Cheating the System in Paris
Step 1. Live/work/study in the EU.
Step 2. Be under 26 years old.
Step 3. Have the right attitude.
Steps 1 and 2 are really quite self-explanatory. The French government has a law that museums must allow EU students under the age of 26 into the museums for free. Some museums only allow students, some let any EU resident between 18 and 26 in. Some will only accept a valid passport/ID card/visa from an EU country, some only require your student ID. Some make you get a free ticket from the ticket counter, some let you in with just your documents. As far as I know, the individual policies aren’t posted anywhere in English, though if you speak French you can probably figure it out. We managed just fine by asking at information, or going up to the counter if the line was short, or just trying to get in straight away.
Technically, this isn’t cheating the system. It is just knowing the system. Thanks to Cordelia, who was the first person to tell me this convenient – and cheap – truth!
Step 3 is a bit more difficult. When Holly and I were discussing the whole French-people-always-look-perfect thing, we decided a lot of it is attitude. They put on whatever they put on, and then they rock it. So we decided to adopt the attitude of the French for the weekend. And we let this attitude roll over from our attire to our museum-going.
For example, we are pretty sure that having a student ID at the Louvre does not get you out of the security line. When we walked up to the Louvre in the morning of day 2, the line in front of the I.M. Pei pyramid was crazy. Probably over an hour long. I know there is another entrance to the Louvre, but I don’t know where, and neither of us were particularly excited about the prospect of standing in the sun for that long. Holly wanted to turn back, but then I noticed a second, empty, line. The line for people who already had tickets. Now, I don’t know if the French government would agree with my logic, but I figured since we didn’t have to buy a ticket, that was basically the same as already having it, right?
So we put on our best French attitudes, walked through the non-existent line, into the pyramid, had our bags checked by hand instead of by machine, and walked into the Louvre. Now, I’m not saying this would work for everything in Paris, but it worked at the Louvre. And it worked at the d’Orsay. And it would probably work in a lot of places, if you just tried it. But everyone, as Holly says, is a lemming – we see the line and we assume we have to stand in it.
We also manipulated the system a bit during our trip to Sainte Chapelle. That time, though, it was completely coincidental, and accidental. I wanted to see the Palace of Justice, which is right next door. They’re actually in the same building complex, and in the same courtyard. And their security lines are right next to each other. So when the line for the Palace of Justice was nil and the line for Sainte Chapelle was long, it wasn’t hard to convince Holly to see the Palace of Justice first. So we hopped in line, assuring not one but two people we were in search of Justice. We weren’t sure why we had to convince them until we got past security. Because the people who had waited in line for Sainte Chapelle were walking out of the door right next to us. We went right to the Palace of Justice, and they went left to the chapel. Our paths crossed. So, when Holly and I came out of the Palace of Justice, we skipped the security line and made our way to the chapel. Where the museum law applied and we got in for free.
Is this cheating? Maybe, maybe not. Manipulating? Almost certainly. Worth it? For sure. So if you’re on your way to Paris, or anywhere, really, adopt the attitude. Be observant, notice the other possibilities, and act like you know what you’re doing. And remember, if you get caught for some reason, you’re not going to get in trouble. The worst that will happen is that you get sent to that hour-long line, and maybe have to stand behind an extra five or ten people.