I’m back from Paris, but only now just getting around to posting a few blogs about my trip. That’s ok. These are not travel pieces, per se. Don’t look real diligently for those typical, “10 Things You Must Do!” or, “Best Places to Eat!” But these are my musings, written versions of the ongoing dialogue in my head that I occasionally jotted into my notes for when I would have time to write a formal blog.
The Louvre – It’s Big
My first full day in Paris had already been blocked off for the Louvre Museum. Before I had even left the states, I had my entrance ticket and booking time in my hot little hands. I had visited once before in 2005, during which I had waited in line to get in to get to the security check, then waited in line to get a ticket. Then waited in line to check my backpack. Not this time. I breezed right in.
That’s good because to see everything in the world’s largest museum, you’re gonna want to spend your time looking at the exhibits and not the back of someone’s head in front of you.
Once I was in, standing under that Pyramid, I was in no rush. I didn’t plan on doing anything else that day, so I had all the time in the world. I got a map, got something to eat, then got oriented as to where I wanted to go first.
I’m interested in all of it, but I’m partial to the Renaissance and later. So I chose to start off in the wing with those paintings. It also happens to be the wing where the Mona Lisa is.
You’re Gonna See the Mona Lisa, Whether You Want to or Not
I’d seen her on my first trip to the Louvre, fresh off reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. She was in a different part of the museum back then, right where you see her in the movie adaption with Tom Hanks, in an off-to-the-side gallery off a long, main hall. There was a scrum of looky-loos in front of Mona, and you mosh pitted your way to the front to get a glimpse of her, (she’s so small!) Going in and out of her room was unrestricted.
But her gallery is being renovated, so she’s upstairs now. Of this I was not aware. I didn’t NEED to see Mona again. Don’t get me wrong. She’s pretty and all, but I’m more of a Vermeer, Caravaggio, kind of girl. And with the mosh pit, plus the bullet-proof glass, you can’t fully appreciate her before someone shoves you out of the way.
To even get into the wing where Mona is now, you have to queue in line to an escalator off the main lobby, go through another ticket and security check, and then you are herded like cattle up two more escalators with no way out. You can go forward, you can go backward, but you can’t get into any other part of the wing. Not until you’ve seen the Mona Lisa.
Before I even got to the first escalator, still in the lobby queue, someone brushed past me. Then another. Then another. How rude! It turned out to be what looked like a large family group, about 20 people, executing an organized, pre-planned line-jumping assault. I watched with amazement as they trotted up and past the line of patiently, respectfully queuing visitors, some hand in hand, like they were holding onto the guide line on Everest. No one stopped them because frankly I think they were all thinking what I was thinking. “What the fuck?”
I May Be Just a Bit of an Art Snob
The escalators eventually dumped us into a large, high-ceilinged gallery with Disney-style to and fro lanes. We were not to Mona yet, but this gallery was chock full of large-format paintings, ceiling to almost floor.
I’m no art expert, by any stretch. But I do enjoy art and there are few art museums I’d have no interest in visiting. But I was struck, as I was snaking through the Disney line, how few people were, like me, paying any attention to the beautiful art all around us.
You’re in the Louvre, people! It is an ART museum, and there is art all around you, and the Mona Lisa isn’t the only damn painting worth looking at!
What were they doing here, why had they bought a ticket and suffered the long queues inside and out, if not to appreciate the art? It made me wonder if they really even appreciated the Mona Lisa, why it’s a masterpiece, its history (it was stolen and missing for two years from 1911 to 1913), or even the genius and other works of Da Vinci. (I personally find his other paintings, like Lady with an Ermine, more beautiful.) It seemed to me that Mona Lisa was a sort of bragging right.
“You know that Mona chick? Yeah. I saw her. See? Here’s our selfie.”
You saw her, you may have even taken a ludicrous selfie with her. But you didn’t paint her, for Christ’s sake. She’s not hanging in your living room.
So, remember those line jumpers? By the time I got within 20 people of being allowed to approach Mona, those 20 people ahead of me were the line jumpers. I hadn’t seen them at all in my way in line since the lobby. So, I guessed they had gotten caught and put in time out for the 30 or so minutes they had attempted to gain. But of course, once we were heralded up to see the painting, they rushed her like a concert stage, and just took selfies. Way to appreciate the painting, with your back to it. (FYI – I encountered these very same line jumpers days later in queue for the Eiffel Tower.)
I Crossed a Gallery
Art is about spotting a painting across a gallery and making a beeline for it. Anything by Caravaggio will cause that reaction in me. As did this piece. Art is how it makes you feel, the emotion it creates. The awe and wonder at the hand and mind that could create something so beautiful. It makes you get as close as you can to try to see every detail, and stand back to appreciate from a distance. It’s not, at least for me, about bragging rights and a selfie. So, yeah, I may be a bit of a snob.