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LIFE IN PARIS

‘Our romantic night with Mona Lisa in Paris’

A couple have told how they travelled from England to have a drink with the Mona Lisa and dinner with Venus de Milo in Paris.

'Our romantic night with Mona Lisa in Paris'
Louvre visitors are usually kept at arms length from the Mona Lisa. Photo: AFP

Art student Daniela Molinari and her boyfriend Adam Watson enjoyed a very special night at the museum, at the famous Louvre in Paris.

The Italian-Canadian, who is studying art conservation at the Uniersity of Newcastle, was chosen from over 180,000 entrants in a competition, launched by the Louvre in Paris and the home-sharing platform Airbnb, to mark 30 years since architect I.M Pei's glass pyramid was erected in the art museum's courtyard.

It is the first time that any member of the public has been allowed to sleep in the famous museum overnight.

The experience also included a special guided tour by an art historian, like those previously offered only to the likes of Barack Obama, Beyoncé and 
Jay-Z.

IN PICTURES: From outrage to icon – Louvre pyramid turns 30


The pair slept in the Louvre pyramid. Photo Airbnb

All the contestants had to do was answer the question; 'Why would you be the Mona Lisa's perfect guest?”

“I wrote about offering a drink to Mona Lisa, to ask her about Leonardo… we would share a spritz, because she never had a chance to taste one,” the 26-year-old Molinari wrote.

“I didn't take it seriously, I didn't think it would work,” she added.

The night was spent sleeping beneath the iconic Pyramid in the heart of the City of Lights.

But before that there was indeed time for a Renaissance-inspired aperitif with Mona Lisa, and Molinari's guest for the special night was her British boyfriend Adam, 29. 

Dinner alongside the Venus de Milo followed – though it wasn't clear how the armless ancient Greek statue managed the cutlery – and an intimate music concert in Napoleon III's opulent apartments in the former royal palace.

A guided tour of the otherwise deserted museum was another highlight.

The tour took in highlights of the 37 kilometres of galleries, with the Louvre's director of protocol Sabine de La Rochefoucauld, as their guide.

These included Italian renaissance masterpieces, the old palace stables and, in between works by Leonardo and Delacroix, the vivid colours of the 16th century Pieta by Rosso Fiorentino, a piece de La Rochefoucauld had already shown to singer Beyoncé, who filmed an elaborately choreographed video inside the Louvre.

Unlike in the “Night at the Museum” movies, none of Leonardo's or Raphael's subjects sprang to life in front of the nocturnal visitors.

The magic for the two lucky guests was in being able to hear their own footsteps in the galleries and look the Mona Lisa right in the eye without being shoved sideways by people taking selfies on their cell phones.

Instead they could admire her from two armchairs and a coffee table on which stood a bowl of cherries and the aperitifs.

“The last time I came to visit her I was small and it was such a crowd of people,” Molinari recalled.

“I couldn't even look at her…. And I didn't appreciate her as I do now, because I have been studying art.”

“You see posters, you see pictures, but this is completely different to see her for good,” said consort Watson

For the competition organisers it was also a successful event in which 182,000 people took part, a quarter of them French, another quarter North Americans and the rest from all over the world, said Emmanuel Marill, the head of Airbnb in France.

Paris is the top destination for the home-sharing site, he said. But the idea of finding a bed inside the Louvre “is what dreams are made of”.

Last year the Louvre welcomed more than 10 million visitors for the first time, making it the most visited museum in the world.

The couple's special night was aimed at conveying “a message of hospitality, to show that we are able to welcome everyone in the best possible way, even people who are not really used to visiting” museums, explained Anne-Laure Beatrix, deputy managing director of the Musee du Louvre.

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TRAVEL

Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed

Striking airport workers have blocked part Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, with some flights already delayed by at least one hour.

Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed
Striking airport workers outside Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt | AFP

Last month, trade unions representing workers at the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) – the city’s Charles-de-Gaulle-Roissy and Orly airports – called for a strike between July 1st and July 5th in an ongoing dispute between French airport workers and bosses over contract renegotiations.

A second wave of protests are expected next week, after a strike notice was filed for July 9th.

Tensions mounted on Friday morning as some 400 protesters staged a raucous demonstration at CDG’s terminal 2E, which mostly deals with flights outside the Schengen zone, as police officers looked on.

At Orly airport, meanwhile, some 250 people demonstrated “outside”, while a small group was inside.

The dispute is over a long-term plan by ADP to bring in new work contracts for employees at the airports, which unions say will lower pay, job losses and a reduction in rights and bonuses for employees.

The strike is being jointly called by the CGT, CFE-CGE, Unsa, CFDT and FO unions, who said in a joint press release that the proposals will “definitively remove more than a month’s salary from all employees and force them to accept geographical mobility that will generate additional commuting time”.

Unions say that staff face dismissal if they do not sign the new contracts.

ADP said on Wednesday that it expected ‘slight delays for some flights but no cancellations’ to services – but it urged travellers to follow its social media operations for real-time updates.

On Thursday, the first day of action, 30 percent of flights were delayed between 15 minutes and half-an-hour.

ADP’s CEO Augustin de Romanet had said on Tuesday that ‘everything would be done to ensure no flight is cancelled’. 

ADP reported a loss of €1.17 billion in 2020. 

Stressing that discussions are continuing over the proposed new contracts, the CEO called for “an effort of solidarity, with a red line: no forced layoffs.”

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