Looking at the Sea

fisherman's boat, umbrellas by the sea @PatFurstenberg

Where do our thoughts escape to?
The wondrous one that snick out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away.
Where do they go?
Seek refuge in the seashells? Ride the foam of the waves? Or hide underneath the beach chairs only to come out again at day’s end.
To balance the fading daylight.
To relish into the solitude of the beach.
To hide between their own folk.

Last holiday I let the light slip through my fingers as we strolled along the beach. I took these pictures between 18:17 and 19:43 in Mamaia Holiday Resort, by the Black Sea.

I’ll leave you with the fading light and the sea’s ever changing face – and its secrets.

long shadows beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
straw beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
sunset beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
white beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
pink flamingo, sand castle, beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
striped beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
blue fishermen by the sea @PatFurstenberg
beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
beach umbrella and throne  by the sea @PatFurstenberg
beach umbrella 2 beds by the sea @PatFurstenberg
after sunset beach umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg
wodden swing by the sea @PatFurstenberg
umbrella and windy evening on the beach @PatFurstenberg
net covers umbrella by the sea @PatFurstenberg

Long after sunset the forgotten thoughts, and the escaped ones, plunge into the sea. As they dive right below its surface their sinuous backs from the waves we see at night, thick and sluggish. They dive in and out and, thus, the slow white crests of midnight waves are born.
Sometimes the bathing thoughts forget themselves in their merrymaking and never come out and thus, in the morning, the sea is gray like petrol and the lifeguards raise their red flag, marking a hazardous beach. For they know, they’ve seen it happening, bathers vanishing in those calm, thick waters – although no sea predators were ever spotted.
Except for sea-currents circling underneath. But you and I know; those are the long-forgotten thoughts, looming in waiting.

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Looking at Skulls in the Catacombs of Paris

Looking at Skulls in Paris Catacombes

Bones are the very last of our earthly traces and a proof of the existence of life itself. Bones symbolize that life is indestructible and they symbolize resurrection too (in Jewish tradition). Yet bones constantly remind us of our own mortality and of our feeble presence in this world.

Ahead of Halloween, I invite you to join me in a contemplation of death, life and immortality as we walk through the Catacombs of Paris.
And down we go. 20 meters underground.

A spiral staircase taking us 20 meters underground into the Catacombs of Paris
A spiral staircase taking us 20 meters underground into the Catacombs of Paris

This ossuary, containing the remains of millions of Parisians, is not what one might imagine, even after researching and viewing various images online.
A lifeless, gloomy, never-ending labyrinth. Life is suddenly a precious commodity here.
These pictures have not been altered.

A tunnel underground, Catacombs of Paris, where life is suddenly a precious commodity.
Life is suddenly a precious commodity here.

And even further we go. There is no turning back now…

The Catacombs of Paris, an underground labyrinth. No turning back now.
The Catacombs of Paris, an underground labyrinth. No turning back now.

The Catacombs of Paris are a time-travel place no one bargained for:

1876 stamped in a brick: , Catacombs of Paris officially opened to the public.
1876 stamped in a brick: , Catacombs of Paris officially opened to the public.

Feels like “Death lived there and none of them wanted to meet her that night.”

Silent Heroes, by Patricia Furstenberg
An endless pit in the Catacombs of Paris
Feels like “Death lived there and none of them wanted to meet her that night.” (Silent Heroes, by Patricia Furstenberg)

We are reminded that life goes on above the ground. Are we remembered, down here, underneath Rue Hallé?

A reminder that we are underneath Rue Hallé in the Catacombs of Paris.

The first wall of skulls and bones knocked the breath out of my lungs:

The first wall of skulls and bones in the Paris  Catacombs.

And then, this. Suddenly, a wind blasts through the Parisian Catacombs and I am chilled to the bone:

Skulls in the Parisian Catacombs

“whenever he would wake up cold and shivering, he would know he’d just felt death’s icy breath on his skin and that he escaped her again.”

Silent Heroes, by Patricia Furstenberg
Ils furent ce que nous sommes,
Poussière, jouet du vent; 
Fragiles comme des hommes. 
Faibles comme le néant. 
Paris Catacombs

“Ils furent ce que nous sommes,
Poussière, jouet du vent;
Fragiles comme des hommes.
Faibles comme le néant.”

