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 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.
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.
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.
And even further we go. There is no turning back now…
The Catacombs of Paris are a time-travel place no one bargained for:
Feels like “Death lived there and none of them wanted to meet her that night.”
“Ils furent ce que nous sommes, Poussière, jouet du vent; Fragiles comme des hommes. Faibles comme le néant.”
“They were once as we are now, Dust, trinkets in the wind; As fragile as humankind. As frail as the void.”
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:
And further we go, quietly.
Which way? Death is all around us. Overpowering.
“his black robe swaying with every step like a death flag…”
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:
Buy an online ticket for the Louvre Museum for the 9:00am time slot.
Be at the Pyramid, main entrance, at 8:30am.
Choose the GREEN entrance line for e-ticket holders.
You will enter the Louvre through the Glass Pyramid (ground floor). Escalator takes you down (lower ground floor).
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).
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”.
Out of the elevator, ahead of you, there will be a long hallway with artwork. Look for the signs towards “La Joconde”. Well marked.
Enter room 711 (or room 8), also known as Salle des États. You are in a small antechamber with paintings.
There are two doors ahead, left and right. Go further through one of them.
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.
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.
You might see him:
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).
The Glass Pyramid was designed by IM Pei and inaugurated on 1st April 1989!
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).
Same image, from a higher point:
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”.
Take the elevator ahead of you – sorry about the blurred image, we were in a hurryyyyyy 🙂
The road to La Joconde, the Mona Lisa, is very well marked:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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…
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.
Now let’s walk along Rope Street, looking up:
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!
Next I saw this classic looking street light and his friends, the red carnations:
This modern, yet lonely light pole, neighboring an old, solo attic window, caught my attention:
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.
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:
I wonder if Vlad Tepes would have approved with this street light or he would have preferred something like these:
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:
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:
I called this street light a serenading one, it just seems to be serenading the window placed above:
Now this street light looked like it was doing a split across the road:
Shadows come out in plain daylight too:
Believe it or not, this all dressed up lamp post was affixed to the building of the National Bank:
A frosted lamp post against a marble wall. It reminded me of iced cappuccino.
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:
The lamp post next to the window that wasn’t meant to be:
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.
In Brasov Council Square, Piata Sfatului, light poles are as pretty at bell flowers.
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:
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:
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!