Weekend 11: Florence, Italia Part II!

I finally finished going through the several hundred photos I took in Florence between all the homework I’ve had, but more on that later. Finally, Florence!!

The first night I got there (Friday) I was pretty exhausted after 4 hours of sleep and a day in Pisa, so I went to sleep early. This allowed me to then wake up early the next morning and start wandering around for a little while. First I went right down the street to see the Ponte Vecchio on the river Arno, a Medieval bridge in Florence.

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The covered pathways alongside the river, called the Corridoio Vasariano, were made for the Medici family (like everything else in Florence) so they didn’t have to walk with everyone else from the Pitti Palace to the Ufizi. And that sculpture building? That’s the Ufizi!

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Okay back to the bridge. It’s known for the silver and gold shops on it, which are now all touristy.

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Next, I wandered to the Palazzo Vecchio, looked at the sculptures outside, and then got a ticket to go in later that day.

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Then I walked back down to the river, but went in the opposite direction of the Ponte Vecchio towards Sainte Croce.

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I considered going inside, but the line was already kind of long, so after looking around I headed back, towards the Duomo.

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Then I met up with my friend Leon who I was staying with and I borrowed another SACI student’s museum pass so I could skip lines and get in places for free. First, we went to the Bargello, a sculpture museum. It’s home to some amazing work, including Donatello’s famous David.

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Next we went to see some markets, and passed the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. It was closed thanks to the holiday on Friday. Also a dollar bill-ding which we don’t really know what its deal is.

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We stopped to have lunch near Santa Maria Novella, and I had some amazing pasta.

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Then, we went inside, and I got to see Masaccio’s Holy Trinity, aka the birth of linear perspective! The cathedral is beautiful, too.

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We walked around and saw a few other things, like the oldest pharmacy in the city (it’s super fancy) and then I used my ticket for the Palazzo Vecchio.

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Sunday morning, my day started with the Ufizi! This was one of the things I was most excited to see in Florence. You can’t take photos inside, although there is a great view from the top where I took some photos. The art is, of course, incredible. I’ve seen Gothic art plenty of times before, but for some reason seeing it at the Ufizi was a completely different experience. And then there’s the Botticelli room. It really shocked me, not because the moment you walk in you are faced with Primavera and Birth of Venus, but because the Portinari Alterpiece was there, which I had no idea. I sat in front of it for a while, trying to figure out how many of me could fit in it. I’d say at least 15. I also almost had a panic attack because I realized I went through the entire Ufizi and missed the Venus of Urbino (I’m totally serious, I think I had a nightmare where that happened) and then I back-tracked through the museum against the flow of traffic until I found it unceremoniously placed in a hallway towards the end of the museum. Everyone was walking passed it, like it was nothing. I do not understand.

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After the Ufizi, I got a day pass for the Duomo.

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Except, since it was Sunday, the dome wasn’t open, and half the stuff the pass gets you into closed by 1:00. I had to make some decisions, so I decided to start off with climbing Giotto’s Tower, since the line was still short and I could get a great view of the city. It was super windy but the climb restored some faith in my deteriorating physical health. Going back down was actually way worse. Anyway, here are some amazing views!

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When I finally got back down, the cathedral was about to open and the line was already getting really long, so I decided to just join it since the museum and baptistery were about to close anyway.

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Similarly to the Pisa Cathedral, the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) is incredibly decorated on the outside while being very minimal on the inside. Well, except for the dome of course. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the dome was designed by Brunelleschi and was a major architectural achievement, considered to be one of the first main events of the Renaissance. The inside of the dome is covered in a fresco started by Vasari (yeah that guy was all over everything in Florence).

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The baptistery was closed at this point, so I hung around outside for a bit, admiring Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise which always has a group of people in front of it. The real doors are in the museum, which was also closed. Also, that gigantic Medici crest is pretty impressive. I bet they’re all happily resting in their graves. Oh, I went to go see their tombs. I forgot to mention, it was something I did on Saturday. You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there so I forgot. See, this is why I am a photographer.

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After the Duomo, it was time for the one other thing I knew I absolutely HAD to do while in Florence… go to the Galleria Accademia and see Michelangelo’s David. You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there, but it was amazing. I honestly did not realize how big he is, even though the replica in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the same size. He dominates the entire Galleria, and while the other works in the museum are nice, they don’t stand a chance. Sorry, guys.

