On my third day in Paris, which was Friday, I decided to spend the whole day at the Louvre.
Fridays are "nocturne," meaning the museum is open until late at night. I had planned to be at the museum by 10:30 a.m., to take the eleven o'clock group tour. After a few mishaps on the way and in the metro, I made it to the Louvre at ten minutes to eleven.
If I didn't take the 11 o'clock then I had to wait until 2p.m. Fortunately, I already knew my way around, because I had spent the last two days at the "Carousel" — the shopping center connected to the entrance of the Louvre in the basement.
The main reason for my visits to Louvre's Carousel was appointments at its Apple store. I had bought an iPad right before I left for Paris and I needed to learn how to use it. I've taken advantage of Apple store training sessions for the past two years, and I'm blown away by the depth of knowledge one acquires from the private or group sessions offered at the stores. You may walk into any Apple store anywhere in the world and receive the same courteous treatment.
The Apple store at the Louvre Carousel was as I had expected. I had already made an appointment from home for my first day in Paris. As I entered the store, one of the trained techs wearing their signature blue T-shirt welcomed me. "Bonjour madame." I responded in English, "Bonjour. I have an appointment for a 'One to One' session." He directed me upstairs.
Everything seemed so familiar — same ambiance, same interior design, same crowd. I took the glass staircase to the mezzanine. My instructor was Damien, who spoke English. When I told him I was Armenian and from Glendale, he said that he had Armenian friends in Glendale. WHAT?
In one of my previous blogs, I have already indicated my admiration for the Apple stores tutorials and the way the trained technicians welcome customers and solve their problems. You may want to read my entry on my blog under the title of: "Heaven should be like an Apple Store."
Enough about the Apple Stores; now back to the Louvre. When I exited the metro at the Palais Royal station, I had to run to be able to make it to the tour. All too often I forget that I'm no longer a 25-year-old agile young woman.
I ran passed the glass pyramids, in front of the Louvre. I passed young African peddlers that were trying to sell me little souvenirs. Then I took the stairs down to the entrance of the museum at the Carousel. As I arrived at the entrance to the Louvre, there was a big line for the security check. I thought I would be late for the tour, but I was wrong. I passed the security check just in time and was able to purchase a ticket and join the group.
The one-and-a-half-hour guided tour covered the history and origin of the Louvre and a brief history of the arts. Our guide took us into galleries with awe-inspiring ornate walls and ceilings, and showed us the most important paintings and sculptures in the museum. Among them were Venus of the Milo, the Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and two crowns — one was Napoleon's coronation crown and the other was the only preserved crown from before the Revolution with 140 carats worth of diamonds.
After one hour of the walking tour, I was exhausted. Again I felt my age. To rest, I went to one of the museum's cafés and had a sandwich. Then I went back again to the Apple store for another half-hour appointment of "One to One" In the afternoon, after having a café-aux-lait at Starbucks, I headed back to the Louvre.
This time, I explored the Richelieu wing, where Mesopotamian art and a huge collection of marble statues from more recent times are housed. I was on a mission. First, I wanted to see architectural pieces from the ancient Achaemenid civilization in Iran; next, I wanted to find the marble statue of the "Three Graces" of more recent times, which held the heart of Henry II, the French king.
I knew that Louvre had a great collection of Persian art from Achaemenid Empire dating back to 500 B.C. But I never had before seen them. Without much trouble, I found the gallery where the Persian art was housed. Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot available to see. Only two galleries were dedicated to the ancient Persian art.
The first gallery showcased smaller artifacts and tools; I was not much interested in these. The second one housed an imposing capital of a column from Apadana Palace, and although it was just one object, by itself it was worth my whole trip to Paris.
My words will fall short in describing the monumental and massive bull-head capital which was as tall as a two-story building. This architectural piece was one style of capital that ornamented the many pillars erected inside of the palace built by Darius the king. I feel lucky that while I was in Iran I had the opportunity to visit the ruins of the Persepolis. Apadana Palace had 72 columns, each about 60 feet (19 meters) tall. It is mind boggling that so many years ago people could built such colossal edifices.
History has it that in 301 B.C., Alexander the Great ransacked the Persepolis and his troops burnt the structures. I should add that the Achaemenid kings are prominent in history for the humanitarian way of treating their subjects. It is said the first Human Rights Declaration was made by Cyrus the Great, an Achaemenid king.
In 1947, the United Nations adopted the principles of Cyrus' declaration, which was originally written in cuneiform alphabets on a cylinder. A replica of the cylinder is showcased at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. Throughout ancient history, and also documented in Old Testament, Cyrus the Great and his descendants had the reputation of being fair kings.
In history books, there isn't much reference to Achaemenid culture, but without doubt, it can be considered one of the most important pillars of civilization.
After accomplishing my first mission, I headed to find the marble statue that I was looking for. The statue was completed by a famous French sculptor as a monument to Henry II, the king of France, who died during a jousting game in 1560. In those days it was a practice to enclose the heart of the king in an urn. The original bronze urn that the "Three Graces" held on their head was removed and destroyed during the French Revolution; its metal was used to make weapons.
We own a replica of the statue at home. I wanted to have an updated photograph of myself next to the statue. In 1997 when I was in Paris, I got a photo of myself alongside the Graces. It was time, I thought, to do this again.
First, I wandered randomly around and into different galleries that housed all the marble statues. I didn't see it. Then I asked a few docents, and they gave me wrong directions. I went up and down flights of stairs in the vast expanse of Louvre. Tired and frustrated, I was about to give up when I realized there was one more gallery that I had not checked. I asked another docent and she said that she was pretty sure the statue was in the last gallery.
Mission accomplished! I found the Three Graces and got my picture. That night as I slept all the historical characters from Cyrus the great to Henry II, were dancing in my head.