We stroll along the charming streets north towards The Louvre, close enough from our flat to walk. Heat be damned. We walk slowly so as not to work up a sweat.
The pyramid in the center of the Louvre’s U shape is swamped with hundreds of people in a line snaking around the pyramid. The sun blasts the tourists in the square as if punishing them.
The long line is not a surprise. But I don’t intend to wait in it.
On my phone, I search for “secret entrance to Louvre.” After a minute, I’m ready to lead my family away from the sweaty circus of a line. Before we leave the area, we take some photos of ourselves in front of the pyramid (and the crowds).
“Follow me,” I say to my family, arms gesturing. “We are going to another entrance!” Their faces display suspicion and relief.
Within six minutes we arrive at the Porte des Lions, an entrance flanked by two green yet regal copper lions. This entrance “hides” along one side of the museum. It’s secret? It’s not near the pyramid. We enter, relieved to be out of the sun. I spot the ticket window. There are exactly zero people in line in front of us.
Tickets and museum map in hand, we direct ourselves to the Mona Lisa. It is by far the most popular exhibit in the museum. All human tourists in Paris are also trying to see the Mona Lisa. We enter ML’s room. The smell–a combination of sweat and body odor from all the overheated tourists swarming for a close-up view of the Mona Lisa–overwhelms us. We snap some photos of the mob and ML and slip back out into the hallway.
We are now on our way out, with a plan to navigate to the pyramid from the inside. We pass wall after wall of unappreciated art and architecture on our way to the pyramid. No guilt. Under the pyramid, the crowds who were outside are now inside. We are jostled and scan the walls for an exit sign. Just when we think we’re out of the museum, we find ourselves instead in a high-end shopping area, with no clear way to exit the building. A mall under the Louvre’s pyramid? I guess we didn’t do our homework very well. I should have thought to search for “secret exit out of the Louvre.” No time to trace our footsteps back to the Lions, a guard directs us and we finally exit onto the street.
We have tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower. One of the main pieces of knowledge we use over and over on this trip is to fuel up our bodies at a grocery store like cars at a gas station. Relatively inexpensive food and drink keep us running when we can’t sit down to a meal or agree on where to go.
The Eiffel Tower is worth the wait. I didn’t want my family to miss this icon of Paris and had purchased tickets months in advance. We arrive thirty minutes before our ticket time, and stroll around between all four legs of the tower taking artsy photos underneath.
We go up to the first level, then ride the elevator all the way to the top.
Paris blooms like a flower around us. We point and exclaim, identifying landmarks of the city. We marvel at the symmetry and un-Americanness of the layout. Through a window into Gustave Eiffel’s apartment/office, we check out the wax figures of Thomas Edison, Eiffel’s daughter Claire, and Gustave Eiffel himself. Apartment style: Turn of the century. (1900, that is.)
The Eiffel Tower is exhilarating. This is our final “sightseeing” monument. Our last hurrah of the two-week tour of Spain and France. Tomorrow morning before we catch our afternoon flight home we will sit at a sidewalk cafe on our street, Rue de Buci, while I insist, “Let’s just sit here a few minutes and savor Paris.”