Saturday, July 25, 2009

Skip the Louvre, My Darlin'

Don't get me wrong.

I love the Louvre. When I was in Paris, I joined Les Amis du Louvre, which is a must for anyone who spends time in the great city. And such a bargain, because for a 60-euro annual membership, it gives you unlimited access to the museum (through the Richelieu entrance away from the tourist entrance at the Pyramide) , regular bulletins, other discounts. And that opens the door for so much more.

But, horror of horrors -- how did I use it most? Well, when the weather was bad and I wanted to get my morning constitutional in, I simply slipped into the hallowed halls and walked for an hour. Boy, I caught a lot of grief from art lovers when I told them this. Mall-walking in the Louvre? How crass! But I still contend that it's a lot better than mall-walking in a mall. Hey, I got cultural edification. I was always fashionably attired, and didn't power-walk or elbow unsuspecting camera-toting tourists out of the way or anything. Just cruised through as many galleries as I could, absorbing the magnificence of it all, got 100% lost every time, eventually found my way out. Good old Yankee efficiency. Heck, lots of my U.S. pals pound the treadmill while watching CNN for their exercise, and I challenge any of them to say they are better off than I was scrambling along the echoing halls of the Louvre.

Besides (okay, this is really my little secret) if you have unlimited admission to the Louvre and you happened to be in the neighborhood and need a leetle pipibreak, well, you breeze right on in and use the facilities. Not many other places in the quartier where you have such nice powder rooms. So if you are an Ami of the Louvre, it's like having your own private club to pop in to.

Call me a cultural heretic -- go ahead -- but I paid my dues. For three years. I encourage all to do the same.


On the other hand, when I had friends visiting me in Paris who had only 4-5 days to see as much of the city as possible, I beggggged them to not spend it at the Louvre. Others agree with me.

Why? Well, there is so much of Paris to see, and we all know what those hours-long snaking lines are like to enter into the Louvre. And shuffling through to see La Joconde, the Plymouth Rock of Paree. No, when I had company in Paris I let them stop outside for exterior photo ops of the Louvre, then we breezed on our way for a fabulous walking tour of the rest of the city.

The Louvre is too brilliant a place to be reduced to a cultural sound-bite if you're in Paris for only a short stay. If you have really deep pockets you can join the American Friends of the Louvre and get invited to some extravagant behind-the-scenes visits. Or join Les Amis du Louvre and have the museum be your home away from home. But no point in doing the Six-Minute Louvre when you have limited time in the most beautiful city in the world.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree! I had a student membership while I was there and would occasionally go to read in the Starbucks there, there weren't as many tourists as in the shops near where I lived (Ile-Saint-Louis), and they had frozen drinks before all the others! ;) When in France, I learned where to go to find ICE!

Susan B said...

I'd much rather spend precious Paris musée time in the d'Orsay, the Marmottan, l'Orangerie, Le Carnavalet, etc etc.

Zoé said...

Polly, now I can't get "Louvre, Louvre, skip to my Louvre, skip to my Louvre, my darlin'" outta my head! You're the Queen of Cheeky Titles!

Isabelle said...

You may skip the Louvre if you are in Paris for less than a week. Otherwise it really is a must see. If you want to avoid the long waiting lines, get in through the Carrousel du Louvre entrance (this is what we always do with our 2 kids), and go there at the end of the afternoon, when all the crowds are starting to leave...
I don't agree that the Louvre can be replaced by the musée d'Orsay, like it says in one of the links. The waiting lines are awful there, and you won't find the antiquities, the art from the Americas, the jewellery, the sculptures (the sculptures of the Cour Marly in le Louvre are awsome...) etc. etc. that can be found in le Louvre.

Louise Grenadine said...

I've been in Paris only once with school. And as I was in scientifical section, I didn't visit the Louvre but many other very cool museums. I'd like to visit it, at least once. =)

Chris said...

Mall walking in the Louvre! I love it!

When I go, I dont plan on going to the Louvre. It takes too long, and I don't want to spend a whole day there.

Evelyn said...

