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How did the Mona Lisa Get to France?  In Leonardo da Vinci’s Luggage!

How did the Mona Lisa Get to France? In Leonardo da Vinci’s Luggage!

Around the globe, celebrations are marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.  Leonardo, from the town of Vinci, hence “da Vinci,” is the Italian Renaissance master who is probably the best known painter, architect, sculptor, engineer, …. in the world.  He was born in 1452 – forty years before Columbus “discovered” America!

On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, Amboise, a small town on the Loire River, deserves a little recognition.  It is here, after all, at the Close Lucé manor house, where Leonardo died in 1519.  It is a special place in the history of art and plays an important role in the French Renaissance.

close luce amboise

The Close Lucé, final home of Leonardo da Vinci and temporary home of the Mona Lisa.

Why Was Leonardo at Amboise?

For at least four reasons.

  1. Because in 1516, François I, the king of France, had his court at the Château d’Amboise.  The castle is located in a prime position to protect the realm of the crown and had also been the location for the French court for several kings before François I.
  2. Along with having his court at Amboise and importantly for lovers of art, François I is known as the French Renaissance patron king.  He not only loved arts and literature, but he promoted these as primary goals in French culture.
  3. Leonardo’s commissions in Italy had been completed and he was left with no patronage.  Remember he was not selling his paintings for hundreds of millions of euros at that time!  And, he was eclipsed by Raphael and Michaelangelo in terms of favor with the current regimes.
  4. Upon learning of the master’s availability, François I and Louise de Savoie invite Leonardo da Vinci to the French court at the Château d’Amboise.

Leonardo accepts the invitation.  He leaves Italy and travels for two months to eventually reach Amboise.  What is significant for art lovers is that he brings three important paintings with him:  St. John the Baptist, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and …. the Mona Lisa.  (It is nearly impossible to think of the 64 year old riding a mule and toting those incredible paintings across the Alps and through the countryside!)

At Clos Lucé

When Leonardo finally arrives, François I names him, “Premier Painter, Engineer and Architect of the King.”  As patron, the king provides the master with a stipend as well as dignified lodging in the Clos Lucé manor house.  Here, da Vinci lives the last few years of his life, living and working in the beautiful Loire Valley.  In 1519, Leonardo dies in his bedroom at Clos Lucé.  Then, he is buried at the Chapel of St. Florentin.  During the Revolution, the chapel was practically destroyed, and the alleged remains of Leonardo are moved to the Chapel of Saint Hubert.  Today, a marble slab marks this as Leonardo’s tomb, although questions remain as to who is buried in Leonardo’s tomb.

Today, visitors can visit the house where Leonardo lived and work.  In these rooms Leonardo designed elements for a castle, including a double helix staircase.  Such a staircase can be found an hour away at the Château de Chambord.  The rooms have been recreated with period furnishings as well as multimedia presentations about his life and work in Clos Lucé.

Down in the basement, you can see three dimensional animations and 40 models of designs by Leonardo.  And, out in the garden around the house, you will find a sculpture garden of sorts.  It features more models of designs by Leonardo including the assault chariot, double span bridge, tank, and multi-barreled gun.

RIP Leonardo.

Leonardo's tank

Model of a tank designed by Leonardo da Vinci on the grounds of Close Lucé.


Amboise is one hour away from Paris by TGV and two hours by car.  At Clos Lucé, see Leonardo’s bedroom, studio and other rooms in the manor house.

Clos Lucé
Address:  2, rue du Clos Lucé, 37400 Amboise, France
Official websitehttp://www.vinci-closluce.com/en

Have a meal at:
Hôtel restaurant Le Clos d’Amboise
Address:  27, Rue Rabelais, 37400 Amboise, France
Official website:  http://www.leclosdamboise.com/en/restaurant

Visit the court château of François I:
Château Royal d’Amboise
Official websitehttps://www.chateau-amboise.com/n/en/

One hour away is Chambord
Also celebrating “half-millennium” since the construction began in 1519 under the instruction of François I.
Official website:  https://www.chambord.org/en/

Want to know more about Leonardo?
Read a biography of Leonardo:
Leonardo da Vinci
by Walter Isaacson

Special note when visiting the Louvre:  Although the Mona Lisa is mobbed with visitors wanting to see her, several other masterpieces by Leonardo are just outside the Mona Lisa’s dedicated room.  Most people walk by without noticing them on the way to see the most famous painting in the world.  This is understandable since there are so many masterpieces on the walls there.  But, if you love Leonardo, take your time in the Grand Gallery and get up close and admire his talents.

