So where was I? Ahhh…yes…the Louvre. The enchanting Louvre…After spending a good half a day at this great museum, you would most probably depart via the main exit under the glass pyramid. You may wish to hang a round a little longer in this sprawling underground shopping centre but the likes of MacDonald’s and France’s biggest Apple Store aren’t very Parisian, if you know what I mean.
The view from under the pyramid would serve as an opportune moment to take some interesting shots from different perspectives before continuing your Axe Historique journey. Interestingly, although most of the world would often remember the Louvre for its majestic central pyramid that draws much visual attention, Parisians were initially skeptical and some were even outraged when the plan was being decided to ‘modernise’ the Louvre in the late 80s. You see….for over 200 years, the historical, nostalgic character of the museum laid unperturbed; but a certain Francois Mitterand – France’s 21st President rolled out a grand plan to revitalise Paris with his multi-million dollar Grands Projets.
The Louvre, being one of his architectural targets, was placed in the hands of a Chinese American architect – I.M. Pei.
What?! The home of France’s cultural history to be redesigned by a non-French?!
My sentiments exactly.
Unfortunately, rumour has it that I.M. Pei oversold his idea and eventually under-delivered because the original proposition was to have all the pyramids in the Louvre’s courtyard to be constructed of reinforced glass without any ugly structural placements. The steel girder spiderwebs that you see now are mere afterthoughts after Pei concluded that the use of pure glass panels would be structurally unstable. What a genius…
Anyway, let’s bring the Louvre behind us and by now, you would be staring at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. One of two triumphal arches in the country, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is only half the size of its bigger, more famous cousin down the Axe Historique. However, this arch was born a good 30 years before the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile. Built during the time of Napolean I, this ‘mini-arch’ was modeled after the Arch of Constantine in Rome. But unlike its Italian predecessor, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was built to commemorate all the military and diplomatic victories by the Great Napolean, hence the statue of him right on top riding a chariot with four horses.
As you walk past the arch, you will approach a spacious public park called the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden). This beautiful garden was designed by THE Andre Le Notre – The Chief Landscape Architect and royal gardener during the reign of Louis XIV. Created in 1664, the Tuileries Garden was actually part of a Tuileries Palace that once stood along its sides. However, due to the messy Paris Commune, this Palace, which would have extended the length of the Louvre by almost twice, was sadly destroyed by fire by twelve crazy French Communists in 1871. Damn you Marxists!
Apparently, there have been talks of plans to rebuild the Tuileries Palace but for now, just walk a little further to admire the gift the Egyptians gave to France in 1833. This is the Luxor Obelisk, one of two obelisks that Viceroy Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt gifted to King Louis-Philippe and taken from the Luxor Temple. Originally both the phallic monuments were to be given to France but the second one was kinda stuck in Egypt for hell of a long time (for more than a bleedy century!). Thus, Monsieur Mitterand, I guess for not wanting to pay the excessive import taxes that snowballed through the years, told Egypt to keep the other giant needle for themselves. In any case, this is still a relatively magnificent structure capped with a golden pyramidion, and on its sides – basic visual instructions on how to build one in your own backyard. Cool!
Stone rocket anyone?