As a solo traveler, time allowed to wander in a museum is priceless. I can stare at a painting, read the information cards, listen to the audio guide or just sit in a room and take it all in. The Louvre is one such museum where despite multiple visits, I can’t say I’ve done it all (I’ve heard it’s over eight miles of art!). Each time, I see where the day, my mood, and the crowds take me – one visit, I spent hours in Egypt, another I had the Polynesian room all to myself and yet another I did the highlights all over again. With multiple food options on site, the Louvre can be an all day affair if you want it to be, however, with a child, specifically my eleven year old niece, I needed to find a way to make the museum fun. Enter the Treasure Hunt at the Louvre (THATLou for short).
I found THATLou on TripAdvisor and immediately loved the concept – a treasure hunt (scavenger hunt) arranged around a topic in the Louvre to keep you focused on the art (with over 35,000 pieces of art, it is overwhelming to any visitor) and learn a bit more along the way. I knew our time in the museum had a diminishing return with an eleven year old so turning our visit into game was awesome!
I booked our “Beauty and the Beast(ies)” private hunt for Friday afternoon (the museum is open late on Friday) at a cost of 25 Euro per person (PayPal deposit of 20 Euro with the remaining 30 Euro in cash). You need a separate entry ticket for the Louvre (you can buy ahead or have THATLou buy for you). Each group has the option to do the treasure hunt on their own, we were lucky that a family wanted to join up in a friendly competition.
Daisy de Plume, an ex-pat from New York, is the creator of THATLou (a nice interview here) and would meet us in front of the museum. My niece and I were running last as we had an unexpected stop back at our hotel, Hotel Atmospheres, in order to drop off our souvenirs from our morning Boulangerie behind the scenes tour (hard to treasure hunt with a baguette sticking out of your backpack). Daisy was waiting with our competition (a young couple from the UK and a family of five from California). Our group entered through the famous pyramid entrance and found a quiet corner for introductions, instructions and the rules.
Preparing for the Hunt
The group decided that two hours was a good amount of time given that we had four kids, the youngest five years old (don’t discount him, he was super smart, remember this is a competition!). Everyone understood the “stay together, no running” rule. We had to pick a photographer and the rest of our group would have to be in each photo with the art in order to get points.
Daisy gave each group a packet, it felt a bit like the Amazing Race – get your clue and go! However, this race would require some strategy as the goal is to get the most points. Popular art like the Mona Lisa was lower in points but easy to find, whereas the Islamic art that Aubrey picked to start with was further away and higher points. So you do need to devise a strategy. This hunt would focus on one wing of the museum as our map highlighted (but each wing has three or more floors and multiple rooms so don’t be fooled thinking this is a piece of cake….um, cake….would have to wait until later as a reward).
Our theme had 28 art treasures to hunt. A photo of each treasure along with dimensions, information and bonus questions were listed on our hunt sheet. Bonuses were available with lower point art so again this is where strategy may come into play – should you go out of your way for higher points or find an easy treasure with bonus?
So armed with our treasure map, a Louvre museum map and the points schedule, Aubrey started on her strategy.
Let the Hunt Begin!
Aubrey wanted to start with the highest points on the ground floor so we were off to the new Islamic Art area. Finding the stairs, we walked downstairs and had to look for a bowl – there are lots of plates and bowls on display that look similar. As this was a new section for me, I did want to stay and photograph the amazing art, sadly Aubrey nixed that (next time!) and after a few missteps, we found our first treasure. I slowly meandered toward the stairs taking photos of the rugs and other pieces of art only to hear “Aunt Sue hurry up, let’s go!” (as a solo traveler I am never told to “hurry up”).
We then began the hunt, finding some items easily and gaining our confidence, others required re-reading the clue and looking at the dimensions of the statue and yet others upstairs, downstairs, upstairs and back only to see that two treasures were next to each other! Argh!
Remember this is Friday afternoon in June, there are tourists, tour groups, school groups, families, etc. and you can’t run or push people out of the way for the photo(no matter how much you might want to).
Finding 28 items of art was a bit more daunting than I thought it would be but I wasn’t leading our hunt, I let Aubrey do that. Had my Type A personality had a shot at the prep, I would have been a bit more laser focused on the strategy plotting a plan of attack (with cookie breaks of course), but this was all about my niece and I was just the paparazzi. I did point out a few that were above her sight line in a “is this something?” – she would check the list, say “yep, take a photo!”.
For Bonus points, she happily “walked like an Egyptian”, she nixed the dog pose and got a bit miffed with the lady in front of the Mona Lisa who took a few selfies with Mona and wouldn’t move as she checked her email, posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, etc. Aubrey waited hoping she would move (she didn’t) and then said “It’s not fair, just take the photo so we can go”. (ah explaining life isn’t fair in The Mona Lisa room is really crazy – sadly many folks just come to visit this one piece and leave – such a shame but I digress).
There is no running obviously but walking fast, up/down stairs in the search, I was working up a sweat (who needs a cardio class when you can treasure hunt?) in this hidden workout (wear comfortable shoes!). You are tempted to stop and admire the art not on your list (I did and was reprimanded again by Aubrey!) during the hunt but the minutes and bonuses do matter.
Points would be deducted if we were late on the return and since we are both OCD about being on time, we were first back. We started tallying up our points for the loot (we would find 15 of the 28 treasures) and came in 2nd place (the young UK couple won by a few treasures and a bonus).
We had so much fun on our treasure hunt and the two hours was perfect – Aubrey was exhausted and hungry (always hungry, at least the cafe is more affordable than our lavish lunch at Laduree). We decamped to the cafeteria (always a good option, sadly closed when we arrived) and Aubrey chose a sandwich from the cafe takeaway. My initial hope of staying around to explore after the hunt was dashed as Aubrey’s art intake was full and the thought of the long hallways and stairs too daunting to do again. I completely understood and we left the museum with great memories. How cool would it be if she returns years later to recreate these photos and see how she has changed while the art stays the same?
THATLou is a fantastic find, I can’t recommend it enough as it is original, entertaining, educational and just plain fun for all ages. With multiple themes, you can treasure hunt on many visits to the Louvre with no one quite the same. So get your friends together, form your teams (2 to 4 people), get your clues, prepare to act a bit silly (bonus points are at stake) and let the treasure hunt begin!
There are other THAT visits you can do in Paris – fancy a treasure hunt at the D’Orsay? Since the Musee D’Orsay changes their collection every two weeks (wow, I learned something new!), these hunts are customized for your visit – as the website states “a luxury THAT”. Want to get out of the museum and treasure hunt in the Latin Quarter, there’s a hunt for that now too! I’m adding both to my “to do” list for my next Paris visit.