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A Shambles Ramble: Paris (Part 6)

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

10th July:

(I have a confession to make. This is quite bad in fact. I’m typing this up on the 8th of October and have yet to write about what I did on the 4th of July. I understand the dates can be confusing, as they are more an indication of which day I am writing on, as opposed to which day I’m writing about. As a result, it can be disorienting when I refer to things out of order, or switch from past to present with very little warning. In the case of the 4th of July, I failed to record anything about that day itself on the day or after the fact. This means that on the 4th of July, I was writing about the 1st, on the 5th of July, I wrote mostly about the 3rd and 5th, and on the 6th of July, I finished up writing about the 5th and 6th. Nothing about the 4th was recorded. Is this confusing? It sounds confusing. OK, basically, I never actually wrote about the Louvre that I visited on the 4th of July, so before I continue with the day-to-day narrative, I’d like to briefly go back now several months after the fact to fill the gap before it gets any more egregious. It’ll be quick, I promise).

The 4th of July was dull and dreary to begin with. Dark clouds hung in the air, threatening to burst at any second. The damp ground from the night-time torrent left a lingering chill, so that, finally, I was able to use the jumper I’d brought with me. In other words, it was the perfect day for a museum trip. Nicholas, Alice, and I all made different assessments of the weather, and if it would be worth bringing a coat only to be inside a warm building for hours. In the end, none of us were prepared for the sheets of water that met us when we came out of the metro. We ran for cover, which everyone else had done too. Under the entrance to the first courtyard of the Louvre were too many people trying to avoid mingling with the other strangers around them, creating an atmosphere as cold as the rain outside. It was the kind of rain where you could see the wind push layer after layer through the air and blow the water in waves across the ground. In other words, bloody awful weather. I, coming from the land of perpetual rain, tried hard to encourage the other two to run to the main entrance, but the French seem to enjoy being dry too much for their own good. Maybe I just have less self-preservation, but we had no idea of knowing how long the rain would take to clear up, and since my preference was towards being inside the Louvre rather than outside, I wore down their resolve until they relented and ran out with me into the rain. We were drenched immediately, completely sodden. One thing I do like to notice is that when people resign themselves to getting wet, they always end up laughing. Everyone laughs about it when they’re running in a group. It was no different then, either, although it was clear by the end of the run that their patience had run out. Fortunately, it was much drier inside.

I had no idea how massive the Louvre is. It’s yet another former palace, which convinced me that Paris is more palace than city. Parisalace? Paralace? Something like that. With that in mind, the overwhelming contents of the museum would certainly suggest such a history. No space for museums in Paris, let’s just convert one of the old palaces. Why not fill it full of trinkets from across the globe, and set it up under the private salon of Napoleon III? In fact, it was so large I feel we hardly got a chance to half of it. The highlights of what we did see have to include the sword of Charlemagne, which, considering the almost mythical status of the Frankish king, seemed a little blasé in its placement. Just in the middle of one of the rooms, as if to say; “oh, we know. But we have so many artifacts like this that we had nowhere to put it.”

I tried desperately to show off my university education by guiding Alice and Nicholas past the statues in the Egyptian and Greek displays. What’s the point in knowing all about the development of free-standing statues if you can’t drag your friends around to tell them all about it? There was a frustrating lack of Egyptian Grid-Block style statues in the Egypt exhibit though, which made me run about more than it warranted in hindsight. But never mind that, because my god do they have a lot of mummies at the Louvre. The part that always gets me with Egyptian archaeology specifically, is how you can so easily separate the archaeology aspect from the grave robbing. Imagine stealing an entire person’s corpse and putting it on display for “educational purposes.” So many mummies on display with their hollow eyes and small mouths, being gawked at by people like me thousands of years later. I wonder what sort of people will be gawking at my skull in 3000 years.

I know it probably goes without saying, but the paintings on display were absolutely remarkable. I spent more time staring at them than everything else that day together, but my god do you need a lot of wall space to hang those things up. No wonder they had things up on the ceiling, which leads me to one of my pettiest moments in recent memory. I overheard a conversation some tourists were having about one of the paintings. In it was depicted Andromache, the wife of Hector in the Iliad. One of their group, with that certain confident incorrectness, began to describe the myth behind the character. It's hard to recall it entirely now, but I distinctly remember it having something to do with true love's kiss waking her up from her sleep ("that's where we get the trope from!"), and how she was abandoned by her lover. Everyone in the group was impressed by her knowledge. Everyone clapped. Someone gave her flowers, they were so in awe. As they moved on, under my breath I muttered "that's not right at all...", and one of her group stopped to ask what I meant. I metaphorically cracked my knuckles and told as much of Andromache's story as I could remember: wife of Hector, mother of Astyanax, the woman all Greek women should aspire to be. When Troy fell, she was taken captive as a slave by Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, whom had also thrown her baby from the ramparts. The guy was interested enough to give a polite thanks as he left, and I now had the dual emotions of remorse and schadenfreude for correcting the tourist. Definitely petty.

It’s honestly kind of hard to summarise just how much there is to see at the Louvre, and I don’t want this to turn into a checklist of things to see. We three had an exhausting day walking around as many rooms and floors as we could, only occasionally getting lost between sections, or stopping to wonder if those statues high up on the third floor were really posed how we thought they were posed. I mentioned the salon of Napoleon before, but it blew me away. It was reminiscent of Versailles, of course, but much classier (much like the 19th century is compared to the 15th). So many seats that I could just imagine the kinds of parties one could throw in such grand rooms. Chandeliers, liberal use of red velvet, back-to-back settees that seemed perfect for leaning over on one arm to address the person behind you. Honestly, I would love to have seating like that one day in my fantasy house, where I have a whole room that’s just for entertaining guests. I mean specifically for that purpose, not just a living room, although I would also like one of them one day too.

So yes, as if anyone needed convincing, the Louvre is worth a visit. If you have friends to go with, even better. If it’s a rainy day, but only after you’ve entered the building, that’s perfect. Otherwise, you’ll end up like us and walk around all day with a soggy jumper you had to use as a towel. Unfortunately, anything else too specific that’s not just a list of objects seen is long gone by now, several months and a whole lot of experiences later. For me, on an OCD level, this at least plugs the only gnawing hole in my travel account. See, Alice? Told you I'd get around to it. Please let me know if there’s anything that I forgot, I’ll credit you in any updates.

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