A Ride Through History…The Louvre

A Ride Through History…The Louvre

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I always wanted to go the Louvre. Even before we
ever thought we would live in Paris, I dreamed of going to the Louvre.
Once in Paris, we went at least four times in our first two months. I’d
like to say it was for our great appreciation of fine art and culture,
but we actually never made it into the museum itself. We kept meaning
to… but we were too busy Christmas shopping and couldn’t make it past
the shops.

It was one of the few
places we knew of that was accessible and the parking was so good. We’d
look at the line to get in, shrug, do a little more shopping, have a
coffee and leave, saying we’d try again the next week. Now I know that
if you’re handicapped you won’t have to wait in line. I’m still not
comfortable strolling to the front, but as soon as you get in line
someone from security will come and pull you straight through. Not only
will you not have to wait in line, you won’t have to purchase a ticket
either.

If you park in their
underground parking you’ll find a huge number of parking spaces that
are large enough to easily pull your wheelchair out of the car. One of
the details you’ll notice if you’re coming from the parking garage is
that when you get to the double doors, one door opens facing ‘in’ and
the other opens facing ‘out’, so this can be awkward for your pusher.
If you aren’t driving a car look for the landmark glass pyramid at the
entrance of the Louvre. A taxi can drop you off quite close and you’ll
see security outside. There’s a large staff operated lift that can
easily accommodate a handicapped scooter. The lift takes you to the
main lobby where you’ll see an Information desk. Look for the brochure
that has pictures of a wheelchair and stroller at the top. This will
help you locate all of the elevators and lifts and it’s available in
English. If you aren’t traveling with your own chair, they will loan
one to you in lieu of your ID. I got a close look at their wheelchairs
and they looked smaller and lower than the average chair in the States.
If you’re a larger person or have really long legs their chairs may not
be adequate for you.

The
Louvre is split into 3 wings, and each wing has multiple floors. In
addition to taking the elevator between floors there’s also hydraulic
lifts between the many split-levels on each floor. You might want to
look over the plan and map out your route. We just followed the pull of
the art and it became like playing a video game, trying to find the
secret lift or elevator. The lifts require a second person to press the
button and keep their finger on it until you enter and then they will
need to get in and keep their finger on the button until you exit. We
got tired of the pace of the lifts and my husband rolled me up and down
the small flights of stairs between split levels. This is a skill he’s
perfected since we’ve lived in Paris.

At
one elevator there was a staff person and we were behind a small line
of people. When the elevator emptied the staff person signaled for my
husband and me to go to the head of the line. This didn’t go over well
with the non-locals in line and as I offered to wait, the staff person
rolled me onto the elevator. This is what is done in France. Some
French people will even get off of an elevator before their floor to
make room for a disabled person. I picture French mothers rocking their
babies whispering to them “You are French… you must always carry a
baguette, have your dog with you at all times and you must always let
the crippled people go first”.

We
usually plan to have lunch in the food court. They have a nice
selection from around the world. The Lebanese counter is absolutely
delicious! On a crowded day a wheelchair will only fit on the outside
edges of the tables. We recently had a great lunch and headed back into
the museum.

First, while
sitting in a wheelchair don’t forget to look up at the beautiful
ceilings. I can’t look up easily so my husband tilts my chair back for
me. The magnificent art is overwhelming and I am always able see
everything up close, with one exception, and that’s the Mona Lisa. In
this grand museum she seems to be THE painting that attracts THE mob.
She is lovely, but you have to be quite patient to work your way up
close enough to see more than the back of people’s heads.

I
would rather sit in front of Atala Portee Au Tombeau and cry for a few
minutes and cry a little bit more at La Jeune Martyre or admire the
beauty of Botticelli’s Venus et les Graces. There is also a painting
that I was familiar with a year ago but it did not stir my emotions.
Now after living in France for a year just thinking about, much less
sitting before Delacroix’s La Liberte Guidant le Peuple gives me a lump
in my throat.

After a few
hours of intermingling with history and beauty, we stopped for coffee
at one of the small cafes interspersed throughout the museum and talked
about the experience. I stopped in the restroom and as I sat outside of
the handicapped stall a French woman took the latch on it and shook it,
muttering something that was too fast for me to catch. She pointed to
the stall and said “naughty” and wagged her finger at the door. A
minute later a very sheepish, able bodied English woman walked out
looking terribly embarrassed. When I came out of the stall an able
bodied American girl walked in the handicapped stall and when I was
leaving the restroom a French girl rolled me out, against my insistence
that I was fine. I prefer to not be given special attention and I don’t
mind waiting in lines, but regardless of what I say or insist this is a
different culture when it comes to assisting the handicapped. As a
fiercely independent American I have struggled with the fact that they
truly don’t mean to be demeaning or patronizing when they offer
assistance. This is just their way and it is humbling for me to learn
to accept it.

I wouldn’t dream
of trying to see everything in less than two full days, and even this
would be very rushed. Luckily, we have the opportunity to keep going
back. On our last visit, just when we thought all was perfect; after
the museum closed we lingered in the shops that “conveniently” stayed
open later than the museum, but then we discovered the elevators to the
parking lot had been shut down and we were right back to my husband
carrying me down the stairs to get back to our car. Well it is France
after all!

Due to a lack of staff they are not keeping all rooms permanently open, and their schedule changes week by week.

01 40 20 51 51
Copyright © Lara Rogers

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