Can you imagine? We lived in France for over 5 years visiting Paris many times and never went to the Louvre. I know that’s ridiculous but we were always living on the edge financially. So, now that we are on our “Lance & Donna Europe 2018 Friends Tour” we thought we probably ought to take the time to visit the Louvre. We went online and bought the tickets and tried to print them on our friend’s printer but after several attempts resulting in unclear pages, we decided that I would get up early and have them printed at the local tobacconist’s shop.
I woke up bright and early, leaving Donna to sleep in, trudging through the cold drizzling rain arriving to the little shop that was full of people buying coffee, Lotto tickets and tobacco. Many people were staring at a TV screen that is dedicated to showing a bouncing ball that revealed the winning numbers. Nobody in the café won. In my best French I asked about printing the tickets and was directed to the computer in one corner. I sat down and plugged my USB stick into the connection and turned on the screen. On other Windows PC’s I had used in the past a little window would pop up asking to OK the stick. This didn’t happen. I’m more of an “Apple guy” and was a little lost. Plus everything is in French. I asked for some help and the shop worker said (in French), “I’m here alone with these people, just figure it out.” I ask if anyone knows how to get started on the computer but nobody did. I start to panic a little, inside. It’s pretty early but time is limited on my schedule to get this done. Yeah, we kind of waited to the last minute on our planning this. I exit the shop in hopes of catching a passing stranger that would enter the shop and help me with this as they are on their way to work, in Paris. I see a young man all bundled up against the cold drizzling rain walking swiftly in the direction of the Metro and I choose him asking in my best French, “Excusez-moi, je recherche quelqu’un qui pourrait m’aider pendant une minute pour me lancer sur un ordinateur dans le magasin de tabac situé derrière moi.”
To which he replied, “Sorry, I don’t speak French!”
Perfect! “Great! You speak English!” So I quickly explained my dilemma and he says he has just one minute. We go into the shop and he got the right window open for me and I could take it from there! Whew! “Thank you!” Everything printed and I paid the patron rolling the papers up and putting them into my hoodie pouch.
I went to the bolangerie, bought some “pain raisin” and went back to our friend’s to wake Donna. After a rushed preparation we made our way to the Metro (subway) and then made our way to the Louvre.
As we walked out of the Metro and into the massive cut stone buildings we saw a model being photographed in an elegant, very revealing see through evening dress. She must have been freezing. I know we were. We waited until the photographer finished getting the good shot and as we passed she thanked us for waiting. As we stepped out of the alcove the giant glass pyramid came into view.
There was a bit of a line but it moved quickly into the pyramid. In the line we met a nice couple from Chicago. We took a good picture of them inside and the reciprocated by doing the same for us.
Donna’s knee has been a little bothersome and we were not going to chance hurting it more by having her walk all day around the Louvre so we we got her a wheelchair… provided free by the Louvre! We then put our coats in one of the provided lockers and went to pick up the audio tour devices. They were very handy as you just type in the numbers of the paintings (that have the special numbers) and it gives you a wonderfully detailed history of that painting.
We decided that we should begin our tour with the most famous painting in the Louvre. Wheeling through the large crowd of people to the ticket check point we were ushered to a special line for wheelchairs breezing past the waiting masses. As we entered the hall full of beautiful masterpieces we rounded the corner and saw the mass of people behind a three meter barricade all crowding to see the famous ’Mona Lisa’ or ‘La Joconde’. As we wheeled to get in line the security guard stopped us and directed us to wheel the chair directly in front of the barricade only one meter away from the most enchanting lady! We really were stunned barely believing our good fortune!
We’ve all seen the photographs and reproductions on everything from coffee mugs to t-shirts of the most famous of DaVinci paintings. It is said that the Mona Lisa is “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world” Her sly smile teasing various interpretations over the many years but nothing truly prepared us for seeing ‘her’ in person.
We sat there mesmerized for a good 15 minutes or more feeling thankful to be so close. Donna teared up in overwhelming emotion. Eventually we decided we should see some of the other great works of art but found ourselves returning several times to the same fortunate spot to gaze into her eyes for long periods of time. The guards never seemed to mind and always ushered us up front.
We saw so many great works of art from Raphael to El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens to Caravaggio, and so many other astoundingly beautiful masterpieces but honestly nothing compared to the Mona Lisa.
We pulled into a café in the Louvre for some really expensive water and met another couple from Chicago, the man was also born in Nashville. Then we met a couple from Nebraska. Seems like there were a lot of Americans there that day! A little hungry we decided to buy a chocolate muffin and as I reached into my pouch to pay, the man behind the counter said, “This is on me! I’m done for the day.” Are we the luckiest ever or what! We continued touring through the museum appreciating all wonderful art soaking in as much as we could but our path always brought us back for another viewing of the Mona Lisa, and always up front.