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Musée du Louvre – A day with Leonardo and William

So today is the day we visit a landmark that isn’t just synonymous with Paris but is also perhaps the first name people come up with when they think art and museums – Musée du Louvre. The Louvre is about 60,000+ square metres large and while it actually is possible to walk through it in a day, it’s impossible to see everything. I was very clear that I wasn’t even going to try! I planned on hanging around with the Greeks, Romans and a few Renaissance artists. Unfortunately, the rest will have to be put off until a later trip.

Two important tips: Get there early and wear comfortable shoes.

After the wait at Musée d’Orsay, we decided to get to the Louvre earlier than we initially planned to. We got there a little after 9 am and there were no huge crowds to deal with. There are three entrances to Musée du Louvre – the main entrance directly through the glass Pyramid, one from the Carrousel du Louvre (the shopping mall underneath the Louvre that houses a McDonald’s…yes, I cringed too!) and from Porte des Lions (which was shut when we got there because of some work that was happening). If the crowds aren’t too intimidating, walk in through the Pyramid. I’ve heard many Parisians can’t stand it but I personally thought it’s a nice contrast to everything that surrounds it.

Musée du Louvre is huge and comprises 3 wings – Richelieu on the left, Sully in the centre and Denon on the right. Richelieu houses the Oriental Antiquities, Sully the French and Greek and Denon is Italian and French. Remember to check in stuff – if it’s winter and you’re wearing jackets, check them in near the Richelieu Wing, or if you have heavy baggage, check them in under the Pyramid to the right of the Denon Wing (if you can, stuff your jackets into your bag and check everything here). There’s quite a bit of walking to be done and you don’t need anything heavy on you (it’s also warm inside, so don’t worry about wearing jackets).

There were a few pieces we were sure we wanted to spend time with (surprisingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t one of them!). As we walked through the Roman and Greek sections, we caught a glimpse of The Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Daru staircase but we were going to catch it later, so we continued on until we reached Venus de Milo. Ok, time for a little truth. It’s a beautiful piece but I just can’t honestly say it’s the best. Not even when compared to others from the same era. There, I’ve said it! But before I get slayed, let me quickly add that this is just the opinion of one who isn’t an art or history aficionado. This is just my regular everyday Joe take on Venus. I did give Venus her time, though. I stood around trying to genuinely understand why it’s such a talked about piece. From the slightly twisted stance, to the angle of the shoulders, to the view from the right…I just didn’t get it, pardon my ignorance. I kept wondering what would happen if Venus was replaced by one of the other pieces from the exhibit, would people still gush over it? What if there were decades of praise surrounding that piece instead of Venus? Would they appreciate that one more and leave Venus behind, along with one of the other pieces in a corner? I guess we’ll never know. But I’m going to give Venus another chance on my next Paris trip. I’m sure millions adore her for a reason.

Venus de Milo

I spent a long while with this naked woman.

The next ‘big ticket’ item was The Winged Victory of Samothrace. I can’t think of a better place than the Daru staircase for this piece. At first sight, I felt how I did when I first saw Venus de Milo. But this one grows on you. As you walk around you begin seeing more…the wind blowing against the contours of her body, the stance, the angle at which she leans forward, the detail on the wings. It seems like she might just flap those wings and take a little flight around the Museum for a while.

Winged Victory Daru

The Daru staircase

Winged Victory

I swear those wings moved.

Winged VictoryNext, da Vinci. Yes, I did see that famous one of the woman with the ‘enigmatic’ smile but there were two other pieces that I really loved. John the Baptist and Bachus. There’s something eerie about them. The mildly manic expressions, that weird smile, the finger. With the million da Vinci conspiracy theories going around, you’re tempted to look deeper and search for symbolism. I did that too for a while until I figured it’s pointless wasting time that’s much better spent enjoying the work.

BachusFrom here, we finally walked into the room housing the Mona Lisa, possibly the most crowded room in the entire Museum. I was actually more interested in the gigantic Wedding Feast at Cana that hangs directly opposite the Mona Lisa. I didn’t imagine it would be so big. So as I kept walking backwards to see it from a distance, I encountered a bunch of Japanese tourists. They were a little intrigued why I was looking away from the Mona Lisa instead of at it. So a couple of them looked in my direction for a second, possibly told themselves I was mad and turned back, cameras held overhead, to Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa

She’s there at the end.

Wedding at Cana

I was looking here…

Mona Lisa

Everyone else was looking here…

After walking through the rest of the Denon Wing, we decided to stop and head out of the Museum. We were getting what we call museum syndrome…there’s only so much you can absorb and after a while, you’re just looking at stuff without actually seeing it. We walked out through the Richelieu Wing, stopping only briefly to see a few displays. That was all we could take of the seriously overwhelming Musée du Louvre. We will be back to visit the Louvre on our next trip…primarily for the Richelieu Wing that’s also of special interest to me. But to try and cram it all in one visit just isn’t worth it.

LouvreWe weren’t really tired, just a little numb from seeing so much. And Paris has a perfect antidote to numbness – walking. We took a walk along the river to Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank. Sylvia Beach’s bookstore was a haven for a few literary greats I’ve read. This was the birthplace of Ulysses. We lost ourselves for a while inside the bookstore, while a young girl practiced piano next to us.

Shakespeare and Co Paris

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Co Paris

The perfect rest after Musee du Louvre

That was the end of a packed day. This first trip to Paris is increasingly beginning to feel like a little wine tasting expedition. We’re just sampling a bit of what Paris has to offer, so we can come back for long leisurely glasses of what we like in the many visits that will surely follow.

12 Discussions on
“Musée du Louvre – A day with Leonardo and William”
  • Nice write up of your trip to Paris. How much time did you spend in the Louvre?
    My husband and I will be staying in Vienna for a 6 weeks and we are planning (actually it’s me who does all the planning!) to take a weekend trip to Paris in either Nov or Dec. Since we will have only 2 days we are thinking of spending just the right amount of time (for us) at the Louvre as we are not heavily into art and it goes without saying that we won’t have enough time to overdose ourselves! Just looking at the architecture and mostly the popular pieces would make us happy, so to speak 🙂

    • Hi Shalini! We’re not major art buffs as well but we did spend close to 7 hours at the Louvre. But that was because we each had specific pieces to see and planned in advance to just hop through the museum to catch them. Honestly, we just about managed seeing what we wanted to! My advice would be to plan in advance on what you want to see, figure which wings the pieces are and make that route your path through the Louvre. We were there in December as well and it’s not as crowded as we expected it to be. Since you have just 2 days, you might not want to spend half a day there. Spend your 48 hours strolling around…Paris will bring you back soon! If there’s anything else in specific you want to check on about Paris, do contact us and we’ll be glad to help! P.S. What’s on the site is just a fraction of the experience we had in Paris, so don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Great description of a great museum. I wish I visit it someday and have all the energy to walk through it. I wonder when history in Indian cities are preserved the way it is done in India. Our cities are such a mess.

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