It was probably unwise to go in without a plan of attack, but I was leaving Paris in two days, if not forever than certainly for something very much like it. I figured Monday morning was the ideal time frame, but I was still completely overwhelmed by the scores of people there. My press pass was a lifeline the whole trip, allowing me to go directly into most museums and exhibitions without having to wait in line for a ticket. By the end of the month I could rattle off puis-je utiliser ma carte de presse pour une entrée gratuit? like a seasoned person with Occasion to Say Such a Thing so often.
The map of the galleries was utterly useless. I just wandered for hours, getting lost, stepping over groups of school children or high schoolers sitting cross-legged in a half-moon around some sensuous marble or a shelf of Sumerian tablets, furiously writing and sketching while a teacher or staff member mellifluously lectures. Some rooms were so quiet and empty it felt like a gift, and I would sit there for a long time. In general the crowds coalesce at their densest point around the Mona Lisa, and then dissipate outward. I like watching how people behave in museums. Most just take a quick snap of each work before moving on, cultural consumption as a hunter-gatherer activity, SD cards fat with prize. The myth of la jaconde permeates the whole museum, her image plastered on every bare corner and column, pointing the weary tourist toward their holy grail of Paris vacation photos. So here is mine. A bit cynical maybe, but seeing a painting in real life is an inherently incommunicable experience, so I have nothing else to show for this particular intimate thrill save a few elbows to the ribs.
They were worth it.