After that, I had some more amazingly delicious cheap pizza. Seriously, the whole Italian pizza thing is no joke.

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Then, I went back to Santa Croce, only this time I went inside. It was awesome!!! It’s basically a giant, beautiful, indoor graveyard for famous Italians. Some of its notable inhabitants are Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini, plus a giant monument to Dante (but he couldn’t be buried there because he was banished from the city). Oh, and it has a wooden ceiling. I don’t know why but this really surprised me.

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By the time I exited the basilica, the sun was setting and making everything orange and beautiful. Outside the basilica was this row of casts made from sculptures based on Dante’s and Virgil’s depictions of hell. They were pretty cool, especially in this setting!

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We crossed the river after taking a ton of sunset photos, and then went grocery shopping. And I got gelato, duh.

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That night we had a potluck with other SACI students which was one of the best meals I’ve had all semester. Oh do I miss home cooked meals. Eventually, I had to go to sleep, and then wake up early to take the bus back to Pisa to take my flight back to Paris. As soon as  I touched down, I got to go out into the freezing rain. Oh, Paris.

So, Italy was an amazing, packed, delicious, beautiful break from Paris. It was definitely an unusual way to start November, in the heat eating ice cream and walking around in capris and a t shirt. It was also my last break, as I have been working hard in the cold since then. The end of the semester is nigh! But more on that in another post. It’s almost 2AM and I’m really, really tired. I just needed to finally get this post done so I can catch up with everything else…

Weekend 9: Beautiful Weather & Gardens

I have had so much work this past week, so I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get around to posting about last weekend! I wanted to make sure I did it before I left for Poland, but then I decided sleeping for once was more important. I am pretty much a week behind in life, but I want to be caught up with everything before I leave for Florence.

Last weekend had the best weather I’ve experienced since being in Paris. It made me love it a little more, which just goes to show that even though I don’t like living here doesn’t mean I don’t like Paris. There is definitely a difference. Paris has these amazing moments where the light will fall off a building into the street in the most beautiful way, and I don’t see how anyone could not love it, even if only for that moment. Also, I discovered these awesome buildings right down the street from the American Library in Paris. Out of all the times I’ve been there I can’t believe I never noticed them!

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Friday started off with my internship, but I had the afternoon to start shooting my final photography project. First, I went to the Jeu de Paume for the first time to see the current Erwin Blumenfeld exhibition, which I had to write a review of for class. This is the other smaller museum in the Tuileries along with the Musee de l’Orangerie. I then spent the rest of the evening shooting in the Tuileries and also in front the of the Pyramid at the Louvre. The weather was perfect and the light was amazing.

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I also got some gelato because what afternoon is perfect without it?!

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I finished off by going across the street to the Place de la Concorde, which is filled with golden ornamentation that was highlighted by the golden setting sun. It was absolutely beautiful.

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The next morning I let myself sleep in because I hadn’t been able to since the previous week, before we went to Amsterdam. As soon as I was awake, I got ready and headed to Gare Saint Lazare, because I was going to Giverny! Since Giverny closes November 1st and I was going to Poland the next weekend, this was my last chance to go and I knew I had to take it. Once I got to the station, I spent a while trying to buy train tickets from the SNCF machines before realizing my cards wouldn’t work because they aren’t chip cards. That meant the only way that I could get my tickets was to wait in the incredibly long line of people at the SNCF ticket counter. By the time I got to the front, I had missed all the morning trains and I had an hour and a half to kill before the next train to Vernon.

I decided to go to the Fnac down the street, which is basically France’s equivalent to Best Buy and Barnes & Noble in one. The store was huge; I think it had about six floors. It was really fun seeing things I was familiar with but in French, like these:

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Les Sims!

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Star Wars AND Harry Potter

I also saw that they have this really beautifully illustrated hard cover graphic novel-esque version of Camus’ The Stranger that I think I will own before I leave Paris. One of my small goals before I left was to get a version of the book in French, and while initially I was picturing some beat-up, used version, this fits that description and is definitely unique.