(Lamartine)

“They were once as we are now,
Dust, trinkets in the wind;
As fragile as humankind.
As frail as the void.”

Human skull, close up - Paris Catacombs

Human bones are light ivory with a touch of brown, but when exposed to soil and natural pigments or minerals in the soil they change color.
I stand 1m 65cm tall. This mountain of human bones and skulls was at my eye level, nearly touching the ceiling of the Parisian Catacombs:

A mountain of human bones and skulls standing 1m 60cm high in the Catacombs of Paris

And further we go, quietly.

A cross in the Catacombs of Paris

Which way? Death is all around us. Overpowering.

Catacombs of Paris, a real maize

“his black robe swaying with every step like a death flag…”

Silent Heroes, by Patricia Furstenberg
A heart made out of skulls. Paris Catacombs
A heart of skulls to show the love for those departed.

It gets much darker than this:

A cross and three mounds of bones in the Paris Catacombs.

Memento Creatoris tui in diebus juventutis tuae… “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth”

Ecclesiastes xii: 1

A forgotten anatomy lesson: a view inside the frontal and parietal bones:

Skull, view inside the frontaland parietal bones

The Catacombs are a never-ending maize. I need out.

towards exit. Paris Catacombs

“They followed on the stony path knowing it lead to a place where death ruled.”

Silent Heroes, by Patricia Furstenberg
A light shaft. Paris Catacombs
Light. Life.

Until we found the stairs going up, towards life, light and hope.

Exit, stairs going up, Paris Catacombs

Thank you for joying me.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 5 stars reviews
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 5 stars reviews
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Fastest Route to Mona Lisa, Louvre, Paris

the fastest route to Mona Lisa, Louvre Museum

It is possible to see the Mona Lisa with (almost) no one else around. The fastest way, the quickest way to see the Mona Lisa (Gioconda, or LA JOCONDE as the French name her) by Leonardo da Vinci and located in the 1st floor, DENON wing, room 711 / room 8: “LA JOCONDE” in the Louvre Museum, Paris, is shared here, step by step.

With a bit of planning and following these steps, if you wish, you can enjoy your one minute of fame, alone with the Mona Lisa. Then visit the Louvre Museum at your leisure.

Fastest way to the Mona Lisa:

  1. Buy an online ticket for the Louvre Museum for the 9:00am time slot.
  2. Be at the Pyramid, main entrance, at 8:30am.
  3. Choose the GREEN entrance line for e-ticket holders.
  4. You will enter the Louvre through the Glass Pyramid (ground floor). Escalator takes you down (lower ground floor).
  5. You will see Information Desk / Information “Musee du Louvre” in front of you. Turn right. Go up the first escalator. (You travel from lower ground floor to ground floor).
  6. You will see the signs for DENON wing in front of you. Go right. Take the lift ahead of you. Go up to 1st floor – elevator panel is marked with “La Joconde”.
  7. Out of the elevator, ahead of you, there will be a long hallway with artwork. Look for the signs towards “La Joconde”. Well marked.
  8. Enter room 711 (or room 8), also known as Salle des États. You are in a small antechamber with paintings.
  9. There are two doors ahead, left and right. Go further through one of them.
  10. You will enter a very big space. Ahead you will see the biggest painting in the Louvre, The Wedding Feast at Cana. Turn sideways to face the wooden barrier and see The Mona Lisa, La Joconde, La Gioconda, the Great Lady of the Louvre.

1. Buy an online ticket for the Louvre Museum for the 9:00 am time slot

You can buy your ticket from the Louvre website here. Best a few days in advance. Choose the top option: Individual tickets for the Museum. The cost is 17,00 € per person (2019) – as opposed to 15,00 € if you buy at the Louvre – and, choosing the 9:00am time slot, it will guarantee you entry in the Louvre as soon as it opens – which is:

Musée du Louvre opening hours
Monday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Tuesday: Closed.
Wednesday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m. 
Saturday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
On the first Saturday of each month, the museum is also open from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. and admission is free for all visitors.
Rooms begin closing at 5:30 p.m., and at 9:30 p.m. on night openings.