Paris 2019 – Free Admission to the Louvre on the First Saturday Night of Every Month

Paris 2019 – Free Admission to the Louvre on the First Saturday Night of Every Month

As of January, 2019, the Musée du Louvre opens its doors for free to all visitors on the first Saturday night of each month!  That’s right – for free – from 6:00pm to 8:45pm.

Louvre to Open First Saturday Night Each Month with Free Admission

Attempting to attract more first-time locals to visit, the Louvre adds the first Saturday of each month to its free admission line up.  As the most visited museum in the world, the Louvre has no problem attracting visitors.  But, it wants more locals to visit as well.

With this exciting news out of Paris, the Louvre adds more time for locals and visitors from all over the world to visit the Louvre without paying the price of admission.  Right now, a full-price admission ticket is 17 euros.  For a family of 4, that price could keep away many families working full time jobs and trying to make ends meet.  So, to try to get more locals in the doors, it has opened on an additional night.  That is good fortune for visitors, too!

Past Efforts

In the past, the Louvre opened on the first Sunday of each month with free admission, trying to draw in the locals.  But, after reviewing data on visitors coming at that increasingly popular free day, the museum lacked an increase in locals.  It appears that more and more international visitors are taking advantage of the 12 free Sundays each year.  Who doesn’t want a free entry?

One goal of the Louvre is to engage locals.  Saturday night seems like an obvious gateway to reach suburban locals wanting a night out.  Louvre officials hope that this additional free time does the job and entices young adults and families from outside Paris proper to take advantage of the world’s most-visited museum.  In addition to being free, the museum is hosting a board game area and a reading corner – all trying to lure young families in the door!

Bonus for You!

Of course, for non-local visitors, it is a boon as well.  Night visits are an extraordinary way to see the massive royal palace and its dumbfounding treasures.  Along with looking out of the windows into the night sky of the city, fewer people visit at night.  You may wind up in a gallery with entire rooms to yourself.  Admire the art with only your family and friends.  Climb the worn marble stairs alone.  Wander through the vast space and imagine the kings and queens that were there before you.

Musée du Louvre

Hours:  Open Wednesday – Sunday from 9am to 6pm
Night opening until 9:45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays
Night opening until 8:45pm on FIRST Saturday of the month beginning January 2019
CLOSED: on the following holidays: January 1, May 1, May 8 and December 25.
Arrondissement:  1st
Nearest Métro:  Two stops serve the Louvre.  Exiting at Louvre-Rivoli, you will be at the eastern-most end of the Louvre.  Exiting at Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre, you will be closer to the pyramid entrance and very close to the entrance at the Passage de Richelieu (if they will let you in) and the entrance through the Carousel de Louvre – kind of underground shopping area that leads you to the main entrance under the pyramid.
Nourishment:  Food and drink options available inside the Louvre in various locations – enjoy a baguette sandwich overlooking the entrance while watching the people come down the stairs under the pyramid!
Official websitehttps://www.louvre.fr/en/
Suggested time to visit:  In the evenings on the days it is open late


You may also be interested in one of the lesser known museums in Paris, such as Musée Picasso Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet or Musée Rodin. See the article on “15 Lesser-Known Museums in Paris” for more details here.

What To Do When It Is Raining in Paris

What To Do When It Is Raining in Paris

First, stop and take stock when it is raining in Paris.  Try to assess how much rain it is going to be.  A whole day of rain?  Or, only a brief shower?  A deluge or a drizzle?   If it is supposed to rain all day long, then you may want to adjust your schedule.  If it is only a sprinkle, keep going full speed ahead with the day as planned.

