This is my first-ever Europe Edition of Flashback Friday where me and my husband were crazy enough to take a 18-month old on a month-long tour of Europe while I was 4 months pregnant. It was ADVENTUROUS to say the least :) We went to the Louvre in Paris on May 26, 2008.
We bought the Paris Museum Pass (uh…cuz Rick Steves said to) which means to get our money’s worth, we needed to go to two museums today.
First stop was the Orangerie museum which has huge Water Lilly paintings by Monet that he painted especially for this museum. The room is beautiful and white with sunlight lighting the paintings from the skylight above. I don’t know all of the paintings’ exact sizes, but they are at least six feet tall and probably as long as forty feet. Nothing protects these paintings except a short railing in front and a fastidious museum worker. My son, Ethan, had already been in the stroller for the Metro (fancy Paris word for “subway”) ride over here and he wanted out. So we unleashed him in front of priceless Monet paintings and let him run amuck.
We took turns having one of us literally following Ethan around while the other of us admired the huge paintings. Some of the more snooty museum goers gave us looks as Ethan laughed and screeched in the otherwise quiet museum. But the real fun came when Ethan discovered the short railing to keep people away from the painting. When my husband, Justin, and the museum worker freaked out, Ethan made it his goal to get behind that railing. Maybe I can climb on it? Or just get really close? How close can I get? What if I sit on it? Can I touch it? I think the museum worker was definitely more alert and a little stressed out after we left.
We strapped Ethan back in to the stroller with the back down so he would fall asleep since it was nap time. It would have worked, too, if the Tuilerie Gardens weren’t paved with gravel. Not only did Ethan not fall asleep on the long, bumpy ride to the other end of the Gardens where the Louvre was, but we got quite the workout pushing that dang stroller over gravel the whole stinkin’ way.
Since we had our handy-dandy Museum Pass, we didn’t have to wait in the long line for Louvre tickets. Rule number one when traveling with a toddler: Avoid lines at all costs. We entered through the famous glass pyramid and rode the wheelchair elevator with the stroller down to the museum entrance underground.
We beelined our way to the Mona Lisa because Ethan was starting to lose it. Whatever else happened, we wanted to make sure we saw that. The Mona Lisa is in it’s own room now, behind some glass, with a railing in front of it that’s swamped by 100+ people. I guess it was a good thing that there were so many people in the room because it drowned out Ethan’s screaming. Justin was a little underwhelmed when I told him that the really tiny painting on the wall you could barely see was the Mona Lisa.
We worked our way to the front of the crowd to get a picture by it. All of the pictures we took at the museum look terrible because you’re not allowed to use a flash. It ruins the paintings. So there are museum workers in every room going around saying “Turn off your flash.”
After we got our blurry pictures with a barely discernible Mona Lisa in the background, we took a long walk down the Grand Gallery which is an immensely long hallway with a cool inlaid wooden floor and lots of Italian Renaissance art. Ethan falls asleep to movement, but you can’t stop the stroller for a second or he’ll get mad so we saw a lot of da Vinci paintings in passing. Once he was asleep, we could stop and go as we pleased and we saw a lot of the Louvre while he was snoozing away.
On our way to see the famous Venus de Milo (you know – the Greek lady statue without the arms?) we passed rooms full of broken Greek statues. Most of them were missing what Justin called “their junk” and he found it highly amusing. I didn’t know for sure, but I said I thought that “their junk” was missing because a lot of these statues were put in churches after they had been excavated and they found it offensive. Then there was a room full of headless statues and then, ironically, a room full of heads. Go figure that none of them matched.
Ethan woke up by the time we got to Venus de Milo and he needed a new diaper. So we worked our way to the front of the crowd, got another blurry picture with Miss de Milo while Ethan was mildly protesting in the background and tried to find a place to change him. The heck if I know where a bathroom is in this maze, so we went to the back corner of the room where a bench was. Perfect.
Mind you, this wasn’t a poopy diaper or anything and I’m the world’s fastest diaper changer so we figured no one would even notice us. We were pretty much alone in our little corner since everyone else was hovering around the statue taking pictures with flashes (even though they weren’t supposed to). We almost had his new diaper on when a poor French museum worker comes running down the back end of the room waving her arms frantically.
“Bathroom! You must do that in bathroom!”
We nodded like we understood her and hurried and finished putting the diaper on. When she noticed we were finished, she stopped running and walked away a little dejected that she hadn’t caught us in time. Yes, we changed a diaper right next to Venus de Milo and now that I think about it, maybe we shouldn’t have. After you have kids, you are a parent first and a normal human being second.
With a new clean diaper, some snacks and refreshed from his nap, Ethan was cheery-eyed for the rest of the museum. We talked to him about the headless statues and showed him the ones that looked like animals. Whenever a big room without lots of breakable things presented itself, he ran around a little. And I have to say, the trip to the Louvre wouldn’t have been half as fun without Ethan. If you want a boring trip where you get to see paintings and art and learn history, then go by yourself. If you want a trip filled with adventure and unexpected twists and turns, take a toddler.