Louvre Museum opening hours

Note: Free admission with no ticket (it will NOT guarantee you entry at 9:00am) for: under-18s, under-26s living in the European Economic Area, people with disabilities and the person accompanying them (these DO enter first), and people on income support. On presentation of proof of eligibility, full list on  Louvre.fr

2. Be at the Pyramid, main entrance, at 8:30am.

Louvre Museum, Pyramid Entrance - fastest route to see Mona Lisa
Louvre Museum, Pyramid Entrance – fastest route to see Mona Lisa

You might see him:

Military Dogs at Louvre Museum - fastest route to see the Mon Lisa
Military Dogs at Louvre Museum

3. Choose the GREEN entrance line for e-ticket holders.

Green line - tickets with time slot reservation
Green line – tickets with time slot reservation

4. You will enter the Louvre through the Glass Pyramid (ground floor). Escalator takes you down (lower ground floor).

The Glass Pyramid was designed by IM Pei and inaugurated on 1st April 1989!

Louvre Museum, Glass Pyramid detail
Louvre Museum, Glass Pyramid detail
Louvre Museum. Glass Pyramid - down the escalator (ground floor- lower level) - fastest route to see the Mona Lisa
Louvre Museum. Glass Pyramid – down the escalator (ground floor- lower level)

5. You will see Information Desk / Information “Musee du Louvre” in front of you. Turn right. Go up the first escalator. (You travel from lower ground floor to ground floor).

Information desk on lower level, Louvre Museum
Information desk on lower level, Louvre Museum
Turn right. Go up the first escalator. (You travel from lower  ground floor to ground floor). Fastest route to see the Mona Lisa
Turn right. Go up the first escalator. (You travel from lower ground floor to ground floor).

Same image, from a higher point:

Go up the first escalator. (You travel from lower  ground floor to ground floor) - upper view. Fastest route to see the Mona Lisa
Go up the first escalator. (You travel from lower ground floor to ground floor) – upper view.

6. You will see the signs for DENON wing in front of you. Go right. Take the lift ahead of you. Go up to 1st floor – elevator panel is marked with “La Joconde”.

Signs that you have reached the DENON wing - fastest route to see the Mona Lisa
Signs that you have reached the DENON wing

Take the elevator ahead of you – sorry about the blurred image, we were in a hurryyyyyy 🙂

The elevator in Denon wing taking you to La Joconde - Mona Lisa, fastest route
the elevator in Denon wing taking you to La Joconde

The road to La Joconde, the Mona Lisa, is very well marked:

signs leading to La Joconde Mona Lisa - fastest route
signs pointing you to La Joconde, Mona Lisa

7. Out of the elevator, ahead of you, there will be a long hallway with artwork. Look for the signs towards “La Joconde”. Well marked.

You will first reach Salon Denon. You want to walk through the door that is opposite the windows.

Salon Denon - the big windows. Use the door opposite. Fastest route to Mona Lisa
Salon Denon – the big windows. Use the door opposite
Salon Denon - go through this door to Mona Lisa - fastest route
Salon Denon – go through this door to Mona Lisa

8. Enter room 711 (or room 8), also known as Salle des États . You are in a small antechamber with paintings:

You enter Room 711 (room 8) of the Louvre Museum, Denon Wing, where the Mona Lisa is located. Fastest route to see the Mona Lisa.
You enter Room 711 (room 8) of the Louvre Museum, Denon Wing, where the Mona Lisa is located.
where to find Mona Lisa in the Louvre
where to find Mona Lisa in the Louvre

9. There are two doors ahead, left and right. Go further through one of them.

On the far wall you see The Wedding Feats at Cana by Veronese, depicting Jesus’ miracles, the biggest painting in the Louvre. Left and right is the exit towards the Grande Gallery.

room 711, Denon wing, Louvre Museum, Mona Lisa is behind this wall. Fastest route.
room 711, Denon wing, Louvre Museum, Mona Lisa is behind this wall

10. You will enter an very big space. Ahead you will see the biggest painting in the Louvre, The Wedding Feast at Cana. Turn sideways to face the wooden barrier and see The Mona Lisa, La Joconde, La Gioconda, the Great Lady of the Louvre.

Mona Lisa. La Joconda. La Gioconda, Denon Wing, room 711, Louvre Museum, fastest route
Mona Lisa. La Joconda. La Gioconda
Salle des États -Salle_de_la_Joconde_-_Musée_du_Louvre_-_large.jpg
Salle des Etats – Mona Lisa seen from the opposite wall, where the painting of The Wedding Feast at Cana hangs.

