Monday 17 June 2013


Fun in a big museum?


The Louvre is the biggest and the most visited museum in the world. It was originally a fortress castle with a moat (shame that they went out of fashion), then later the royal palace and after the revolution (1790ish) it became a museum.






We spent a lot of time working out if it was the right time to "do the Louvre" on this trip. In some ways its a must - Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo, Dante etc. It is huge though (more than 20 kms if laid out end to end) and densely packed with teeny and massive works of art. We have been in enough museums to know how easy it is to be overawed by it all and end up trudging the halls and rooms looking but not really looking, motivation slowly morphing into sore feet.

Backed by our Philistine like art background, 180 degrees removed from that of ability to guide ourselves or our children in a cogent or fun way, we were leaning towards not visiting the inside at all BUT luckily one link lead to another and we found THATlou - a fantastic way to see a museum which we booked and did today.

THATlou stands for Treasure Hunt At The Louvre and is rapidly moving up the tripadvisor charts - for good reason. It is the business of an extremely accomplished young American who know lives in Paris with her Argentinian husband and toddler who speaks 3 languages.





How it works: We broke into teams of 2 (spin of the coin meant Zoe and Lozza vs Drew and the Reester). You are given about 5 stapled pieces of paper with a picture of 20 artworks to find. Each picture has a description below often with bonus points attached to clues within the paragraph. Each group is given the same 20 artworks to find. The 20 are chosen to meet a theme you have decided (there are a number of choices on the website). We chose Kings and Queens.




An example of one of our clues - #1: The Adoration of the Magi




You score based on a number of points given for each one of the 20 artworks you can photograph yourself in front of, as well as for bonus points. For example one piece we had to find was a bust of Emperor Tiberius (he who retired to Capri and whose backyard pool was the Blue Grotto, but who always seemed miserable). The bonus question was "which Emperor came after him - to achieve this bonus required memory or reading the French plaque next to the statue or logic (see when his reign was and see who was next) etc. Zoe and I used none of these methods and so missed out on 50 bonus points. Drew and Ree were smarter and so received 50 points - ovbiously it was Claudius!



Quick aside

Early (Julio-Claudian dynasty) Emperors were

  1. Augustus
  2. Tiberius - probably assasinated by Gaius (see below)
  3. Gaius (name changed to Caligula for obvious reasons.....bit like Biggus) - Assassinated
  4. Claudius (poisoned by wife so son Nero could take over)
  5. Nero (suicide)



Back to THATlou: Rules are no running, no team separation, must meet back at the exact time (easy to get just one more done but not fair) and no external help - so tempting to run up to a Louvre official to ask for a "tad of advice" but that is verboten.

Once we had our teams the real trick is spending about 20 to 30 minutes working out where in the massivitiy of the Louvre, each piece is likely to be and then begin planning a strategy to find them in whatever allotted time you have set.







We originally set ourselves 2 hours, but after a 90 min break for a snack, we realized that 4 -5 hours was what we really required. We settled on another 2 hours and off we went.










Alexander The Great




Venus De Milo







The double headed bulls of Darius. This is just one pillar from a palace room. The scope must have been extraordinary.
















Drew achieving bonus points by imitating the horse of Louis 15th





Both teams followed the hordes and took detours somewhere near the end of the tour to see the little painting of the enigmatic Lisa Gherardini aka The Mona Lisa. The crowds were immense and the pic is small, so on to other stuff. Still - Mona Lisa - tick.

Not bad for a painting of the wife of a silk merchant of Florence which was commissioned for their house to celebrate the arrival of their second child.

Out of interest, Mona is a shortened version of "Ma Donna" which is pretty much the polite way addressing a lady. Equivalent of "madam" or "my lady". Its also where the name Madonna originates.

As in medical language where "patent foramen ovale" translates to "open round hole", a visit to The Mona Lisa is infinitely more cultured than a trip to see The painting of Lisa.




There she is in the distance











In brief moments of slowing down, we got to see some amazing art. Its quite incomprehensible how big or how intricate or delicate or how old some pieces are. We are getting slightly better at recognizing different periods and styles - for example, coming into the old italian sculpture rooms and greeting many of the statues we saw or recognized from Rome and florence was something Zoe and I got a buzz out of.










La Radeau De La Meduse
















The Sabines









Not really at the Louvre - in a shop window on the way home



So there you have it. In a museum so big you could run a half marathon in it and on a Sunday (Louvre's busiest day), we managed to spend 5 hours in a museum and come out fired up and agreeing that today was a damn fine day. We saw a lot of art and learned a lot of history, got a feel for how each period fitted in within the grand scheme of things and each had our own favourites.

Without THATlou though, we would have hated the crowds, been overwhelmed by the museums enormity and definitely had our fair share of "I'm tired"s or "how much longer"s. The kids loved the competition and were part of the team and not hangers on at all.

In a work environment there are always times when you head off for "team building" but its not often that you get the opportunity to do it with your family. We loved it. Scatty Zoe with her uncanny memory was by far our team's best player, but her aging dad slowed her down enough for her to sort out her ideas before the next idea got in the way... and the one after that.

We had fun!



Drew's Souvenir

Having cogitated for 24 hours, we are informed by our son that he would like a portrait of himself by an artist from Montmartre. A bit like going from Manhattan to Staten Island for a Gatorade. (Not true - Ed.)

It was all very sweet. Drew had worked out how much he was prepared to pay (20€) and knew that he was going to have to bargain as most charge about 50€. On Sunday early evening he made his way amongst the artists, checking out the quality of their work. There were many knock backs as even artists with no work wouldn't deign to work for only 20€ but Drew stuck to his guns and found a willing artistic genius who he was willing to work with.

The process took a good 40 minutes with Mr Earnest looking seriously into the distance. He was stiff with Teutonic effort as he followed the artists instructions.

I was nervous that he wouldn't like the end result or be sad about spending so much of his money. Once complete he slowly got off his chair and made his way to check his portrait out. His face was a mask in studied concentration before slowly, ever so slowly becoming a small, then a gigantic grin. "I love it" he bellowed. The joys.












Drew thinks it ROCKS




In the meantime, the girls headed to Saint-Germaine for a café cool moment. "It was how I imagined Paris to be" sighed Zoe wistfully. Ahh the drama of it all.







Parking a la Saint-Germaine










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