It was mid-afternoon when we boarded the ms Sapphire riverboat at a pier on the western end of Paris, and within a couple of hours we found ourselves heading back to the city. Herb and I had signed on with Tauck Tours for seven-night cruise along the Seine River, with stops along the way to the Normandy coast and back. The first night would be an overnight stay on the riverboat in Paris and a private tour of the Louvre.

Although there were just 32 of us on the cruise – the ms Sapphire’s capacity is 98 – the Tauck team was continuing with all tours and special events as planned. This was travel in the so-called post-pandemic world, and it was immediately clear that everyone on board was thrilled to be traveling again, whatever that would look like and whatever it might mean.

Paris traffic was intense, especially around a notoriously busy intersection near the Arc de Triomphe, and Herb and I were grateful that we had been staying at a central location where it was easy to get around on foot and by Métro. And when our bus turned into an underground parking garage that was connected to an interior entrance to the Louvre, I was equally relieved that I had taken photos of the central courtyard pyramid two days earlier rather than waiting until the tour. Carpe diem, as always!

The glass pyramid in the Louvre Courtyard, designed by I.M. Pei, serves as the museum’s main entrance.

The Inverted Pyramid

The Louve is one of the world’s most expansive and extensive art museums, with more than 30,000 works on display, dating from the ancient world to 1850. Our family had visited the Louvre fifteen years ago, but not with a guide and definitely not after hours. I remember being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the place and actually preferring the more intimate and Impressionistic art-filled world of the Musée d’Orsay. On this visit, I was looking forward to having a guide navigate the way as well as hopefully gaining a better understanding of the history behind some of the art.

Our first stop was the Inverted Pyramid, I.M. Pei’s interior nod to his exterior architectural masterpiece. Installed in 1993 near the underground entrance to the Louvre, the pyramid serves as a skylight, suspended about four-and-a-half feet above the floor. A small stone pyramid sits below and seems to almost touch the tip of the Inverted Pyramid.

Individual glass panes on the Inverted Pyramid are connected by stainless steel crosses.
The Inverted Pyramid and smaller stone pyramid below.
Looking outside through the Inverted Pyramid.
Our guide explained that the architectural pyramid at the top of this building was the inspiration for the famous glass pyramids. Here they all line up in perfect symmetry.
Ready for our tour!

A Few Louvre Highlights – The Sculptures

We made our way through a security check – vaccination cards as well as anything we were carrying – and were briefed about the museum’s mask requirement. Our wonderfully knowledgeable guide talked about the history of the building as we walked to the first works of art. The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century and was transformed into a royal palace in the 16th century. When Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles in 1682, the Louvre became home to a variety of art academies. In 1793 it opened to the public as a museum.

Diana of Versailles – also known as Artemis – goddess of the hunt, in the Room of the Caryatids, the oldest section of the Louvre.
The Venus de Milo, also known as Aphrodite, was discovered on the Greek island of Milos in 1820. It is thought that the sculpture was created in the 1st century B.C.
The Borghese Gladiator was created in Ephesus around 100 B.C.
The spectacular Winged Victory of Samothrace is displayed in an equally spectacular setting.
The winged female figure stands on a base shaped like the prow of a ship. It is believed the ancient Greek sculpture was created in the second century B.C. and dedicated to the Goddess of Victory. If this had been the only artwork we were able to see that evening, I would have left the Louvre incredibly fulfilled!

And The Paintings

We left the ancient world and worked our way into the fifteenth century. As I took in the artwork, I was also struck by the beauty of the galleries. It was easy to imagine that this had once been a palace on the grandest of scales. To be here with only our small group was extraordinary, and I found myself getting lost in the quiet of the moments. But as surreal as it was, I was constantly aware that Louve staff and security were stationed everywhere we went. Our route was well choreographed, and I was impressed by our guide’s ability to make the tour seem effortless and almost spontaneous.

Botticelli fresco “Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman.” Circa 1483-1486.
“The Wedding at Cana” by Paolo Veronese, 1562-63, is displayed across from the Louvre’s most famous resident…
…and there was no wait to see her!
I wonder if Mona Lisa thinks it’s peculiar that we are viewing her with masks on?
“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix, 1830. Our guide explained that the painting commemorates the July Revolution of 1830 and is an important symbol of French history and is widely studied in French schools.

The End of the Day

The sun had already gone down by the time we left the Louvre. Night was falling over Paris, lights ablaze on the Eiffel Tower. As we rode along the Seine to the pier, I was grateful we had one more day in Paris before it was time to leave. One more day. There are never enough days, are there?

A crowd-free gallery at the Louvre after hours.

6 Comments

  • So envious. I, and a college friend of 50+ years, was supposed to take a Tauck River Cruise to Normandy in October 2020. Clearly that didn’t happen, and I can no longer leave my husband alone for that period of time. When he and I did do the Uniworld River Cruise down the Rhone in 2009, we did see much of Paris that you described, but no time to see the Louvre. Continue traveling so I can appreciate vicariously, Mary.

    Thank you,
    Robin

  • Robin, I’m sorry to hear that your cancelled Tauck cruise was a victim of the pandemic, but I’m happy you enjoyed this vicarious tour of the Louvre 🙂 There is so much to see in Paris that it is impossible to cover it all, no matter how much time you have or how many times you visit!

  • Mary, all I can say is…..wow! We’ve been to the Louvre several times, but what a treat it must have been to be able to experience it the way that you did.

    • Wow is definitely the word, Bob! It was surreal and quite awe-inspiring to walk among all that fabulous art with only our little group.

  • Not enough. Yes, not enough. You experienced the Louvre at the day time and night time. In one book I read by an Aesthetics and Psychoanalysis Professor, he recommended to have an experience of a night tour of Louvre. I’ve never had one. I wish you felt the difference.

    The small stone under the Inverted Pyramid is supposed to be a part of the same size Pyramid above, buried under. There seem to be a lot of different stories about inverted pyramid. I don’t remember the Wedding at Cana. I’ve imagined a humble and modest wedding when I was reading the Bible, but this one is like an Indian wedding. Is this for glorifying? The arts and sculptures bring up my memories.

    You sound you liked a small group tour. I’ve experienced at the last cruise by Viking. More intimate and focused.

    I still have strong appetite for traveling. However, my wife is putting me down as I am getting slower and being burden to other people in the group. Unfortunately, it should be a right assessment. We may change the style and plan a private tour with longer stay at a place. It may cost more but we can relax.

    What is your next one?

    Have a good day.

    myron

    • Myron, thank you as always for your thoughtful insights! The Louvre at night was indeed magical, which is what I imagine that professor/author was describing. I think a small group or private tour would be a terrific solution. Staying a little longer at one place also would give you a chance to tour at your own pace. Take care and continued good recovery. I hope to see you out on the walking route soon!

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