Waking up with the roosters, ambling along the Seine en route to see Mona Lisa

Today was finally the day when the Kid would get to see Mona Lisa up close and personal. Had it not been for my niece pestering me to take her to see DaVinci’s mysterious smiling muse, I wonder whether or not I would have actually paid the entrance fee to the Louvre, not because I didn’t want to see for myself the timeless masterpieces housed in this massive edifice of knowledge, but because I didn’t want to tear myself away from the seductive sights, sounds and smells of the streets of Paris and confine myself in a gallery for an entire day.  Short visits to museums and exhibitions, spending two or three hours appreciating the culture and history of the creativity and artistic talent of long-gone generations were entirely do-able, leaving the remainder of the day for ambling along the Seine, parking myself in a café, and indulging in my favourite pastime of sipping vino and foraging for small and large, preferably designer (Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Carolina Herrera) leather goods.
My dream handbag

The dream store I can't afford to shop in

Strolling along the Seine

The Louvre, being the showcase and repository of the greatest art collections of the world (cliché, but undeniably true) dating from antiquity to the modern age, is a full day event, if not an entire week or month long marathon, hence my initial hesitation to step inside this famous museum, as I worried that having glimpsed these marvellous masterpieces, I would not want to leave and would have to set up camp in one of the vast wings of the Louvre, my sleeping bag discretely tucked away behind an enormous marble lion statue. My two week vacation would then clearly not suffice and I’d have to call my employer and beg for an extra month or two off work as well as plead with my financial adviser to loan me a couple of extra bucks.

Having travelled to Paris more times that I remember, I can honestly say that I’ve never gotten around to actually placing my pink-sneakered foot in the Louvre, having devoted the majority of my leisure time to languishing in cafés and searching for heavily discounted designer handbags in the multitude of vintage shops tucked away in the sea of rues and avenues. 

Paris is a city meant to be traversed by foot, as it is only by leisurely meandering along the laneways, that one discovers hidden gems, be it an aromatic patisserie sequestered amongst a maze of twisting and winding streets or inadvertently stumbling across an 18th century ornate fountain, birds splish-splashing and delightedly bathing in its refreshing trickling water.

And speaking of birds, their chirping and chattering awoke us bright and early, allowing us the luxury of starting the day way ahead of schedule.  Since we were up with the roosters and now with the tweeting birds, my niece and I were out and about by 7:00am.  Yikes!!  Unable to navigate the intricacies of the modern glass topped European stove, I promised the kid that we would instead have “melt in your mouth” buttery croissants in one of the multitude of cafés that lined rue de Rivoli.

 There is something so incredibly magical about wandering about a beloved foreign city in the wee hours of the morning, “watching” the city wake up and come to life.  Street cleaners sweeping and spritzing the pavements squeaky clean; shopkeepers folding napkins and hurriedly setting up their outdoor café chaises and tables; impeccably attired office workers scurrying along the pavement pausing to savour a quick café au lait; uniformed school kids all lined up in a row up, waiting for the bell to ring…those are some of the memories and impressions that remain dear and near to my pink-sneakered Parisian enamoured heart. `

Strolling leisurely along the Seine, savouring our delicious buttery croissants, my niece and I babbled excitedly about the magnificent artwork that we’d soon have the privilege to admire and contemplate.

Words cannot describe the magnitude of the sheer size of the Louvre, each of its three separate wings home to priceless works of art.  Map in hand, determined to find Mona Lisa, the kid and I almost missed seeing Aphrodite (also known as the Venus de Milo) as well as the Egyptian and Greek sculptures and artifacts that were on display on the ground floor of the Sully Wing.

Racing past the Richelieu Wing, we barely had time to pause and marvel over the wonders of the Rubens and Rembrandts showcased alongside paintings from the Middle Ages up to the 19th Century.  Regretfully, we completely missed viewing the sumptuous and grandiosely decorated apartments of Napoleon 111.

We realized that we were inching closer to viewing the Mona Lisa as we approached the Denon Wing, the throng of camera toting tourists growing thicker, scrambling to get a bird’s eye view of the famous smiling woman.  Edging, squeezing and gently pushing our way through the crowd, my niece and I somehow managed to find ourselves face to face with her.  Hanging alone on a beige wall, her image protected by heavy shatter-proof glass, my first impression of Mona Lisa was a mixed one.  Measuring only 30 x 21 inches, she is miniscule in comparison to what I had been expecting to view.  Perhaps her grandiose fame led me to believe that her likeness would have been painted on a much larger canvas. Not only was the painting separated from the viewing public by thick glass, there was also a circular barrier encircling the wall she was hung upon, keeping spectators quite a distance away.  Nonetheless, the kid and I were enthralled, my niece much more so than I, having finally come face to face with Mona Lisa.

 Come skedaddle through the Louvre with us and appreciate the magnificence and creativity of past and current generations…come travel with us…

Next week – Losing the kid in Versailles

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