Having a first encounter with Paris in January is no walk in the park. Out of the six days I spent there, I only saw a glimpse of the sun twice. And that only for a couple of hours. When I think about the trip now, I suddenly get a chilly feeling. It was also the first time in ages I got a terrible ache in my feet from all that walking, even though I only wore my beloved pair of black Doc Martens that gives me that cosy feeling I get when I wear my slippers. So I was looking forward to the day at the Louvre, because it was supposed to be a wonderful day looking at art in a comfortable, warm environment. Except…
The Louvre is surprising indeed
We had a pretty solid plan for each of the six days. I had been panicking for weeks before the trip about visiting the Louvre, because everyone says it takes at least two days to see it properly. I figured that if we spent seven hours visiting the Prado, the Louvre would take at least double that. All our trips revolve around museum opening times, because hubby and I have a bit of an obsession, but that’s another story.
Since the Louvre is only open until late on Wednesdays and Fridays, we chose to go there on a Wednesday. We and half the people in Paris, I might add. I made an elaborate plan to get there early, go inside via the Carousel entry, because apparently there’s less of a queue there, buy tickets, get a plan, and see as much of the museum as possible by closing time. The reality in the field was slightly different, so to our surprise we managed to dash through the entire museum by 9 p.m.
How I didn’t see the Mona Lisa
I was well aware that the Louvre is something that attracts people every day of the year like bees to honey, but I didn’t expect to find myself staring at the Mona Lisa from 50 feet because there was a sea of people in front of it at all times. The painting is in a room with plenty of other masterpieces, some of them even more exciting than the little portrait of a slightly chubby lady, yet everyone seemed to ignore them. Apparently, one simply does not visit the Louvre without getting a selfie with the most famous painting in the world.
It’s amazing the things publicity would do to a painting. When I went to Prado in November last year, there was a version of the Mona Lisa hanging there without anyone paying too much attention to it. I remember I looked at it and asked myself what the difference was. The French marketing machinery for an Italian painting does miracles, it seems. Just like in many other places in central Paris, the Louvre is pestered with signs that warn tourists about pickpockets. The Mona Lisa itself is flanked by two such posters, which I thought was in very poor taste.
It’s raining masterpieces, too bad the French won’t pick them up
Overall, the Louvre left me the impression of a place that would do with a bit of British or German administration. This is especially true when it comes to the ancient history part. The place is like a giant warehouse, with thousands of pieces scattered all over the place. I mean they could really highlight some of the immensely valuable things they’ve got there. They have the colossal statue of Ramses II sitting in a badly lightened corner, surrounded by dozens other stones, for crying out loud. The winged Victoria of Samothrace was not there because of restoration, yet people took pictures standing in the empty spot, under the sign mentioning the restoration. I mean, how badly do you need a picture of yourself with all the poster masterpieces? Unfortunately, that is the impression that the Louvre leaves on someone who is genuinely interested in seeing the art, not be seen near art. The camera-wielding uncultured masses take over the museum and they ruin the experience for anyone else. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel anything while standing in front of some of the best pieces of art in the world. I have experienced wonderful sensations in many other museums of Europe, and I entered the Louvre with very high expectations. Unfortunately, the experience left me with a very poor taste in my mouth.
Why should a visit be comfortable, after all?
Other bits and pieces contribute to a lousy experience when visiting the Louvre. For example, I walked for more than 10 hours with my coat on even though it was very warm inside, simply because they do not have any lockers. It was actually one of the few museums without lockers I’ve ever seen. There is a wardrobe manned by two ladies and the queues are, as you can guess, endless. If you don’t want to spend half an hour to give them their coat and half an hour to get it back, you’ve got nothing else to do than carry it along with your bag all day long. Oh, and don’t get me started on the toilets. There are few, the queues are so long it takes a highly trained bladder to survive them, and some of them are closed. Just because.