Saturday, 20 September 2014

Part 4 - Je ne parle pas français

Blinding light. I run my hands down my face and scrub at my eyes, opening one and fumbling for my phone. 7am. Great. 3 hours sleep. I pull the little curtain around my bed tighter to try to block out the light, scull the remainder of my water, realise I have quite a headache and put my sexy eye mask over my head in an effort to get a little more sleep.

Yeah, nah, that's not gonna happen. I realise I'm still in my dress from the night before, and I never found my quilt. Didn't need it though because the room was so hot that a blanket would have been very uncomfortable. I allowed myself to stay in bed until about 9.30, playing on my phone and intermittently trying to doze. The combined heat, light and ruckus  made by those checking out that morning made for a rather fitful couple of hours, so I made my way to the shower to get ready for the day.

10.20am. I grab my phone and charger (so I can go to the charging station!), a map and a pen and head to Belushi's downstairs for breakfast. Naturally, I'm 20 minutes too late for the included breakfast so have to order and pay for the strange breakfast burger I ended up with. I mildly planned my day and set off to find some Parisian op shops.

I was sadly disappointed by the op shops I did find in Paris. There were plenty of them, and they had a lot of stock but it was a combination of terrible, dirty and overpriced (often all three combined). I left empty handed and, sick of walking, Google maps'd (I should get paid for all the marketing they get out of me) my way to the Louvre.

I hadn't originally intended to go to the Louvre but after talking to people in the lead up to Paris, decided I should probably check it out so I could check it off the list. I'd heard about the lines, and how disappointing the Mona Lisa was, so I leisurely disembarked from the station and wandered my way through to the underside of the pyramid apex. It was only later that I realised I had found the sort-of "secret" entrance - instead of lining up in the strangely sweltering heat outside for an hour, I just walked up, talked with a person behind me in line for 2 minutes and I was in. Next, the ticket booth, talked to the same person for an additional 35 seconds and bam. Ticket machine ready.

I grabbed a map and figured I'd go straight to the Mona Lisa and then work out from there what else I wanted to see. They say that if you were to see each of the 35,000+ art objects in the Louvre, allowing 1 minute for each, it would take you 25 days each of a full 24 hours. So…unless you're utterly mad, you don't see even a tiny portion of what is available. I followed the signage (and the crowd) flowing in the direction of the Mona Lisa. Along the way, I got out my camera just like all the other tourists. I started photographing the art, and felt like a fool. I then found myself a fun game - photograph the people taking photographs of the art. I mean seriously - what's the point of having a photograph (poorly taken, largely) when you can look at it online in much better quality? Why don't you stand in front of the art and actually look at it? Look at the paint strokes. Look at the framing. See how old it is. Nope. Let me just take a picture of it and move on. Or better yet, a picture of myself in front of it.

I enjoyed this game because people looked largely ridiculous. I continued following the flow of people until I saw a large crowd, pushing and shoving. That must be it. That must be the Mona Lisa. I joined the fray and patiently let myself be jostled - I wasn't in a rush, I don't need to push to the front to take my selfie. Soon, a little gap emerged and I snuck under an enormous American's armpit and claimed the space on the barrier for my own. Before taking a few pictures (which I admit I did do), I tried to take some time to actually look at the damn thing, while being pushed and shoved and elbowed from behind. This is complete madness. 

To be honest, I wasn't as disappointed as I expected to be. My expectations were so incredibly low and I thought she was proper tiny that my first thought was "She's bigger than I expected." (Think there might be a That's what she said joke in there somewhere). I took my pictures, I even whipped out my meerkat (that was embarrassing) and my meerkat had a selfie. Then I thought, what the hell, everyone is doing it, and so I turned my back on good ol' Mona and selfied. I selfied hard

Staring unbemused at another enormous American, I said "You can stop pushing, I'm leaving now" and "excuse me"d and "I'm leaving"d my way out of the ridiculous crowd. Exploding forth from the back of the crowd, I was confronted by the largest painting in the entire Louvre, and far more interesting in my opinion, the Wedding at Cana (you'll know if it you saw it). It was impressive, but I couldn't get a good picture (hangs head in shame that I even tried..) because too. many. damn. people. were. taking. selfies. in front. of. it. With Jesus looking bored in the middle and the party raging on around him, the painting was magnificent and a stark contrast to the teeny tiny little miniature Mona Lisa directly opposite.

I continued walking around - my next port of call was the Venus de Milo, and I walked through various halls and statues until I found her. I felt more in awe of her than I did her famous friend, Mona. Again, I wanted to stand and look but I was jostled and shoved until I just had to leave. How I hate tourists, even if I was one of them. I also saw a sphinx at some point too, with the same treatment - pushed out of the way once I had quickly snapped a picture, and tried to stand and appreciate what was in front of me.

Thoroughly frustrated, tired, sore and desperately hungry, I decided I had seen enough of the Louvre, dealt enough with tourists and had gotten my fill of so-called culture for the day and so I found a cafe, stood in line for what felt like about 4 hours and found a seat at long last. I sound like I hated it there, but really I found the human experience and the social aspect of it more interesting than the art. I would have gladly taken the people out and spent more time than I did but it simply was not the environment to - sadly - appreciate art.

 One thing I did very much enjoy at the Louvre - and highly recommend when you go too - is to look up. simply look up. Much of the incredible artwork housed here is the ceiling work. Incredible pieces with ornate corners - here was some exceptional - and probably largely under acknowledged - talent.

I popped out the other side. Food, done. My feet hurt, but it was time to see what else is around. I whipped out my little meerkat and took some embarrassing photos at the Louvre pyramids and on the Love Lock Bridge, which wasn't too far away. I was utterly exhausted (remember, I was only working on about 3 hours sleep!) and so made my way back to the hostel and had a much needed nap.

I could have stayed there forever and all night, but I hauled myself out of my bed (I still didn't have a quilt - why did everyone else have a quilt? Where did I forget to pick it up from?) and went back down to the powering station, double vodka red bull in hand. Here I said hello to Anthony again and started talking with the folks to whom he had been talking. We ended up having a few beverages and deciding to head back out into the night. It turned out to be a rather late one, filled with vodka, beer, cider, red wine and chocolate crepes and again I fell into bed at some ungodly hour, hopeful that I might get more than 3 hours sleep that night.

Only one day to go and then my French adventure is over.


Don't forget to look up...

Oh, there she is!

Yeah I selfied.

But my meerkat did too! Can't put all the blame on me.

This was the incredible piece directly opposite the Mona Lisa.

The Venus de Milo. All I could think was
"You lost your arms in battle! But you grew
some nice boobs...!"

My meerkat is such a silly tourist. Seen here doing the Louvre point.