Here's what I a Paris museum pass, plan your time, and do the Louvre in small pieces of 2 hrs a day a couple of times. I can't do ANY museum longer than that. It all starts looking the same. With the pass you don't have to wait in line and you don't feel pressured to see the whole thing (impossible anyway)at once. To me the Louvre is an icon like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame..ya gotta see it! That being said, my fav Paris museum is the Cluny.
Polly...I love your idea of using the Louvre as your private club. You are so right about finding bathrooms...tres difficult in Paris. I thought I had a hard time just because I was a tourist and didn't have the inside scoop!Guess not!

Patience_Crabstick said...

I don't see anything apalling about taking a brisk walk in the Louvre. If you have to walk somewhere, why not there?

Harriet said...

I'll bet you didn't really "mall-walk" in the Louvre, but rather took, what we call down South, "a stroll" through those magnificent rooms.

Loved the story on the Six Minute Louvre.

Starman said...

I think you're totally "spot on" with your Louvre walk. And how convenient to use the facilities when you're in that area of the city. However, I agree with Isabelle about getting in through the Carrousel du Louvre entrance. It's so much easier and quicker. But, even with that, one must have a prepared itinerary or many hours could be lost.

Unknown said...

I'm agree with you, I love to walk in this Museum when i have nothing to do, It's so peaceful !

betsyboo said...

I've always felt guilty for not gushing to usher my visiting friends through the Louvre. I feel less so now, thanks!

Photo Journey said...

I can't think of a better place to 'mall walk.' I would do the same thing if I didn't live 3 hours away. What a brilliant idea. Cynthia in the French Alps

Karen said...

I'm going for the entire month of October. I checked the link and it seems I cannot purchase the yearly Friend's pass on-line. Can I get it there? I like the idea of doing the Louvre in small bites and using the loo.
I was there in December and only went in on the free day but it was mobbed and I left after about 2 hours.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I apologize for tardiness in follow up. Blogavacation was definitely in order.

Zoe-- I have skip the Louvre my darlin in my head now, too. A total jingle-memorizer, moi.

And despite what I said in the post, I do love to also just go and sit for a while in one of the galleries and contemplate a work of art and/or write for a while. That's the luxury of time in Paris and a museum membership. (I was also a friend of the Musee d'Orsay since it was at the end of my street.)

The Mona Lisa is an important work of art, but has become greater as an icon than most people estimate. (And you can't get very close, with all the crowds.) There is the "is that IT?" factor, big time. Which is the same with Plymouth Rock, if you've ever been there.

At a cafe in Paris I met an Australian family with kids 5 and 7. They had one and a half days to see Paris and were planning to devote a full day of that to the Louvre.

Any guesses about what I spouted?? :)

Sara Hayden said...

Thanks for a great idea! Forget CNN -- how amazing to burn off calories under the watchful eyes of Liberte, the Odalisque, Napoleon & Josephine, etc.

If I had only one day in Paris, it would start at Angelina's with Chocolat Africain, over to the Louvre to see my favorite pieces, a break at Angelina's for more Chocolat Africain, back to the Louvre for yet more paintings, and then wrap up the day at Angelina's for more ... um ... Chocolat Africain.

But, yes, you were completely correct to suggest those with little kids avoid it. I can't imagine being 5 years old and having my parents drag me around that place!

Can you join Société des Amis du Louvre online? I cannot find a place to do so on the Louvre's web site.

I hope to once again live in France someday. Until then I will enjoy your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

JacquiG said...

I was in Paris in June, and someone had told me that there were no line-ups in the evenings. After spending a day touring Paris I found my way to the Louvre at 5:30pm. There was no line-up at all. The only things I really wanted to see in the Louvre were the Mona Lisa and the Venus di Milo, and I accomplished that. You could get a lot of walking done in there ... it's beautiful but huge ... and I got lost at least twice!

To me it was well worth it because I knew what I wanted to see, plus things I was't planning on seeing when I got lost. I wasn't planning on spending hours wandering around, and an evening at the Louvre worked out extremely well for me.

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