The Europe Chronicles: I Prefer to Pronounce Louvre with the R
Posted by Kurt on March 24, 2011
On our last day in Paris, I realized I planned poorly. I didn’t think things through. I should have made a chart or a spreadsheet. This day was to be a museum day: The Louvre then the Orsay. Every morning while Cristina was making herself even more beautiful, I would read our Rick Steves book. Skipping over to the Paris section, I read that the Orsay is closed on Monday. Damn it. Well, sort of. I mean we were going to Louvre and that more than makes for a great day.
On boarding our first Metro, we noticed the guy sitting across from us was our waiter from our first meal in Paris. I’m not sure why we both found that exciting. Maybe it was then we realized that Paris is a real place with real people with real jobs, not just a romantic place for tourists. On our next metro, the guy next to me is carrying his saxophone. He proceeds to wake me up by playing a song. Soon, we are the stop for the Louvre.
There are two entrances to the Louvre: The grand entrance through the I.M Pei’s pyramid or through the metro. We choose the metro entrance due to the fact it has the shortest lines. Also, we didn’t need tickets due to us having the Paris Museum Pass. No I’m not getting a cut on the passes, they are just very cost effective in the amount of museums that you can enter plus the amount of time you save not waiting in line. However, before we entered the museum the lure of French pastries proved to be too much for us. We spent a small fortune on tarts, turnovers, and croissants. Money well spent.
The Louvre itself is overwhelming. This huge museum used to be the palace before Louis XIV built Versailles. The trick here is not to panic. Just enjoy and browse with the intention that you will come back.
We turn the corner and are greeted by Winged Victory. There are moments in a trip to a foreign country that you have trouble processing that this is actually happening. I mean you always know you are in a foreign country but you are having a moment that you can only have in this country you are presently in. This was one of those moments. We then worked our way into the hall that hosted the paintings of the Italian Renaissance. You know the area where you get to see the works by those martial arts wielding turtles or works used in the poorly written but totally engrossing novels of Dan Brown. This yields yet another moment. Before you go on one of this trips, your knowledge of the artists and their works can only be found in books. Here, you are a very short way from spending a night in jail from dirtying a 500 year old work with your sugary hands from the French pastries that you ate just thirty minutes before. You try to apply all the knowledge of art that you have been taught. Then your brain just says it’s pretty just because it is. Then you start to enjoy it.
Well, that is if you actually look at it with your own eyes. I was shocked by the number of people that would really only look at the art works through camera lenses. They were so worried about capturing the moment that they forgot to have the moment. A Leonardo and a Raphael are begging for you to look at it with your own eyes. If all you do is take pictures of it, then really why not just stay home and look at book.
Now, of course, we took pictures. Plenty of them. But we also looked at them and discussed them. Not any big intellectual discussions, mind you, more of a I can’t believe I’m looking at a Leonardo painting type of discussion. In fact, we often liked to look at people looking at them. Nowhere is this better observed then when in the room with the most popular lady in the building: The Mona Lisa.
Protected by eight feet of space at all angles and bulletproof glass, she is the crown jewel of the Louvre. Nowhere in the museum will have a bigger crowd. Nowhere in the museum will more pictures be taken. Nowhere in the museum will you see more confused looks. After we got as close as we could and took her in, we stepped aside and looked at the crowd. You see two looks on peoples faces: the “wow” look and the “that’s it?” look. I feel to truly be impressed you have to do some homework.
After viewing more Italian paintings (roughly about ninety minutes later), we headed into the large French paintings of David. The Coronation of Napoleon also requires a little bit of homework to catch all of the politics in the painting.
We decided to take a break from the viewing and finish eating our pastries from earlier. We spent 90 minutes viewing basically four rooms or about ten percent of Louvre. We still had the Venus De Milo and the treasures of antiquity. We decided to just basically plow through as much of the museum as we could.
Two and half hours later we were suffering from museum fatigue. But first we took the time to appreciate the Code of Hammurabi, the Colossal Statue of Ramses II, the Venus de Milo, and some sculptures by Michelangelo (for those that are counting we only have one turtle left).
We then took the open elevator out through the pyramid. Ah, fresh air.
We did get to see the Louvre, but not the Rodin and Orsay. I was determined to at least sit on a park bench that was older than my country.