We do not like art museums. They are cold and crowded and make us sleepy. We went to the Vatican Museum in Rome, all the way back in March, and have not been to an art museum since (which is quite an accomplishment, as we have been in Europe for over three months). We figured that between all the churches and palaces we were visiting, we were getting our fill of art (especially renaissance art). We were saving up our museum tolerance for the Louvre, but somehow we ended up visiting not just the Louvre, but also TWO other art museums while in Paris. And you know what? We ENJOYED OURSELVES! In a two-day period we went to the Louvre, L’Orangerie, and the Orsay and spent hours looking at, and even appreciating, different types of art. I was feeling pretty sick on our third day in Paris (sometimes travel just takes it out of you) so we spent most of the morning sleeping and reading and allowing my body to have some recuperation time. We headed to L’Orangerie at around 3 pm and after a short wait in line, we were inside viewing Monet’s Water Lilies. There are eight of his giant canvases (they are like 40 feet x 10 feet) in two rooms and when you turn in a circle you feel like you moving through the seasons or time of day (light to dark, spring to fall). The Monet paintings are the main reason to go L’Orangerie, but there are other paintings on the lower level of the museum, mostly impressionism. I have liked Monet ever since my Grandma took to me Huntington Gardens in California as a kid to see a Monet exhibition, so I really enjoyed L’Orangerie. Logan, who is not a huge impressionist fan, wasn’t impressed.
We spent about an hour at L’Orangerie (it’s pretty small) before heading over to Notre Dame to brave the line that had intimidated us the day before. The line snaked around the courtyard but in fact moved very quickly (only about five minutes). Notre Dame is free, so the line is basically waiting to fit into the door. The rose windows are amazing and the inside is gigantic. We only spent a few minutes walking around (we are seriously sick of visiting churches) before heading out to the main course of our art-viewing menu, the Louvre!
Getting to the Louvre was very difficult as we had to push through the hordes of French fans making their way home, or to the bar, or to the giant viewing screens to see their team play in the quarterfinals of the World Cup (they lost). We finally made it and entered the museum at 6 pm (it closes at 9:45 on Fridays), thinking we would spend three or so hours wandering the expansive art collection as we had been advised to do. We lasted an hour and a half. Barely. We started with the Mona Lisa (which was small and surrounded by people), and followed it up with a visit various antiquities rooms. We ended up at Hammurabi’s Code and after a short break, we both confessed that we were already sick of looking at art (after only an hour), and we spent another 30 minutes wandering the galleries, looking for a way out.
Feeling full of art, we decided it was time to fill our empty bellies with food. We had packed a picnic to enjoy at the base of the Eiffel Tower (again) and as we walked towards the tower we ran into some kind of horse show/competition in the middle of Paris! Feeling very confused, we managed to find our way around the giant competition grounds that had randomly sprung up in the center of the city. Sitting and eating, we were treated to a spontaneous gymnastics performance by young Georgian gymnasts (the country, not the state). The kids were amazing and everyone picnicking at the base was clapping and cheering as they performed amazing tricks.
After our picnic dinner we walked down to the river and caught a nighttime boat down the Seine River. The views of the city were amazing, and watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from the river was just as magic as watching it from the grass.
The next morning we slept in (obviously), before taking the metro to the Champs Elysees. We planned to grab a coffee, but everything (even the coffee) was out of our price range, so instead we quickly visited the Arch de Triomphe and moved on to our third and final art museum, the Orsay. We REALLY liked the Orsay. It was big enough to spend a few hours, without being intimidatingly big (like the Louvre). It features impressionist works (my favorite) by Monet, Manet and Rembrandt, but includes statues, decorative art, neo-impressionism, and realism (natural). There were pastel paintings (can they be called paintings if they are created using pastels instead of paint?) that we both loved, and colorful neo-impressionist paintings (Paul Sinac, Camille Pissaro) that I loved. Back in our Airbnb we ate a delicious homemade dinner of seared ahi tuna and artichokes with butter (his skills in the kitchen are just one reason why I love my husband!)
On our final day in Paris, we actually left the city center and headed out to Versailles. We got a really good deal on a tour of the grounds with Sandeman’s Tours (we took a free tour and Montmartre tour with them), so instead of wandering around aimlessly we had a guide who told us the history of the palace and showed us the highlights of the expansive grounds. We went on a weekend, which is the only time the fountains run, so that was extra cool. The grounds are amazing and you could spend hours and hours walking and still not see everything. It ended up raining (flooded plazas type of rain) so we decided to no wait in the incredibly long line to get into the palace itself.
Back in the city we ate our last meal in Paris at a café in Montmartre. We went all-out-stereotypical-French and feasted on escargot, salmon tartar with mascarpone sauce, French onion soup, and steak tartar. We planned on getting crème brulee, but we were so stuffed that we had to skip it. The next morning we said a sad goodbye to Paris. We loved Paris so much. We loved the atmosphere, we loved how much there is to do, and we found the history very interesting. And yes, we even loved the art museums. Someday we will return, hopefully with more money so that we can enjoy the food a bit more (if you don’t know, Paris is expensive!). So, until next time, goodbye Paris!