Much LAZIER than your average blogger  
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6.24.2008 - 24 comments 

When I remember back on some of the most beautiful places in the world that I have ever seen, the Napali Coast of Kauai always comes up toward the top of my personal list. Those of you that have managed to visit this beautiful place know exactly what I am talking about.

There are really about only three ways to get to this place. First you can hike and back pack back in there, second you can view it from a helicopter, or you can take the Zodiac boats there from Princeville, Kauai.

Well, we managed to do two out of the three of these options. We decided to forgo the backpacking. Maybe if I had been 20, 30 or even 40, I might have gone for the backpacking idea, but at our age the helicopter and the Zodiac boats seemed to be our best options. Before I tell you about those adventures, let me first explain about the Zodiac boats.

We have friends in California, (let’s just call them Jack & Jill) who told us that we just “had to take the Zodiac Boats around to the Napali Coast!” Jack & Jill are about the same age as Mrs. LZ and I, so we thought… this will be great! So, we made sure we planned to do that and set up reservations while we were there.

After a beautiful drive from our hotel (the Marriott at Lihue, Kauai) around to the other side of the island to Princeville, we said there were a lot of beautiful places to stop and have a picnic on the way. But the Zodiac boats excursion also included a picnic on the beach on the Napali coast. Not only did it come with lunch, but the extended lunch time also came with a little snorkeling and fish feeding on that same beach. All of this sounds pretty nice, but let me tell you a little about this sea cave travel adventure!

First, they pack you into these Zodiac boats like sardines and then they tell you that you better be able to hold on to not only the people you are smashed against, but also to the rope on the boats air bag pontoons. When I say “hang on”, I am not exaggerating. If you don’t hang on for dear life, you’ll be out there swimming with the sea tortoises very soon. I am not kidding this was one heck of an exhilarating ride.

There were many times, I wanted to yell out… “Let me off of this damn thing!” But, I was determined to live through this adventure one way or another. I also felt like our boat driver, was trying to insure that we NEVER came back here again. He was about 40 + years old and was a transplanted mainlander, who thought he was a stand-up comic as he reported to us that his parents always wanted me to have a job where he could wear a suit to work. He said all of this at the same time he was turning around to show us all his tan and his tiny bikini style “Speedo” SUIT! His jokes got worse as the trip continued, but like the old saying goes… “The beatings (of the waves) will continue until morale improves”.

But you know… in spite of the extremely rough ride to get around to the sea caves of the Napali coast, the caves were wonderful and extremely fun. Of course our wonder-boy driver like to insure that we could be quickly killed if he didn’t time the waves correctly as we would be smashed against the cliffs or smashed into the cave ceilings. Just more of his 40+ boyish charm I’m sure!

As you can see from the pictures, the caves were actually very neat and it was kind of fun going in and out of them. One of them even went back in one side of the cliff and out of the other side. But most of the caves required both entrance and exit from the same hole. This coupled with the timing of the waves and the skills of our stand up comic Zodiac boat operator made for quite an adventure for Mrs. LZ and me.

After we had all the scares (I mean excitement) that we could take, we were off to the picnic lunch on the beach. Which by being on dry land alone made it enjoyable, but was also a nice respite, from the somewhat pounding adventures given by our Zodiac boat driver the Marquis de Sade. This picnic was followed by snorkeling in the little bay right in front of our picnic beach.

While we were enjoying ourselves on this beach, another group of tourists came onto the beach in a power sail Catamaran. These folks jokingly asked us if we had actually come here on those Zodiac boats. We responded (not so jokingly) and asked them if they wanted to “TRADE” ride on the return voyage to Princeville. Needless to say, as much as we tried, (and begged) they didn’t go for it!

Not too much after that, we were on our way back to Princeville while the beatings continued. When we got back to Princeville, we were greeted by a person who wanted to interview us about the “JOYS” of our just recently completed trip. Well… Mrs. LZ, soberly answered her, “I’ve never done ANYTHING like it before!” I guess the interviewer got the idea and moved on to people who actually had smiles on their faces.

When we had completed our Kauai trip and had returned home, I asked Jack (of Jack & Jill) if they had really taken the Zodiac boats to see the Napali Coast. Sheepishly, he responded, “oh no, we took the Catamarans!” If I ever decide to make this trip again, I know I will be making it “by myself” but maybe it will help if I wear a SUIT! Next post… the Napali Coast from the air.

Beating the drums for Hawaii is not hard to do... the place just grows on you. ~ James MacArthur

6.14.2008 - 23 comments 

After my last post about the Musse D’Orsay, many folks seem to be surprised by the fact that I liked the Musse D’Orsay better than the Louvre. And, even though I didn’t mean that from the perspective of the size or even the numbers of masterpieces, but I only meant it from my love of the work of the impressionists alone. For me all those works of Renoir, Monet, in one very beautifully restored building was the pièce de résistance. A little French here for “VERY COOL” in “LZ’s” language!

But really trying to do the Louvre in one day, is almost like trying to see all of Paris in one day. It just really isn’t possible. But the good news is that I still tried! Tried, but if you changed the position of a couple of letters in the word “tried” and what you end up with is TIRED!

