We never planned on going to the Louvre.
There are so many other museums in Paris. The Musée d’Orsay, the Rodin Museum, the Petit Palais, Orangerie museum and a weird erotica museum in Montmartre, just to name a very, very few. The Louvre was too big. We were told to skip it. The lines were often long, there were pickpockets aplenty, and one simply could not see everything. Not in one day, not in one week. As much as we love museums and art, this sounded like a large and stressful commitment.
So, I repeat, we never intended to visit the Louvre.
But we were near the Louvre, you understand. We were simply passing by, taking photos, enjoying the chilly day. Suddenly, we were approached.
A couple, like us. Would we like their tickets to the Louvre? They asked, gesturing to the museum just behind them. No one had punched their ticket, so they were still valid. Here, they said, smiling, enjoy. We looked at one another and shrugged. The Louvre hadn’t been on the agenda, but who were we to question the universe? We took our free tickets, walked into the museum and scanned them in. Valid, just as the couple had said.
The first feeling that hit me in the Louvre was an odd kind of despair. It truly is gargantuan. from looking through the guide map alone, I could see that there was no way to see all of it, or even to glimpse all or even most of the highlights we most wanted to see. It is too vast, too many rooms, too many paintings to walk by, not a moment to spend even glancing at them.
We chose three halls to venture down, with the aim of seeing The Mona Lisa, but other than that, anything else spectacular we saw along the way would be pure surprise and coincidence. Firstly, even this course of action was overwhelming. There are so many frames and so many paintings. There are sculptures and pieces you’ve seen on television and the halls resonate with the footsteps of the multitudes of people. People from all over the world, speaking all languages, taking photos, studying the artwork, admiring, discussing, experiencing.
Soon, we were at the Mona Lisa. And somehow we were right at the front, as close you can get. There is a railing a few feet away from the actual painting, and there we were, right at that railing, with an excited crowd behind us and only Mona Lisa herself and a bored security guard in front of us.
Now, the first thing one notices about the Mona Lisa is that it is altogether, disappointing. It is much smaller than one would imagine and the colors appear almost dingy compared to most of the paintings one has passed to arrive at this spot. I turned around slightly, to whisper this exact observation in my husband’s ear, when I saw it.
A pickpocket. A woman, sneakily, stealthily reaching into a man’s satchel as he obliviously took photographs. Her hand, when I saw it, was holding his wallet, she was almost home free! What could I do? Well, I must admit I didn’t even think before I stuck my finger out and pointed directly at her. Everyone else was staring at DaVinci’s masterpiece, but she and I, we looked only at each other. “No!” I said firmly, still pointing. “No! No!” She put her hands up in surrender, dropping the wallet back into the satchel. She muttered something in another language and slunk away, lost in the crowd. The man who almost lost his wallet, none the wiser.
I couldn’t tell you about anything else we saw at the Louvre. We hadn’t even planned on going. But, world class art aside, it’s a day I won’t soon forget. After all, how could I forget my own crime-fighting superhero origin story?