I have returned from Paris, safe and sound (other than a lingering cold (NOT Covid)), full of thoughts and stories and photos and inspiration. Over the last couple of weeks, I have mentally written parts of this blog post over and over. I hope the story that unfolds lives up to my early drafts.
September 27 – Travel to Paris
With Covid and the general chaos of the last few years, it’s been a while since I’ve been in the jumble of the airport. Thousands of stories, but here are a few that I found interesting.
The first leg of the trip (technically, this “first leg” was the fourth (of six) with all the various legs to get to the airport and then hotel) was to Reykjavik (Iceland).
September 28 – Arrival in Paris, Hotel & Surrounds
After 18 hours of travel (door to door), I arrived at the Hotel du Jardin des Plants. I cannot praise this hotel enough; it was comfortable, safe, and EXQUISITELY placed.
Across from the Jardin des Plants, it was just a couple blooks from a Metro stop. Also just blocks from the Sorbonne, the neighborhood was busy, but relatively quiet and residential. After checking in, I decided to go for a quick walk around the neighborhood before a nap.
That evening I went to a restaurant across the street, then strolled through the Jardin des Plants.
September 29 – Louvre
First thing first. On my first full day in Paris, I had booked myself into the Louvre. This was the thing I expected to enjoy the most and return to multiple times during the trip. I based this hope on my 2008 trip to England and my love of the National Gallery. There was one thing I hadn’t counted on: lines. The dysfunction of the French line system cannot be overstated. Over and over, process typically went like this:
- Line up. You don’t really know what the line is for, or if you are in the correct line, or if the line is even for what you want. But join the line.
- Go through the (long) line. Someone will ask for your ticket with the time of your booking. Go inside.
- But you are NOT inside yet. Join another line. This line may (or may not) be to enter the museum.
- Find out that this line was for the security check. Open your bag, go through metal detector, or whatever else. It would be easier just to make everyone get naked.
- Join another line. Lose will to live.
- You find out that this IS the line to enter the museum. But the ticket that you showed in step 2 is not the correct ticket. You now need to step aside and fight the internet to download the ACTUAL ticket.
- Reenter line and show REAL ticket.
- You are inside, right? Nope. You are just inside the museum. You need to find another line to get an audio guide.
- Regardless of whether you have booked and paid for the audio guide, somehow you did not do it right. Leave line to resolve the situation. Reenter audio guide line. Get audio guide.
- Surely now you can go see art, right? Nope. Enter line to go into the exhibits.
In all seriousness, the process to enter a museum typically took between 15 minutes to an hour. I took a selfie of myself at the Louvre (see below). As you will see, I look hot and sweaty (but happy). I was on step 4. By the time I was inside an exhibit, I had to sit down for thirty minutes to regain composure. My ticket for entry was at 9am and I did not even SEE art until after 10:30.
I cannot claim to see even a fraction of the art in the Louvre. I toured the early artifacts (Sully wing), the covered sculpture garden (Richelieu Wing), Winged Victory, and the Grande Galerie (Denon Wing, level 1). I didn’t stand in line to see the Mona Lisa. I didn’t see the Northern Europe, French, or Spanish paintings. I didn’t see a lot of what I hoped to see.
The one thing I did see enough of was “Winged Victory.” When I was taking French in high school, my teacher said this was her favorite piece, and I fell in love with it, too. I sat for about 20 minutes at her feet, soaking up her beauty. But it was hardly an intimate experience with all the people milling around and taking selfies.
In the end, the Louvre was the experience that most disappointed me about the trip. The lines, the heat, the crowding, the noise. It really felt more like being in a mall on Black Friday rather than a cathedral to art. There were sections that I was able to concentrate on the experience, but in general, I felt like I spent the day trying to regulate my body temperature and exasperation with other humans. Not an unfamiliar reaction, but one I hoped to have less of on vacation.
I’m going to end this post there. Three days of 15. But I have laundry and other chores to do before I can sit down again.