Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Artful Guide


It was last summer about this time that I went to Paris and visited the legendary Louvre. 

Gazing at the world's most famous works of art made me want to learn more about the stories behind each piece and the artists who created them. 

Since then I’ve been diving into books about how the art at the Louvre was acquired, the life and work of some of the artists, what the buildings were originally used for, and how it evolved into the world's largest museum. 

Before my trip, knowing it would be impossible to see everything in the Louvre, I booked a guided tour to see the highlights. 

It's open late on Fridays so I couldn't wait to spend my Friday night in Paris at the Louvre.


My mother and I stood under the Arc du Carrousel in a drizzling rain, waiting for our tour group to assemble. 

I’d heard about the long lines just to get inside so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our group was led by Sylvie, a woman who looked to be in her 70s. We literally skipped the line as the tour had advertised, as she took us in a side entrance and we quickly went through ticketing and security. 

She instructed us to follow her closely and I wondered how hard it could be to keep up with her. 

I soon found out as she pointed the way down the first corridor and took off at a rapid clip. She walked so briskly up and down staircases and through the Louvre’s wings and hallways that at times I was practically jogging to keep up with her. 

I edged my way toward the front of the group so I could walk beside her and tried to signal to my mother to keep up with me. I told her if she got lost in the Louvre, then she was on her own. 

Sylvie walked and talked nonstop for three and a half hours. She was simply amazing.

The Arc du Carrousel was constructed in 1808.

As we approached what everyone comes to the Louvre to see, the Mona Lisa, Sylvie told us not to be disappointed. “The painting is small, a bit dark due to limited cleanings and may not be what you’re expecting,” she said. 

She was right. As I got close enough to gaze at it, it was less impressive than the massive paintings we just had seen in other rooms. 

Everyone was crowded so close to it, I didn't even try to take a photo. 

It wasn’t the most breathtaking painting I had seen that night, but I had to pinch myself to believe I was standing in front of the Mona Lisa in the world-famous Louvre.
  

I was surprised that the Louvre allows photography. But my camera battery unexpectedly died just as I got inside. 

I turned it on throughout the tour a couple of times when it rejuvenated for me to shoot one quick picture before expiring again. 

I only have a few photos of my night inside the Louvre. 

But maybe it's better that way since shooting photos distracts me from what I'm looking at and I had a few more minutes to study the art. 

A ceiling panel inside the Louvre.
Sylvie took us to the basement to see remnants of the fortress built in the twelfth century as the Louvre began its life. 

She took us through the various departments, giving an overview of the museum, hitting highlights as we moved along. 

I stood before some of the world’s most famous works and realized I wasn’t dreaming but I was really in Paris standing before a work of art painted centuries before.

Leonardo da Vinci's "The Virgin of the Rocks."
As we walked from one wing to the next, Sylvie stopped us in front of huge windows overlooking the Louvre’s courtyard. 

“I timed it just before dark to bring you here,” she said. “The pyramid lit up as darkness falls is a popular sight.” 

She was right. It was spectacular. I turned on my camera and prayed it would take one last photo. 

It did.


Sylvie’s expansive knowledge of art, history and religion made the tour so enlightening. I could have listened to her for hours. 

After the tour was over, I told her how much I enjoyed her knowledge. She thanked me perfunctorily in the way the French kind of have of brushing you off. 

But her energy and vibrant commentary of the Louvre was one of the highlights of my trip.

One year later, I'm still thinking about Paris and all the dazzling places yet to see there. 

I'm dreaming of a return visit to the Louvre. 

And planning another trip to Paris. With maybe a stop in London on the way. 

Because I'm sure there's a whole world of artful inspiration out there to discover. 

With a dream, a longing, an aspiration (my one word for 2013), as my guide leading the way back to Paris.



2 comments:

  1. Valerie, I could read about your Paris stories for hours! Please tell more!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reading! Paris is amazing!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for reading -- I love to hear your comments! To leave a comment, you can choose an ID in the "comment as" box or just choose anonymous. Choose your ID first, write your comment in the box and hit publish. Your comment will be visible just as soon as I can post it!