Last week we had snow in Paris almost every day. It began to snow on Monday and we had to wait until Sunday before the snow melted in any place, especially on the terraces or in the gardens.
It is quite unusual to see Paris under a white coat. So I decided to take some pictures of the most famous places in the city under the snow so as to capture and remember those magical and fleeting moments. Whether you were in Paris last week or not I hope that you will appreciate them. Just to enjoy, without a word: Snow is also Silence.
Let’s start at the Louvre…
… Have a walk in Montmartre on a sunny day…
Snow around the Sacre Coeur – Montmartre
The roof of the Lapin Agile under snow – Montmartre
Stairs in Montmartre under snow
… And end with a view on the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower – Closed for Snow – Paris – February 2018
Snow in the Champ de Mars – Eiffel Tower – Paris – February 2018
Waiting for the spring to come… or maybe for skiing during the winter holidays for some of you. See you soon!
Twice a week the Musée du Louvre is opened at night until 9.45pm. Whether you are a tourist in Paris or a Parisian, this is really the opportunity to make the most of your visit and see the masterpieces of the Louvre with very few other visitors!
I went there last Friday around 7.30pm: No queue at all at the Pyramid entrance and, even more surprising, absolutely nobody in front of the admission desk in the main hall.
But before getting down through the Pyramid one could spend hours outside admiring the architecture of the Palace of the Louvre, the elegance of the Pyramid and the views on the Tuileries and beyond at night. The picture below was taken a couple of years ago… however the view is timeless!
Two minutes later I got my entrance ticket and could start visiting. I had chosen to make the Da Vinci Code trail. This is one of the 28 thematic visitor trails which are offered on the museum website and can be viewed online or printed out prior to a visit, what I highly recommend! The museum is so wide that this is a perfect way to prepare one’s visit so as to avoid getting lost and see what one really wants to see.
The Da Vinci Code trail offers an amusing way to see or see again some of the main rooms of the museum and look at some masterpieces with a fresh eye, providing both a historical and literary perspective. And if one has read the novel or seen the movie, one really gets the impression to follow in Robert Langdon or Sophie Neveu’s footsteps.
The trail is really very well done to better understand the part of reality and the part of fiction included in the Da Vinci Code. I have chosen to illustrate the visit with one picture of each masterpiece proposed as a stop in the trail and a short story about it. Each story is related to the Da Vinci Code and highlights some of the exaggerations of the novel.
Let’s start the visit: Close your eyes and imagine that you are alone in the museum, as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, in dark and empty rooms…
Step 1: The Pyramid
It is made of 673 diamond-shaped and triangular panes of glass, excluding the doors and not 666 as mentioned. The number of 666 was a rumor spread by the opponents to the construction of the Pyramid in the middle of the eighties, as 666 is the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation.
Step 2: Hera of Samos
Hera -sister and wife of Zeus- sets an example of the concept of the sacred feminine, which, as this statue demonstrates, was worshipped by the ancient religions.
The sacred feminine and its erasure in the early years of Christianity by undermining the memory of Mary Magdalene is part of the Da Vinci Code.
In the novel the author makes Mary Magdalene the secret companion of Jesus.
Stop 3: The Arago medallion
There are 135 Arago medallions in Paris which form a North/South line crossing the capital on the exact path of the old universal meridian of Paris that they commemorate. About fifteen of them are inside or around the Louvre. In the Da Vinci Code the geographical marker of the meridian of Paris is tranformed into an esoteric symbol, the Rose Line.
Stop 4: The Salon Carré
In the novel and in the movie, the curator Jacques Saunière dies in the Grande Galerie and the parquet around his body shows black star-shaped motifs… which are only present in the Louvre in the Salon Carré.
The real topography has been transformed for narrative purposes. There is not such a floor in the Grande Galerie which is the next room.
Step 5: The Virgin of the Rocks
The magnificent Grande Galerie of the Louvre plays a significant role in the Da Vinci Code and is the place where everything starts. It is remarkable for its collection of Italian paintings, including Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces. First of them: The Virgin of the Rocks. In the novel a far-fetched interpretation of it is given, transforming the gesture of protection of Mary into a metaphorical representation of murder, suggesting that Mary holds in her left hand the invisible head of Mary Magdalene.
Step 6: Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
This painting by Leonardo Da Vinci was made famous by the interpretation of Sigmund Freud discerning a vulture in the Virgin Mary’s garment.
