Yesterday, I participated in my first flash mob.
Okay, it wasn't an official flash mob exactly - we didn't connect via Tweets. But it sure felt flash-mobbish to be racing around the Louvre with 50,000 other tourists, elbowing and jostling not just to see the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo - but to make sure that everyone in the mob (other than me, who is un-camera'd) taking a picture of each work of art with a digital camera.
My nieces both took picture of the crowd at the Mona Lisa, et al. all snapping photos, which if they weren't still abed, I might upload and include here.
Some of the tourist-photographers included a friend or family member in their pics. Here's Shoji with the Venus de Milo. Or maybe that should be here's Han with Venus, as the Chinese seem to have overtaken the Japanese - or at minimum tied with them - for the most omni-present tourist groups. Seeing this volume of Chinese travelers was a first for me. Yet another example of China's success in building a middle class.
And another sign that the wwr (world wide recession) has not yet scuppered every one's travel plans.
Not that the Chines and Japanese were the only high-volume travelers at the Louvre. There were plenty of European groups, and a lot of drips and drabs Americans. (I didn't, however, come across any American's traveling in packs.)
But the Louvre was packed, and - even if you wanted to leisurely stroll around meditating on a Giotto here and there, it would be really difficult to do during prime tourist season (which this must be). Pretty much all of the galleries were jammed, although the biggest action was at the Mona and other "must see" art. Everyone was running around looking for them as if they were on a scavenger hunt, or trying out for an episode of The Amazing Race.
In their defense, the Louvre has all the hot spots mapped out, with ample signage. I don't remember this being the case when I was on my last treasure hunt there, 30+ years ago. I think then you were pretty much on your own with the generic museum map.
I remember Whistler's Mother's having been on my prior tour, but I see that she/it is at the Musée D'Orsay. Maybe she/it was at the Jeu de Paume when I was last culture-vulturing around Paris.
So, for your viewing pleasure:
What's actually kind of interesting about all the tourists taking pictures of famous works o' art is that they can get a postcard that is probably a much better crafted representation of it in the gift store. Plus if you buy the post car, you don't have to contend with all the negative space around the painting. On the downside, you don't get to see the cool frames - or get to photoshop your head onto Venus' body, either.
In any case, I found everyone snapping away at art works to be quite peculiar. I can only accept it when the photographer is 12 and under.
Speaking of 12 and under, kids sure are free riders for a lot of things here. I think that the Louvre is free to anyone under 26. (Imagine!) I don't think we had to pay for the girls at our other museum-ish stop yesterday either: Napoleon's Tomb.
All I can say is, they don't make monuments to dead emperors the way they used to.
There was also a little excitement at Les Invalides, which fronts the Napster's tomb: flag at half mast, lots of security.
I was able to piece together from the radio on in a cab that Nicholas Sarkozy was there for something or other to do with the Resistance. (You can pick up information, even if you do only understand every tenth word or so.)
From le google, I learned that Maurice Druon, a French author and political figure who had written the words to the Resistance's anthem, had died, and that his funeral was held at Les Invalides.
We saw a couple of WWII vintage soldiers walking around (slowly). One had lost an arm, and - from his gait - may also have been missing a leg. So sometimes people do actually give and arm and a leg for something that they care deeply about.
We had lunch at the upscale Cafe L'Esplanade - which was sprinkled with American tourists, but mostly full of chicly dressed French folks staring down their haughty noses at the American tourists.
They made me want to eat at McDonald's! Which we did for dinner. The local Mickey-D's was flash mobbed - and not with homesick Americans, but with French 20 somethings looking for frites.