Once it was finally time for my train, I headed back to the station and got on. It’s a relatively short ride, I think just under an hour. When I got to Vernon, I had to then wait another 40 minutes for the next shuttle bus to Giverny. I wandered around the sleepy little town for a bit and stopped in a lovely boulangerie to get some lunch. Initially I ordered a pizza, but only after I had paid for it and was waiting for it to be heated up did I realize it had Salmon in it. In desperate broken French I explained how sorry I was but I couldn’t eat it, and instead got a waffle. It was 10 cents more than the pizza but the nice woman there wouldn’t accept my extra payment, which was so kind after the little hassle I caused.

The shuttle to Giverny was supposed to cost 4 euros, but for some reason the driver wouldn’t take a payment. When I finally got to the bus drop-off I then had to walk though this underground tunnel to cross the street into Giverny. Immediately, it’s like walking into a little French storybook town. I’m not sure how much of this is genuine and how much has been shaped by tourism, but it is still lovely, especially in the fall! Everything was covered in rainbow ivy and flowers.

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My first priority was seeing Monet’s house and gardens. Since it was already the afternoon and I’m wary of how early things close in Europe, I wanted to be sure that if I got anything done it was at least that. I was not entirely sure of how big it would be, but it turned out to be well worth it! These are no ordinary gardens, and his house is like the one from Alice in Wonderland, but full of prints by Japanese printmaking masters and Impressionist paintings from Monet’s close friends, as well as his own work. I’m not sure that my photos fully convey the magical experience of being there, even when you’re surrounded by tourists and you can’t take a photo of the front of his house without strangers posing in front of it.

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To get to the waterlillies pond you have to go underground through this cool tunnel:

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And then you first see all this bamboo:

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And then of course, there is the pond. It was a lot bigger than I expected!

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After I left the gardens, everything else in Giverny was closing. I wandered around a little bit to see if there was anything else to do but eventually decided to take the shuttle bus back to Vernon.

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Once I got there, I must have just missed a train to Paris, because the next one wasn’t for over 2 hours. I was getting frustrated at this point but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I decided to seek out the local church.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that the church was open. I was the only person inside, which is sort of an eerie experience. Since the sun was setting and the church wasn’t lit very well, it was difficult to take photographs, but I loved the stained glass so I took a few of the windows.

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After the church, I wandered around Vernon a bit more, got something to eat, and then spent the rest of my time waiting at the train station and deeply regretting my last minute decision to not bring my Kindle. By the time I got back to Paris it was too late for me to do anything else. I’m so glad I went and it is something I highly recommend, but definitely plan ahead a little more than I did! Also, if you have allergies you might want to consider that before going to a giant garden. I stopped taking my medicine soon after coming to Paris since I didn’t really need it, but after Giverny I was sneezing all week so I’ve started taking it again.

To give a quick recap on this past week, I basically spent all my free time doing homework until 2-3AM every day. Annie and I are almost finished the translations for her book. I also finally found a vegetarian place by school! It’s in the one direction down the street from the metro stop I get off at that I had never been down previously. I am both disappointed that I spent half the semester spending my money on mediocre, unhealthy food, but also really happy I can spend the rest of the semester eating from there. I can’t wait to try their veggie burgers!

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So, I am about to start another incredibly busy week where I will probably not be sleeping much, but it will be so worth it because I’m going to Florence on Friday!! Also, Halloween is Thursday, but I honestly don’t even have time to think about it at this point. I can’t really go out too late since I have to leave the next morning at 6AM. But, Florence!!!!

Weekend 7: Crossing Off My List

Saturday was completely a school work day for me. By the end of it I was pretty exhausted. I had dinner with friends at Miranda and Shelby’s apartment which was really fun. We were all still craving Mexican after Chipotle on Thursday, so we had a taco night. It was amaazingg. We hung out there for a while and eventually went out to Nuit Blanche, but didn’t see very much. It’s a big city-wide arts night that happens once a year. Apparently it is pretty big but maybe we weren’t in the right area.

Sunday I wanted to cross more things off of my super huge to-do list in Paris, so I got right to it and went to Les Invalides. This building was originally a war veteran retirement home, and now houses the military museum of the French Army, a few other museums, a chapel, and the burial sites for several important French war heroes.

