Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Louvre

In my previous post I mentioned that I spent Sunday in Paris, and I started at the catacombs. I had originally expected that I would have a fairly minimal wait at the catacombs. I rather underestimated its popularity. After grabbing some churros for lunch I headed over to my next destination: the Louvre. I was mentally prepared to spend quite a lot of time waiting to get into the Louvre and here I was surprised. I didn't wait more than about 5 seconds. How? How you ask did I manage to get into arguably Paris' most popular museum on a free museum day, and in the afternoon? Very simple: I didn't use the pyramid entrance. There are actually about 5 or 6 entrances to the Louvre but the vast majority of its visitors use the pyramid entrance. I used the Porte des Lions entrance, and once I was there I realized why no one uses it: it doesn't look like an entrance. It looks like it's maybe just for people who already have tickets or for groups or something; I actually asked the guard if it really was an entrance because I honestly wasn't sure. 5 seconds. Do yourself a favor and go in one of the other entrances. 

Once inside I got myself a map and planned out a visit that would a) get me to some of the interesting but less popular sections of the museum and b) avoid the "important" pieces. The first time I visited the Louvre was in the height of summer on a Saturday, and my friend and I went around checking off our list of the big ticket items. We saw the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo, the large gallery of gigantic paintings, the Renaissance statues...All the things a visitor to the Louvre just has to see. And if that's the sort of thing you want to do, so that you can go home and tell everyone that you saw all those things, that's fine. But I recommend against it. First, those are the most popular exhibits, and they tend to be so crowded that you can't hardly see what you are supposed to be looking at, and people basically run you down in their desperation to see something famous. More importantly, there are thousands upon thousands of pieces in the Louvre that are just as worthy of your time as some long dead mistress of an Italian savant. Don't limit yourself, and don't visit anything just because it's famous. Have better reasons.

I started in the medieval section of the Louvre. Before the (relatively) modern palace you see today was built, a medieval fairy tale-like castle stood on this spot. Charles V would be very disappointed to find that the foundations are all that's left today of his once impressive castle. 

Medieval Louvre

The foundations of the keep
Next I headed upstairs to go look at some shiny stuff, because really who can resist the crown jewels?
Oh and lest we forget, the Louvre was a royal palace before becoming a museum.

Awesome door

Really awesome room

The royal crystal (with real gold)

Pretty goblets and what not

It's good to be king
Crown jewels! I forget whose sword that is, but presumably it belonged to a king or a prince.

Crown jewels

Below, the crown on the left was at one time actually covered with real gems of that size. After the coronation the jewels were replaced with fakes, and the real ones went back into the treasury. The crown on the right supposedly belonged to Charlemagne but definitely was worn by Napoleon. 

More shiny stuff!

The Empress would wear this little crown on top of the tiara. 

Over in the decorative arts section, I was practically alone with this guy:

a king's suit of armor (Henri IV maybe?)

He can save me any day he wants
Napoleon lived here for a while (when he wasn't busy conquering things), and parts of his former apartments are still decked out emperor-style. 

Fancy chandelier and staircase

Really fancy chandelier

Scarlett could make one
heck of a dress out of those

I don't know, I don't think there's enough gold...

The Empress

The Empress was not lacking in glittery jewelry


A gold and crystal vanity

View over the courtyard

Now if you're still stuck on the idea that you can't leave the Louvre without seeing some portraits of mysterious looking people, I suggest you head upstairs to the top floor and the European painting section. There was practically no one there and there are so many beautiful things to see. 

Mesdemoiselles Molliens by Georges Ruget

Mysterious-looking girl

This dude who looks like he'd be fun to know

And this hottie
Ok, one final set of questions for you: So you saw the Mona Lisa: did you love it? Was it life changing? Did you experience something new and different by seeing it in person? Was it worth getting shoved and pushed out of the way by huge groups of frantic tourists? And did you, who spent all that time just to get to see a portrait you've already seen hundreds of times, did you get to see any of this?

The world's largest cereal bowl

A disdainful man-beast

The decorative top piece of a
column from the Byzantine Empire

Giant Goat-men

Hammurabi's Code

Because I did. And I had a fabulous time not getting knocked over by someone who just had to get the perfect shot of the winged victory, not getting rundown by a stroller trying to keep up with the kids who can't live without seeing a real mummified cat, not getting my view blocked by some old man who needs to stand directly in front of a piece of art for half an hour in order to fully appreciate it.  The Louvre is huge, and there is more to see in it than Mona Lisa. Visit the other floors. Trust me, you will have a much more enjoyable experience. 


  1. oooo I think I should decorate my office like the gold room with all the red chairs!

    1. When you do, I'm moving in. I'll sleep on one of those gorgeous red couches.