I’ve been to Paris twice now. The first time, back in 2001, I was there for a week and a half just hanging out, drinking pastis in basement jazz bars, running through the cobbled streets in the rain, practicing my french on bored Parisian check out girls. I was a proper backpacker, staying in a hostel and making friends with fellow indie travellers until I felt it time to leave. One guy I met, a Canadian, had another friend who was house sitting in the Marais in a flat as beautiful as the one in Taken. Another, an English dude, was in Paris to spend time with his daughter. Me, I was there to wander the streets and see the sights.
And because I wanted to see everything in Europe in three months (bless) I had to be judicious about which sights to pay for. So I picked one of the big ones and said, “next time” to the rest. Versailles won.
So next time came well over ten years later, and this time the Louvre was our must-see. So, what did I learn about the Louvre that I can pass on to you?
I think this calls for a list!
- Don’t stand in the queue. Buy your tickets in advance!
- Arrive at your alloted time and sail by the line people in your very special lane.
- Get one of their brochure mappy things. You’ll need it because there are over half a million things to look at from art to objects to cities. Literally.
- No matter what anyone says: see the Mona Lisa. It IS that impressive. It IS mobbed with people. And who cares? It’s the most famous work of art in the world. Ignoring it is just lame. It’s like going to New York and not going to Times Square. Has to be done at least once.
- Pick a part of the museum far from the great ML and head there for some solitude.
After fulfilling #1 on the list above by purchasing our tickets at the billetterie spectacles at FNAC in Forum des Halles…
… we had just enough time to grab some lunch before our timed visit to the House of the Mona Lisa. The walk back to the Musée revealed more of Paris’ rich history.
The Fountaine des Innocents is the oldest monumental fountain in Paris. It’s kind of a big deal, having Pierre Lescot’s name attached to it. Did you know he was the architect in charge of a little museum called the Louvre?
What a coincidence!
And speaking of, we’re heading there right now. Follow me!
Item #2 on the love it or Louvre it list, the special advance ticket line was VIP only. There may as well have been a red carpet. We strolled in the pyramid and down the escalator, snapping pics along the way.
As you can see, I prefer to look up. Less people up there. How may of us take photographs of the underside of escalators?
I’m not going to lie. It’s busy in the atrium under the Pyramid, known as Hall Napoléon. And somehow I managed to get a fun shot, even caught one girl’s attention. Check out the red-haired lass looking directly at me.
That photograph was taken whilst fulfilling #3 on the list, grabbing a mappy thing. You’re gonna need it to find the ML and the VdM (Venus de Milo to those not on a first name basis). Besides the sheer volume of artifacts contained in this horseshoe shaped museum, there are four floors. Without some sort of map… good luck!
We set off on a wander, letting the crowds go their own way. I’m not even going to pretend we knew where we were going, so just enjoy these photos and note how the crowds thin as we go (#5).
We found ourselves in the Coptic Egypt Art Gallery and the Bawit Room beyond enjoying the rebuilt Byzantine Monastery Church with one of Egypt’s greatest icons…
In complete solitude. (see above, #5)
How about a painting on wood from the Bawit Monastery, circa 8th century?
We sat alone across the room Christ and Abbot Mena from for almost ten minutes, knowing it couldn’t last forever but hoping it would.
Our secret was out. As the tourists started walking in our cozy monastery hide-out, it was time for us to leave and find the big guns. Lots and lots of photos to come.
That’s only just a few of the ridiculously famous artworks you’ll stumble across in the Louvre. Even the building is art. Ceiling panels, anyone?
I keep my cupid above the door, too.
Ornate angel cornice? Yes, please.
Okay, no more messing around. It’s time to find the famous lady herself. If we don’t get lost (#3 again).
Maybe past these sitting Egyptian dudes?
Or perhaps through the hallway of many sphinxes?
Past this sphinx?
Okay, maybe this one…
Is it around this moat?
Don’t be distracted by the modern art selfies…
Maybe it’s this way. After all, where there are crowds…
You’ll find Mona. (Finally, #4)
Here’s a little advice on getting your photograph of the most famous painting in the world. Treat it like a mosh pit. Everyone is jostling for their place in front of the velvet rope so you can’t be shy, though try and be nice. If the museum were smart, they could charge even more money to queue up and get your pic of this piece. Instead it’s every man, woman and child for his, her or little oneself.
- So just walk in, say excuse me, scusami, pardone mi, pardóname, entschuldigung, sorry, whatever gets you to the front of the crush.
- Then don’t mess around.
- Take your photo on the highest possible setting, not JPG, but RAW, so that later you can zoom in and crop to your heart’s content.
- Have this setting programmed before you walk up.
- With an iphone, just take the wide shot because the zoom function blows. I relied on Instagram to make her sweet smile come to life.
- Be polite and get yourself out of everyone else’s way as soon as possible. Believe me, they are happier to watch you leave. But don’t hang about. Want to stare at her to figure out DaVinci’s hidden messages? That’s what the internet is for.
- Oh, and turn around:
You’ll barely have anyone in your way to view the massive and classic Wedding Feast of Cana. You’ll probably recognize this beauty from such classes as Art 101 and Art History.
So there you go, your beginner’s guide to the Louvre. Don’t worry about trying to fit everything in. Just wander, sit every once in a while, and enjoy the view!
Oh, I forgot to add something to the list.
6. Wear comfortable shoes. There’s no way you’re going to see it all in one day, so save something for next time!