(note: written on Sunday 7/29) 

So I was in full-on museum mode today, though between the Tour de France and the Musée d’Orsay’s policy on credit cards, I wasted a bit of time. But, despite some disappointments, it was a good day, even if my feet were about to mutiny by the end.


Still sore from lugging my luggage through the Paris Métro system, I was still game to walk to the Musée d’Orsay – it’s about a half an hour walk, and I figured I’d see some sights on the way. I walked down Avenue Motte-Picquet, took yet another picture of the Eiffel Tower, then walked past the Ecole Militaire (alma mater of some guy called Napoleon) to les Invalides. Took some more pictures, but there seemed to be some sort of hubbub, with a bunch of police and pompiers (firefighters) zooming around the place. As I got to the Seine, it made sense, they were zooming around getting things ready for the cyclists (who were due back this evening). Tout était boulversé (everything was all out of whack), but I took some touristy photos, then headed off to the Musée d’Orsay; but first, I gave some Australian guy directions to Place de la Concorde. I find that hilarious, since I was able to give good directions, but after living in Grenoble for 6 weeks, I couldn’t give you directions to anything there.


I get to the Orsay, and there is a line, but it is moving at a good clip. My plan was to buy a Paris Museum Pass, and then hit the Louvre and Centre Pompidou. After waiting about twenty minutes to go through the security check, I wait in the line for the Museum Pass. I get to about second in line when I see, in English, French and Spanish, “Due to past issues, we no longer accept foreign credit cards.” What was I planning to use to pay for my museum pass? That’s right, a foreign credit card; well, it isn’t foreign to me. Nevertheless, I need to get out of line and plan my next move. I figure that even if I went to the ATM and pulled the money out, I would need to wait in line again, so I might as well go to the Louvre (which, by the way, happily accepted my “foreign” credit card). I knew there was no way to see all the Louvre, but I didn’t see many of the “biggies,” though I’m not on fire to see the Mona Lisa, since it’s the size of a senior class photo and all you can see are a bunch of tourists trying to take a picture of the Mona Lisa (which everyone has seen before anyway, just not “in person”). I started in the wrong wing, and while I don’t regret seeing the Islamic art, or the Medieval decorative arts, etc. Almost all the famous stuff is in the other wings, though I saw a boatload of Ruebens and Rembrandts, among other things. After three exhausting hours in the Louvre, I headed back over to the Orsay. The line had grown exponentially, and like the hottest nightclub in town, we had to wait to be let in. After nearly 40 minutes of waiting, I got in, and with my Paris Museum Pass, I sailed right in to the museum itself.


Not to slag the Louvre or anything, since I saw only a fraction of the art there, but the Musée d’Orsay kicks arty ass. You wanna see some Manets? Courbets? Van Goghs? Yep, they’ve got them. How about a Cezanne? Oui. Rodin? Sure, even though he has his own museum elsewhere, Auguste is kickin’ in old school. In the Impressionist gallery, I run into E, and we had a chuckle about running into each other in Paris. Another thing we chuckled about is this “trend” where people (by which I mean tourists) get their pictures taken in front of paintings. We both find this weird. “Here I am, standing next to Whistler’s Mother (which is at the Orsay).” Okay, but can’t you just tell us? We promise we’ll believe you.


After I did a good circuit of the Orsay, it was time to hit the Pompidou. Yes, it is a lot of museums to hit in one day, but my time is limited here. At this point, I could have walked, but I was in no condition to do so. So I found the nearest Métro station, and rode to the Centre Pompidou. By this point, I was starving, and needed to find a place to eat first. And a confession: I ate at McDonald’s. I know, but I needed something cheap, full of calories (it was already 5 pm, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast), and within eyesight. McDo fit all three requirements. Two things keep it from being too sad – I have been eating genuine French food for most of the summer (and now I have a book of recipes to make French food at home), and like the film fan I am, I ordered a “Royal with Cheese.”


Either because the Centre Pompidou is so big, or because modern art freaks a lot of people out, there were no lines to get in. Like the Orsay, the Pompidou kicks arty ass – though in an edgier way. After today, I have decided that Man Ray rocks. He is now on the list of my favorite artists – with Van Gogh and Rothko. I have others, but this isn’t the post for it. My theory about modern art is that it is easy to miss the artist’s passion behind it, because you spend a lot more time trying to suss out the significance of it. And then you see a piece that you just “get” and you stop worrying about trying to “understand” it. That comes and goes, like with anything. I used to find modern art “interesting” but not emotionally satisfying, but a few years ago, I had an epiphany at the Art Institute, and now I often prefer modern art. Earlier today, I saw this piece that blew me away. I have forgotten the artist’s name, which means I will have to look it up on line. It was this big bamboo airplane, with small fans behind it, and a whole bunch of stuff confiscated at the Sao Paulo Airport in 2004 – scissors, Swiss Army knives, corkscrews, etc – stuck into it. It was amazing. I am so in love with this sculpture. It is, for lack of a better word, neat.


After finishing at the Centre Pompidou, I decided to go back to the hotel, and not try to find a spot and wait for the cyclists. The weather stunk today, and since people were already waiting at 2 pm, I figured there wouldn’t be a spot for me, anyway. Maybe next year.


Tomorrow, if I am not too wiped out from today’s excursion, Notre Dame, Ste Chapelle and the Arc de Triomphe.