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  • Dougie

Tell me why. I don't like Mondays.

We strolled by the Seine. How hard could our Monday be?

We followed the river for four kilometres or so before entering le Jardin des Tuileries. At times it seemed as if the whole French nation had made the same decision. When they were not sitting around the Bassin Octagonal, they were inside le Musée de l'Orangerie contemplating water lilies. But then again, so were we.

Busy. But if you sit still long enough or choose the right spot and time you can capture on your Galaxy Note 10 Plus some decent pix of breathtaking works. Even with my paralysed fingers.

And when -- or if -- you've had all you can take of water lilies (in a single visit) you can take the lift or stairs down into the most marvelous basement gallery anyone could ever imagine.

That is only four of one hundred and forty-eight paintings in the permanent collection. My favourites? Who can make such judgements among such great works? But -- you know -- Picasso, Derain (2) and Modigliani. What's not to like?

For me, however, down in the long, narrow basement gallery with a mix of smaller rooms there is a viewing problem. Half the population of the European Union is with us now. When you sit all the time -- as I do -- and people (art lovers just like I claim to be) saunter slowly between each of the 148 paintings (as they do) there are -- to be frank -- an awful lot of bottoms between you, Picasso, Derain, Modigliani and all the rest.

It is entirely possible that some of the most magnificent bottoms in all of France passed before my eyes. But -- trigger alert -- if all I wanted to see was lots of bottoms, rather than come all the way to le Musée de l'Orangerie, I could have stayed home to re-watch Series 1 - 3 of Game of Thrones.

I had bottomed out.

In need of emergency sugar we escaped to le jardin. Spike had framboise gelato. I had hot chocolate ... because I try to maintain the fiction that Scottish Presbyterian (real) men do not do gelato. Italy will expose that great fraud.

Refreshed, we wandered back through le jardin in the general direction of our distant hotel. To return to base we needed to pass the Louvre. I've never been before (and it was not our intention to visit today because it is too big and closed in three hours). If we were going to visit the most famous art gallery in all the world we would come back to Paris another time. Do it properly. Give it a fortnight.

We're clear then ... I know le Louvre is a very big art gallery and museum. But in truth -- I really had no idea just how big. And as we got nearer and nearer the Louvre got bigger ...

and bigger ...

until it gets so big even my good cameras (three of them on one phone although I don't know why) can't capture the enormity of the place. It's a small town. Not an art gallery.

And now, because we were so close, we decided to go in even though we had neither a timed ticket nor a reservation and there was a queue longer than yesterday's in the Eurostar departure hall. For the train company the queue was the consequence of a crisis. For the Louvre, I imagine, it is business as usual. The same old same old. Tout les jours.

We hovered, undecided. Before we quite knew what was happening a man with a hi-viz vest ushered us to the chain across the priority access lane. My school boy French could pick out the gist of the moderately heated conversation which then ensued between the man with the hi-viz vest and the man in charge of the chain.

We had no ticket, the hi-viz man explained, and no reservation but he is English, in a wheelchair ... so what more can we expect?

This is the last one, insisted the man at the chain. Tout a fait! And with that we were admitted.

We descended in the lift beneath the pyramid. Spike went in search of the floor plan. When Spike began to scrutinise it she was as flummoxed as everyone else. And if I thought the lift guides in the London Underground were complex, the Louvre elevator plan took complicated to a whole new level.

Next time Dougie, plan ahead. And stay for a month. Inside the Louvre, spontaneity is something you check in with your bags. Without a plan you're doomed to wander the stunningly filled minor treasures rooms forever. Or until the Minotaur slays you (because this place probably houses the original).

We lost at least 20 minutes simply figuring out the wheelchair access route to the Venus de milo, requiring at least three lifts. We asked two real humans who worked there who gave conflicting advice. We gave up at one point and simply enjoyed the art we had stumbled across -- a 9,000 year old statue, Persian tiles, columns the like of which I had no prior knowledge, and an ancient stone lion (which reminds me of Bagpuss from British children's television, if I'm honest).

As closing time approached we began to retrace our path. We asked a third Louvre person for a route to the Venus. The woman looked at her watch then looked at me.

"For you there is no time," she said indicating with her outstretched arm the long and winding road we'd have to take.

She spoke to Spike.

"For you," she said, "up the stairs and turn right. But you have only a short time."

Spike could see I was already heading to the exit. I said we should meet where we started. I'll see Venus next time. It's not like she's going anywhere. Spike went to visit the goddess.

Monday in Paris Part Two -- Next Entry

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