Travel with me to Two Great Museums: the Louvre and the British Museum

Welcome to my blog in which I share my two passions: travel and French. Today, we are going to visit two great museums – the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London. Both have innumerable treasures to see and discover and are well worth the visit.

The Louvre

The Louvre began its life as a fortress in the Middle Ages when King Philippe Auguste decided to build a strong defence against the Anglo-Norman threat. Thus, at first, the Louvre was not a museum or a royal residence but an arsenal. The Salle Basse (Lower Hall) is all that remains of the medieval Louvre. In the 14th century, the Louvre was surrounded by the city and lost its defensive function.  In 1364 to 1369, it began to be transformed into a royal residence.

After many transformations, in 1692 Louis XIV ordered the creation of a gallery for sculptures in the Louvre. It became the residence of the Académie Française and later of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture). “In  1791, the revolutionary Assemblée Nationale decreed that the “Louvre and the Tuileries together will be a national palace to house the king and for gathering together all the monuments of the sciences and the arts”. It was thus the French Revolution that facilitated the present museum.

 Today the Louvre is one of the biggest museums in the world and houses the famous Mona Lisa (La Joconde), Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. It is housed under thick glass with many other security measures in place and is much smaller than one would think. But there are always crowds around it.

DSC04835The glass Pyramid which now forms the entrance to the Louvre was controversial when it was first built in 1989 but has now become an icon of Paris. It was part of the ‘Grand Louvre’ project which sought to modernize the museum. In the 1970s the Louvre was struggling to cope with the numbers of visitors and its entrances were too small. The French President at the time, François Mitterand, appointed the Chinese-born American architect, Ieoh Ming Pei to redesign the entrance. The result was an underground entrance with access to the Louvre, shops and restaurants.

The Louvre also houses the Venus de Milo. This Hellenistic statue, which was found on the island of Melos in 1820, is a combination of classical tradition and innovation. The goddess seems arrested in time and the craftsmanship of the clothes draping her is amazing. You can also see the Victory of Samothrace (the Nike in Greek). This is a statue of a winged girl representing victory and standing on the prow of a ship.

The Louvre is divided into 8 collections or departments, each shaped and defined by the activities of its curators, collectors and donors. They are : Paintings, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Islamic Art and Prints and Drawings. If you wish to visit the Louvre, make sure that you have plenty of time – in fact, one day is definitely not enough!

The British Museum

british museum

The British Museum was founded in 1753 and was the first national public museum in the world. Visitors numbers have grown from 5000 a year to over 6 million a year. Admission is free. The Museum came into being thanks to the will of Sir Hans Sloane who bequeathed his collection of 71,000 objects to King George II in exchange for £20,000 for his heirs. The gift was accepted and in 1953 an Act of Parliament established the Museum. It was opened to the public in 1759 and was free to ‘all studious and curious Persons’.

In the early 19th century, several important artefacts came to be housed in the British museum: the Rosetta Stone, the Townley collection of classical sculptures, the Parthenon scuptures and the remains of the Temple of Halikarnassos.

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 in a village called Rashid (Rosetta) by Napoleon’s soldiers while they were enlarging a fort. It is believed that it was carved in 196 B.C. It has writing in three different languages on it: Greek, Demotic and hieroglyphics. This enabled historians to decipher hieroglyphics. After the French were defeated by the English, the Stone was sent to the British Museum.

The Parthenon Sculptures are also housed in the British Museum. The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of the city of Athens. It stands on the Acropolis (see my previous post on Athens) which surmounts Athens. Lord Elgin brought the sculptures to England at the beginning of the 19th century. There has been great controversy over the sculptures which are also called the Elgin Marbles as Greece is demanding that they be restored to them and has even built a Parthenon Museum to house them.

There many other noteworthy treasures to be found in the British Museum and it has special exhibitions periodically. When I was there, there was a whole exhibition dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian which was very interesting.

Thus, these are two great museums that should be visited and enjoyed.

