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Paris really is a beautiful city– from what little I remember from being above ground and outside. As Charity likes to remind me, we spent most of our time either in museums or on the Metro getting to those museums. 🙂 And why not? We– ok, mostly Charity– meticulously planned out our time in the city, researching which museums would be open on what days as they all had different days of closure and widely varying hours of operation. We filled in Google Calendar with our plans. After counting up the must-sees with the maybes, we found that we could actually get the Paris Museum Pass and do some damage with it. We only had to go to four museums as well as the Palace of Versailles to make up the cost of a four day pass– and we got to cut to the front of most lines. Usually, those passes make a profit by counting on the fact that people don’t really use them to their fullest extent. I can proudly say that they definitely lost money on us.
The first museum we visited was the Louvre. I was so very excited to go– this was the one place I knew I wanted to visit. Holding over 30,000 pieces (not on display all at once, mind you), it is the largest art museum in the (Western) world and would take days to explore properly. As it is, we spent about six hours spread over two days there. On the first day, armed with Rick Steves’ Louvre iPod/iPhone app, we spent a good two hours covering all the great highlights like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Wings of Victory, all conveniently located in the humongous Denon wing. Just that wing alone is large enough to get lost in, and we did– several times. Even skipping all the baby Jesuses and Jesus-on-a-sticks, you could spend way too much time wandering the rooms. Awesome.
The next museum we visited was the Orsay. We got a brief preview of the building while on our discount river cruise and were surprised to learn that the museum is located in an old train station. Built in the late 19th/early 20th century, the station fell into disuse sometime in the 1940s and was going to be demolished in the 70s before being saved and converted to this museum…
Though not as large as the Louvre, the Orsay still held quite an impressive collection of works and picks up where the Louvre left off– around the mid-1800s. That means there are a lot of Impressionist paintings– a period I didn’t like very much before visiting Europe but have grown to appreciate, especially after our visit to the British Museum in London. I was lucky enough to have grabbed the Rick Steves’ app when it was still free months ago, and so we enjoyed a free guided tour of the place. I liked the Louvre a lot, but I think I liked the Orsay better. Well-organized and a bit laid back, it didn’t feel nearly as frantic as the Louvre. The lack of camera-snapping super crowds probably had something to do with that, though. 😉
More posts to come on the other museums!