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The Pigeon of Samothrace – Paris, France

The Pigeon of Samothrace
Paris, France

The Louvre almost had me. The much heralded art museum has a reputation of wearing down those who walk its corridors.

Park behind Notre Dame Cathedral
Park behind Notre Dame Cathedral
I had spent the morning and afternoon doing a good amount of walking. I spent well over two hours inside, outside, and around Notre Dame. I ate lunch in the park behind the cathedral and took pictures of the reddest roses and tulips I have ever seen. I figured that with all the walking I did along the Seine River, the Jardins du Luxembourg, and the Ile de la Cite, the Louvre would be a cake walk. Well, maybe I was wrong. Or maybe it was all the tourists that made me feel ill.

I can’t imagine what the crowds must be like in August on a Tuesday morning. I headed to the Greek sculpture area. The crowds weren’t that bad as most of them were probably crowded around the Mona Lisa. I enjoyed the sculptures of the goddess of the hunt Artemis, the wise Apollo minus his lyre, and the imposing Athena. I saw busts of Plato, Socrates, and my favorite, Aristotle.

Then I came to the beautiful statue that was, in my opinion, stolen from the Greek island of Milos. The exact details escape me, but basically a Greek farmer on Milos found in a cave one day a few marble stones, one of them being the Venus de Milo. They were then ‘taken’ to Paris. Rumor has it the Venus de Milo lost her arms on the way to the Louvre.

Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo
After maneuvering around the crowds to get a few pictures (without a flash), I headed towards the Roman sculpture section. Ironically, right around the time I viewed busts of the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero, I started to feel sick. I don’t know if this is true, but I wonder if all the marble had an effect on me. The air seemed to have a stale, pungent odor to it that may or may not have been from all the marble. I had to take a seat after viewing a few rooms.

I mustered enough strength to see the Mona Lisa and all the tourists pointing, clicking, and then walking away. Then I decided to head for one last piece before exiting the Louvre.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is a headless statue with wings found on the Greek island of Samothrace, though it was supposedly made on the island of Rhodes. Also on display nearby was a case featuring one of the hands of the Winged Victory that was found 100 years after the statue itself was found.

There was one unusual aspect about the room that housed the Winged Victory. There was a pigeon flying around the room. I took a seat on a ledge just as the pigeon took a seat on one of the wings of the statue!

Figuring that such an event may have never happened before or ever happen again, I grabbed my camera and captured the pigeon perched victoriously atop the lady from Samothrace. I was only one of a handful of people that managed to get a picture. Some Louvre guards, upon noticing what was going on, started to take action once they picked their jaws up off the floor. The thought of pigeon droppings on one of the main attractions in the Louvre must have had them thinking about losing their jobs.

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Pigeon perched atop the Victory of Samothrace
One guard opened a nearby window while another told unsuspecting tourists to move. A clap and a flap of wings later, and the pigeon flew off the statue, but not out of the window.

With a picture of a lifetime, a good laugh, and my health improving, I made for one last exhibit: the Code of Hammurabi. I was excited to see the first written code of laws that was laid down by the Babylonian ruler. I ignored my health with each step as I reached the entrance to the Mesopotamian section of the Louvre. But alas, the doors were closed and roped off. As I dejectedly left the Louvre, I forgot to reacquire my Swiss Army knife that I had to relinquish upon entering the Louvre.

I never found out what happened to that pigeon. Maybe he had an interest in Mesopotamian artifacts.

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