The Mona Lisa (La Joconde)

The_louvre_2I was warned that the Mona Lisa is a bit of a disappointment, it is a lot smaller in real life than one expects, it is not as fine as expected, and the queues into the Louvre and to see her are really long. I have to say wrong on all accounts. I walked straight into the Louvre with a very short queue, and I was on my way to see the world’s most famous painting.

She was recently moved to a much more accessible room (still in the Denon wing) which is very well sign posted. I had a marvelous time walking through the museum, looking at many works, including van Gogh and de Vinci.

P6250065I knew that the Mona Lisa was somebody there, but I was not quite sure where. So when I turned a corner and almost bumped into the painting, I was quite startled. There she was – looking directly at me. She is far more amazing in the flesh (so to speak), than any print I have seen of her. I felt drawn to her, like she wanted to tell me something, and I had great difficulty looking away. Whenever I managed to, I still found myself drawn back to her. This is a painting that should be seen, and has to be seen in the flesh to be appreciated for what it is. Visiting the Mona Lisa was a dream fulfilled.

P6250048 I did find it odd that instead of walking around with guide books, many people were walking around with copies of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”. At least he is getting people more interesting in art and history. The inverted pyramid on the left is where (according to the book), The Holy Grail is hidden.

ps – The painting is not small, but is in fact 53 x 77 cm.

French Language Issues

Before I left I was warned about how unfriendly the French, and especially Parisians are (speak Afrikaans first so they don’t think you are British etc). I am very pleased to say that I did not find this the case.

Everybody I spoke to was friendly and helpful. It is however important to at least make an effort to learn a few basic words of French, so you are at least able to greet and acknowledge people in their own language. So far I have only had good experiences with the Parisians, and I hope it continues so.

The Eiffel Tower

Eifel_tower The tower looked just like I expected, but then thinking about it, who should it not. The queues were long, but they did move quickly (you can miss the queues by walking up about 12 flights of stairs to the first level). We took the lift to the second level (my first double story lift). This was quite a scary experience, because the lift basically moves up the leg of the tower, so it moves at an angle. This means that you can see the ground fall away below you as you move. The second level platform is about 115 m high, with an incredible view. You can see from the Arc de Triomphe, across to the Louvre, over to Notra Damme, past the Invalides and finally up and down the river.

P6240030 Once we had adjusted to this height, it was time to move up. The top level is 276 m high, and this level is (not surprisingly) fully enclosed. It is quite a scary experience being at this height, bearing in mind that I was being held up by what is basically a Meccano toy. I thought that the view from the second level was good, but I had no idea. You are actually so high up that you start to see the ground below through the beginnings of the city air pollution. However I did still manage to see about ½ way back to Cape Town.

P6270107_1The Eiffel tower was built in 1889 for the Paris World Fair. It was built by Gustave Eiffel, who also built the Status of Liberty in New York. Its total height is 320m, varying by about 15 cm, depending on the temperature. It weighs 7000 tons, and contains 2.5 million rivets.

If you do visit, you really must go all the way to the top – it is worth the wait in the queues. I do have to conclude by saying that I was very glad to get my feed back on solid ground after the visit.

Paris

P6270114 Paris is all I expected, but many times more. There really is a café on every corner. The markets are clean, inexpensive and varied, and they do have a huge variety of cheeses, patés and cold meets. Everybody really does eat baguettes for lunch. The architecture is splendid, with every building covered in the finest detail. People do take their dogs on the trains, busses and into restaurants. I have never been to a city before where it is just like the guide books and films.

Michaela’s Restaurant – The Restaurant in the Sky

The restaurant is well signposted from the main road (all 50m and three shops of it). We followed the signs to the restaurant, and arrived at a parking lot. Climbing out of the car, we couldn’t see any signs of the restaurant, which was really puzzling. Looking around, we saw a path wondering into the trees. With a sense of excitement, and a great deal of trepidation, we walked down the path. Very soon, we arrived in a small clearing in the trees. Two steps led up to a wooden platform which blended into the trees.

El2 Leading off the platform were dark, varnished wooden steps, climbing their way in large zigzags up into the trees, getting smaller and smaller as they disappeared in the distance.

Looking to the left, we saw something that looked out of place, a wooden frame with glass doors, and a single button.

El1_1 Deciding to continue on this adventure, I pressed the button. I heard a click, followed a brief second later buy the noise of an electric motor, slowly getting louder. Looking up towards my right, I saw a glass vanicular slowly coming down through the trees. Slowly it arrived and gently docked. The glass doors opened and in we climbed. A panel on the side revealed two buttons, up and down. Since we couldn’t go any lower, I pressed the up button. We heard a click and with a gentle jolt, we were on our way, going higher and higher.

Presently, the vanicular slowed to a stop and the doors opened, revealing a wooden platform, and an entrance door on the left. On the right, we could see the top of the stairs we had observed from the bottom. We entered into the room, and found ourselves in the most charming restaurant – the restaurant in the sky.

El3Michaela’s is a split level restaurant, with a bar and seating on both levels. The top level has a deck area with magnificent views of the sea, the trees (below you), and the hills of the Eastern Cape. Since we didn’t go to the bottom level, I can’t comment on it.

El5While not cheap, the meal was certainly not expensive (a characteristic we found throughout the East London area). I ordered sole, with a salmon, shrimp and mushroo m dressing (R74). The sole was large, there was plenty of salmon in the dressing, and it was very, very tasty.  Lois had the soup of the day, which came with a few pieces of melba toast (R24). Her bowl was large, and also very good. The salad was fresh and crisp, with plenty of veges in it.

The staff is unassuming and friendly. They have the rare ability to be there when you need the assistance, but to not be in the way the rest of the time. We were there for lunch on a Friday, and there were quite a few busy tables. I got the impression that many people are regulars.

El4 We had drinks the next evening, and even though there were getting ready for a wedding party downstairs, we were welcome to have drinks upstairs. The wedding party all arrived while we were having drinks, and although we were tempted to gatecrash the wedding (a wedding being our original reason for the trip), we managed to resist the urge. I do however get the sneaking suspicion that we would have been welcome to join in the festivities had we done so.

written by Craig

Michaela’s Restaurant – 043-738-5139

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