NOTE: The Author would like to gently point out that his observations are his and his alone, and they are not meant to be some sort of factual record on what Paris is. This is simply a collection of observations on what he experienced for 8 days in Paris during the summer of 2011. It is meant to be an honest account of his feelings and experiences, but should not be taken as complete truth to what Paris and France are. How could it? That's ridiculous. With that... PREVIOUSLY: PART 1: TOUCHING DOWN PART 2: MEETING THE LIZARD KING PART 3: MY NEMESIS, THE METRO PART 4: BLUE SKY RAIN PART 5: THE GINGER WINS PART 6: KEEPERS OF THE CITY PART 7: THE TUNNELS OF DEATH PART 8: THE THINKER CONTEMPLATES CULTURE
Standing outside the glass pyramid of The Louvre, you realize very quickly that to not think of Dan Brown's trashy blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code is an impossibility.
You don't want to, mostly because in doing so you become the very stereotype you loathe most. Yet I can't stop. I'm looking for the rose line. I'm hearing Ian McKellen's voice bellow out, a slightly scratchy register hiding the dignity he inherently possesses. Thinking of McKellen isn't so bad you decide. But then your mind wanders, and soon bad mullets and Tom Hanks are all you can concentrate on.
My feet take half steps with each passing moment, like the hands of a clock, and I'm closer to the interior of The Louvre. With each whisper of the ground's rubble in my wake, the thoughts of a mediocre Hollywood mystery movie start to vanish. The works inside this house deserve more, and constantly pondering the made up Illuminati only serves to insult the reality of what I'm about to see.
It takes all of twenty minutes, and soon we're inside. The crowds are manageable, mostly because the night sky is near. Going at this hour was a request of mine, as I wasn't about to miss Paris at night. Thankfully, my family relented, and an evening break from their repetitive nature is acquired.
There are several wings to The Louvre, and much has been said about the sheer size and scope of the massive yellow-tinged walls. It's all very true, and so choosing exactly what you want to see is paramount to happiness.
Like 75% of the people there, we head towards the Denon Wing, which holds the Mona Lisa. Art connoisseurs can lambast me for my traditional and predictable route; I don't care, because I'm not missing the sight of what could be the world's most famous piece of art.
I'm not an art snob, though I certainly appreciate the historical and emotional context of what a piece can mean. I'm actually excited to see the Mona Lisa, much more than I would have thought. At one point, I catch a damp sheen growing on my forehead. Anticipation.
We pass through several corridors, awestruck with the barrage of beauty. Interesting enough, in one such hallway, paintings are thrown together without much cohesion. It's as if the curator simply threw up their hands and just hung as much as possible, without any regard for flow. To be fair, it hardly matters. They're all wonderful.
We knife through the crowds, ignoring what I'm sure are notable pieces of art. There is only so much time, and the commotion generating from one such room can only mean one thing- Da Vinci.
The doorframe to the Lisa isn't very impressive, and wouldn't look out place in my living room.
What you are met with is a curious contrast in perception.
For starters, the room that holds the Mona Lisa isn't exactly something that implores you to stare at its contents. No one is gasping. I circle the area, wondering just where it is. The sea of people and cameras dictate where it MUST be, but I'm having trouble seeing it. Could this plain gymnasium-like room really be the ending point of the world's most famous painting?
My height helps and soon I discover in the back of the room, dead center, is the Mona Lisa.
My first impression is one of disappointment. Whereas the statue of David in Italy knocked me for a loop with its beauty, the Mona Lisa leaves me not feeling much of anything. It's small, no larger than the Monsters of the Midway posters I used to tack up in my childhood bedroom. It's pleasant, but not jaw-dropping. All in all, more people are shrugging their shoulders than anything else.
I have been let down.
Awash in confusion, I spend even more time examining the Mona Lisa. Maybe I just don't get it? I leave the room. Come back again. Still, nothing. I take pictures from every angle. Nothing.
Instead, what I'm impressed with is the adjacent picture. The one that dwarfs anything else I've seen on this day. The Wedding Feast at Cana, by Veronese.
It's huge, and I'm humbled by how long it must have taken to complete. I stand next to it, becoming just another figure in its presence. THIS is a painting worthy of acclaim and glory. I am in awe. Perhaps it's the dimensions which impress me, stuck in my American way of thinking bigger is better. I'm not sure.
Regardless, in this case I feel it with every inch of my emotional output.
I'm blown away, not by The Mona Lisa, but by its mirrored friend.
We exit the walls of historical significance, content at seeing another set of the world's masterpieces.
We float for the next few hours, high on all that we see. There are sculptures, drawings, paintings, and even restored rooms of famous French figures.
When it's done, we lazily step back onto the dirt paths of The Louvre. People are milling about, buzzed with the ground that holds our spirits up.
If you can't be excited by The Louvre, then you might want to reconsider your priorities, because this museum is truly magnificent.
Paris, despite other obstacles, is having its way with me.