Get 20% off – a small guided tour in Paris during 2016
MLP welcomes back our resident NY Mama, Ami Cadugan who has just been taken on a tour of the Louvre by a team who reckon they’ve got something special to offer. Over to you Ami….
Hey, I’m back, after a hiatus for some intensive French lessons. Impressionnant, non? With my brain now in “auto translate” mode, it seemed like revisiting the Louvre would be just the thing to put my new skills to the test.
But not just any visit would do! So, thanks to our friends at Museums By Localers, I recently learned more about French history and viewed some “new to me!” works of art, on their Louvre Small Group Tour, and now I’m here to share my experience with you!
Meeting at the “off-peak” hour of 3pm, the members of our small tour group gathered in front of a hotel near The Louvre just far enough away so so we didn’t get lost in the shuffle. It was immediately clear that our Localers guide, Cristiana, a young Italian woman with a background in Art History and Architecture, was very passionate about everything Louvre!
Thanks to “skip-the-line” tickets, we had our security screening and made our way inside. Since this Mama believes in buying things online, to avoid queuing, this was a nice touch! After dropping jackets and umbrellas in the ultra-modern, newly renovated coat room (vestiaire, en Français) we were handed some maps (En Anglais, of course!) and the tour officially commenced. FYI: Definitely double-check your “code” if you use those new lockers!
A brief history of the Louvre was given as we made our way to our first stop – the Medieval Moat. Did you know that ancient stonemasons carved the symbols of their Company in the bricks, as a way to indicate their work and get paid? Kind of like modern-day copyrighting! So if you see some hearts and stars in the Moat, note that it wasn’t from ancient graffiti artists or star-crossed lovers, but the bricklayers! As a bonus, there is a currently a modern art exhibit on in the Moat, with low purple lighting, funky chairs and “atmospheric music” on loop. The purple lighting really makes those symbols pop!
We entered the next room with our eyes closed, in order to really feel the difference between the dark and gloomy medieval times and dramatic “rebirth” that was the Renaissance. After a brief lesson about the differences between ‘Classical’ sculptors and ‘Hellenistic’ sculptors, we basked in the beauty of the Greek statue “Aphrodite”, more popularly known as the “Venus de Milo”.
On our way to the Daru staircase, which houses the famous “Winged Victory of Samothrace”, Cristiana pointed out the symbol for ARAGO, a geographical marker for the Paris meridian. No doubt it will leave you feeling a bit like Robert Langdon, AKA Tom Hanks from “The Da Vinci Code”. Without bursting your bubble, Dan Brown took a few “creative liberties” with ARAGO, referring to it as the “Rose Line”, in the search for Mary Magdalene’s grave. In reality, it is part of a 1995 art installation by Dutch artist Jan Dibbets. There are 15 of them in and around the Louvre and 135 total in Paris. But this is the ONE from the movie!
Then to the most famous painting of all time…Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa”. We were encouraged to take deep breaths to psychologically prepare for the crowds surrounding this famous, but tiny masterpiece. Many people are shocked to discover how small it really is and my fellow tour mates were no exception. After snapping some pictures during a break in the crowd, Cristiana shared the “believed” history of the work and why it is so famous: Partially for the smile you can see from all angles, also because it was stolen in 1911 and due, in part to “The Da Vinci Code”.
Even though it was billed as a 2-hour tour, we ended almost three hours later with enough new information to write a book. Cristiana pointed out some other masterpieces as our tour wound down. Most notably Jacques Louis David’s “The Coronation of Napoleon”; Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”, The Napoleon Apartments and the statue-filled Cour Marly. Our tour concluded under I.M. Pei’s “Inverted Pyramid”.
Honestly, if you really wanted to see everything in the Louvre, it would take almost a month, assuming you only spent a minute with each work of art, so spending some extra time at the end was not a big deal. Cristiana wrapped up by asking if anyone had further questions about the art and was happy to provide directions to the guests that needed them.
I would say that whether you have ever been on a tour or not, there is something to be said for having a tour with just a handful of people. It’s very intimate and you get to ask as many questions as you would like. If you want to really become knowledgeable about a place in Paris in a few hours, there is no better way. The Localers team pride themselves on exceptional inside information and want you leaving the tour as though you are indeed a local. I definitely felt that way.
Small Tour Tip: It’s a courtesy to tip your guide at the end of the tour. Base it on how much you enjoyed the tour, how many people are in your party and the level of attention that was lavished on you. Most guides are passionate about their subject matter and are thrilled when guests reciprocate – by being active participants and showing their appreciation at the end.
A Final note: The visit to the Louvre actually took place on November 13, 2015, only a few hours before the horrific attacks on Paris. MLP’s advice is this…keep loving Paris and continue to show your support for all the art and culture that this beautiful city has to offer.
If you were thinking about taking a private tour of the Louvre, Versailles, or even a culinary tour…then do it! Localers tours start around 49€, per person and the cost varies depending on the number of people in your party.
Our friends at Localers (@localersparis on Instagram) are happy to offer MLP’s readers a 20% DISCOUNT on any tour taken throughout 2016, but you must book before January 31 to claim this offer. Go to their website to book directly and use our unique discount code MLP20
Thanks Ami for this review. Mamas! Take advantage of this offer and let us know how it goes. You can follow Ami (@amitakesonparis) on Instagram and Twitter.
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All photos on this post unless specified were taken by Ami Cadugan.