Going out from room 711, using the exit near the painting of The wedding Feast at Cana, you will get here. If you stand in Grande Gallery, the statue of Artemis marks the door to the room 711, where La Joconde is. (At least when we visited, it did): see the entrance on the right?

Artemis statue in Louvre, in the Grande Galerie, in front of La Joconde room - 711
Artemis statue in Louvre, in the Grande Gallery, in front of La Joconde room – 711

This plan of 1st floor Louvre Museum might help:

Did you know that some say Mona Lisa was a rich Florentine business woman, Leonardo da Vinci’s neighbor. Some say she was his mother. Some say it is a well disguised self-portrait or the portrait of da Vinci’s secret lover. Some even say it is the portrait of the only girl da Vinci was ever in love with.

Certain is that Mona LIsa is one of the Three Ladies of the Louvre, together with Venus de Milo and Nike, The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

the Three Ladies of the Louvre: Mona LIsa, Venus de Milo and Nike,  The Winged Victory of Samothrace.
the Three Ladies of the Louvre: Mona LIsa, Venus de Milo and Nike, The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Mona Lisa was one of the period’s largest portraits, painted on a single, very thin (12 mm) poplar board.
It reflects Renaissance interest in Platonic theory, when the beauty of the body was seen as that of the soul.
It is not an ostentatious image of a rich bourgeoisie lady: through pose and attire and the absence of eyelashes and eyebrows (in line with the fashion).
Gioconda, in Italian, it means happiness.

NEW: Meeting the ‘Mona Lisa’ for an Intimate (Virtual) Rendezvous

Visitors to the Louvre will experience Leonardo da Vinci’s world through a virtual-reality tour that brings them closer to the masterpiece than ever before. Read more here.

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Looking UP: in Mamaia and Constanta, by the Sea

Looking up in Mamaia and Constanta

While holidaying in Mamaia at the Black Sea this August we booked a tour in a double-decker bus. Just as spectacular as Brasov or Bucharest, here are some of the sights we spotted while looking up…

Mamaia is one of the oldest Romanian holiday resorts at the Black Sea and one I visited since I was a baby. It is famous for its sandy beaches and endless beach. I almost forgot that one of the hotels there has the same name with my Mom:

Hotel Doina, in Mamaia. My Mother's name is Doina :)
Hotel Doina, in Mamaia. My Mother’s name is Doina 🙂

Here is the same gondola from Mamaia seen at sunset:

The pedestrian crossroad:

Also in Mamaia, looking up from the double-decker bus:

In Constanta, modern buildings often alternate with older houses. ses. Look at this charming balcony. It reminded me of Brasov.

Saint Mary is the Patron Saint of Romanian Naval Forces so 15 August is a massive celebration in Constanta, both Christian and military. We went there two weeks after… Look at all the Romanian flags still adorning the city:

I liked the wave design of this light-post found in Constanta Park, near the Cazino, The statue is that of Carmen Sylva, the pen name of Elisabeth, Queen of Romania 1881-1914.

Two different types of street lights right next to each other:

And look at all those birds:

Now this is not a street light, as it is a beacon light, a signaling light – but not a light house…

Still looking up, Constanta is gorgeous:

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Looking UP: Street Lamps from Brasov and Fagaras Castle, Romania, part 2 #travel #pictures

Street lights of Brasov

I hope you enjoyed looking up with me and discovering the intricate street lights of Bucharest, some separating the past from the present.

Brasov, Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German, is a historical and cultural city found in the heart of Transylvania, in the heart of Romania. It was first mentioned in 1235 and, not many know, it was the birth place of Katharina Siegel, the only woman Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is said to have ever loved.

One of my favorite places in Brasov is not a coffee shop… but Rope Street, Strada Sforii, dating from 17th century, the narrowest alley in Romania and one of tightest passages in Europe, initially built to facilitate a quicker access for firemen. Its width varies between 111-135 cm / 44-53 inch, measuring 80 m / 260 ft in lenght.

A lamp post bordering Strada Sforii, Rope Street, in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A lamp post bordering Strada Sforii, Rope Street, in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Now let’s walk along Rope Street, looking up:

A light street looking like an eye on Strada Sforii, Rope Street, Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A light street looking like an eye on Strada Sforii, Rope Street, Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Now look up and far, do you see the giant letters spelling BRASOV, placed high on Mount Tampa? And opposite the “eye” street light there is a mural of an eye!

