Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mercredi, 7 Mai

We got up around 8.30 and had the leftover bread and butter with Perrier for breakfast. It felt very French and luxurious amidst the feather blankets with the city buzzing outside the open window. Once dressed and ready, we went to the lobby and through the revolving door to the adjoining mall to exchange our currency then we took the Metro to the Paris Vision office to pick up our two day museum passes and to confirm tomorrow's excursion.

The office was on the Rue de Rivoli, which ended up being one of my favorite streets in Paris. We decided to walk to the Musee D'Orsay, and thank goodness! To get there, we crossed the Jardin des Tuileries.

It's more or less in the very heart of Paris, had been around since the 16th century, and was one of the first parks to open to the public. It has several fountains and tons of sculptures and you can see the Louvre and the Arc du Triomphe... I was quick to name it my favorite place in Paris. I was to have a lot more favorites before the week was out.

We walked over the Seine across Pont Royal, the third oldest bridge in Paris,

and into the Musee d'Orsay. It was breathtaking.

It was originally a train station, built in 1900 then in the 30s converted into a parking lot, a theatre location a reception center for prisoners of war, and all kinds of other things. It was abandoned in 1961 and in 1978 the decision was made to turn it into a museum. It has an amazing collection of Impressionist works from most of my favorite painters: Jean-Léon Gérôme, Édouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It also has an impressive amount of sculpture, and the building is a work of art in itself.

Midway through, we climbed to the top of the museum and had lunch in the Cafe des Hauteurs. It was my first real opportunity to attempt some French. M had beef lasagna and I had quiche. Both were served with bread and fresh greens, and we had Perrier and iced coffee. There is a terrace attached to the cafe, and we had some fresh air after our lunch. My favorite room was the one with all of the Renoir, salle (room) 39. They have tons of Renoirs, and not all exhibited. I'll have to go back if they ever do an exhibition! We got some postcards in the gift shop, and Matt bought me a book on Jean-Léon Gérôme, which was wonderful since I've never come across one before.

After hours of walking and hundreds of pictures, we drug ourselves out of the d'Orsay, got a drink from an outside vendor, and walked back across the Pont Royale and to the Louvre. We walked in through the Porte des Lions, through a bit of the Jardin du Carrousel, past the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
and into the famous glass pyramid entrance.

The Louvre has been around in some form since the 12th century and one of the most interesting parts of our visit was the Medieval Louvre which had the remains of the moat and original fortress. Although that was obviously not our first stop... that would be the Mona Lisa. We also made a bee-line for the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory,

Ancient Egyptian collection and Greek and Italian statuary. Seriously, you could spend a week in the Louvre and not see everything. And I have to say, the floorplan was pretty confusing! We spent a lot of time walking back and forth and up and down. Perhaps M's favorite view was when I walked over a rather brisk floor vent and had my skirt blown up!

It was nearly closing time (and we came on the night they are open late!) so we went to a few of the museum shops, then the post office for some postcard stamps, and then (I admit it) Starbucks where we got coffees and pasteries for breakfast the next morning.

We walked through the mall (that we didn't realize was attached to the Louvre!) and saw the inverted pyramid (remember from The DaVinci Code?) but the foodcourt was closing so we walked out and back to the Rue de Rivoli and stopped at a wonderful brasserie, Carousel (there are brasseries on every corner on that road). I got roasted chicken and fries, and M got a ham and cheese crepe. The waiter was very kind to let me practice my French, even though he spoke wonderful English. And the woman sitting next to us told us that she worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 60s. Small world! We got back to the hotel around midnight and absolutely collapsed. Happily.

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