Yes, the Mona Lisa is small.
Today, we visited one of the most renown places on the planet. The Louvre Museum is truly impressive. The building, itself, once the home to the French king, before the majestic palace at Versailles (at a time in France where the king’s head was safely attached to his shoulders!) is a piece of artwork in its own right. Once you get inside, however, the majesty of the place really hits home. You enter under the huge glass pyramid that has been become (in)famous with the building’s identity. Then, once you decide what genre of art you want to see first – a decision which could save you or cost you a lot of time in the long run – you head up a number of escalators and staircases into the bowels of the building. Then, be ready for artwork…
The first thing we saw was La Joconde – the Mona Lisa – Da Vinci’s most celebrated painting. It is small, not tiny, but certainly not a giant compared to the Louvre’s other paintings. Getting to it requires a bit of craft, as well. Hoards of people, hoards, jumble up together in a dysfunctional, claustrophobic mess that heaves and stretches in all directions. You really can’t get all that close to it, so it’s push, snap, and retreat. If you can do that within 10-15 minutes, you’re good. Very good.
The paintings are phenomenal. My favorite, by far, was Jacques-Louis David’s “Le Mort de Marat” – The Death of Marat. To see the original of such a famous work of art – in the flesh, inches away – is an amazing experience. Literally, you can turn a corner and find things you’d only ever see on television or in the movies.
As with a lot of things that I have experienced here in Paris, the Louvre really impresses over time. The initial expectation is that you’ll get blown off you’re feet. That happened to a certain extent when we first saw the facade of the building a few days ago. Coming back again, there wasn’t as big of a shock. Then we got exploring, and the hallways, corners, walls and open spaces spread out. It’s impressive. It’s finally starting to feel that it’s not a dream.
We are getting pretty good with rail travel. It’s definitely important to know where you are going, and with three methods of rail, how you get there matters. We know them all now: The Metro, the RER, and the tram. We are right across from the RER – the express connection line/commuter rail, so it’s easy to get a connection to another line that will literally bring you across the street of where you want to be. You learn your courtesy phrases rather quickly. “Pardon” and “Ecusez-moi” certainly come in handy.
It’s hard to believe a week has already gone by. We are starting to build our habits and to get comfortable. It’s quite a thought knowing that when you get up, history is waiting for you after breakfast, but we’re managing with it!
Still plenty more to come!