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 a 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 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.
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.
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.
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?