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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Visiting the Louvre for the Building, Not the Art

Like everyone else I'm overwhelmed by the Louvre but with four months here I'm hoping to leave with a better sense of the museum. In order to break it down into more manageable visits I'm listening to Museum Masterpieces; The Louvre a series of twelve short lectures on the collection focusing on painting. I plan to listen to the lectures and then hotfoot it over to the museum with my new knowledge and purpose in hand. The lectures are put together by the people at Great Courses and while I looked for a class for free on itunesU or Coursera but couldn't find anything similar.

So, the first lecture was on the building and accordingly I ran down to the Louvre to look at the building and not the art. I was fascinated to learn that though  building looks uniform it was built at a variety of different times and that though it is currently open to the Tuileries originally the Tuilerie Palace stood here until it was destroyed during the Paris Commune in 1871.
Prior to I. M. Pei's masterful re-imagining, the complex of buildings housed not just the museum but also government departments including the Ministry of Finance. By excavating the Napoleon courtyard, removing the bureaucrats and adding the glass pyramids, he created a central entrance and a greater coherence to the buildings though  it still seems you have to walk miles  back through everything you've already seen to find an exit.
The collection is divided geographically with artwork from the northern countries including France, Germany and the Low Countries in the northern wings, while art and sculpture from Italy, Spain and classical antiquity can be found in the wings  to the south that front the Seine.
Bypassed by many visitors  the walls of the early fortress have been preserved and it is here that you can see the medieval origins of the Louvre as a defensive palace of kings. I found it extraordinary to find this in the basement of what is clearly a much later edifice. There are also rooms filled with plans and models of the Louvre as well as many wonderful nineteenth century paintings of various art filled rooms including the long gallery. I particularly liked these paintings of paintings, representing how others have admired the art over the years. Apparently  some of these were sent on show abroad and this helped spread the fame of the Louvre and it's collection.
It is a glorious palace and sometimes the rooms themselves overwhelm the artifacts with their grandeur, indeed the building itself is  always on exhibit.

Like the Metropolitan in New York, the Louvre is far too large to consume in a single bite. The legions of shell shocked visitors  tramping through like art gallery zombies prove this this everyday. I'm hoping to have enough time to get to know the collection a little better and learning about the history and layout of the building was a good place to start.

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