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I didn’t go into any of the museums and I don’t know if I will, but it was nice just to walk around. Of course I loved the chapel, Saint-Louis-des-Invalides.

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Now one of the main attractions of Invalides is Napoleon’s burial site under the gold Baroque dome. I wasn’t sure how to get there from where I entered Invalides, but you can actually kind of see it through the windows at the end of the chapel. When I first got a good look I couldn’t believe what I saw because it looks just like the Baldacchino from St. Peter’s Basilica which is obviously in Italy, not Paris. For a second I doubted myself, but I definitely remembered learning it was in Italy. I looked it up later and it is supposed to be a direct influence, so I’m glad I wasn’t going crazy!

There didn’t seem to be a way to get to the other side from where I was, so I left for my next destination: the Musee Rodin.

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Being the first Sunday of the month, entrance was free, though I think I get in free anyway with my school ID. Still, it’s definitely nice going to museums on first Sundays when you can just wander in! There was a really long line to get into the Biron house, so I wandered the gardens first.

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They are installing some kind of stage, so this was my beautiful view from the other side of the garden:

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Also, in the part of the garden with The Thinker, they play this weird “music” that is basically a woman humming and vocalizing. It’s really eerie and at first I didn’t realize it was part of the museum. I wonder what the reasoning is behind it?

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As I walked around, I found that I really, really like Rodin. He found a way to capture such raw emotion in an equally raw form of sculpture. He turned a really cold material into something fluid and natural. And those hands and feet are huuugee! I tried to take close-ups to show how big they are, but you really have to see it in person.

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After the gardens I finally got in the line for the house. You have to wait a while because they only let in a certain amount of people at a time, which they monitor very closely. At least you have a pretty view while you wait!

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The house is pretty small, but it’s great to see his process and some of his more famous works in their original sizes. There are also some great views out of the second story windows.

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There is a special Camille Claudel exhibition going on in one of the rooms, but no photography was allowed. I really loved seeing her most well-known works in person as well. They were actually much larger than I expected. The Wave and Women Gossiping were really, really green in color, which is given no justice in photographic reproductions.

After all that walking I was starting to get tired, so I decided it was time for a break at the cafe in the garden. I got some ice cream and it was AMAZING. I’d love to go back and actually eat there some time, but man was that ice cream good. I got vanilla pecan and chocolate. If you ever find yourself at the Musee Rodin, make sure you get some!!

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Next I headed down the street to finish my exploration of Les Invalides, but this time to the dome were Napoleon is buried. I had to get a ticket to get in but it was free (yay!). Being a student in Paris really has its advantages. My student ID is magical.

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When you first walk in, there is a tomb to your right. This is not Napoleon. This is his older brother.

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Like pretty much every other building in Paris, you can spend a lot of time looking at the ceiling.

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The Baldacchino I was talking about earlier:

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This is Napoleon.

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What a guy.

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There are really beautiful gardens in front of the dome. They have tons of plants I’ve never even seen before.

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This looks like something that fell off a Muppet.

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So that was basically my Sunday! This week is going to be super crazy for me, because I have so much to do before Thursday, when Shelby and I take a night bus to Amsterdam!! We are spending Friday and Saturday in Amsterdam, then leaving early Sunday to spend the day in Brussels before heading back to Paris. We are soo lucky that Dov’s brother lives in Amsterdam and is gracious enough to let us sleep at his house! I am so excited, but first I have a lot of work to do… for some reason even though it’s the first week of October, I have to write three proposals for final projects/papers. And do research at two different libraries. And prepare another PowerPoint presentation. Ahhh!!

Weekend 4: Saturday, Back to the Louvre!

Saturday I woke up with my throat feeling even worse than it did before. I did not want to have another rainy, stay-inside-all-day sick day, so I decided what better thing to do than go to the Louvre? I took a ton of vitamin C, had a mug of tea, and set off through the rain.

This time, I started off exploring the Egyptian section. The Louvre has the most amazing and extensive collection of Egyptian art I have ever seen. It’s not just typical things you see in most museums, either. They have artifacts covering the entire range of Ancient Egyptian life. Just by walking through the galleries I feel like I gained a much better sense of what life was like for them than I have at any other time. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt and would love to take a class on it (hey there, Ancient Art History credit I still need to fulfill) but seeing this collection really peaked my interest not only artistically, but regarding every aspect of their lifestyle. They were a really incredible people.

