When we travel we like to research the history and culture of our destination to get the best from our time. While preparing for our 2019 hike across Italy (The Way of Saint Francis) we read a biography that has continued to pay dividends. Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci gave us a new appreciation and understanding for art and architecture. It is a fascinating story of that renaissance era genius and his time.
We just spent three days in Paris on our way to start a camino from Le Puy, France, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We took the opportunity to revisit one of da Vinci’s best known works of art, the Mona Lisa. But did you know that there is a rendition of Mona that is in some respects, better? One that was likely painted in his studio at the same time. Maybe by him, or students under his supervision.
After our 2019 Way of St Francis hike we spent time in Spain, including Madrid, where we visited the Prado museum. Tipped off by Isaacson’s book, we found the Prado’s Mona. Unlike the better known Mona in the Louvre, she is rather lonely. We didn’t have to wait in line to spend time with her and dodge cameras wielded by the tourist throng. She is in many respects more lovely. Thanks to our preparation, we knew that she existed.
Other fun stops in Paris:
The Statue of Liberty. Within sight of the Eiffel Tower the Statue of Liberty looks over the Seine from the Île aux Cygnes. This is quarter scale model of the one gifted to the United States by the people of France. It was originally a working model in Gustav Eiffel’s studio. An easy train ride and walk from most major landmarks in the city. Featured in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
The Tower of Saint James (La Tour de Saint Jacques) Because the Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the supposed resting place of Saint James, the former church in Paris dedicated to his name is a logical starting place, or at least stop, for pilgrims. Unfortunately, during the French Revolution in 1789 the mob destroyed most of this church. All that remains is the tower.
Grains et Nobles Plus. Our new favorite restaurant in Paris for a special meal. Located in the Latin Quarter. Try the chef’s surprise if it’s available, and you have 2 1/2 top 3 hours to savor it.
A Good Book: A Bite Sized History of France: Delicious, Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment by Stephane Henaut and Jenn Mitchell. A fun read about French food intertwined with their history.