Why I went to Paris and didn’t see the Mona Lisa

Why I went to Paris and didn’t see the Mona Lisa

On my recent trip to Paris, my travel partner and I pondered this question a million times: Are we sure we don’t want to go into the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa?

Our choice to miss out on one of the world’s finest art galleries was a conscious one. It wasn’t that we had no interest, it was that we didn’t have enough time to see everything – an obvious realization on action-packed trips to Europe. This is when priorities come in – and you wouldn’t want to regret not visiting a cherished attraction when you never know when life will bring you back to France’s capital city – which ranked third for the most visited city in 2014 after Bangkok and London.

Whenever we were trying to decide whether or not to invest our time or money in something, we asked if we would regret it.

We were on Contiki Holidays’ London and Paris tour. It was a short one, where the two cities were squeezed into seven days, with some of our new acquaintances moving on to Rome, Amsterdam, or staying longer in Paris like we were.

Contiki’s mantra is “No Regrets” – and this perspective helped us with our decision making.

Contiki

Would we regret not spending 149 euros to see a Moulin Rouge performance? Would we regret not indulging in a Nutella-banana crepe on our last night in Paris after we were full from dinner? Would we regret not standing in line to purchase overpriced macarons from the famous Laduree? My answer was yes to these three things – so I did them.

When we asked if we would regret not going into the Louvre, the answer was no. I love art, I just don’t love crowds of people pushing their way up close, constant clicks and (prohibited) flashes of cameras and interruption of the should-be peaceful environment I had hoped for.

I got my fill of Monets, Manets, and Van Goghs in the Musée d’Orsay, housed in a beautiful old train station. But for some reason, I was not inclined to stand in front of Da Vinci’s famous portrait. Perhaps it was because of hearsay: how small people say the painting is, how hot the museum was, and how crowded and noisy it gets – and that was a set up for disappointment. But those who visit Paris, or Europe in general during peak season, have come to expect these circumstances.

Aside from the Mona Lisa, the Musée du Louvre is home to the famous Venus de Milo sculpture, usually the second work of art on Louvre must-see lists. The museum also houses works by Rembrant, Vermeer, Rubens, and Michelangelo.

Louvre Museum

The idea of walking into a building filled with over 35,000 works of art is overwhelming. I saw it from the outside, and the building is a masterpiece in itself. The Louvre’s glass Pyramid, which acts as the museum’s main entrance, was built in 1989.

It wasn’t the money or even the lines that deterred us from entering the Louvre. It was the time commitment of all there was to see – and a need to spend a whole day, or at least half, exploring its interior. Time is precious when you’re on a schedule in Europe.

Instead, I spent my time in Paris enjoying a picnic under the Eiffel Tower, popping in and out of stores to admire hand-crafts and crafted-sweets, and meandering the cobbled streets in search of hidden treasures.

You can’t see everything when you travel, but it is important to compromise with your travel partner. Decide on what you must-see, what you would like to see if you have the time, and what you don’t want to bother with.

This is not to say I will never go into the Louvre, or that I don’t want to see the Mona Lisa. But for this trip, I just knew it wouldn’t make me smile as much as seeing artists paint portraits atop of Montmontre or visiting the Marché aux Puces flea market in a quieter area of the city. Everyone’s travel styles are different – and I don’t regret it.

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