We woke this morning to a worrying message from Eurostar, the strikes were still ongoing and there was likely to be huge customs queues and delays for our journey home this evening… which due to cancellations was now the final train back to London this evening. Not a pleasant way to start the day.
But we are nothing if not adaptable, so we checked out of our great hotel in Les Halles and started walking along the Seine towards the Musée D’Orsay… after picking up some breakfast to go. After all, we didn’t exactly have time to waste if we wanted to do the museum justice and I don’t think either of us really fancied the coffee and croissant schtick this morning. A rustic looking sandwich of speck and Comte cheese on levant bread was just the ticket, even if it was a bit challenging to the teeth.
For the most part, the Musee D’Orsay is an art museum that picks up where the Louvre leaves off. The pieces are mostly paintings and sculpture, but there is also a significant collection of art nouveau furniture and fittings. All of it is set inside a renovated railway station, that was built back in the days where all the big train companies tried setting up their own.
By being set in a former railway terminus, the Musee D’Orsay has plenty of space to display the works. It also has the chance to do some cool things with the existing fixtures. For example, they have kept the grand room of the formerly attached hotel – which is as gilded and beautiful as anything in Versailles. They’ve also made great use of the station clocks which make some great photographs.
We started our trip off by heading straight to the top floor with their collection of Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist works. I pretty much fell in love with the first painting I saw when entering the floor (Le Cirque by Georges Seurat) so I knew that this would be a promising group of paintings. I also think I might be becoming a bit of a fan of Monet and Renoir after seeing more great works of theirs on this top floor.
The next few floors down after this group were full of furniture, which isn’t exactly my thing, but I did manage to find some cool pieces. I mean furniture that doubles as art is not my typical taste but there were some lovely pieces of stained class work and some really beautiful fixtures that I can appreciate an aesthetic level.
After this it really is a case of diving in and out of different rooms dedicated to different artists and/or movements to see what you can see. This is a gallery that has some incredibly famous pieces, so you are likely to come across something either interesting or recognisable no matter where you venture. There’s a famous paintings by hugely famous painters by Van Gogh, Degas, Gaugin and Manet – but then there are also some really great paintings by artists not quite on that level, such as Dante and Virgil by William Bougereau and The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet.
There is also this huge sculpture of a very happy looking polar bear. I know nothing of the backstory, but it’s one of those art pieces that you remember just because it really made you smile. They had little statues of him at the gift shop, but I don’t think I could justify the cost given that my home is so full of animals by now.
We finished our visit by going through the temporary exhibition that looks at paintings of the last two centuries that featured models who were black. It was interesting to read up on the history of the more famous models, the stories behind some of the paintings and to see some early video taped performances by the likes of Josephine Baker. Also, the fact that one of the final pieces in this special exhibition depicts a black woman performing aerial acrobatics made for a nice bookend with the first circus-themed painting that I saw in this gallery.
So that’s it for Paris. We went to Gare du Nord super early to make sure we wouldn’t miss our train and were able to exchange our tickets for a train that left three hours earlier, so we’re home at around the time we would have left. It’s a bit of a shame to cut the visit short by a few hours, but it will be nice to have a regular evening at home before work tomorrow.
I think most people who watch QI or browse Reddit will have heard of “Paris Syndrome” – a type of depression unique to Japanese tourists who feel like they have been let down by their Paris experience. There’s a part of me that wonders that, with this at the back of my mind, I came into this trip with expectations that have just been drastically exceeded.
From this trip, Paris went from a holiday that I did out of an almost obligation (I mean with the Eurostar on my doorstep, it’s stupid to not go) to a destination where I know I’ll be revisiting in order to mop up anything I missed. Whilst I still don’t understand the whole thing about Paris being the city of love, it is definitely a city to fall in love with. Au revoir Paris, I’ll be back again soon.