Without caffeine I struggle out of my apartment, down the 6 floors of stairs barely wider than I am and steeper than any I’ve ever encountered, stumbling finally onto an empty Rue on a Sunday morning. Most of Les Halles is still sleeping, most of Paris is still sleeping. Even the market is still empty so without a wait, I say to the patisserie “Un croissant s’il vous plaît!” Then I head to my favorite cafe for my espresso. They aren’t open on Sunday? I’m desperate. I settle for the Starbucks, breaking a rule I made when I got off the plane at CDG five days ago. The street party kept me up till 3 am and it’s 8 am, I have to hoof it to the Louvre & fight a crowd of tourists. No way I’m doing so without drugs – read: caffeine. My Starbucks barista is overly friendly, somehow, this digs the knife in even deeper. At my favorite cafe my espresso comes with a side of “I’m too good to be serving you coffee.”
Nonetheless, double expresso avec sucre et crème with croissant in hand – I walk toward Rue de Rivoli and steel myself for the worst. Along the way, I take a dozen or so pictures of gorgeous architecture but it’s the one I capture of a near-empty street, morning light illuminating the only other two people up this early on Rue Saint-Honore … which I love best. It is truly Sunday morning in Paris.
Nearing Musee du Louvre, I finally see crowds. For only the second time this week, I also hear my own language. A Frenchman, in melodic English, tells the line of tourists and backpackers the wait will be one hour. I don’t mind – you’re letting me in your museum for free today? Oui, I will be patient for that! I will take pictures while I wait. I’ll enjoy the sound of a dozen different languages flowing around me. I’ll be grateful: I AM IN PARIS!!
Meanwhile, the smile that’s been on my face since I was handed my croissant will never go away.
Musee du Louvre
The line snakes around the pools and pyramid of glass in the center of the Louvre central courtyard. A brisk wind blows and I feel its chill, but the sun is shining brightly unhindered by the normal overcast conditions Paris has exhibited every other day I’ve been here. I’m aware that many say to skip the Louvre and for every person that says that there is another who says it can’t be missed. It’s this argument which fascinates me – I have to see for myself what all the fuss is for.
Eventually, I’m in! Winged Victory – here I come. Mona Lisa? Ok. But beware beautiful one – I’ve seen your face all my life, I doubt there is anything you have now that will greatly impress me. Venus de Milo? Same for you dear. I will gladly gaze upon your facade but don’t count on me to elbow past the masses that I might draw close to your glory.
As expected, the crowd around the greatest attractions – is simply funny. There are tourists snapping photographs, with flash, of the back of other tourists heads because at least somewhere in the background of that horribly exposed and composed image will be THE MONA LISA! I laugh, thankful for my lifetime history of art education. Truly. I’m happy to be here and able to say I’ve seen these great works at last with my own eyes. But it does not complete me to get up close and stare into Mona’s eyes to wonder at her thoughts.
As I walk the halls, I am most impressed with the spaces. The art collection is of course terrific, yet not curated well for the masses. This is a problem of too much, grouped too close together. A well curated collection of any kind exhibits restraint and the last word I would ever use to describe the hallowed halls of the Louvre … is restraint.In the end, it’s Napoleon’s apartment I am most fascinated by. Frankly, the physical beauty is staggering and runs toward the gaudy. The grandeur is almost hard to believe. I have this need to pinch myself – “People really lived like this?”, I think to myself. No wonder he thought himself a god among men. His very living space would support that theory well.
Eventually, I sense the need to move on. Paris is free today, after all. Leaving the Louvre I contemplate where to go next and I don’t have to think long. I’m tired from sensory overload. However, I cannot let this opportunity go to waste. As there is really only one museum which I cannot leave Paris without visiting, it’s where I head next, and that is Musée Rodin …
Next post, Part Two of Free Museum Day where I discuss the somewhat controversial sculptor Rodin as well as the museum and gardens dedicated to his work!
It seems like only a short while ago I was telling you that they do allow pictures in the Louvre.
I felt the same way when I saw the Mona Lisa. I thought it was great to see it in person, but it’s as if all those people just snapping pictures away aimlessly devalues her existence. I had a better experience just wandering the Egyptian exhibits without having to elbow anyone to get by.
And yes, you’re right, it would be nice if they went with the “less is more” theory. It was amazing to see all this art, but slightly disappointing not to have a brief explanation in way of a plaque to read what you were seeing. Some had it, some didn’t.
Thanks for my 2nd visit to the Louvre:)
I’m loving everything about this post! The lyrical writing, the imagery, the sensation… I’ve probably spent about 2 months total in Paris and am going back (after a 7 year hiatus) this summer. I can’t wait!
Wow – you went to two museums on free museum day? I’m impressed ! The Musée d’Orsay is one of my favorites in all of Paris!
Gorgeous shots, as always. The chaos around the Mona Lisa is crazy, isn’t it? Especially when there are masterpieces in the same room that are ignored…
Again, I love the clusters you create (especially the floating heads and jewelry), but I think my favorite here is the shot of the people gazing at David’s Coronation of Napoleon. A nice moment.
I’ve been to Paris countless times but, regrettably, I still haven’t made it to the Louvre. One day I’ll go back, on my own this time, and see everything I’ve missed so far.
Your pictures are simply stunning, Kirsten.
Wow, you did an AMAZING job! I love this set of photos Kirsten! Keep up the great work 🙂
What a treat to see this through your 7 Links post. I never got to see Napoleon’s apartment at the Louvre, so that was a great insight into his lavish lifestyle. I’m so glad you love Paris as much as I do. 😉