December 5 (Day 4)
We had quite a few firsts today, but they were all at the end of the day, so you’ll have to read all the way through. 😉
Today, being the first Sunday of the month, is free museum day at most of the area museums. We started at the Orsay, then the Rodin, then the Pompidou. However, before we started our art history tour, we did some grocery shopping, and picked up some breakfast bread from a local bakery. Having an apartment in Paris is really the best way to vacation here.
Once we got a move on, we headed to the grand Musee d’Orsay. The Orsay picks up where the Louvre left off with art from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. For those of you who haven’t been to Paris, the Orsay is built inside an old train station which actually worked out quite well. The center is filled with Conservative Art statues and the outer wings hold most of the paintings. We used our Rick Steves free audioguide tour to take us through, but got a little lost when the exhibits from the top floor were moved to the bottom floor for renovation. We did see a lot of art that was scandalous in it’s time.
The Orsay was densely packed with people on free museum day, but we made it out in tact. We walked several blocks away to the Musee Rodin that houses mostly sculptures by Rodin. Many of the sculptures were outside in the garden area and we managed to walk around before it started to lightly rain. We made sure to see the famous Thinker sitting in a ring of triangular trees, high on his pedestal, contemplating his fate. Apparently there are 29 other authorized copies, a few of which were at the Rodin. We also saw the famous Gates to Hell and escaped the rain by going inside to see many smaller statues not in the garden.
By now it was well after 2pm and time to find some lunch. The tricky part was finding a place open on Sunday. We walked over to the Rue Cler and found a decent place. It was good to sit down and be warm, as well. We are trying hard to follow the French style of not eating dinner until after 8pm, so the only way we can hold out is with a late lunch.
After lunch we took the Metro to the right bank and east side of town to the Centre Pompidou, or the modern art museum to finish up our free museum tour. We were quite shocked to find the line for the museum to be 45 minutes long. For some reason they were only letting in a few people at a time. Luckily it wasn’t raining and the chill was manageable. About 10 minutes from the beginning of the line we found out that we were not waiting in line for the museum…..we were waiting in line to get in a LIBRARY! Wow, now that is a first! A 45 minute line for the library…well this we had to see. (Luckily the library also connects to the museum.) The library was full of tables for microfiche, internet stations, and open tables for studying. The place was packed with people studying hard for their upcoming classes and finals on Monday. We didn’t see anything particularly impressive about the library other than the large amount of study areas, so we shook our heads and moved on to the modern art. I certainly do commend the students who waited in line to get in the library.
We took the escalators on the outer part of the museum up to the 6th floor where we could stand inside in the heat and see the City of Lights lit up at night. The Eiffel Tower sparkled in the background, and several other key buildings were lit up in yellows and oranges. The main museum was 2 floors and covered everything from modern art of the 1800s-1900s to the crazy modern art of today. Today’s modern art (as is most art) is about making a strong statement. We saw lots of feminist modern art and even pieces of furniture that claimed to be art. There were several films and various other media besides just sculpture and painting. I was impressed with the layout and the separate rooms for each artist or type of work. The second floor was more classical modern art including well known artists like Picasso and Dali.
We stayed at the museum until close and then had the hard task of finding a place to eat dinner on a Sunday night. Most places are closed. Luckily, we had a handy webpage to find such a spot and soon we were sitting down eating dinner. This restaurant was only serving one thing. Our server came by to tell us that we’d be having a salad followed by a steak with fries. Since no decisions had to be made the service was very fast and we were eating our salad before we knew it. The steak was very tasty and as soon as our plates were empty….the server came by with more steak to add to our plates! Wow, no free refills on drinks, but free refills on steak! This was a good place to come to. For dessert we both had a dense chocolate cake with real vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate sauce, and some whipped cream. Dinner was delish. When we got up, we were one of the last customers there. I can’t believe we closed down a French restaurant. By now it was after 11 at night and we just finished dinner. I guess we are truly living the French way.
We strolled back to our apartment and made it home before midnight. I think we’ll sleep in a bit tomorrow. Not much is open on Mondays, anyway. =) No photos again tonight. Wait patiently!