louvre

An Afternoon in Paris

 

 

In 1973 I went to boarding school in Switzerland, my parents had moved to Nigeria and the school options were limited.  A friend of mine from grade school days was living in Paris so when our first long weekend break came up I headed to Paris.  It was my first trip to Paris.  It was November and snowed lightly the whole time I was there.  My friend was in school and her mother insisted I take a bus tour of the city to get an overview.  After that I was on my own.  I was 16.  There were two things I wanted to see, one was Notre Dame and the other was the Louvre.  I found Notre Dame with no problem.  I walked in to an empty building.  It was dark and took me a while to get my eyes used to it.  It was quite and peaceful.  I made my way down towards the apse and as I reached it,  light flooded in.  I looked up and saw the most beautiful rosette stained glass windows I had ever seen.  I sat down and meditated on them.

From there I headed to the Louvre.  It took me a while to find it and the entrance didn’t seem to be very clearly marked but I did manage to buy a ticket and start my tour.  I didn’t have much time so I decided to just see three things and then leave.  I found the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo right away but I could not find the Mona Lisa.  I walked up and down an entire wing of paintings.  I saw painters set up with their easels copying the famous artworks, something I had never seen before in a museum.  Lots of great art, but no Mona Lisa.   I wandered into a room that was full of old jewelry.  No Mona Lisa there.  I was just about to give up and leave when I happened upon a small room off to the side that had a lot of paintings all hung up together on one of the walls.  I was looking at these various, random paintings when right in the middle of them, the Mona Lisa jumped out at me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I stood there transfixed.

It was a magical day.  I have been back to Paris many times but Notre Dame has always been very crowded and stifling.  The Louvre now has a grand entrance and signs all over the place directing you to the Mona Lisa which has such a big protective case that you can barely see it. I was very lucky.