I love Leonardo da Vinci. I go to every exhibition possible and have seen drawings, designs and paintings. My favourite is The Cartoon at The National Gallery in London. I adore seeing the mirror writing, being able to see the pencil strokes on the drawings, the pages where every inch is covered with sketches and doodles.
I have never seen the Mona Lisa.
I've been to Paris a couple of times but have never yet ventured into The Louvre even though da Vinci's most famous painting is in there. The excuse is usually that The Louvre is too busy, that I'll be lucky to see it through a sea of other tourists. But it is an excuse. My love for da Vinci should mean that it's at the top of my must-see list for Paris.
But it isn't. It hasn't been. I've done Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Conciergerie, whizzed round and round the city on an open-topped bus. But I never went to The Louvre.
Maybe I'm afraid. Afraid to actually see this icon face-to-face. Maybe it's too familiar, maybe it will be a disappointment. An anti-climax. Maybe it will look small and old and worn. Will it live up to The Cartoon, The Virgin of the Rocks, The Lady with an Ermine? That fear keeps me away.
So for now, La Gioconda is as enigmatic and distant to me as her iconic smile.