Jan 7, 2013

A Continentalist in Paris: The Louvre - Medieval Louvre / Ancient Egypt

The world's most famous museum has free entry on the first Sunday of each month - and it wasn't as crowded as you might presume. At least now that it's winter.

T's back in school as of today. Yesterday, in my efforts to make the most of her remaining downtime, we went for 3 out of 3 by going to the Louvre on Sunday (after Ile de la Cite on Friday and skating at the Grand Palais on Saturday).

My main motivation for choosing that particular day was that entry is free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month - though at the same time I sort of dreaded going because I was expecting it to be incredibly crowded. This should probably have motivated me to draw up a battleplan as suggested by the Petit Paris guide's suggestions for visiting the Louvre with younger kids, but I ultimately didn't have the time or energy and figured I could just wing it.

Though we set off much later than planned in the day, getting to the museum for around 2 pm, the visit started off on a good note. The line at the Carrousel de Louvre entrance (connected to the Metro by underground passages) wasn't longer than on other winter days, and significantly shorter than in the warm seasons. T was mesmerized first by the inverted pyramid and then by the main foyer under the main Louvre pyramid, and we went up and down the windy staircase to the pyramid entrance several times.

Our museum experience went downhill from there. Despite my lack of concrete plan, I did know I wanted to see a part of the Louvre to which I hadn't been before (and one I thought would be interesting for the little miss) - and quickly settled on the building's medieval foundations. Though it's 600 years younger (and significantly more dry), the atmosphere reminded me vaguely of the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. Creeping around the dimly lit corridors was fun for me, but T had been scared from the get-go and I didn't want to push her too much. So we left after less than 15 minutes.

I then took T to the ancient Egypt wing, thinking she'd like it since I recently read her some of the one-pagers in Neil Philip's The Illustrated World of Myths. I tried to keep it light (and avoided "scary" things like mummies), but my explanations that the guy with the dog head is called Anubis, and the one with the falcon head Horus, etc., did not hold T's interest. She just kept saying, in this extremely plaintative voice, "Please let's go home"...so after about 45 minutes, we left.

T forgot about wanting to go home when we stopped by the kids' museum store (Les enfants du musee). It's truly fantastic with a great selection of books related to history and art as well as educational(ish) toys. T spent almost as much time as she had in the museum playing with the action figures in the mythology section, where she helped Pegasus defeat monsters.

The main museum book store was also fun to browse. The actual Carrousel du Louvre is basically a selection "best of France" stores - a one-stop-shop if you're in Paris on a trip and want to bring your loved ones L'Occitane soaps, Laduree macarons, and a Lancel bag (there are also some international interlopers like Starbucks and an Apple Store).

Despite my mixed experience, I'm going to try taking T again. I don't know if better planning will necessarily make things easier on all fronts, but I am definitely going to prep her so that she knows what we'll be seeing as opposed to surprising her with culture.

When we got home, we were joined my family for an apple Galette des Rois - a traditional French cake to celebrate Epiphany. And what's not to love about a tradition that involves filled puff pastry?

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