It is also mentioned in the Da Vinci Code for its perfect composition based on the use of ‘Phi’, the ‘golden number’. The golden number is said to be a divine proportion and creates in painting or architecture an unparalleled effect of balance and harmony.
Step 7: Noli me Tangere
This painting shows that the scandalous impact of the Da Vinci Code, whose plot is based on the idea of a secret union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, might have had precedents in the artists’ imagination!
As one can see the positions of both Jesus and Mary Magdalene are rather ambiguous and can be interpreted in an erotic way.
Step 8: The Death of the Virgin
Musee du Louvre – A drawer in front of The Death of the virgin
Musee du Louvre – The Death of the virgin
This painting by Caravage is said to contain a scotoma, which is a detail that one doesn’t notice first but becomes obvious when one knows the story of the work. The large red drape on top of the painting whose colour is the same as the one of the dead Virgin’s dress could symbolize the body of Mary rising to her Son during the Assumption.
Before reaching the Death of the Virgin one will admire (even if not in the Da Vinci Code trail!) another work of Caravage which is in my opinion one of the most amazing paintings in the Grande Galerie: the Fortune Teller. So beautiful!
Step 9: The Wedding Feast at Cana
The masterpiece by Véronèse is the largest painting in the Louvre and a work with some surprising details that have raised many questions giving rise to various interpretations. For instance why does the Virgin Mary seem to be holding an invisible glass in her left hand?…
Step 10: Mona Lisa
Musee du Louvre – In front of Mona Lisa
Musee du Louvre – Mona Lisa
During the day it is almost impossible to reach the first line of visitors admiring the famous Mona Lisa. One of the great moments of my visit during the night opening was to be able to stand as close as possible to Mona Lisa that the safety device allows and to stay there as long as I wanted to. The painting has always aroused fantasies; many of them are of course taken up by the Da Vinci Code.
Step 11: The Red Rooms
The opening of the movie sets in the red rooms, showing the curator Jacques Saunière running through them. The decor of those three rooms, where the masterpieces from French painters such as David or Delacroix are exhibited, offers a magnificent and spectacular explosion of colour.
Step 12: The Inverted Pyramid
The trail suggests to leave the museum through the gallery leading to the shops of the Carrousel du Louvre. Not to shop -especially at 9.30pm as they are closed!- but to see the Inverted Pyramid, which is the place where the Da Vinci Code ends. Remember: Richard Langdon understands there that the pyramidion of stone placed under the Inverted Pyramid houses the grave of Mary Magdalene. This purely fictional revelation has made the Inverted Pyramid famous!
I hope that you have enjoyed this original trail through the Louvre. Whether you choose this one or any other among the 28 thematic trails proposed by the museum, depending on your taste and mood, I really recommend you to plan your visit during one of the two night openings, either on Wednesday or on Fridays, starting it around 7.30pm. The visiting conditions for the largest and most visited museum in the world are then simply exceptional!
Champagne is probably the most mythical of all French wines, that one does not drink every day but only on special occasions. One talks about Champagne while there are a great number of wines of Champagne, all very different from each other. And there is much to learn about Champagne so as to appreciate and love it even more… if that’s possible!
There are many wine shops or wine bars in Paris… but only few places dedicated to Champagne. I wish to introduce you to the best of them, all three very confidential but not to be missed by any Champagne lover.
The Champagne Bar Le Dokhan’s: The most refined
The most ancient and remarkable Champagne Bar in Paris is located inside a charming boutique hotel in 16th arrondissement of Paris, Le Dokhan’s. It has an intimate and timeless atmosphere especially when it is simply lit by candlelight.
One can sit either next to the bar in a green living room with wainscoting from 17th century ; or next to the fire place in another elegant living room furnished with antiques and decorated with Matisse and Picasso drawings. Both are charming but my favourite is the one with the bar.
The Champagne list is awesome: 250 different references, including exceptional bottles that cannot be found anywhere else ; but also champagnes produced by independent wine growers unearthed by Arthur, the chief sommelier. One can order either a bottle, a glass or a tasting of 3 different champagnes of independent wine growers, which is in my opinion the best experience.