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This is what it’s like to look at Egyptian art at the Louvre. Yeah.

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Their mummy is much bigger than the Nelson’s and doesn’t have a creepy computer generated face on the label.

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One of the most colorful steles I’ve seen

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I think in a past life I may have been an Egyptian. As a child, my favorite toys were things that were very small. Polly Pocket, doll houses, you name it. I was the Queen of Tiny Toys. I also love things that are colorful and shiny. And, my favorite animals are cats and monkeys. Well, guess what they have a lot of in Egyptian artifacts? Tiny, colorful, shiny cats and monkeys!!!

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They have tons of other super tiny, intricate little sculptures as well. They are amazing!

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Look at the tiny hedgehog on the far left!! I didn’t even know they had hedgehogs in Egypt…

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Also, some of the works were lit really beautifully. My phone pictures do it no justice, you’ll just have to go see it for yourself!

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One of the reasons I picked Ancient Egyptian was because I figured it would eventually lead to the Seated Scribe and Code of Hammurabi. The Scribe was almost at the end of the Egyptian collection and when I finally saw it, it actually surprised me. It’s so big and vibrant!

I looked deep into the eyes of the Seated Scribe

I looked deep into the eyes of the Seated Scribe

For some reason I find a lot of Egyptian artwork in museums to be really amusing. One of my favorite things at the Nelson is the Egyptian head that looks exactly like Voldemort. Well, the Louvre has not escaped this scrutiny either.

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This guy can not handle losing his nose

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The Louvre has Voldemorts too! But they have ears.

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Does anyone actually swim like this?? They’re like Ancient Egyptian versions of those scuba diver bath toys.

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I found the ears

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He’s so blue, he don’t know what to do

After I got through the Ancient Egyptian stuff I wanted to keep looking at ancient collections so I moved on to Greek and Roman.

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They have soo much pottery!! I was amazed no one was in there until I went in and it was a bajillion degrees. I will probably spend some quality time in there when it gets colder.

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I went in a circle somehow so I took the elevator downstairs and ended up right at the Venus de Milo.

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I just kept walking through the sculptures. They were generally either missing really important body parts or had too much of the ones that remained. Also some craaazzzy headless drapery going on.

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Those obliques are intense

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This guy reminds me of someone… (hint: Nelson)

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She has some serious issues

No, this is just a wall in the museum.

No, this is just a wall in the museum. Above a fireplace.

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After the Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, you are directly led to Northern European sculpture. The subject matter goes from ancient gods of marble to Jesus, Mary, and Popes in painted wood.

Well, except for her.

Well, except for her.

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Oh no, Jesus 😦

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There’s that Northern love of grotesque detail I learned about!

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All the while, I was trying to figure out how to get over to the rest of the ancient stuff where the Code of Hammurabi is, but I ended back in Italian and French painting where I was last time. Not that this is a bad thing, but I wanted to see new sections and I spent a lot of time there during my last visit. I finally figured out that I would need to get to the opposite side of the museum to see the rest of the ancient works, so I decided to go to Northern painting instead. It took me a while to find that, too, but when I finally did it was so worth it!

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I totally forgot that these paintings were in the Louvre until I was standing in the room looking around me and I think I audibly said, ohhhhh! It was a nice surprise.

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Look at the Louvre trying to be cute. Too bad no one follows this sign. Literally as I took this there was a woman photographing a statue using her flash. Sigh.

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Hey there Lucas Cranach the Elder. He has a very similar composition at the Nelson.

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Did not know this was here. Yay!

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I super-studied this painting in art history and I think even wrote an essay about it. It’s really darkened in person.

From one of my favorite places to say, the Studiolo in Urbino!!

From one of my favorite places to say, the Studiolo in Urbino!!

Also did not know this was here. The inside is in beautiful condition!

Also did not know this was here. The inside is in beautiful condition!

I shall end with this.

I shall end with this.

Some day I might go to the Louvre and actually bring my fancy camera. I want to experience it all with just my eyes first. Also when it’s not raining and there are less tourists. Working at the Nelson this summer spoiled me and I want museums to always be empty when I’m photographing in them!