On our first trip to Paris, we had a busy itinerary, and, when the trip was over, there was one thing on our “must see” list that we’d had to skip — a visit to the Louvre. I was disappointed, but it was the right decision. By the day we had planned to go, the kids were tired of waiting in lines and having to be patient and quiet. A trip to a massive art museum just wasn’t the right choice. So, we skipped it, but I knew I’d want to go back.
I’m not an art person. My mind appreciates art made with words, and art made of movement, but somehow I’m lacking the ability to understand or appreciate most fine art. I don’t know why — it’s just not a skill a possess. But I do still like to try. I can appreciate art on a basic level (a philosophy professor in college described people with my aesthetic sense as being from the “me likey/me no likey” school of thought) and I’m always interested in the social/cultural/religious context of art. I guess I’m a better sociologist than I am an appreciator of art (and I’m not a sociologist, either).
Regardless, I like to try to look at art even though I struggle to see what others do. And it feels to me like visiting the Louvre is an important part of being in Paris — especially because they have art I’ve actually heard of (although when I went to the Vatican Museum I was pleasantly surprised to find that my favorite things turned out to not be things I’d heard of before).
Last time, we visited the exterior of the Louvre, and this time we made a point to actually go in. We planned to go the day that it was supposed to rain, and although there was a little rain in the morning, mostly it ended up just being a very hot day. By the time we got over to the Louvre, just before lunchtime, it was hot and sunny and I wasn’t looking forward to waiting in the sun in the long line to get in. Luckily, I’d read up beforehand, and in Rick Steves’ guide for Paris, he outlined a few other alternative (underground) entrances, which was nice, because although we had to wait a bit (although not as long as I expected) to get in, we did it in the shade and relative cool underground shopping area.
After waiting through the security line, we finally made it to the main entrance of the Louvre, under the giant pyramid. Since the kids were tired, and we wanted to enjoy as much time there as possible, we went to the information desk and borrowed (for free!) two strollers for the boys. (As a note — I’ve said before that I love Paris, except for how much crime there is. As we were waiting at the information desk, a man came up who had been pickpocketed just steps away from where we were standing. It really does happen just about everywhere tourists go in the city.) After the security line, the ticket line was so short as to be a complete non-event.
The Louvre is massive, and it’s a little overwhelming, especially for someone without a good sense for art. I really couldn’t tell which sections we’d enjoy the most, or where we should start, so we just chose 4 things we really wanted to see (and likely the most touristy items in the entire museum — Cupid & Psyche, Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa) and decided to start with those. Although the strollers were a nice touch, and the elevators were plentiful, it was still a pain to get around the museum. Even *with* the elevators, there were stairs to traverse everywhere, and the wait to get into an elevator was VERY long at times. (Still, I’m glad we did the strollers. The kids each slept through part of the museum, and I suspect that we all enjoyed a longer and more peaceful visit because of it. The museum was also very hot the day we were there, and I think we all would have been uncomfortable if we’d been carrying the kids around, which is probably what would have happened if we hadn’t had the strollers.)
Even with my limited aesthetics, I really enjoyed the museum. There was just so much to see. The sculptures we chose in particular were all lovely (Winged Victory was my favorite — and I loved the way it was presented) and we were treated to many other fine items as we walked along. Each of the boys was fascinated with different Greek statues, and they actually enjoyed studying them for a bit (which was a nice surprise). We were lucky enough to happen upon a hidden no-stairs access to the area where the Mona Lisa was housed, and the woman who was guarding the entrance was nice enough to let us through.
I’d heard — a lot — prior to going how underwhelming the Mona Lisa could be. And I get that. There’s so much build up about it, and it’s so revered, that actually looking at it, you definitely might expect it to be bigger. But since I’d been so prepared to be unimpressed by it, I was pleased to find that I wasn’t. I really liked it. (Although I can’t say why, because, as I’ve said, I have no art sense.) It is stunning to see the level of attention and protection that this one little painting gets. But I was glad to get the chance to see it, and happy to wait, along with the kids, to get our turn at the front of the crowd. (At the end of the day, B said it had been his favorite part of the Louvre, and that the Louvre had been his favorite part of Paris, although he’s since revised his opinion and bestowed that honor on the Jardin du Luxembourg.)
If I had it to do over again . . . I’d probably do almost exactly what we did (which I almost never get to say). We went in the late morning, and I think that contributed to the crowds not being too bad (even though it was a Monday, which is supposed to be quite crowded). Entering via the Galerie du Carrousel underground mall entrance was really functional (we left via the main pyramid entrance to get the full effect). We were lucky that we weren’t victim to any sort of pickpocketing, but I think if I went again I would be sure to bring absolutely nothing of value. It’s so easy to get distracted looking at the art, and take your eyes off of your bag for a second. Even though the stairs were a pain, I think borrowing the strollers was a great idea — and if we had gotten tired of pushing them around, we could have just returned them, too. And I think that choosing a few iconic items to see first, and then seeing what state the kids were in, was a good idea. By the time we negotiated the stairs and elevators and saw the things we really wanted to see, we had actually seen a significant portion of two wings of the museum, so it worked out.
We had a great time. I’m so glad we went. The kids enjoyed it, the museum was lovely, and it felt really nice to experience a piece that had been missing from our Parisian adventures.