"Eye" street light on Rope Street, Strada Sforii, and the Hollywood-style 'Braşov' sign up on the mountain. Image by @PatFurstenberg
“Eye” street light on Rope Street, Strada Sforii, and the Hollywood-style ‘Braşov’ sign up on the mountain. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Next I saw this classic looking street light and his friends, the red carnations:

A classic street light and red carnations in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A classic street light and red carnations in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg

This modern, yet lonely light pole, neighboring an old, solo attic window, caught my attention:

A modern street light near an old attic window in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A modern street light near an old attic window in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg

The lamp post below is placed on Schei Gate. Down from here is Schei Gate Street where Katharina Siegel lived with her family, at number 20. Back then the street was called White Lane, Ulita Alba.

Lamp post on Schei Gate, Poarta Schei, Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Lamp post on Schei Gate, Poarta Schei, Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

This light post, looking like Little Bo Peep’s curly stick, is located exactly in front of Katharina Siegel’s house, the light green one with three windows visible on the first floor and two windows on the attic:

Street light in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Street light in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg

I wonder if Vlad Tepes would have approved with this street light or he would have preferred something like these:

Street lights of Brasov, Romania. Image via@PatFurstenberg
Street lights of Brasov, Romania. Image via@PatFurstenberg

The street light attached to buildings seem to have such elegant arms and top caps, don’t you think?

Speaking of green houses, and the buildings of Brasov are vibrant, here is a street light matching its residence:

A green street light in front of a green house, Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A green street light in front of a green house, Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg

I looked up next and saw an elegant lamp post perched on a green building (what shade is this – sea foam, mint?), next to an entire row of red carnations:

Green buildings in Brasov, lampshades, red carnations. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Green buildings in Brasov, lampshades, red carnations. Image by @PatFurstenberg

I called this street light a serenading one, it just seems to be serenading the window placed above:

A serenading street light in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A serenading street light in Brasov, Romania. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Now this street light looked like it was doing a split across the road:

A lamp post doing a split in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A lamp post doing a split in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Shadows come out in plain daylight too:

Street lights and shadows in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Street lights and shadows in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Believe it or not, this all dressed up lamp post was affixed to the building of the National Bank:

Spirals and leaves on a cast iron in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Spirals and leaves on a cast iron in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

A frosted lamp post against a marble wall. It reminded me of iced cappuccino.

A frosted lamp post against a marble wall in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A frosted lamp post against a marble wall in Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

When two windows whisper to each other over a lamp posts and red carnations bend over the balcony to thank a street light, you have to stop and look up:

Street lights from Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Street lights from Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

The lamp post next to the window that wasn’t meant to be:

The lamp post next to the window that wasn't meant to be. Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
The lamp post next to the window that wasn’t meant to be. Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

On Mount Tampa, the light poles are as tall as the trees. And so is the passion of those who keep them looking neat, such as this old Lady who was painting them on a hot summer’s day.

Lamp posts on Mount Tampa, Muntele Tampa, Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Lamp posts on Mount Tampa, Muntele Tampa, Brasov. Image by @PatFurstenberg

In Brasov Council Square, Piata Sfatului, light poles are as pretty at bell flowers.

In Brasov Council Square, Piata Sfatului, light poles  are as pretty at bell flowers. Image by @PatFurstenberg
In Brasov Council Square, Piata Sfatului, light poles are as pretty at bell flowers. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Last two pictures of lamp posts, and I hope you made it this far, are from Fagaras Fortress, built in 1310 on the site of a former 12th century wooden fortress:

A hand-help light inside Fagaras Fortress. Image by @PatFurstenberg
A hand-help light inside Fagaras Fortress. Image by @PatFurstenberg

Do you see the wire sculpture of a man on the horse? On the grounds of Fagaras Fortress there are plenty of modern light poles:

Light poles and the wire sculpture of a man on a horse on the grounds of Fagaras Fortress. Image by @PatFurstenberg
Light poles and the wire sculpture of a man on a horse on the grounds of Fagaras Fortress. Image by @PatFurstenberg

I hope you enjoyed the street lights of Brasov. Next in the #LookUp series are the lamp posts of Constanta and Mamaia, by the Black Sea!

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