When I was in Paris last month, I visited the Louvre. Its collection is one of the biggest and best in the world, which is its main problem. Of course, I’m not suggesting you skip it. It is worth enduring the crowd.
Lots of people seem more interested in documenting their trip than experiencing it. They walk around looking through their video cameras the whole time. They should have saved their plane fare and watched a better-produced TV program about the museum in the comfort of their homes. People are also crazy about taking pictures. In front of the Mona Lisa, a flash pops about once a second. This is a little distracting. Why would you want to take another (bad) picture of the most-reproduced painting in the world? A postcard in the gift shop is cheaper and will look better. Also, when I’m standing there appreciating a piece of art, please don’t ask me to move so you can take a picture. This makes me crazy.
You can’t see the entire museum in any meaningful way without spending a week, so I focused on just a couple areas: Egyptian antiquities, Italian renaissance and baroque painting, and large-format French painting. These alone took a whole day.
The coolest thing in the Egyptian section is this measuring rod. It’s covered with hieroglyphics organized into patterns. You can see here the first few of the 28 digits (finger widths). There are four digits in a palm and seven palms in a cubit, so this rod is a cubit long. I’d really like one of these for my mantelpiece.
Why go to see art? Sometimes it looks totally different in person. For example, I like the works of Caravaggio and remember seeing this painting in a book. I was surprised that a big red curtain takes up the top third of the canvas. Well, when you see the painting in person, it is so huge that you hardly notice what is going on that far above your head. The curtain really just provides a little atmosphere, rather than dominating the painting.
Next time you’re in Paris, be sure to buy a Paris Museum Pass at any Metro station. It is a little bit more expensive than paying a single admission (15 euro for a day), but it lets you walk right to the front of all admission lines. We particularly enjoyed this at the Musee d’Orsay, where the line stretched outside and halfway around the block.