Traveling Tuesdays Part VI: No Cameras Allowed

Today we went to the beautiful d’Orsay Musee. On this, our last day of our European adventure, 23 days of foreign country madness with all of its high highs and low lows, we finally figured out the best way to start the day.

Get there before it opens.

And we learned that on accident, frankly, because I thought it opened at 9am and we were there right at 9am. Turns out, it opened at 9:30. This allowed me to get in line and the kids to run their fool heads off. Turns out, that’s the kind of thing that makes everyone happy.

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(Should you be curious about my children’s personalities, you can find them pretty much summed up in this picture.)

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(To the untrained eye I may not look happy, but the fact that you see no sweat dripping from my brow nor complaining child hanging from my bag–just me leaning on a pole considering the beautiful breakfast I had just eaten and the beautiful art that awaited me inside–that’s glory right there, baby.)

Once inside we found the architecture remenicent of the Grand Central Station, gorgeous tall domed ceilings with a huge clock on either side.

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Immediately we started taking pictures. Until we couldn’t.

“Excusez Moi, Madame. La caméra, non, si vous plait.” the docent said, shaking her finger and smiling gently.

No camera? What the hell?!

(Pause.)

Really, Lusiani? Have you learned nothing in the last three weeks? We’re talking about a camera, not your life’s bread. Dial in the perspective.

(Reset.)

It must be because they can’t control who uses a flash and who doesn’t, and I’m guessing that could legitimately damage the art over time. We have one of those big cameras with far too many settings for a lay photographer and I found myself breaking the rules all over the Louvre because I couldn’t get the flash to not pop up.

Annoyed, I was at least satisfied with this explanation of why I couldn’t take photos of my favorite paintings and sculptures in this most magnificent space. Wandering through the bottom floor (not the first floor, mind you, because that is up one level; we are on floor zero at this point), many docents were reminding tourists, mostly Americans, that photos were not allowed. Our kind-eyed rule enforcer was not so kind-eyed as she had to repeat herself several times to people who said they understood and didn’t (or, more likely, said they understood and chose to break the rules anyway).

Once up on the second floor (floor one must have been storage or some other set of rooms not open to the public, another reminder that maps in this country are very misleading to the average American) I began to feel the difference between traveling through the Louvre with a camera and d’Orsay without one. I was seeing more but more importantly I was feeling more. I found myself more moved by the art as I viewed it through my own eyes and not through the viewfinder of my camera.

Further, I spent more time with each piece of art instead of fumbling with the camera to turn it on, focus it, take the photo, put it back, realize how far my guys had advanced and then hurry up to catch them. We strolled leisurely-ish together, stopping to admire things like the thickness of the paint on a canvas (Starry Night Over the Rhone by Van Gogh? WHOLE NEW APPRECIATION) or the way a sculptor had captured the energy of the man in addition to his likeness (I will never again hear Beethoven’s music in the same way after seeing that wild-haired bust).

The flash may be the logistical reason cameras weren’t allowed, but the experience was the artistic reason.

Sorry, my kind-eyed docent friend. Now I know, and now I understand. I had spent much of the last 23 days behind the lens of a camera. Today I didn’t. D’Orsay gave me perhaps the best gift of the whole trip.

Still, one picture had to be taken. On this, our last day in Paris, it just had to be taken.

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