Most importantly, take a deep breath and remember, rain is not the end of the world.  It will not ruin your vacation.  Paris does not close up when it rains.  Open top bus tours still run – put on a poncho.

If it really is going to rain all day long, see if you can find some inexpensive waterproof shoes and take an umbrella and explore.  Paris in a drizzle is one of my favorite times.  The colors seem to become saturated on buildings, trees, park benches, grass, the cars….  The gray clouds make ancient buildings even more enticing.  The narrow streets in the Marais are even more inviting.

But, if it is raining and umbrellas are everywhere, avoid busy rush hour foot traffic.  Eyes are a precious commodity that shouldn’t be poked with umbrella tips.  Between 5:30-6:30 – to take a rest back at the hotel, or rejuvenate with coffee at a cafe.

The most logical place to go when it is raining in Paris is to visit a big museum – like the Louvre.  A big museum has exhibits, shopping, food, and drink.  And, it can be a good idea, depending on the time of year.  But, everyone else is thinking the same thing.  So the big museums will be mobbed with people trying to avoid the water.  Besides traditional museums, here are a few suggestions for things to do in Paris when it is raining.

An Unusual Museum Visit

Weren’t thinking of the Musée de la Chasse et Nature?  Well, a rainy day may change your mind.  Pull out your guidebook and look up museums.  Choose one or two that you never thought you would visit.  Take a chance.  The worst thing is that you go, take a look, leave and go back out into the rain.  However, the upside is you may see something incredible, take in important architecture and history – and have fun – while dry.


Nearly 70 feet below the surface, Paris has an extensive network of underground passages that were once limestone quarries.  From the late 1700s until the mid-1800s, millions of human bones were exhumed from cemeteries and moved into these subterranean quarries.  Although the official website states that the “tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems,” and “those of a nervous disposition and young children,” it is a dry place to explore an interesting part of Paris’ history.  Les Catacombes de Paris:  1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014; Métro:  Denfert-Rochereau; Closed Mondays, check the website for more details.

Sewer Museum

Engineering wonders lurk beneath all cities, but Paris displays its sewers in grand style – in a museum, no less.  When it is raining in Paris, take a tour through the tunnels that not only serve as sewers but also provide the passageways for internet and phone cables, tubes that run between post offices (like at the bank teller line) and pipes filled with drinking water.  In the past, tourists were ferried through in boats and suspended carts.  Now, admire the amazing workings on foot.  The museum also boasts a gift shop!  Musée des Égouts de Paris; Near the bridge, Pont de l’Alma, across the street from 93 quai d’Orsay, 75007; Métro: Alma-Marceau; or RER:  Pont de l’Alma.

Watch a Movie

Parisians are devoted fans of cinema.  As a result, movie theaters dot the city.  Even the avenue des Champs-Élysées is full of movie theaters.  Don’t look for a megaplex like you see in the suburbs.  These movie houses will have a sign on the street advertising the current films.  Once you pass the entrance, then you may find multiple theaters.  Many American movies are shown at the theater with French subtitles.  So, head in during a downpour and enjoy hearing your mother tongue.

Shopping at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps

These department stores feature MANY departments!  For the dedicated shopper, when it is raining in Paris, it is a shopping day in Paris.  If you do not find what you are looking for in one, walk down the street and look in the other one.  Another bonus on a rainy day is that much of the sidewalk around the two behemoths are covered.  So don’t fret too much about getting your packages wet.  Also, both have amazing architecture inside and out plus full-service cafés for eating, resting and re-loading on caffeine and hot chocolate.  Rest and retail therapy all under two roofs – barely a block away from each other.

