Day 3: Louvre, attempt #1 at the Catacombs, and aimless wandering.

Paris Travel Blog

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So I started walking the wrong direction towards the Louvre, and found this, the Hotel de... something or other.

I'm glad I decided to see the Louvre early on today, because it would've been quite impossible for me to take it all in otherwise. There's just so much, and I decided to see all three wings of the place. I ended up getting my ticket at the top-secret side entrance from the automatic ticket machines, and that seemed to save me at least a half hour over waiting in line. The ticket came out to be 13€ with the add-on to check out the Babylon exhibit, but as fate would have it, I would be simply too exhausted to bother much with that exhibit (it probably involved more stairs).

I went straight to the Mona Lisa just to get it done with, and I don't see what everyone's complaining about: It's really not that small. Not like some letter-sized print; it's three quarters of a meter tall and half a meter wide, making it, at very least, fairly difficult for one to simply walk off with it, as was done early on in the 20th century by some silly janitor.

Having read The Da Vinci Code, I was on the lookout for trap doors and machine gun turrets and god knows what else protecting it. Nothing of the sort seemed to exist, although there might've been some massive metal gates hidden above the entranceways now that I think of it...

After that, I spent the next half hour within thirty feet of the entrance to the Mona Lisa room. Everything was just so... beautiful. It's been said that it would take 8 months to simply look, for three seconds, at each piece of art in the Louvre. I was spending at least 5 minutes from painting to painting, and would certainly have to step it up.

And step it up I did. I started getting tired by the time I made it to the next wing (Mona Lisa was in Denon, the next was Sully, then Richelieu), and I eventually just ended up speed-walking through half of Richelieu.

Oh well.

If there's one thing I figured out from my trip to the Louvre, it's that I definitely have to read up on my biblical lore. Without a pretty substantive knowledge of what those zany christians and crazy romans did back then, it's pretty hard to know what's going on in most of the paintings at the Louvre (and quite a few of the sculptures too).

Overall, the visit could've been better, but 'better' in the sense that someday, when I return, I will have the knowledge to fully appreciate what I see there, that which I seem to lack at this point. Either that, or I'll have a better answer (or simply, an understanding of) to the problem of the scale of the place - maybe an understanding of the things I've seen there will remain permanently elusive, due to the more fundamental limitations of memory and concentration.

The Louvre defies understanding in the same way art does: by changing, from wing to wing, it messes with ideas of constancy that would otherwise enable definition  and comprehension; and because of the vastness of it all, it makes a comprehensive assessment virtually impossible. The Louvre, it seems, is everywhere at once, and then beyond that still. It is both the art and the building and the weird pyramid in front and the history of all of it. It is overwhelming to the tourist, who wants simply to know some clever facts about the "Top Ten" paintings or sculptures or painters and be done with it all, because that same person will inevitably be drawn into the vastness of the place, and then anything they do or read or see will seem insufficient, superficial, as it probably is.

The Louvre, then, as a place, is a true wonder of the world. It's been here for ages and will be here still for ages, and it exists beyond anything that its' creators imagined for it. Its' complexity has given it a life of its' own.

Anyways, I also tried to check out the Catacombs today, but of course, by the time I got there, they were closed. For shame. I shall return...

I think (just going by memory here) I also dropped by St. Germain to check out Cafe de Flore, where all the existentialists used to hang out back in the day. The prices have stepped up a bit, but I figure it's worth it to grab a bite to eat there.

-andrew

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Paris
photo by: Sweetski