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 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.
The 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
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 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.
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