It is a real pleasure to listen to Arthur explaining you the different soils and grape varieties, showing you the various kinds of glasses to drink Champagne, telling you the history of their shape and helping you to choose the best one to taste the champagne that you wish to drink. And he could talk forever about the wine growers whose champagne you are tasting : Who are they? What is the story fo their family? How do they work?…
Champagne Bar Le Dokhans-Paris-Le Bar
Champagne Bar Le Dokhans-Champagne glasses
Champagne Bar Le Dokhans-Bottles and glasses
The armchairs are very comfortable, the atmosphere very relaxing, refined without being stilted… One leaves the place with regret thinking about coming back the next month to taste the new selection of 3 champagnes; or to attend one of the tasting of wine growers or jazz evenings regularly proposed by the Bar Le Dokhan’s. Before leaving the hotel I suggest you having a look at the elevator whose cage is unique: it is made with a genuine vintage Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. Back to a time when travel was an art!
Dilettantes: A Champagne Shop… and more
To be a ‘Dilettante’ is to have just an amateur interest in something, to do it for pleasure. One could not have chosen a better name! Indeed since she opened the first and unique Champagne Shop in Paris five years ago, Fanny has made a lot of people happy. Her aim is to make people discover the diversity and quality of champagnes produced by independent wine growers in small and family-owned estates… and it works!
Fanny has selected 25 Champagne producers representative of the four different growing regions in Champagne. All of them work in a sustainable, organic or biodynamic way and make quality distinctive wines. Each Champagne producer proposes a selection of bottlings and in total Dilettantes sells about 150 different champagnes. Plus 50 references from the most famous Champagne houses, such as Ruinart, Taittinger,… but only rare bottles that cannot be found in supermarkets. Four huge wine fridges keep cool more than 1000 bottles!
Dilettantes is THE place to discover the diversity of champagnes, to taste them and to learn about them. When you buy a bottle, you get a card with a detailed description of the champagne… and a picture of its producer. And at any time during opening hours one can taste there one or several champagnes out of a selection of three which changes every 2 weeks. Many other tastings, either thematic or hosted by the wine growers themwelves are taking place in the shop… I should say under the shop, in a beautiful cellar from 17th century. Every tasting is the occasion to get explanations and advices and to learn more.
What could be better? Beautiful surroundings, high quality champagnes between 20€ and 40€ for any taste and cool at any time, and fascinating explanations given both in French in and English, exclusively by women. It is said that Champagne is the women’s wine…
Canard et Champagne: The most original
Some wines and food pairing do not come to mind spontaneously. Among them: Duck and Champagne, a wedding of two ‘terroirs’ which are so different. Nevertheless a Parisian restaurant opened two years ago with this speciality, and it works very well! The double name of the place, one very ordinary ‘Canard et Champagne’, and one more subtle ‘French Paradox’ shows well the daring of such a wines and food pairing.
Both tourists and local people seem to be fond of the idea to combine in a same meal two of the jewels of the French gastronomy: the restaurant has a great success and is very busy at lunch time. One is happy to discover the perfect harmony between a well balanced champagne -fresh and fruity in the same time- and a foie gras; and the interesting combination of a rosé champagne -served not too cool- with a duck breast perfectly cooked.
There are 35 references in the Champagne list, with a mix of small wine growers and famous champagne houses; six of them can be ordered by the glass, starting at 8€. And for the less rash there is also a short list of red wines…
I like the decor of the restaurant which also shows a search for a successful harmony. The historic panelling and inlaid work of the place, which used to be a Chocolaterie, have been preserved but modernized by the use of black and white, of light wood and geometric lines in the fitting out of the restaurant room.
Passage des Panoramas – Paris – In the window of a shop for collectors
Canard et Champagne – Former shop sign : tea-room L Arbre a cannelle
Canard et Champagne – Paris – Entrance of the restaurant
Canard et Champagne is located in the beautiful Passage des Panoramas: Do not miss a walk in the Passage either before or after your meal. Thanks to the next shop one will learn that people do not collect only stamps or coins, but also foils of champagne. This kind of collection is called: ‘placomusophilie’. I am afraid that there is no English translation for such a word!
Practical information : Bar Le Dokhan’s 117 rue Lauriston 75116 Every day from 6pm till midnight – Dilettantes 22 rue de Savoie 75006 From Tuesday to Saturday: 11am till 7.30pm (9pm on Thursday) – Canard et Champagne 57 passage des Panoramas 75002 Every day from noon till 3pm and from 7pm till 11pm