Everyone knows that the must-see museum in Paris is the Louvre, the great fortress of the Mona Lisa, or La Jaconde. To many tourists, however, the whole experience can be quite disappointing. There is the crowded gathering around the masterpiece, and it seems like a small painting when mounted on a huge white wall and security all around it, with a dozen camera flashes by the second, and its imprisonment behind a huge glass case definitely does not add to its charm. But it is amazing. The eyes follow you no matter where you may turn, and if you try to catch the Jaconde off-guard, it doesn't work--I've tried.
If your schedule doesn't allow you time to go INSIDE the Louvre, it is worth to walk outside from the Place de Concorde through the Garden de Tuleries. This is the true central park of Paris, and actually has many pockets of quiet space away from crowds that can be quite refreshing in the center of the city in the prime tourist spots. There are beautiful sculptures, fountains, and trees that go through the park and lead up to the Louvre pyramids: the dazzling glass pyramids designed by I.M. Pei. The juxtaposition of the old Palace with the new futuristic edifice--which had caused quite a controversy when it was first built--has still left spectators speechless.
Although I only focused on the Louvre in this entry, there are so many ABSOLUTELY fabulous museums in Paris. The other essentials include the Musee d’Orsay, which is the great impressionist museum and just across to the left-bank of the Seine, the Musee Rodin which holds many of the great sculptor's works, and the Centre Pompidou, or the main museum of modern art in Paris (that has a particularly cool building that is also a must-see).
I love this picture of my friend Shirin. This particular trip during Christmas was so special to both of us.