I always make it a point to visit at least one museum in every country I’ve been to. I have to say that Paris is the holy grail of art museums though. There’s one in every quarter mile or so! I wish we could have visited the smaller ones like the Rodin Museum, which I heard has a lovely garden with sculptures of the famous artist. However, we only had time for a few, and for us, it has to be the Big 3. That’s The Louvre of Mona Lisa fame, Marie Antoinette’s Palace of Versailles and Musee d'Orsay that features all our favorite Impressionists.
As always, I can only describe the areas we chose to visit because all three museums were huge. In fact, that’s the first tip I have got: If you only have a couple of hours, you should choose which works of art you’d like to see the most and make a beeline towards it. If you have the luxury of a whole day, then by all means, meander about. If you are visiting with a child in tow though, I really advise opting for a short but sweet visit instead.
For our Louvre visit, we chose to do a Self-Guided Tour which we purchased via Viator. For about 18 euros each, you get an Interactive Guide Map and a pen scanner connected to an audio with earphones.
I wish I had the foresight to get a photo of this because it sounds complicated, but in reality, it’s the heart of simplicity. You just have to point your scanner on the map you have, and the narration for the particular period or art piece will start on your audio. It’s ingenious!
Our family only wanted to pay homage to key pieces: the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Pyramid, and the Michelangelo sculptures. Along the way through, just outside the Mona Lisa Gallery were the most beautiful collection of Mother and Son paintings. I was entranced!
Did you know that the Italians are currently demanding that Mona Lisa be returned to its “home” in Florence? The portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is actually quite small, measuring 2ft 6in by 1ft 9in. Imagine trying to view it behind a mass of tourists! The rows of camera-phone toting tourists were about 5 rows deep, and with the artwork being so small, it really is quite hard to see. I know it has intrigued art critics for centuries. But when I saw the painting for myself, I just figured Lisa has a resting "nice" face. That's just a really great poker face, ha! Enigmatic and flawless, yes, but perhaps, just a tad bit anti-climactic.
My favorite art piece is that of Nike of Samothrace (or the Winged Victory). It is a 2nd-century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory), and depicts her at the prow of a ship that overlooked the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace. Now, the gigantic sculpture lies in front of a huge staircase, and you can see every arc and graceful curve of this masterpiece! Since it is also situated in an elevated platform, it doesn’t matter how crowded it gets. You will always have the perfect view.
Meanwhile, Venus de Milo has to be my son’s favorite. In fact, the sculptures were his favorite. He was quiet throughout this part of the tour, simply gazing at the marbled brows and hands and feet of angels and nymphs and slaves and gods.
So where is Venus de Milo's arms? Here's an excerpt from my favorite magazine, Mental Floss, on this issue:
"On April 8, 1820, several pieces of a broken statue were found on a farmer’s land on the Aegean island of Melos. Deemed the “Venus de Milo” for the island of her origin, the statue was quickly purchased by France. After she was presented to King XVIII, Venus was donated to the Louvre, where she’s been holding court ever since. Though her missing arms are her most famous feature, it’s possible that Venus had at least the left one at the time she was discovered. Relatives of the farmer who dug up the pieces later claimed that when they were there for the big find, Venus had a left hand that clutched an apple. Other letters from people involved in the purchase reference her broken arms, saying that they were “presently detached from the body,” perhaps indicating that they could later be put back on.
Whether or not they were originally there, Venus’s arms aren’t the only things missing now. The statue was originally adorned with metal jewelry, including a bracelet, earrings, and a headband. The holes where the jewelry was once attached to the marble still remain. Venus is also missing her left foot.
There’s another major piece that’s not included with the statue display: Part of the Venus’s base was also found in that field in Melos, bearing the inscription, “Alexandros son of Menides, citizen of Antioch of Meander made the statue.” The base may be legitimately missing, or it may just be stashed away."
Read the whole article here.
Here's another one of my favorite statues, The Three Graces:
And of course, you can’t have entered the Louvre without seeing that large pyramid outside. The first thing to know is that this symbolic French monument was actually designed by a Chinese-American architect named Ieoh Ming Pei as commissioned by then-President Francois Mitterand. The pyramid was opened in 1989 and since then has helped attract 9.3 million visitors every year. But all the time I was looking at it, I kept remembering Tom Hanks instead and his movie Angels and Demons. Ha!
I recommend the Self-Guided Tour we found in Viator and managed by Paris City Vision. It was just so very convenient and the ability to pace yourself according to your child’s needs is a big plus.
How to get there: we took a cab because it was raining a little. It cost us 20E, but the train and metro is also an option. The closest Paris Metro station to the Louvre Museum is Louvre Rivoliand Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, both on Line 1 (yellow) which travels underneath Rue de Rivoli.
Now let’s talk about waiting in line ---- and the fact that we didn’t have to wait at all! Buying the self-guided tour will help you skip the long line for tickets, and on a good day the security check could be a breeze. We obviously came on a good day. We spent less than 10 minutes breezing through the entrances, baby stroller and all.
Food is not allowed inside the museum. However, just below the Louvre (and beside the entrance for the guided tours at Carousel de Louvre) is a big underground mall that has restaurants and cafes and boutiques and Starbucks to boot. You will not go hungry at all. You should also check out Angelina’s who has the best chocolat au chad in Paris. We liked it so much we even bought chocolate mix to bring back home.
In front of the Louvre is the beautiful Jardin de Tuileries. On a good day, you can come earlier so you and your child could enjoy playing in the park. It was raining after we did the Louvre, so sadly, we missed this one.
The Louvre opens at 9am and closes at 6pm daily except Tuesdays. A normal ticket costs E17.oo plus E5 for the audioguide per person. But since we took a guided tour, we paid E37 each to skip the line.
The next post is about our trip to Versailles and how spooked my son and I were inside the Palace! Ghosts can definitely hinder good times!
Smell ya later,