Cities / Towns Visited: 2
Countries Visited: 2
Steps Taken Today: 21,246
Steps Taken Around the World: 329,362
When travelling, the hardest thing is allowing for public holidays, so with that we woke up for, surprise surprise, a rainy Good Friday. Another point in favour of planning, we’d organised our day to include attractions we knew wouldn’t be affected by the religious holiday, so onwards to the Louvre we marched. Now as I’m sure it has become glaringly obvious, I am not the biggest fan of art, I can appreciate it, but for the most part it confuses the hell out of me. I know it’s all about interpretation, but sometimes I think I lack the ability to see the artists vision. After we skipped the giant line by having already pre-purchased tickets (seriously, it costs a little extra but it’ll save you at least an hour, and there comes a point where you have to ask yourself ‘how much is my time worth?’), we wandered through the door of the giant glass pyramid, maybe one of the most recognisable entrances in the world.
Passing through the obligatory bag check, body scan, and ticket window, we grabbed a map and tried to come up with a game plan. Benny was keen to see the ancient Egypt exhibit, and the Oceania and Asian history exhibit, so we settled on heading through the ancient Assyria and Near East exhibit on our way. Similarly to the British Museum, there was a number of large carvings and statues, as well as some cases of smaller artifacts. I, being somewhat perplexed by art, couldn’t help but snap some pictures of the pieces I found some element of comedy in, and with the plaques all exclusively being in French (which is surprising for such a major tourist attraction) it often begged the question, ‘it’s nice but what is it?’. May I present to you some of my favourites.
Turning the corner to enter the Egyptian exhibit we were faced with the first disappointment for the day, it was closed. From as far as my minimal French world allow, I gathered that they were doing some renovations over the Easter weekend, and Good Friday was Egypt’s turn. Reviewing the map we decided to give the other exhibit a go, but on playing the upstairs downstairs, ‘where the hell are we?’ game, we reached, you guessed it, a closed door, and this time no explanation. Now I kid you not, there are signs around in several languages boasting how on average 99% of the exhibits are open everyday all year round. Be that the case, I guess they lose that one percent purely from the one day we decided to visit.
We wagered, to avoid further disappointment we should try something that would definitely be on show, the Mona Lisa. It was easy to find as, aside from there being signs, it was seemingly the destination of every single person in the museum. The painting sits alone, behind perspex, on an island wall, in a room surrounded by other paintings; although there could be nothing on the other walls and the room would have been just as chaotic. As it would seem, the Louvre chose to go with the ‘no system’ system when it comes to organising the crush of people stampeding forth toward the famous work of art. In my opinion it is no better or worse than any of the other pieces in the room around it, but then I guess I’m not an expert on art or the finer points of painting. This being said it didn’t stop me having to duck and weave selfie sticks, and take elbows to the ribs by short people who obviously don’t understand that the polite and socially correct thing to do would be to wait, like everyone else. You essentially get shoved forward to the cordon, have about 1 minute to take your pictures before security open the cordon and let the first row peel off and exit. It will never cease to amaze me how many people want to take selfies in front of pieces of art, like it’s not possible to convince people you saw anything without a photo of yourself in every single situation. I simply admired it above the heads of the rude short people, then took a few quick snaps (hard to achieve as everyone keeps knocking you), and realising that taking photos of it is stupid as the perspex just means you end up with reflections.
We spent another hour or so exploring, seeing the Venus De Milo; some displays of the pieces of furniture, artifacts, and artwork which somehow couldn’t fit in the thousands of rooms at Versailles; an inordinate amount of Catholicism based paintings; and a few more clocks, sundials, and other old school objects which we endearingly refer to as ‘Alex Crack’. Just before we left, we happened to stumble across, what would end up being the most interesting room in our opinion; the ancient foundations of the Roman tower, which once stood here, before the palace which once housed the monarchy prior to the construction of Versailles, and now houses the Louvre was erected. You hear people say that there just simply isn’t enough hours in the day to get around the Louvre, but by about 2pm we had seen all we wanted to, or ‘were allowed’ to is probably more accurate phrasing; and with that we ascended to ground level to head to Montparnasse Tower.
As you so often do when you choose to walk, rather than catch transport everywhere, you happen across many beautiful things, and after deciding to go off the main roads, we came across a church, which we had written down during our planning as an ‘if we have time’ kind of attraction; the church of St. Sulpice. Now it being a holy day, and because we’re not arseholes, we entered quietly, removed our beanies, and didn’t take a single photo as we wandered round admiring the architecture and art of the small chapel, while those of the more religious persuasion lit candles and lay them around the large statue of Christ on the cross, which had been laid on the floor for the day.
We continued from here to Montparnasse Tower, the only true skyscraper in the heart of Paris, and, although we had already looked out over the city from the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur, we wanted to see it once more from its highest point. There are two viewing areas in the tower, one on the 56th floor, which is enclosed and has the standard overpriced cafe, and one that is open-air and on the roof (the 59th floor). We visited both, although it must be told that with the atrocious weather Paris was pelting us with, the whipping icy winds meant we only lasted about 10 minutes in the roof before beating a hasty retreat. That being said I can only imagine what an amazing space the roof would be for a function, on a sunny day with the bar open.
So what did I learn today, how did I improve as a person, what have a gained from having seen a little more of the world? I learnt that even if you don’t understand things, or you understand their value but do not consider them an important part of your life, if you make the effort you can find their hidden beauty and value. I don’t understand most art, but it makes the world a more beautiful place, and we would be much poorer should it ever disappear. I do not believe in God, but I can appreciate the comfort his presence brings to people, especially in their darkest hours, and provided they do not use it as an excuse to hurt others, I am nothing but supportive of those around me to whom religion is a big part of their very being. I am grateful for both, despite their lack of influence on my life, and I will endeavour to be into the future.