Cooking Class

Want to learn some basics, make pastries or cook a meal while in Paris?  When it is raining may be a good time to do it.  Many places offer cooking classes for real beginners as well as advanced cooks.  A great part about taking a cooking class is that you get to eat what you cook!  And, the classes are indoors.  Start looking at options now so if it does rain, you can have a list ready to book online or ask the concierge to help you book on the day you want one.  La Cuisine Paris (or The Paris Kitchen) gets rave reviews.  Check it out here. https://lacuisineparis.com

Long Lunch at a Nice Restaurant

When it is raining in Paris, or scheduled to rain for a good chunk of mid-day, reserve a spot at a fancy restaurant.  This is your chance to take advantage of the “down” time outdoors to relish a long lunch.  All without feeling guilty about not doing other things.  Enjoy the pampering and delicious foods at reduced lunchtime prices.

Visit Parapluies Simon When It Is Raining In Paris!

parapluies simon

Forgot your umbrella?  No worries.  Make a special trip to Parapluies Simon and find a souvenir when it is raining in Paris.  This umbrella store on Boulevard St. Michel in the 6th is full of specialty rain protectors and also takes custom orders.  Find out more.

River Cruise

Yes, when it is raining in Paris, take a covered river cruise.  It can be FUN in the rain.  Even if it is pouring, you will stay dry, hear the pounding rain (no chance of hearing the tour guide on the loudspeaker), scream to hear each other and still be able to have some great views.  Plus, it will be even more memorable because you will have a fun story to tell of taking the boat in the pouring rain.

And, Last But Not Least

A friend wrote and said, “After all, Paris is the most incredibly romantic city.”  So, hang the “Do Not Disturb” (Ne Pas Déranger) sign on the doorknob outside your room and enjoy Paris in a very intimate way while the rain is falling on the window panes.

Tickets On Sale Now for the Louvre’s Exhibition – Delacroix

Tickets On Sale Now for the Louvre’s Exhibition – Delacroix

The Louvre is putting on a blockbuster show devoted to Eugène Delacroix. The exhibit will be the first retrospective since 1963. His monumental paintings are what he is most known for.  And many of them are hanging in the Louvre now. Delacroix came to epitomize the French Romantic movement with his canvases that inspire.  They can evoke strong feelings by viewers.  Consequently, the painting shown above was removed from public view. During the politically charged times, it was thought to be too inflammatory .  Seems like it was a successful painting!

The exhibition should be quite wonderful for fans of Delacroix.  Here is the Louvre’s announcement of the exhibition:

“In partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in spring 2018, the Musée du Louvre will be hosting an exhibition dedicated to the artistic career of Eugène Delacroix. For the first time since the 1963 exhibition celebrating the 100-year anniversary of his death, this event will pool over 180 artworks by the artist, including a large number of paintings: from the young artist’s big hits at the Salon of 1820 up to his final less known and mysterious religious and landscape compositions.”

The exhibition will showcase the tensions that formed this artist. First of all, he strived for individuality. 16th- and 17th-century Flemish and Venetian artists inspired Delacroix. The installations and information provided will provide insight into his long, rife, and diverse career.

Visitors will have the chance to familiarize themselves with this engaging character. Delacroix was infatuated with fame and devoted to his work. Delacroix was curious, critical, and cultivated. Certainly, he was a virtuoso writer, painter, and illustrator.

Buy your tickets directly from the Louvre.  The Louvre is a favorite site!

! Update ! – for those of you traveling to New York City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting this exhibition from Sptember 17, 2018 – January 6, 2019.  Get your tickets directly from The Met here.

Delacroix (1798–1863)

Where:  The Louvre
Arrondissement:  1st
Nearest Métro:  Two stops serve the Louvre.  Exiting at Louvre-Rivoli, you will be at the eastern-most end of the Louvre.  Exiting at Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre, you will be closer to the pyramid entrance and very close to the entrance at the Passage de Richelieu (if they will let you in) and the entrance through the Carousel de Louvre – kind of underground shopping area that leads you to the main entrance under the pyramid.
When:  March 29, 2018 to July 23, 2018
Admission: €15 (permanent collections + exhibitions)
Opening hours: Every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Tuesday
Hours:  Wednesday – Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Night opening until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays
Also closed:  January 1, May 1 and December 25
Official website:  https://www.louvre.fr/en/expositions/delacroix-1798-1863