when you approach or enter their store, say please and thank you (it helps if you try it in French) and say goodbye. The French phrases for those tasks are easily mastered - although (in a reflex reaction) I occasionally find myself trying to mix in a little Spanish when I try to converse in French beyond that - it worked so well in Italy, why doesn't it help here :) While I have managed to survive pretty well in France and Italy (In Greece I had to rely solely on English - fortunately that wasn't hard to do there in the parts I was in), but I have set a goal (once I complete my masters in Educational Technology) to pursue learning other languages. I love travel and exploring other cultures. One of the best things for both Juli and I is the immersion into local life. We are not just at the tourist spots, we ride the subway with the commuters and shop in the same supermarkets. We try to eat at places favored by locals and look for places who don't cater to tourists. The best way to find a great boulangerie, creperie, or sandwich stand is look for the long line of locals. Those are the moments we have enjoyed the most. I love the way that trying to utilize a new language stretches the brain. Reading signs and billboards and even newspapers in French is a tremendous intellectual challenge. It really makes me appreciate my second language learner students even more than I already do. Yesterday, at the Louvre, I made it a point to not get one of the English audio guides and forced myself to rely solely on what I could figure out from the information plaques (they are only in French) and the context of the artifacts - of course I was also helped by my alter ego, Random Facts Man, with his weirdly arcane knowledge about many things. Juli and I also discovered this is fantastic way to push closer examination and appreciation of the art and artifacts themselves. The paintings and statues tell their own stories. It forced us to look at the details and appreciate the artist's representation. For example, one particular painting we, at first glance, presumed to be a depiction of the beheading of John the Baptist. After all there was the head of a bearded man being carried by a boy who might be a servant accompanied by a woman carrying a tamborine, dancing and singing. On closer examination, we saw the head had a wound in the center of the forehead partially obscured by the hair - Voila! it was David carrying the head of Goliath. Context clues! Well gentle reader I have teased you long enough I will this pre-post rambling and just upload the pictures.

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