April in Paris:Le Louvre et Jardin des Tuileries The Louvre is famous for just one painting - Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of an anonymous smirking lady. It draws tourists in huge numbers to the north bank of the Seine, queueing to enter the gallery through the glass pyramid extension in the main courtyard. So many tourists, in fact, that I decided not to join them for fear of wasting too great a proportion of my ten hours in Paris standing in line. I've seen the Mona Lisa before anyway, back in 1980, and I got considerably closer to her elusive smile than today's visitors. The portrait is now afforded her own hi-tech spotlit room, a brand new permanent showcase which opened just a couple of weeks ago, complete with wooden crash barriers and protective glass screen. Me, I'm just glad I saw Mme Gherardini before her gaze was distracted by the modern onslaught of camera flashes and snapping mobiles.
Outside the Louvre, beyond the vast courtyard, lies the ornamental Jardindes Tuileries. It's very long and very pretty, and very definitely in the French style. There may have been several avenues of trees, each dripping with blossom, but there were very few lawns or flowerbeds. Instead there was was grey, gravelly sand in abundance, covering broad pathways set out in strict straight lines. It was perfect for strolling, but rather too formal for reclining, sprawling or lounging in the bright spring sunshine. In the centre of the garden was a large pond fed by a central fountain. Small boys hired wooden sailboats from a man with a big trolley, then shoved their chosen yachts with a big thick stick and watched as the wind whisked them across the pond. To the west of the gardens was the Placede laConcorde, which from its name sounded like it should have been be a haven of peace and harmony but turned out to be a giant roundabout with a big Egyptian obelisk in the middle. This was also the spot where more than 1000 aristocrats were executed at the guillotine during the French Revolution. I wouldn't be surprised if the traffic has claimed a number of lives here since.