Come on people, it's just the Mona Lisa. I really don't understand. Let me explain.
Last Sunday, being the first Sunday of the month, was free museum day in Paris. I wanted to go to the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and Pompidou Centre. Because the Louvre was open the earliest of the three and Pompidou Centre was open the latest, I intended to see the museums in that same order. Before I arrived at the Louvre, I envisioned that the line would take forever to get through, but it wasn't so bad - I was in line for no more than 10 minutes.
Once inside, the Louvre was nothing like I remembered. I had been there when I was 17, and I recalled seeing the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the gift shop and that was pretty much the extent of my memory. The Louvre is massive, and I wandered around for awhile with no real agenda for what I wanted to see. I did go check out the Mona Lisa, and 17 years later, things were definitely different. When I was there before, no one was allowed to take photographs, though I do remember sneaking one, despite a guard bearing down on me. This time it was like the freaking paparazzi were swarming around Katie Holmes and Suri. I have never seen anything like it. Flashes were going off everywhere, hands were in the air waving cameras around, people were pushing to get closer, I heard a few Americans cussing trying to get through the crowd. I didn't attempt to get any closer than you'll see in the below pictures or I truly might not have made it out of there alive. I joke... but seriously, it was ridiculous and just reinforced to me that the Mona Lisa is not as cool as everyone thinks. Forgive me and my non-arty opinion.
Pretty soon after seeing (or attempting to see) the Mona Lisa, I decided I had had as much of the Louvre as I could take for one day. It was an unexpectedly beautiful day outside (rain had been forecasted), and I decided to take a break for lunch at an outside cafe. I hadn't eaten escargot yet in Paris, and as it seemed like something I should do I found a restaurant with snails on the menu. I really love escargot but had never been to a restaurant where I actually had to remove them from a shell, so that was interesting. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman ("Slippery little suckers!") but thankfully one did not go flying, and they were delicious.
My lunch break threw me off schedule, and I realized that I probably needed to make a choice whether to go to Musee d'Orsay. I wanted to see both the Kandinsky exhibit and the regular museum at Pompidou Centre, so I decided to skip Musee d'Orsay (I can almost hear Melissa saying "No!" as she reads this - her favorite museum in Paris if I remember correctly.). It was a good thing I did considering how much time I spent at Pompidou Centre. Like the Louvre, I had also been to Pompidou Centre when I was 17, or at least the outside of it (Did we go in? I can't remember) where the Stravinsky fountain with the mechanical pop-art'esque structures including the lips.
Once inside Pompidou Centre, I purchased a ticket for the Kandinsky exhibition (exhibitions are not part of free museum day) and headed to the top floor to see that first. The exhibition gave a very interesting look into his life and how that had affected his art. I loved seeing the progression of his work from his very early years as an artist through his death in 1944. The colors and vibrancy of his art are amazing. After seeing the exhibition, I headed down into the regular museum and was greeted with the poster pictured below. Pompidou Centre had dedicated an entire floor to their women artists, which I loved seeing. It made for a very interesting collection of work, not least of which was a dress made entirely of cured meat, as pictured below. Yes, meat. (I saw the before picture of the model wearing the raw meat version of the dress. I would not have wanted to be that model!) I then went upstairs one floor where the "regular" modern art is - Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, etc. Pompidou Centre is my favorite museum so far in Europe with the Tate Modern in London being a close second.
I just read that President Obama, Michelle and the girls were also at Pompidou Centre the day I was. I had no idea. Everything felt pretty relaxed while I was there - no real signs of security - but of course I could have missed them that morning while I was at the Louvre.
My last day in Paris, Monday, was the worst weather I've had on the trip yet - pouring rain. I still wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe so I grabbed the umbrella and set off for the metro. Later I went to Le Bon Marche department store as it had been touted as something to see, but it was definitely no Harrod's. I ended the day (and my time in Paris) in perfect Parisian style - going to a patisserie and sampling yet another croissant... and a pain du chocolat. My body is going to go into pastry-withdrawal.