Perhaps many of you know about the Louvre. It is the largest museum in the West. We're not sure what museums in the East are larger -- but we guess only The Hermitage. Or is The Hermitage considered to be in the West too? The wide gallery has a gently arching roof and wide arching windows, with marble statues and friezes, giving a feeling of immense size Large galleries

In any event, since the Pyramid was built, getting into the Louvre is pleasant and smooth, with lots of interesting stores to divert your attention between the Metro and the museum. That's assuming you get there early, which we did.

We bought combined tickets for the Museum and the special exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci. Our grandson Dan continues to get into all the tourist destinations free. It's an interesting contrast with England, which charges half price for seniors and students, to France, which has no senior discount, but lets accompanied children 18 and under in free.

Of course one cannot see the museum in a day. Today we first visited two Louvre favorites - Winged Victory and the Mona Lisa - and spent the rest The Mona Lisa is behind tinted glass, and dozens of heads are crowded in front to get a glimpse of the painting Heads in front of Mona Lisa of the time exploring unfamiliar corridors, and giving Dan an idea of the extent of the museum. We walked through most of the first floor and a little of the zero and -1 floors, seeing some paintings, sculpture, furniture, jewels, ceramics, decorative objects, weapons and armor, etc. One weapon of note was the epee of Suleiman the Magnificent.

After lunch in the museum we did a little more exploration, seeing the ancient foundations of the medieval castle which was torn down to build the modern chateau, and a little bit of Islamic art.

The Louvre says it does not have sufficient funds to stay 100% open, so one part of the museum is closed each day of the week. This is definitely a The 2nd century B.C. sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace Winged Victory of SamothraceFrench way of doing things. In America, we believe the museum would either raise the admission price or else be completely closed one or more days rather than have part of the museum barred off. But we're just guessing. Certainly the effect on museum goers is not very pleasant, not only because certain exhibits are closed off -- and you don't know from the guide they give you which ones -- but also because the traffic flow is seriously disturbed, and you have to go up and down and around to avoid the closed sections. Anyhow, we know it's a bit of a whine, but don't you think the largest museum in the West ought to be just about perfect?

One exhibit which captivated us was several rooms of Michaelangelo sketches and drawings and notes. It was possible to watch his ideas grow by seeing a sequence of drawings on a subject, and also to see the confidence with which he would sketch an arm, a face, an ear, or an entire scene. It was also excellent preparation for the Leonardo exhibit. A graceful cat, sitting erect with long front legs, carved in bronze in Ancient Egypt Ancient Egyptian cat

The special Leonardo exhibit was incredible. We had seen a Leonardo exhibit recently at another museum, featuring a few notebooks and a number of reconstructions of his machinery. The Louvre had room after room filled with drawings, notebooks, studies, comparisons. What was more remarkable was that a great part of this incredible exhibit came from the Louvre's own collections and library. Other contributors were the British Museum, the Library of the Institute of France, the Royal Library at Windsor, and the J. Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles. And no, they did not move the Mona Lisa for this exhibition; everybody remembers that painting!

We did not stay all day, but only until we were Louvred out. There's only so many beautiful works of art one can admire before one begins to go glassy-eyed. Also, as the day wore on the museum became more and more crowded. Perhaps the moral of all this is that it would be better to have more smaller museums than few big ones. But of course that will never happen!