French Vocabulary

Today we are going to learn French vocabulary to do with the restaurant (Part I).

hors d’oeuvres = starters  hors doeuvres

menu léger = light meals  menu léger

le plat principal = main course  plat principal

le dessert = dessert  dessert

les fromages = cheeses  fromages

je voudrais un plat à emporter = I would like a take-away  emporter

bon appétit ! = enjoy your meal! appétit

avez-vous une table pour quatre personnes? = do you have a table for 4? table pour 4

j’ai réservé une table au nom de ……= I have reserved a table in the name of …..  table au nom de

voice votre table, elle vous convient? = here is you table, does it suit you?  table convient

je voudrais la carte, s’il vous plait = I would like the menu please. carte svp

voici le menu et la carte des vins = here is the menu and the wine list  carte des vins

voulez-vous quelquechose à boire/ à manger? = would you like something to drink/ to eat? quelquechose a boire

je voudrais une bouteille de vin rouge/ blanc = I would like a bottle of red/white wine bouteille vin

je voudrais une bouteille d’eau plate/pétillante = I would like a bottle of still/sparkling water  eau plate


Travel with me to the Gardens of Versailles

  Welcome to my blog that unites my two passions: travel and French. Today, come with me to the magical Gardens of Versailles and discover a part of history. Most people just visit the Château of Versailles and briefly glance at the sweep of gardens from the front steps. But the Gardens are worth a separate visit.  In 1661 Louis XIV, the Sun King, commissioned André Le Nôtre with the design and layout of the gardens. According to Louis XIV, the gardens were just as important as the Palace of Versailles. It took 40 years and the teamwork of many people to complete the gardens . It will take you a day perhaps two to explore the gardens and palaces in it. You can use the petit train (small train) to travel around ( you have to buy a ticket – and don’t forget to ask when the last one leaves) but you will still walk a lot. It’s worth it though!

The Grand Trianon

The Grand Trianon was built for Louis XIV in 1687 by Jules Hardoin-Mansart and was a place where the king could get away from the hectic court life. It is a historic monument and on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its also known as the ‘Pink Palace’ because of its pink columns  (Jules Mansart described it as  “A little pink marble and porphyry palace with delightful gardens.”) and its geometrical French-style gardens. It was built on the site of a previous palace.

The Grand Trianon was mainly used to host visiting family members but the king sometimes used it for his mistresses. The most famous person who stayed in it, apart from Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette, was Napoleon Bonaparte.

 The Petit Trianon

The Petit Trainon was built during the time of Louis XV but has come to be associated with Marie-Antoinette. The Petit Trianon was given to Marie-Antoinette by Louis XVI as a gift. It became her haven away from court life and etiquette. She transformed its gardens to the English style with picturesque lawns and small brooks. What fascinated me the most was the Temple of Love which can be seen from the palace. It, as well as the palace, is built in the Greek style.

The Petit Trianon is surrounded by its gardens and can be seen from every side. Each of its four sides is different. The most sumptuous side faces the French gardens and is decorated with columns in the Greek Style.

 Marie-Antoinette’s Domain


Marie-Antoinette had her domain or hamlet built in 1783. There she revelled in the country life amid her ladies-in-waiting – away from the court she hated. The hamlet, which became a real farm supplying the Palace,  was created in the spirit of a true Norman village with eleven houses spread out around the big lake. When visiting the hamlet (hameau), Marie-Antoinette and her ladies-in-waiting would dress as shepherdesses and play at milking the cows and tending other farm animals.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit Versailles but plan to discover both the Palace and the Gardens!

French Vocabulary

Today, we are going to learn some French phrases  about staying in a hotel:


Avez-vous une chambre de libre ce soir? = Do you have any rooms available for tonight?

chambre de libre

Je voudrais une chambre pour une personne/deux personnes = I would like to have a single/double room.chambre pour une

Je voudrais deux chambres communicantes = I would like two interconnecting rooms. chambres communicantes

Je voudrais une chambre avec une douche/un bain = I would like a room with a shower/a bath.  chambre avec douche

Quel est le prix de la chambre par nuit?= how much is the room per night?  prix de chambre

Est-ce que le petit déjeuner est compris? = is breakfat included.  petit dejeuner compris

Toutes les chambres sont équipées avec: air conditionné/minibar/WI-FI/ligne de telephone = all rooms are equipped with: air-conditioning/a mini bar/WI-FI/a telephone line. chambres equipees

Y a-t-il service d’étage? = is there room service?  service d’etage