Day 6- Paris
The entrance to the Louvre is an experience on its own. The long wait in line enhances the excitement as you get closer to the three glass pyramids. Once inside, a staircase leads you down into the museum where you can lose yourself for hours.
However, the line sometimes – or most of the time- is simply not worth it. We were let in via a little secret entrance. Near the Carrousel du Louvre, in Rue de Rivoli, there is an alternate entrance to the museum. While it is not as grand as the main entrance, the pyramids get old after an hour in line staring at them.
We were led down a flight of stairs as well and into a corridor of bistros, gift shops and jewellery stores. For a moment you forget every step is taking you closer to one of the largest museums in the world, and then from afar you see the inverse glass pyramid. The natural light, which wasn’t very strong on that cloudy day, illuminates the room where you are officially inside the Louvre.
It is impossible to see the Louvre in just one day and if you happen to do so by some double dog dare you couldn’t refuse, you would not enjoy it. Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman art, paintings by Michelangelo, Raphaelle and Da Vinci; the choices are endless and stumbling through them can easily overwhelm you.
As a person who has lost her temperament before by overstaying my visit, believing going through the museum at random was the best way, I now give the complete opposite advice. Make a list beforehand of the pieces you most wish to see. It is best to see five great masterpieces than seeing twenty and feeling numb and bored all the way through.
The first in many people’s list is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. A permanent piece in the Louvre, La Gioconda is located in the Denon Wing, a quick right from the main hall to Room 6. Before you see her, the crowd of people with their cameras will let you know you have arrived at the right place.
The search for Mona Lisa causes one to ignore every other painting until finding it. Standing in front of Da Vinci’s great work I expected to feel a sense of wonder, a wonder caused by finally gazing at the mysterious woman who stares right back. Yet standing in the middle of a frenzied crowd destroys the experience. The disappointment overwhelms any other sensation I expected to feel. She is smaller than you’d think, even smaller against the large empty wall behind her and is encased in
a protective glass to
shield her from the constant flash of cameras.
A single rope and two security guards set the five feet boundary between the Renaissance painting and the people extending their arms looking for the best angle to catch a quick picture.
Was she beautiful? Was she as intriguing as all history teachers described her? I couldn’t tell. My view was constantly interrupted by someone’s camera or iPad. It took great effort to squeeze between the crowd to make it to the front and once there, if it took more than thirty seconds to get a good glimpse of Mona Lisa, a collection of multilingual complaints let me know my time was up.
It is hard to appreciate what is in front of you when you are watching it through a viewfinder and the angst to take Mona Lisa home with you, the now or never, is easily contagious. The experience, however, has been tarnished by this desperation to bring back evidence of a wonderful trip to Europe.
Venus never disappoints me. In fact, finding her was the complete opposite than finding Mona Lisa and unlike Mona Lisa, she is bigger than I would have thought. She stands in the middle of a room with tall ceilings and while people might be surrounding her, the view is never compromised.
I often wonder if people would love Venus de Milo if she had her arms. Maybe she would look like any other Greek statue. But it is her lack of arms which makes her interesting, a reminder of the passage of time and the fragments of the past that give a broken glimpse of it.
Perhaps her intrigue is the product of propaganda throughout the centuries. The Goddess with no arms. Yet, the feeling upon seeing her is relief. Ah. I found you, just like I imagined.
Psyche and Cupid
My aunt insisted on finding her favorite piece. She didn’t know where it was but she would recognize it immediately. She was talking about Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.
I had never seen it before but I quickly understood why it was her favorite.
Only just awakened by her lover’s kiss, Psyche reaches up to Cupid as he cradles her. Their faces, so close, show great emotion and intimacy. Their bodies are barely touching but the language between them is tender. They are oblivious to anything around them. In that waking moment, the mythological lovers regard each other and relish being together once again.
It is not up to me to tell you to visit Palace Louvre because you are in Paris and if you didn’t go, then you definitely didn’t visit Paris. Go because there is something inside those walls you want to see before you die. Do it because you want to remember that moment in detail years later when you have wine with your travel friends and smile about it. Go because you will feel something when you see what you want to see, something so great you won’t need a camera to remember it. Go because nobody told you to go.