01 May 2011

It’s Not About the Money, Part One, Episode 4: They Speak Spanish in Paris?

(If you’re just now joining us, the previous chapter in this series is here, and the beginning’s back there. Enjoy!)

Friends, it has been really difficult to buckle down and focus enough to get this post written. As some of you may be aware, there was a kind of a big-deal Wedding downtown this weekend, which, aside from all the obsessing about the Royal Family that’s been going on, has meant that everyone here gets an (at least) four- day weekend. Pretty much a mini-vacation. And now, I have to do work? What?

Anyway – on with our story. For realz now.

As Josh pointed out at the end of our last chapter, our woeful travel expenses aside, the Louvre makes everything better. It’s a well-documented fact. So, once we had secured our means of getting out of town, we set aside a day to go see it. It was another nice day when we set out, and even though we traversed half the city to get there, we were feeling pretty good when we finally arrived at the Louvre’s back door.

Above: a few of the sights we spotted on the way.

Here we are!

That’s when they caught us: the Deaf Girls.

You remember Magic Bracelet Man, right? These girls were like him, only better. Their weapons were sweet faces and clipboards – they signed cheerfully at us, asking us to sign the clipboard and support their foundation. Well, how do you say no to cute little hearing-impaired girls with clipboards? With big shiny hopeful smiles? They didn’t seem to care that we weren’t actually French citizens, and so our signing their petition (because that was definitely what it looked like) wouldn’t actually do them any good. We got all the way through ‘name’, ‘home country’, ‘zip code’, etc. before we saw the ‘donation amount?’ at the end. And then…well, it was a good cause, right? I didn’t have my money in an easily reached place (for just this reason, really), but Josh gave them 20 euros for their foundation before we could even work up the stubbornness to say no.

Of course, then we looked sheepishly at each other and vowed that that was it, we were poor, for pete's sake, and we couldn’t afford to be giving money to any more starving artists/beggars/people with clipboards. That was our hard-earned money, and so far, the hustlers of Paris had been fleecing us like big fuzzy sheep!

Anyway. The Louvre. Be ye warned: I’m not going to try and exhaustively cover all we saw at the Louvre. If you want more details, let me know and I’ll email you or something, but really – this is just the summary version.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the place, this is a museum that goes on forever. No; seriously. Lookit.

Here you can see the two long museum 'legs', the big glass pyramid (of Da Vinci Code fame),
and that enormous park upstage.

It holds a lot of the most famous art pieces in the world (including the Nike of Samothrace, the Code of Hammurabi and the Venus De Milo, to say nothing of Mona herself), 

yeah I did.
and is the most visited art museum in the world. I was a little surprised, honestly, that it was only 10 euro apiece for us to get in. It would have been even less, had we been residents of the EU (as would most of the things we went to see while on this trip), but that was OK.

Josh and I aren't what you might call art aficionados (at least, I'm not), but we know enough to appreciate a lot, so we managed to work our way through almost all of the sculpture section (located in that upper right leg),

(Josh when he gets old)
Sad lion is sad.
Left corner: Hannibal. Right corner: Julius Caesar. CAGE MATCH!
the “Napoleon’s Apartments” exhibit, the Code of Hammurabi, a lot (but not nearly all) of the paintings, and the entirety of the “Africa, Oceana and the Americas” exhibit, which was almost laughably small, but you have to give them some credit for having one, I suppose.


Angry face is angry.

Right, so maybe it's just me...but doesn't this look a LOT like the plague doctor's mask?

When we had arrived (well fed on espresso and croissants from breakfast, and with our lunch sandwiches already in hand), it was relatively early in the day, so the crowds weren’t bad. But by the time we worked our way over to see Mona (over on the mid-left leg), things had gotten a little crazy.

The last time I was in Paris, back in 2003, Mona was in a room by herself, and there were armed guards to keep you from taking pictures (the Louvre will let you take flash-less pictures in most of the building; I think Mona was the only one completely off-limits). This time, she was in a much larger room with some paintings that, honestly, I hardly remember, but it was packed very nearly to capacity. Add the confusion of a language barrier and constantly trying to keep some tourist with a double-wide stroller from rolling over your feet, and I guess it’s not too surprising that I got in trouble with some security guard who thought I was cutting in line (line? What line? I don’t speak French! What???). Much as I admire Mona (who wouldn't admire a woman with a smile so enigmatic that she's been stringing people along for centuries?), that was probably the least fun part of our visit.

Let’s just say, though, we got our money’s worth out of the Louvre – by the time we got out of the building to go sit on the lawn and take things in, we were suffering what I like to call Museum Daze. (It’s when you go all glassy-eyed and your feet ache even though you’ve been walking the same level surface all day, and your brain has overflowed and is now sloshing around your skull, submerged in Art Facts. The side effects are mild, but you know when it’s hit you.) Surprisingly, there was still plenty of daytime left. So after a break in the park, we decided to go see something simple – the Eiffel Tower!

(Something worth noting, if you're ever in Paris: the Eiffel tower is all the way across town from just about everything. Be prepared to walk for awhile - or take the metro; despite being really crowded, that seems to be the more popular option.)

We're almost there...

It's impossible to get a really good shot from up close. We tried.
If you like, you can pay to take the stairs up. All 1,665 of them.

All right, so full disclosure: we didn't actually go up in the tower. The prices were steep enough (and the lines long enough) that it didn't really seem worth it. But guess who we ran into while we were there?

If you guessed our little deaf friends, you get a gold star!

We were ready for them, this time. We saw them at a distance, and were steely (steelilly? Is that a word?) resolved to pass them by. Well, what do you think we should overhear when we get up close? Oh, nothing special – just a few girls chatting away in French.

This was the part where I very nearly grabbed one of them, turned her upside down, and shook her to get our money back. Nothing more demoralizing than getting scammed by a couple of adolescents, am I right? Careless ones, certainly – a few of them had the nerve to ask us for money again, under the Eiffel, where we didn't hesitate to ignore them – but adolescents nonetheless. For shame.

By this point, the day was waning on, but we were leaving for Rome the next morning and there was one more important stop to make before we headed back to our hostel: Notre-Dame. The grand old lady herself.

Of course, we had to cross the city again to get there. Tune in next time, and Josh will let you know how our pilgrimage went.


  1. LAUREN! Lauren, I need $50. For, erm, my surgery. On my left leg. Yeah. I'm $50 short, and if you don't give it to me I will LIMP FOREVER. It will be very tragic, let me assure you. You will be moved to tears by the tragedy.

    Can I have $50?

    Other than that, I'm willing to wait for you to get back before I wring the rest of the details about the Louvre out of you. I love the pictures, though. You're right about the plague mask. And yeah, I've heard the Eiffel is kind of gyp. It's good you got to see it, but probably for the best that you didn't go up in it.

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc_iWPnjtCI


I love getting your comments, if only for proof that I'm not just talking to myself.

As always, feel free to say whatever you like - criticism, questions, suggestions, whatever. The best part of blogging is the conversations that come from YOU.