We decide to split today.
No, not what you think, but pretty close. dEven in the beautiful city of Paris, there are bound to be days of travel fatigue.
A Typical Paris Day
I decide to spend some time on my own today and head out early to use my ticket for the Louvre. I shower and head out by 10:45 and grab a (some much-needed familiarity) Starbucks and head to the Palais Royal/Louvre métro station. The day is a typical Parisian one (or at least the Paris that I have come to love): big white and grey clouds undulating and rolling across ancient skies; threatening at any moment to open up and rain down. The sun occasionally comes out and brightens the monuments but never long enough for you to catch that perfect picture of reflected sun on a beautiful vista.
The Louvre is, well, the Louvre. Built as a fortress in the 13th century and then rebuilt as a palace in the 16th, it is, as we all know, a daunting structure. I figure I will get “the hits” taken care of early and walk into the Denon wing and visit La Jaconde, or as popular culture (and fans of the Da Vinci Code) knows her, the “Mona Lisa”. It frightens me to think that the management of the Louvre succumbed to that popular pulp paperback pressure and presented a “Da Vinci Code” tour of the paintings and clues that Mr. Brown so successfully wrote about. I brave the Japanese tourists and it takes at least 15 minutes for me to elbow my way to the front of the crowd, only to be blinded by the thousands of flash cameras that are supposedly not allowed in the Louvre. I stand my ground for some 10 minutes, trying to absorb La Jaconde’s intriguing smile but eventually not even her smirky smile is enough for the thousands of people here today.
Exhausted and Somewhat Unfulfilled in Paris
I catch some of Spain and her paintings (saw much better offerings in Madrid), tons of Italian; the three Da Vincis that were not so crowded and therefore splendid. The Winged Victory of Samothrace took my breath away as did the Reuben’s Gallery devoted entirely to his mythological portraits of Catherine de Medici for her house at the Luxembourg. The French master David and his Coronation of Napoleon and other works were also an eyeful. I finish with the Napoleon III apartments as a reminder of what life is really all about. I leave three and a half hours later feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and somewhat unfulfilled. Next time, I guess.
I wind my way back in the late Paris afternoon sun, a welcome relief from all the rain. The sun is short-lived, however. By the time I finish my shopping for salad and dessert for tonight’s dinner at good Parisian friends John and François’, it is raining again.
But it is a gentle and insignificant Paris rain. The kind of rain that reunites Paris lovers, weary world travellers, and the intimate lovers of fabulous art.