“Keep good company - that is, go to the Louvre”
The second week into my year abroad I got lost in the Louvre. It all started when I decided that, by living in Paris, I was now a cool, chic Parisienne wannabe. In preparation for the sights I bought a second hand Nikon camera to accompany my edgy new lifestyle abroad. As context, for the French element of my year abroad I opted to study fashion design and haute couture in French -yikes- in the city where it all began, because how hard could that be right? (Wrong, but let’s not get sidetracked.)
The initial orientation was the usual getting to know the students on the course, the French language teacher showing off all the major cultural sites of this renowned city blah blah blah, so what better time to take my camera (along with my newfound insta-photography hobby) and use it to hone my skills in one of the most famous musées du monde? Fancying myself as something of a professional photographer, I took off to the lesser known paintings and statues; I felt I didn’t need to bother with the Mona Lisa, La Joconde en français, and as for The Venus de Milo? Pfft, I’d seen them all before, unlike my fellow students who, being American, were treating their trip as ‘le grand tour.’ My first mistake. In the entrance hall (yes, the entrance hall no less), my friend and I were snapping shots as practicing paparazzi of a marble statue, the name of which I can’t even remember, and it was here we became somewhat, ahem, separated from our group. Starting the tour, we had been given ear phones to listen to our French guide, and a channel number so in the event we did get lost in the crowd we could tune in to know we were still in range of our group. But, cocky as I was, I took them out, thinking I’ve heard it all before, assuming naturally, I wouldn’t get lost in a museum with signposts nor panic at the ripe old age of 20. My second mistake of course.
Satisfied with our 30 similarly angled shots of the offending statue, my new American friend look up to notice we are now quite alone. Turning a corner, following our somewhat inaccurate cartographic instincts, we try desperately to catch up with where we think our group had gone. Alas, our inclination to go down the stairs was in vain, so we were left with our only other option: up the stairs. Sure of ourselves this time (hahaha), we practically skid across the polished floors of this great maze in an effort to locate our peers, but to no avail. “I know!” I squeal in a eureka moment, “let’s pop our earphones back in and when we’re in range we’ll be able to hear them!” Boosted by my ingenious idea, we ran around like headless chickens (or headless frogs I should say, we were in France after all). Scouring the entire Richelieu wing of the building, we try the next wing, but realising that we need our group ticket to enter, which of course is not in our possession, we give up instead and use our newfound freedom to take more photos not of the artwork, but of each other. Posing in front of various statues and paintings and tapestries until we hear a crackling of earphones, less static, more like FaceTime in an area with dodgy wifi. Springing to our feet, eager to be reunited we search the crowds for our long lost (new) friends.
Our guide’s voice grows stronger as we round corners, race up stairways and glance in passing at what can only be described as a blur of paint on a ceiling. That’s odd, I think, I hope that mural on the ceiling isn’t too important. We breathe a sigh of relief as a familiar silver blonde bobs into view at the top of the stairs, where we arrive just in time to hear all about the Winged Victory of Samothrace. (Which, if you don’t know, is a statue of a headless lady from the hull of a Hellenistic boat. Thank goodness we got to hear about that.)
So was it worth running around the Louvre at a speed that would give Usain Bolt a run for his money (pun intended)? Was it worth being separated from our group and thinking we were going to have to live forever in the Louvre? Was it worth missing the lecture about how the Mona Lisa actually has no eyebrows? I’m not sure, but what I can tell you is whatever situation you find yourself in on your year abroad: getting lost in the Louvre, going on your first tinder date in Tomsk, or paragliding in Peru, there will always be times when you feel out of your depth having abandoned your comfort zone, but that shouldn’t stop you from making the most of whatever you’re doing. I may not have been able to get up close and personal with the Sphinx, but I sure as hell have some great photos of me, my friend and some other famous statue. To have managed both may have created even more memories, but I suppose we can’t all have our cake and eat it too. Sorry Marie Antionette.