The first thing I wondered when I arrived in Europe at fifteen – the thing I still wonder, every year, when we visit – is what it would be like to think of such beautiful places as simply normal, to take their existence for granted. I can’t imagine it, honestly. And yet, in the same way, that I often feel like I am seeing a place for the first time when I look at it through the lens of my camera, I’m sure that people do.
We had a few hours to wander the Louvre unsupervised on our school trip all of those years ago. I remember that my feet hurt, mostly. And that I briefly met a boy who was at once handsome and off-putting. I recall nothing of the art. But I know that we did not see the palace courtyard, with the shimmering modern triangle at the centre of it, that I have come to love so much in adulthood.
I never tire of the Louvre. It doesn’t matter if we actually go inside, although I know the wings intimately now, and can find my favourite rooms almost with my eye closed. (How wonderful, to be able to say that…!) It is enough just to wander the courtyard in the early morning before all the tourists arrive. The sun casts glittering reflections of the palace over the pyramid. The stone courtyard is quiet, apart from the cars and tour buses rushing by on the road nearby. While you might run into other people, they are invariably other photographers, trying to find their own perfect shot.
The truth is, I suppose, that it’s all a matter of taste. In Vancouver, the mountains lost their novelty for me after about a year, while some people could stare at them forever. But in Paris, everything feels new and beautiful, despite its actual age, every time I see it again.