… and what better way to get a primer on French history than a quick stroll through the Louvre Museum, eh?
There is no such thing a a “quick stroll” through the Louvre, and every time I heard “yeah I’m gonna go to the Louvre for an hour or two after breakfast and then head to the Eiffel tower for lunch” I just wanted to weep. And slap them hard in the face. Admittedly Museums aren’t everyone’s cuppa tea, but this place is a work of art and demands proper respect. Put aside at least a day.
My plan for day 2 was a quick breakfast (free at the Hostel) and be in line early for the 9am opening. What I hadn’t counted on were the crowds. Turns out it gets a little busy here even during a weekday. And security is tight. Wait times just to get in the front door can be up to an hour at least. Ticket holders are (comparatively) whisked though security in a separate shorter line but non-ticket holders have to queue for a while to get through security.
So what to do. Watching the little roaming robot window cleaner busily clinging to the outside of the Pyramid as it dutifully cleaned the glass was fascinating for the first 10 minutes but quickly got dull. Ooo lookee, free wifi at the Louvre! So “tap tap tappity tap” on my phone and a bright idea later – viola : an online ticket secured whilst inline (online tickets are €15 from www.ticketlouvre.fr). I jumped into the fasttrack line and cut the queue. Security was a quick backpack check and a metal detector and then I was in the building.
*ON SECURITY : There are active army patrols everywhere here – they don’t fuck around and are there for good reason – this place is one of the top 6 terrorist targets in Europe at the moment. If you aren’t used to seeing heavily armed active military or tactical police forces then it may be disconcerting.
**and even if you are, its still a shock. Maybe this place ain’t so safe .
*not my photo – Charlie Hebdo photocredit as no way I was photographing active soldiers.
Once though the Checkpoint at the main Pyramid (which is simply marvelous by the way), you head down escalators to the main entry. This is a large open but somewhat confusing area off of which branch giftshops, entry to the shopping mall and various wings of the museum, cafes and sitdown areas to eat. Tour guides huddle in a group right in the centre of the space waiting for a chump (I mean client). There are audiotours available for €5 and I thought that sounded like the thing to do.
*These are basically wifi enable Nintendo handhelds that have tour maps, track your location on the map and have an audio commentarty for pretty much everything. Pretty cool.
Before heading in I lined up again at the Audiotour desk (there are several – remember which one you use) and waited. After about 10 minutes I got to the front of the line and with a big smile and in my best shitty French said “good morning kind sir, 1 audio tour please”.
After the guy at the counter stopped laughing, he asked for my audiotour ticket.
Ok…so back to the ticket area, which is off to your right as you come down the escalators/stairs – its sorta hidden a little. You can either line up to get a museum ticket and/or an audio tour ticket from a human (long lines) or use the ticket machines in the walls that accept major credit cards (no lines). I used the ticket machine and got my ticket in about 30 seconds.
Back to the Audiotour counter and another 10 minutes of my life wasted in line. The rest was easy. They need the ticket and a form of ID that you are prepared to leave with them as security – I left my Australian licence (which was fine as its a photo ID) but some people were leaving their passports (shudder). A quick runthough of the gadget then it was over to the information desk to get a free but ultimately useless map and I was ready to go.
Finally I was ready to start exploring and today the museum was open til 9pm!
Which was just as well as I was about to discover. There is a staggering depth to the the exhibits here and after the chaos of the Cairo Museum, this was over the top OCD by comparison.
to be cont.