This is a really long post …. but there are lots of pictures at the end as a reward 🙂
On the first Sunday of every month, lots of Museums in Paris are free. We decided to go to Musee d’Orsay in the morning, because we figured that it wouldn’t be quite as busy as the Louvre. There was a short line to stand in, but it didn’t take very long to get in, and we got to check our coats which was unexpected and appreciated. It had been raining all night, and was quite a bit chilly – a very nice change from the quite hot and humid days we’d been experiencing.
The Musee d’Orsay specializes in impressionist art – and it was amazing. Unlike the Manet or Degas that most museums proudly display, the Orsay had entire rooms full of the most famous Monets, Degas, Manets, and other paintings. I also really loved the architecture of the building; it’s one large open space for partitions for the paintings, but has a lot of cool ironwork on the windows and lets in a lot of natural light. It was really cool to see a lot of the paintings that i’ve learned about in Art History classes. We stopped for lunch at the museum cafe, where I had a sandwich (the french have these funny looking triangular containers that they put a premade sandwich sliced trainglular fashion in – they sell them EVERYWHERE). I also decided to be ‘European’ and ordered a orangina instead of a coke – the softdrink that all the French drink. I hated it – unlike fanta it’s almost sugarless and had pulp. It reminded me of Walborn – so much for that thought.
In the afternoon, we walked to Notre Dame. It was a beautiful part of the city, and I really enjoyed walking around seeing everything. We stopped for a moment on the key bridge which was cute. It took a while to find Notre Dame, since we weren’t exactly sure where we were going and the maps only have major street names on them. It was huge, and the courtyard area out front was absolutely packed with tourists. We walked through, which was really cool. The inside of the church has these sky-high arched ceilings, and the stonework and stained glass is amazing. In Paris, I’ve noticed, even though there are signs with rules, no one follows them. Take in Notre Dame: even though there were signs that said that there was no picture taking allowed or talking everyone was ignoring it. It was actually a little sad, I thought it somewhat spoiled the mood inside.
Later in the day, we went to Sacre Coeur. It is the highest point in Paris, and we had to walk up almost 500 steps to reach the top. It was cool (and inside they acutally enforced the rules), but made me a little bit uncomfortable. To get there, we walked through a neighborhood that was a little “down on its luck”, and outside there were far more “street vendors” than any other area of Paris we’d been in. It all ended up well though, and the view was beautiful. We found a different Metro stop to take home, and walked through an area similar to a Chinatown in the US to get there, although it wasn’t run by any particular ethnic group. I was a little surprised because Sacre Coeur is in a part of Paris called Montmartre, which is supposed to be the cool bohemian neighborhood, but maybe we were just in the wrong part.
We missed dinner at the hostel, so we walked around the neighborhood and ended up at a mediocre pizza place. On the way back though, we stopped at a cute little french bakery. It was my favorite food thing in Paris (by a long shot) It was really funny, because the old man working there didn’t speak any English, and so we were doing lots of gesturing and such to communicate. At one point, a man walked in, and after observing our exchange for a few seconds asked the old man “you don’t speak English”? (In perfect English).He then stood and watched as we continued to struggle to communicate – I’m pretty sure he found the whole situation very amusing. Back at the hostel, several of our roommates we back, so we talked to them for a little bit. It seems like everyone is on these super long, super grand trips – it makes me wonder what their situations are, but that’s something that’s a little awkward to ask someone you’ve just met.
We had devoted all of Monday to the Louvre – when we got there in the late morning, there was a pretty long line, so we decided to look for the other entrance we’d heard about. We found it, and there was absolutely no line – we just walked in. Somehow, the woman also gave us the EU citizen price (free) based on the fact that we’re going to be in Spain for 6 months – don’t ask me why, but we didn’t complain. It was all very very exciting!
The Louvre is huge, and so we just kinda tried to see what we could. We did get to see the Mona Lisa, and most of the other biggies, and I got to see two Vermeers which was very cool. It was really hard to navigate, since there are so many tiny rooms and hallways and levels and such. We spent a fair bit of time getting from place to place. We ended up getting the audio guide about ½ way through, which was really nice, as hardly any of the information was translated into English. I suppose I never realized how much you read the names and descriptions of museum items until they’re in a language you don’t understand. The thing that struck me most about seeing all the paintings were that the big ones were so big – it’s hard to comprehend what that looks like when you read about it in a book.
Outside, we ended up going to the Jardin de Tuileries (across the street) which was pretty cool. They had this grove of trees that are trimmed to make squares along the pathways, but are high enough up that you can walk underneath them. In the 1800s, impressionist painters would sit under the trees and paint (like this) We also got crepes and then looked at a monument, although I’m not sure exactly what it was for.
(they’re a bit out of order which I apologize for, if you’re confused about something, just post a comment and I’ll try to answer your question)