On a gray, drizzly day just made for a Paris museum visit, workers at the city's premier art institutions went on strike Wednesday, leaving tourists out in the cold and some residents worried about the image that France projects.
The Pompidou Center modern art museum and the Musee d'Orsay, with its famed paintings by the Impressionists, were closed Wednesday after workers angry over a government cost-cutting measure voted to strike.
Workers at the Louvre, the crown jewel of Paris museums, also voted to strike, but by midmorning parts of the sprawling complex had been opened to visitors. The museum reduced its euro9 ($13.50) to euro6 ($9.00) for the day.
Strikers are upset about a policy of not replacing half of retiring public servants, which they insist will prove catastrophic for the country's national museums. They voted to continue the strike Thursday.
Union officials said the towers of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the sumptuous royal palace at Versailles west of Paris and the Rodin Museum, dedicated to French sculptor Auguste Rodin, were also affected by the strike.
Washington native Ali Dart was surprised to learn of the partial work stoppage at the Louvre and still hoped to be able to see museum's star pieces _ like the "Venus de Milo" statue and Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."
"If we can't see them, it'd really cramp our style," said Dart, who was visiting the French capital for the first time. Asked whether the strike would cloud her vision of France, Dart responded: "There are plenty of other countries to visit."
Standing outside the Musee d'Orsay under a persistent drizzle, Jean-Claude Martin and a friend scrambled to make new plans for the day.
"When you have your heart set on seeing an exhibit, it's quite annoying to find the museum closed," said Martin, a doctor from the eastern French city of Strasbourg. "For us, it's OK because we can come another time. For the foreign tourists, though, it's another story."
"It's always a bit worrisome for France's image that museums and monuments go on strike because that's the idea that people from around the world take home," he added.
In an open letter to French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand, Joseph Thouvenel of the Pompidou's CFDT union said "not giving the Pompidou Center the means to fulfill its mission means allowing consumer culture to suffocate a bit more the capital's identity."
Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand met Wednesday with union members, while hundreds of workers protested outside the ministry.
The strike started at the Pompidou _ known for its hallmark plastic-tube-covered building _ on Nov. 23. Strikers contend the new replacement policy will hit hard at the Pompidou, where roughly 40 percent of workers are over 50.
A museum official said the Pompidou receives most of its funding from the state and relies on entrance fees for only about 10-15 percent of its total budget. About 5,000 to 8,000 people visit a day, said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the dispute.
Associated Press writer Jean-Marie Godard in Paris contributed to this report.