I have to start out on the outside of this place. The first thing you notice approaching the Courtyard to the Museum of the Louvre, prominently displayed at the centre is this wonderful looking palace, is that it looks like it is right out of a Louis XIV era movie. Then, you notice this funny glass pyramid thing popping up right out of nowhere that (has no semblance) to anything remotely attached to this building or its architecture. One could almost say; “where in the world did that thing come from?” But then, the realization that they intended it to look like that, in stark contrast to the building of the Louvre itself.

As you approach it, you realize, that this glass pyramid is actually now the entrance to the Louvre. French President Francois Mitterand proposed that he wanted to enhance the Louvre in 1983. Mitterand plans included the renovation of the building and moving the Finance Ministry elsewhere, permitting display throughout. I.M. Pei, a Chinese-American architect, was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid for the central courtyard, which he argued created a "strong symbolic element ... delicate and stable, correctly proportioned so as not to overwhelm the architecture of the Louvre but rearing its point there..." The pyramid and underground lobby, which enclose the entrance area, was inaugurated on October 15, 1988. See… just as I surmised!

The museum is on the Right Bank, in the neighborhood referred to as the 1st arrondissement and lies between the Seine River and the Rue de Rivoli. The Louvre is slightly askew of the axe historique, a long architectural straightaway that cuts through the centre of Paris.

The Louvre is one of the world's most visited art museums, a historic monument, and a national symbol. I can’t even tell you how many things there are to see here, but according to their own website, collection contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art drawn from eight curatorial departments. More than 652,000 sq feet of exhibition space is dedicated to the permanent collection. Sources state that the collection includes 11,900 paintings, the second largest holding of Western pictorial art in the world after the State Hermitage in Russia.

Six thousand paintings are on permanent display, and 5,900 are in storage. Besides paintings, the Louvre exhibits include sculptures, art objects, and archaeological finds. Oversight of the property is carried out by nearly 2,000 Louvre employees led by Henri Loyrette, the director.

The thing that really got to me about the place was the realitively small size of the Mona Lisa compared to some of the works that took up a whole wall. But the Mona Lisa was heavily guarded and framed as if someone might try and steal it or worse yet, try and photograph it. So here’s the picture I took of it, not that you can really see anything more than the frame case it was housed in.

The Louvre as a showplace for artwork dates from the time of François I, but it was not until the French Revolution that the royal collection opened to the public and became the "Muséum central des Arts".

On 10 August 1792, the Bourbon monarchy collapsed, Louis XVI was imprisoned, and all art in the royal collection was declared to be national property. The National Assembly, deciding that the collection had been weakened by being "dispersed" and that the matter was "urgent", turned the palace into a museum. The royal collection was combined with Church property, which had been appropriated by the State in 1789. With legal authorization given on 6 May 1791, the marquis de Marigny and his successor, the comte d'Angiviller, began developing the Louvre's permanent collection.

The museum opened to the public on 10 August 1793, with much fanfare, because the national artistic display was seen as a demonstration of revolutionary ideals. That works once reserved for the ancien régime were viewable by the public was important to the nascent republic as a "benefit of Liberty". The museum's opening was hectic, as artists lived in residence, and works were placed randomly throughout the old palace. However, the republic dedicated a considerable sum, 100,000 livres per year, to help the institution expand its collection with works from abroad. From 1794 onwards, France's victorious revolutionary armies brought back increasing numbers of pieces from across Europe, aiming to establish the Louvre as a major European museum and a symbol of revolutionary progress. Significant additions to the young collection were masterpieces from Italy, including the Laocoon and his sons and the Apollo Belvedere from the papal collection, which arrived in Paris in July 1798 with much pomp and ceremony.

The sculptures department contains work created before 1850 that does not belong in the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman department. The Louvre has been a repository of sculpted material since its time as a palace; however, since only ancient architecture was considered suitable for study, the first display of medieval, Renaissance, and modern works did not occur until 1824 except for Michelangelo's Dying Slave and Rebellious Slave.

Initially, the collection was relatively small, with about 100 works, because of the government's focus on Versaille. It remained so until 1847, when Léon Laborde was given control of the department. Laborde developed the medieval section and purchased the first such statues and sculpture in the collection, King Childebert and stanga door, respectively. Initially, the collection was part of the department of antiquities but was given autonomy in 1871 under Louis Courajod, a director who organized a wider representation of French works. In 1986 all works from after 1850 were relocated to the new Musée d'Orsay. And you are aware of my excitement about this decision?

As part of the Grand Louvre project, the sculpture department was separated into two exhibition spaces; the French collection is displayed in the Richelieu wing, while foreign works are located throughout the Denon wing.

The sculpture collection's comprehensive overview of French sculpture includes Romanesque works such as the 11th century Daniel in the Lions' Den and the 12th century Virgin of Auvergne. In the 16th century, French sculpture grew more delicate and restrained because of the Renaissance influence, as can be seen Jean Goujon's bas-reliefs, and Germain Pilon's Descent from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The 17th and18th centuries are represented by Étienne Maurice Falconet's Woman Bathing and Amour menaçant; and François Anguier's obelisks. The neoclassical period highlights include Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss (1787), one of the Louvre's most famous works and one that demonstrates the period's emphasis on emotion and love.

For me, the most impressive part of the whole place, was the fact that around every corner of this place, was yet another shot worthy of a post card from Paris stating, “Wish You Were Here!”

"To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth." ~ Auguste Rodin

P.S. ~ Did you find the Mona Lisa?