Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Day in The Louvre

It goes without saying that your trip to Paris will likely include a visit to the most famous museum in the world.  Once a castle ( you can even visit the medieval foundations in the Louvre's ground floor), the museum sits centrally right on the Seine, looming grandly over your river cruise or evening stroll. Apparently it would take 75 days to see everything in the Louvre if you give each item just 60 seconds of attention, so unless your trip to Paris is indefinite in length, having a sense of focus for your Louvre trip can help.  I tried downloading the Rick Steves Louvre Walking Tour app, but honestly it only covers such a small area of the Louvre I find it kind of disappointing.  If you have just an  hour or two maybe the app will help, but you'll never make it to the Egyptian sections which are some of my favorites, or the lavish Napoleon III apartments.

Getting In:
One thing's for sure, there will be a line.  You can wait in the main line by the pyramid with the hundreds of other tourists, but typically the line from the underground mall is significantly shorter.  Just enter by the staircase on either side of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and you'll find yourself in a small mall with a Starbucks and Apple Store.  The entry to the Louvre museum is near the inverse pyramid which is a popular photo-op site. There is a kiosk to buy museum passes inside the mall, but if you just want a Louvre ticket you can buy it inside the museum once you get through security.  After security the main concourse of the Louvre has multiple ticketing counters but unless you need to buy a special discounted ticket or don't have a credit card with a microchip, you don't need to waste your time in that line.  Right beside the counter are several self-service kiosks where you can pick your language and buy adult (full-priced) tickets with a swipe of your card. Because the lines for the counter are so busy it can be hard to tell you don't need to stand there, so just head for the yellow kiosk and you'll be set.

The mall entrance is to the left or the right of the arc

There are several different wings of the Louvre but if you're like me you're going to hit all of them so you can really start anywhere. Make sure you don't bring bulky bookbags because you will be asked to check them before entering the museum wings. Also be prepared for some warm temperatures in the summer months. In August there was no sign of A/C and the sheer number of people crowded into some areas made for very uncomfortable rooms. There aren't any water fountains but you can buy bottled water at the various Louvre cafes in each wing. Yes it's expensive. A big bottle was around 5 euro. You'll buy it anyway because all of that learning and pondering and pushing your way through crowds of cell phones to see your favorite paintings is hard work.
A Quick Virtual Tour:

These figurines are from around 2500 BC -- Rick Steves calls them the world's oldest Barbie dolls. 
The Venus de Milo. If you come on Wednesday night when the Louvre is open late you will often find art students sketching her. The late evening hours are less popular for tourists and can make for a more peaceful experience.
These columns are from the Parthenon in Greece, as are the friezes on the wall above.  It's kind of bittersweet seeing little bits and pieces of amazing places.

Winged Victory

The Crown Jewels
As you will see in the next photo, getting a good look at the Mona Lisa will be a challenge.  Luckily there are other DaVinci pieces in the same room that you can study more closely.
Yes, that small painting in the middle of the wall surrounded by a sea of people is the most famous painting in the world.

Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

The Assyrian wing was one of my favorites

The Seated Scribe in the Egyptian section is as old as 3800 BC. There's a ton to see in the Egyptian area, including a mummy that of course draws a big crowd.
Chinoiserie in the Napoleon III apartments
Touring the Napolean III apartments is like taking a trip to a mini chateau.  It's extremely lavish and oh-so French with gold and velvet and crystal dripping from every corner.  
Everyone is likely to spot a piece of art or history that just really fascinates them but may not be a headliner.  Well for me it was Gabrielle d'Estrees and Her Sister, an oil painting from 1594.  It's just so peculiar. In a museum thus massive and well curated getting lost and discovering something new to you is part of the reason you wait in line.

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